Healing the Father Wound

In November 2015, I was talking with a friend who repeatedly mentioned a men’s group he was a part of. Being naturally curious, this got me interested, so I asked him: “What do you guys do in this men’s group?” 

His response was simple and direct: “We gather together every Monday night and hold space for each other as men.”

As it happened, there was an open house schedule for the following week, so I decided to check it out.

During the open house, members briefly described themselves and what brought them to The Brotherhood. Hearing other men share their emotions and challenges was extremely powerful – so powerful that I was brought to tears. In every personal description and story, I heard something that deeply resonated with me. I decided to join and was welcomed into the community with open arms.

At my first meeting, we were invited to speak about our fathers. When it came my turn to speak, I asked: “should I talk about my grandfather, or step-father?”

Phil, our squad captain (and founder of The Samurai Brotherhood), simply responded: “Tell us about your father.”

Having never met my father, I recounted the few facts I knew about him. I told the men the story of how I had never met my father, and how I had attempted to contact him in my mid-twenties. I had asked my grandmother to contact my father’s sister on my behalf. My father’s sister said she would pass along my contact information to my father, but was not willing to share his contact information with me.

A few months later, after no word from him, I found him on Facebook and added him as a friend. Shortly thereafter, he deleted his Facebook account.

I remember feeling great sadness in my childhood when I thought about my father. As a man, I had learned to dismiss and ignore this sadness – to push it down and not acknowledge it. This had been a habit from my early childhood onward. Only through my experience in men’s work did I realize that I had not really pushed it down… I had pushed it outward.

By “pushing it outward”, I am referring to psychological projection – the process by which the ego defends itself from negative and positive thoughts or emotional impulses. Never allowing myself to deeply feel my own sadness, I filled my life up with endless work, unfulfilling responsibility, and financial burden. My sadness was tied to a sense of shame – which often floods into young boys when the father figure is absent. My shame came from a place of unworthiness. After all, in my mind, if I was truly worth loving my father would have stuck around.

Work became a way for me to dissociate from this shame, a trap that men so often fall into. My rationale was that if I worked hard enough, I would gain a sense of fulfillment; I wanted to prove to my absent father that I was worthy.

Work became a way for me to dissociate from this shame, a trap that men so often fall into. My rationale was that if I worked hard enough, I would gain a sense of fulfillment; I wanted to prove to my absent father that I was worthy.

During most of my adolescence and young adulthood I consciously rejected my sadness. I told myself that it was not me that was sad, it was the world.

I would often direct my anger at other men with qualities I associated with my absent father. Such targets included older men whom I viewed as more successful than myself. My relationship with these men was characterized by distrust and suspicion. This suspicion was so powerful that it affected my whole world view. I rejected the values that I associated with the masculine principle. I was completely at odds with the generative power of older men, and for a long time I felt forgotten in the eyes of god.

By sharing my story and my emotions with the other men in the group, the emotional wound in me became clear. I was finally able to see how this wound had impacted my life. For the first time in my life I was able to acknowledge this pain inside of me.

This was when I began to heal my father wound.

My identity – as a boy, and as a man – was undeniably influenced by the absence of my father. I felt a distrust and disdain of authority figures; anger toward men who I perceived to have abandoned women or children; disrespect towards men who did not follow through with their commitments. I had developed a hatred of men – being a man myself, this lead to a great deal of self-loathing.

After acknowledging my father wound, a bigger shift came six months later at our yearly retreat. During a process where we were asked to picture our fathers as children, an image came to me of my father as a scared little boy holding his mother’s hand. With that image in my mind, I recognized the same wound in my father as I had come to recognize in myself (his father died when he was a young man). In that moment, the tears began to flow and I was able to express my sadness. I was able to feel compassion for my father and for myself.

The unlocking of this suppressed emotional wound gave me the ability to look at myself in a whole new way. No longer do I waste precious cognitive energy stuck in emotional states brought on by the darker parts of my personality. I am better able to detach and observe these thoughts for the “stories” that they are. Only through sharing my emotions with other men was I truly able to begin to accept myself in a way that feels authentic.

During the last few years in The Samurai Brotherhood I have nurtured my sense of compassion for myself, and for other men in my life. Through the acknowledgement of my past, support by a group of men, I have been able cultivate these positive changes in myself. I have seen the powerful effect of men’s work in my own life and the lives of others. Being in a men’s group challenges me to become a better person and inspires me to take meaningful action in my life.

Today, I am the co-captain of Lion Squad – holding space for men to share their own experiences and challenges. As well as co-leading the Squad, I am also constantly learning about my own mind through experiences I have in the group. By consistently sharing my fears, hopes, dreams, successes, and failures with other men I have come to view myself and others with more acceptance and compassion.

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6 Comments. Leave new

  • Avatar
    Michael Cavanagh
    January 19, 2019 2:44 pm

    Awesome stuff brother for sharing your pain, I was a kid growing up never knew my father, I wanted to find my dad for the first time when I was about 16 we got a hold of my grandad he knew where my dad was I ended up staying with him for a while but that ended badly couldn’t handle me I ended up getting thrown out on to the streets I was feeling abandoned and lonely and angry couldn’t understand why my own dad could treat me in this way the person who was meant to be my father the male role in my life he treated me like that I didn’t trust men after that also after been abused by a young guy made me very hateful towards other men it’s taking me ages to finally start sorting out my life dealing with the pain hopefully I can reach out to other brothers who have dealt with the same thing

    Reply
  • My Dad was wonderful my pain come from my Mother who left when I was a teenager My Dad was a Saint and my best friend helping me accept the loss

    Reply
  • Excellent share Simon!!

    Reply
  • This is a seriously inspiring post. I grew up with a pretty avoidant dad who was always behind the eight ball in business and in life. As difficult as it was growing up with a dad who couldn’t seem to get his shit together, I can’t imagine how incredibly tough it would be if he wasn’t there and even pushed me away when I wanted to have him in my life. I really appreciate you sharing the thought of your dad as a child holding his mother’s hand and seeing him with the same trauma you have lived with your whole life. Helps me see my own dad in a different light and helps me see the importance of detaching from the negative narrative I run through my mind so often. Thanks brother

    Reply
  • This is one of the most impactful and well written articles I’ve read in some time. I’ve shared it widely on my social media. Simon, your journey of healing with your father is courageous and inspiring. This story is a window in to the healing work that men do with their fathers. Many men question “what wounds do I need to heal?”. After reading this story, I’m sure many men will understand and relate to this process at a deeper level. Thank you for this vulnerable share, Simon. It has been a pleasure to be involved with your journey and to watch you heal and grow and become the leader you are today.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    David Minichiello
    June 16, 2019 6:24 pm

    Very well written, brother. Thank you.

    Reply

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