It’s no surprise there’s a lot of literature out there on the “mother wound.” The damage a mother can have on a child when she’s emotionally or physically unavailable is undeniable. And yet, the “father wound” isn’t talked about nearly enough, considering the significant impact it can have on a person.
You may not recognize the term “father wound,” but you probably know the more popular phrase “daddy issues.” And while it’s mostly associated with women, men are just as likely to be impacted negatively by their fathers. This trope is also often used on television and in movies to explain a character’s complicated issues. Some examples that come to mind include Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones, whose father never accepted him for being born a dwarf. Or Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother, who never met his father until adulthood. Who these characters are as adults directly relates to how their fathers treated them.
While this wound is a very real and challenging issue to overcome, the good news is that healing a father wound is possible. The first step is to understand the potential damage a father wound can cause and why it’s worth addressing.
What Is a Father Wound?
“Father wound” is another term for father absenteeism. When a person’s father is physically absent, emotionally distant or an abusive, negative or overly critical character, it can have long-term consequences for the individual. Parents are the first people children learn to love, so when they’re unsupportive in any way, it can send a negative message.
Damage Caused by a Father Wound
The effects of an emotionally absent father can impact an individual’s self-esteem, relationships and even their motivation in life.
A father wound can instill feelings of not meeting expectations, not being good enough and being undeserving of love. Children don’t have the insight to understand that their parents can have problems, so they tend to internalize their parents’ behavior as their fault. Low self-esteem can result in an individual:
- Never pushing themselves in school or work
- Having difficulty opening up and connecting with others, making it hard to form meaningful, long-lasting relationships and friendships
- Being more susceptible to substance abuse
Anger, Depression and Anxiety
A father wound can leave a person feeling low, depressed or anxious about their parental relationship. A parent is supposed to offer unconditional love, and if you see that others have that, it’s hard to understand why you don’t. Often, this anxiety or depression turns to anger. Individuals may feel robbed of a happy, normal childhood. They may also feel deeply hurt by their father’s actions or absenteeism and grow resentful.
If your father often arrived late or missed important events in your life, you may overcompensate by setting extremely rigid boundaries in adulthood. You may feel everything needs to be scheduled and planned, and you can’t easily forgive people for being late, canceling or wanting to reschedule. This is an attempt to regain a sense of control you didn’t have growing up with an absent father.
Another possibility is the other extreme of having loose boundaries. If your father was overly critical and never seemed happy with what you did, you may develop the need to please people. You desperately want acceptance and approval, so you’re unable to say no. If certain people in your life notice this behavior, they may be quick to take advantage of it.
Poor Choices in Romantic Partners
Your parents are your first example of what a relationship looks like. Most people unconsciously seek to replicate the relationship dynamic with their parents in their relationships in adulthood. Without your realizing it, a father wound may cause you to seek partners who repeat the negative behaviors of your father. This can mean a partner who’s absent, overbearing or overly critical. We seek this out because it brings a sense of familiarity and comfort. However, choosing a partner similar to your father only repeats your trauma from childhood.
Cycle of Abuse
Unfortunately, victims of abuse can sometimes continue the cycle when they become parents themselves. If you didn’t have a solid example of good parenting, it’s harder to be a good parent yourself. You might find yourself unwittingly repeating the mistakes your father made. Of course, if someone has endured pain, they want to protect their child from going through the same experience. This makes addressing your father wound critical not just for you, but for your partner(s) and your children.
How to Know If You Have a Father Wound
You may have a father wound if you can identify key indicators when reflecting on your childhood. These can include that your father:
- Was frequently absent
- Was emotionally absent or abusive
- Was highly critical of you and constantly disapproved of your actions, choices and behaviors
- Withheld food, love or other essentials as a form of punishment
- Was physically abusive
You may also recall that you often felt scared of your father or feel your relationship was never good and remains rocky or nonexistent today.
How to Heal From a Father Wound
As we mentioned, healing a father wound is not only possible but highly encouraged. Addressing these issues can help you rectify your feelings about your childhood and give you clarity on some of your behaviors as an adult.
The first step is to identify and accept that you have a father wound. Next, you’ll want to seek professional therapy to help you work through this trauma. Your therapist may walk you through viewing things through your father’s eyes. Not all fathers deserve forgiveness, but some may. Additionally, your therapist may prepare you to confront your father so you can feel heard and explain the impact his actions had on your life. From there, you’ll learn to disengage from some of the beliefs and behaviors you adopted due to your father wound. You can then make a concerted effort to become an improved version of yourself and credit how far you’ve come.
Healing Help From FHE Health
You don’t have heal from your father wound on your own. FHE Health is a fully licensed mental health treatment center that helps individuals with all forms of trauma and conditions. Our compassionate therapists can help you take measured steps to deal with your childhood and come out a stronger, healthier person. Contact us today by calling (833) 596-3502.