One of the areas that I’ve become increasingly interested in in my psychological practice is how our relationship with our fathers in our early years has the capacity to derail us in later life, especially as we approach middle age.
Emotional pain as a result of having a father that may have put us down, been abusive, abandoned us or been emotionally absent has the power to affect our subconscious mind and impact our self esteem life long. This is because prior to the age of seven, our brain waves are in a hypnotic like state and this makes us particularly impressionable to the influences that are present in our lives. As young children, not only are we more susceptible to a father’s opinions but we also do not have cognitive capacity to understand the context around their behaviours. And to top it all off, as a young child we aren’t able to protect ourselves nor articulate our needs, resulting in feelings of powerlessness and bewilderment. It is this trifecta of factors that enables a careless comment or a pattern of neglect to have a searing effect on our inner most sense of self worth.
This can set up a sub conscious set of beliefs that we are not good enough, not worthy of love or somehow flawed. And even though we may not be aware of this consciously, our patterns of behaviours and mindsets are the real giveaway. Trauma imposed by a father may manifest in any number of ways in our adult lives. It could be a pattern of choosing relationships with abusive partners; procrastination about achieving our goals, feeling unworthy of our success and consistent attempts to self sabotage in work and relationships.
In therapy this presents a conundrum. Whilst we may know we want to attend to this aspect of our thinking because we see it is unhinging our ability to live a better life, we may also feel conflicted about examining our father’s influence. Often this results in uncomfortable feelings of disloyalty and laying blame unfairly. This not only disturbs our core sense of identity and values but also disrupts the love we want to feel for our parent to feel safe in the world.
In my practice, I use a multi faceted approach to help clients work towards healing these childhood wounds. It is a very moving and intense process that involves getting in touch with our inner child, so that these sub conscious beliefs no longer drive unhealthy behaviours. Using a combination of Emotion Focussed Therapy (Tapping) and psychotherapy to become aware of the sub conscious beliefs and dial down the traumatic emotions, I guide clients towards a place of not only self compassion but also an understanding of the frailties that may have informed the father’s behaviour. With this understanding comes a lessening of the power of the father’s influence and ultimately acceptance and forgiveness.
It can liberate us from the heavy load we are carrying and usher us towards a place of peace and contentment.