As I thought about writing a Father’s Day post, I realized I have written so much more about my mother, mothering and other mothers. In Inner Mother Inner Father, an Imagine Self Academy course, I address the inner mother and inner father equally because we need both and I am not being personally biographical when I design a course on archetypes. Today, I will focus my thoughts on my father and who I am. Of course, I am afraid. What strange new heartbreaking truth will I reveal? I find writing my posts opens up a part of me that cannot hide or pretend. Hopefully, you will find some freeing recollections of your father through my experience. Keep reading and reflecting and maybe you will reveal a truth that will set you free.
Just a note on being set free. Freedom is not simple or sweet. It’s sprouting wings or getting grounded depending on who you are. I have wings galore so I need serious grounding to be free. Sometimes freedom is a leap into an abyss. Sometimes it means standing absolutely still right where you are. Sometimes it is moving through blinding light or absolute darkness. But freedom begins with a question. Tonight ask yourself “How can I set myself free?” The answer might be surprising.
For Father’s Day, you might want to be free of the limitations of your father “story.” Whoa, says my sentimental heart. But my moral courage, the part of me that knows my father is a karmic player in my unfolding wants to move beyond the desired good father and the wounding bad father and understand the meaning and purpose of it all.
I am inspired to move beyond the drama by relying on the four archetypal paternal deeds: to protect, to provide, to direct and to name. The paternal deeds give us our relationship between our sense of self and the outer world. With each paternal deed we can look at how it impacted our sense of our bodies, our emotional life, our capacities to think, feel and will/accomplish and our ability to be free and to love others. How did your father not only fulfill these paternal deeds but model them so that when you became self-responsible you knew how to protect yourself, provide for yourself, direct yourself and name yourself?
In reviewing your father’s impact on your ability to stand in the world, it is also helpful to look at the role and impact of each of the four deeds in the different stages of childhood. Birth to 3. 3 to 7, 7 to 10. 10 to 14, 14 to 18 and 18 to 21. The younger the paternal failures and the benefits, the more core and deep is the wound or the gift.
Protection: how did he safeguard all that was innocent and all that was emerging? As we move toward adulthood we become more awake to our sense of boundaries, our sense of danger, our sense of our own integrity and how to stand for it in the world.
Provision: what did he make available for you to survive…food, shelter, clothing and to thrive…spiritually, creatively, actively, intellectually, morally, economically?
Direction: what guidance did he give to set you on your life path of confident and purposeful choices…knowing how to set goals, establish a strategy for success, to know how to navigate in the world, knowing how to seek truth, reveal beauty, do no harm.
Naming: when he looked into your soul, did he tell you how extraordinary you were…so important. Naming is the recognition of your spirit and its manifestation and value in the world as love. Naming sets us free.
Life is challenging in every way. If you experienced these four paternal, in-the-world deeds in a reasonable way…a good enough way you will do well outwardly (provided the four maternal, in-your-soul gestures of holding, handling, object-presenting and de-dramatizing were healthy).
To manifest our purpose, to feel significant and to know our own meaning we need to have strong imaginations of these 8 parental deeds. This is why I designed the Inner Mother Inner Father course.
My father got little fathering and when he became a father he had grand fantasies about becoming my father. His parenting was more about what he didn’t get from his father rather than what I needed. In fact, he saw me as a way to get his needs met and I became the adored and adoring daughter that wanted to make her daddy happy. It was emotional incest from the beginning.
He didn’t understand protection. He had no sense of my childhood innocence. He wanted to protect me from my mother but only when it was convenient.
After age 7, my father failed at protecting my body and my well-being. He and my mother divorced and he forgot to be a father.
He also failed to provide clothing, shelter, food, education, etc. He was 1300 miles away and it was my stepmother who wrote the checks for child support. My life has been attached to a state of financial insecurity and the anxiety of financial abandonment is ever-present.
Not being around when I was in middle school when I really needed direction, I found myself utterly lost, anxious and confused. I needed conversations with the one meant to offer me protection in the world and guidance in navigating through the rough seas of adolescence. All this time because of the emotional incest of adoration, I clung to the idea I was special, suffering and painfully lonely because I was his daughter. He was the absent god who paid no attention to me.