The first part of this article was written in 2005 – the second half in 2010.
God the Father, and my father
““Our traditional cultural concepts of what a man is, of what a woman is, are twisted, distorted, almost comically bloated stereotypes of what masculine and feminine really are. A vital part of this healing process is finding some balance in our relationship with the masculine and feminine energy within us, and achieving some balance in our relationships with the masculine and feminine energy all around us. We cannot do that if we have twisted, distorted beliefs about the nature of masculine and feminine.
When the role model of what a man is does not allow a man to cry or express fear; when the role model for what a woman is does not allow a woman to be angry or aggressive – that is emotional dishonesty. When the standards of a society deny the full range of the emotional spectrum and label certain emotions as negative – that is not only emotionally dishonest, it creates emotional disease.
If a culture is based on emotional dishonesty, with role models that are dishonest emotionally, then that culture is also emotionally dysfunctional, because the people of that society are set up to be emotionally dishonest and dysfunctional in getting their emotional needs met.”
“As a child, I learned from the role modeling of my father that the only emotion that a man felt was anger.”
“Human beings have also tried to apply realities of the physical level to the Spiritual level with the disastrous result that humans have come up with an image of the God-Force that fights wars. This image of the God-Force, with the characteristics of a war-like male, is completely out of balance because it is not the image of a balanced male warrior – it is the image of a male with no feminine side.” – quotes in this color are from Codependence: The Dance of Wounded Souls
We buried my father this last weekend. He had gone into the hospital almost two months ago as an emergency admission. A gall stone led to several surgeries and uncovered other problems. He was in the hospital suffering from numerous complications – in a situation that contained no dignity and much pain. It was a blessing last week when congenital heart failure cropped up and took him within a couple of days. The things he was suffering from previously could have caused him to linger for weeks and weeks.
He was 80 years old and had lived a full life. All of his family members got a chance to see him while he was still lucid and able to communicate. I went to visit him in the hospital in Phoenix several weeks ago after doing a workshop in the Bay area. I was able to get some closure of a sort – to tell him I loved him. He couldn’t say it back to me. He has never been able to say he loved me.
My father was an emotional cripple. A man who had learned that real men don’t get scared or hurt or sad – real men only get angry. I wrote a column about how as a little boy I was terrified of him – and how sad I was about my relationship with my father – for Father’s Day in 1997. (Emotionally Crippled Fathers – a sad tragedy of the masculine)
I had actually done much grieving about my relationship with my father – and his inability to treat me in a way that felt loving – years ago. I didn’t actually have a lot of grief at his passing last week – some, but not a great deal because of that previous grieving. There was actually more grief for me in seeing my family members who have no recovery, who have no understanding of how wounded they were by his behavior, in pain over the myth of fatherhood they were still empowering.
The most damaging thing about our relationships with our parents growing up, is that we incorporate the messages we received from them directly – and indirectly through their behavior and role modeling – into our relationship with our self. It is not possible to develop healthy relationships with our parents if they do not change and get into recovery themselves. We can certainly get healthier in our interactions with them – but we cannot develop healthy relationships with anyone who is not getting healthier themselves. We can however heal our relationship with ourselves by taking power away from the old tapes and emotional wounds their behavior caused us to incorporate into our relationship with self.
This is what I am focusing on as I write this. A dysfunctional level in my relationship with myself that still needs some healing. This is a level of wounding that came not just from my relationship with my father – but also with the concept of God the Father I had imposed upon me as a child.
The Old Testament concept of a punishing, judgmental God the Father – a god with a human ego who created humans to adore him – is an abusive, ridiculous concept in my opinion. (I share some of my beliefs in this regard – along with links to articles focused on different aspects of my beliefs – in my December 2004 Update Newsletter.) That masculine image of a God is – as I say in the quote from my book above – an image of a male with no feminine side.
That image of an angry patriarch has been a fundamental component of the template for the way men were trained to express their masculinity and deny their feminine side in Western Civilization. The similarities between the way our fathers treated us and the image of the judgmental, abusive God the Father has been devastatingly wounding to not only many men in society – but also the many women who have tried over and over again to win the love of the emotionally unavailable, abusive males that were recreating the ways they were wounded in relationships with fathers who were emotional cripples like my father.
The combination of the reality that my father did not ever treat me in a way that made me feel that I was lovable and worthy, but rather the very opposite – along with the concept of a Father God who would send me to burn in hell forever because I was inherently sinful and shameful – are at the core of the toxic shame that is the foundation of my codependency. I have been working on healing – and have made great progress in eliminating – that shame about my being in the years of my recovery. I count my codependency recovery as beginning on June 3rd, 1986 – so I am coming up on my 19th CoDA anniversary. (The Story of “Joy to You & Me”)
There has been however, a dark corner deep within me where the feeling that I am not lovable or worthy – that I am somehow defective – has still been causing me to sometimes engage in self sabotaging behavior. I still have some terror at the core of my relationship with myself at fully opening up to believe that I deserve Love and Joy and abundance, some resistance to fully embracing being alive – and because of that terror I have periodically found myself justifying some behavior that is hurting me.
I deserved to be treated better than my father treated me. I certainly didn’t deserve the emotional and spiritual abuse heaped upon me by a shame based religion. And I need to stop indulging myself in this self destructive behavior – so that I can more fully honor and respect my self by treating myself in a way I deserve to be treated. Today I am leaving that behavior behind. Today, May 31st 2005 – to honor that I deserve to be treated better than my father was capable of treating me – I am going to commit myself to stopping the self abusive behavior that directly relates back to how his behavior wounded a little boy many years ago. Today I am going to defy that stupid ridiculous concept of an angry male god the father by stopping the self sabotaging behavior that I have until now been powerless to stop completely. Today I make this commitment to myself – to treat my self with Love and respect in all my behaviors. I commit my self to accessing the power available to me from my Higher Power to be more Loving to my self – because I deserve that Love.
5 years later – grieving for my father who DID LOVE ME!!!
Today would have been my Father’s birthday. June 14th. Flag day. He used to tell us they put the flags up because it was his birthday.
It never felt to me like my father loved me. He was never able to say “I love you” to me directly in his life. On his death bed I said “I love you” to him – and the best that he could do was say, “Same here.”
I have said for years – and said again at a CoDA meeting last night – that I think I have more shame because my father was there the whole time I was growing up. If he would have abandoned us physically and not been there – then I could have made up stories about him loving me. But he was there every day – and it never felt like he loved me.
Thanks to the beautiful, courageously recovering woman I am in relationship with, I realized last fall that it was my father that I got sober for. It had never occurred to me to think that. And also, thanks to being in a relationship with someone who is in recovery, I got in touch with pain from when I was an infant about what felt like my father’s abandonment and betrayal. What felt like was his rejection because I wasn’t good enough – because I wasn’t lovable. I always have said that I never felt loved by my father, but what I realized last fall was that there was a time when I felt like he loved me – when I was a baby. His first son. Then my parents left the college town where my father was going on the GI bill – he always said he had to quit college because of me – and moved on to the farm I grew up on when I was about 6 month old. That was the start of my father working very hard to support a family that eventually included 6 kids. My next brother was born 15 months after me – and I was no longer the center of attention – but by then, I had already lost much of my father’s attention because he was working to support his growing family.
I did get in touch with this infant wounding last fall, but I hadn’t really worked through it yet – which was causing me to react – out of that wordless pain and terror of an infant who feels rejected and betrayed by his father – to my partner. That happened yesterday – and again today. The part of me that is convinced that I am so unlovable that even someone who seems to love me completely will leave me – as it felt like I lost my father as a baby.
When I reacted yesterday, and my partner was able to respond out of her recovery instead of out of her old wounded defensive behavioral reaction, I was not able to get through it – I just turned it back in on myself and judged myself for my reaction. Today when it happened and she again was able to respond out of recovery, I was able to bring the focus back to myself in a healthy way – and that led to my breakthrough.
I have been saying to people for years that my mother taught me how to rationalize abusive behavior – both with her role modeling and with direct messages like: “Your father really loves you, he just doesn’t know how to show it.” And I did learn to rationalize from statements like that. What was different today, was that for the first time ever, I got it on a gut level that what she was saying was also the Truth (with a capital T.)
My father did love me – and was incapable of showing it. My father did love me!!!!!!
My father died in May 2005 – just a bit over 5 years ago. I didn’t grieve for my father then. I said that I had been grieving for not having a loving father for years – and that was the truth. But I did not ever really grieve for my father. Today I am grieving for my father. My father who did love me, but was incapable of showing me. Maybe it is not too late to be a different kind of father to my son.
Owning that my father did love me is hopefully going to let me finally open up to receive the love from my partner that I haven’t been trusting because deep down inside I didn’t feel like I was lovable.
6/14/10 12:56 pm. I finished writing this and sent a copy to my partner Susan at 12:16 – 40 minutes ago. We got off the phone talking about it – and crying – only a few minutes ago. The miraculous, incredible gift that is a result of us both being in recovery, is that me getting on a gut level that my father really did love me, helped her for the first time to get on a gut level that her mother really did love her. Huge paradigm shift for both of us!!!!!!!!!
I am going to be expanding on this processing in the coming days, and hopefully by Father’s Day I will have been able to process through it in more depth and breadth and post it on my site. Right now, I am sobbing and crying because this is a huge piece – for both of us.
As long as at the core of my relationship with myself, was the belief / feeling that my father had rejected and betrayed me as an infant, there is no way that I could open up to receive love unconditionally from another person. There was no way that I could truly be more Loving to myself in how I treat myself, in how I live my life. As I say in the article above, I have made huge progress over the years – but this shame and terror of rejection was at the core of my relationship with myself. Opening my heart to Susan brought it to the surface for me. Now maybe I can really open up my heart to my self.
My father really did love me!!!!! ~ Robert 6/14/10 1:13 pm
6/20/10 ~ I have not had a chance to do that process writing yet, so won’t be posting a Fathers Day article today. Happy Fathers Day to all the Dads who did the best they knew how. To all the sons and daughters, own your pain and anger and sadness over the ways your wounded fathers wounded you – but know also that they were powerless over their codependency. Forgive your self for something that wasn’t your fault – and that will open the space to be able to forgive them. Forgiveness is a process not an event. Codependency recovery is ninth step work – making amends to our selves for the ways that our wounding caused us to wound ourselves. And caused us to wound our sons and daughters. I have this week made a shift that is making it possible for me to forgive and Love myself more which helps me to forgive and own my Love for my father more. ~ RB”
This is an excerpt from the recording of my Intensive Training Day Workshop where I talk about this insight that my father really did love me.