Monday, July 17, 2006

Fathers & Daughters

My favorite scene from the movie, "Good Will Hunting," is the one wherein Robin Williams assures Matt Damon that he (Matt) is not to blame for the abuse he suffered as a child. "It's not your fault... It's not your fault... It's not your fault."

Robin keeps repeating this phrase, until finally Matt bursts into tears and reveals the feelings of guilt and shame that he has been carrying.

Running from a feeling of shame
Sadly, children often internalize traumatic events. Part of being a child is sometimes viewing self as "all-powerful." Also, feelings of loyalty toward the parent can cause children to shift the burden of blame onto themselves.

Shame can be a depressing, disturbing and deadening experience. Dr. Norman Wright describes it this way: "Shame is like a hole in the cup of our soul. Since the child in the adult has insatiable needs, the cup cannot be healed."

What do insatiable needs look like?
Shame often demonstrates itself in the form of compulsive behavior. Workaholic, sexaholic, money hunger, eating disorders, substance abuse... Take your pick.

Alan Jones describes it this way, "I consume things - to stop myself from being consumed... trying to gratify an immediate hunger, without accepting that hunger is part of being human and so cannot be dealt with or understood by an endless succession of leakplugging operations."

Compulsions can be self-destructive in the long-run, but in the present, they serve a specific purpose. They distract us from fear, worry, loneliness, anger and pain.

Father loss & daughter reaction
A father might die, abuse or abandon his child or be present physically, but not emotionally. In the case of divorce, he might want to see his children more often, but be unable to do so...

Regardless for the reason for paternal absence, the impact on a child can be astrononical.

Abandonment and neediness
When I was in college, my roommate was father-hungry. She feared abandonment, and reacted to that fear by clinging to her boyfriends.

Her behavior was not always endearing. One night, when her boyfriend said he needed space and was about to drive off to his apartment, Andi took his keys and through them into the bushes, so that he couldn't leave.

Deep inside Andi was the little girl she once was... The little girl who stood at her bedroom door, counting cars and telling herself that one of them would be her father coming to visit her.

Insatiable needs can be difficult for others to deal with...

Achievement as a substitute for intimacy
After living in foster care from age 12-16, I was also father-hungry. But my father hunger manifested itself in a different way than my roommates. I experienced the same fears, the same anxiety as Andi -- but my conclusion at the time was that it would be better to rely on myself.

A father's absence teaches a young woman the precariousness of love. One response is to invest emotions in activities, rather than people. There is often an underlying desire for paternal approval.

Living under a father's shadow
For any experience, there can be a myriad of reactions. Why did Andi and I react so differently? One factor can be the role that the father plays in a child's life prior to his absence. Before his absence, how did the daughter perceive her father?

Dr. Wright describes weak fathers as unreliable, undependable and having no strength to offer. Weak fathers do things like ending their relationship with their daughter because their new wife asks them to choose.

Daughters of weak fathers worry that they might overwhelm others with their emotional needs. They have been disillusioned by witnessing their father's ineffectiveness.

My father was a weak father. I can say that now, after having married a strong man.

Jones, Alan W. SoulMaking.
Wright, H. Norman. Always Daddy's Girl.

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To read quotes from this book, check out my quotes blog at:
Lisa-- I would just like to thank you for your comment you left on my blog!! You REALLY helped give me insight into a subject that has been on my mind ALOT lately!! You are the first adult foster child I have been able to talk with and who TRULY understands what us fosterparents/kids go through...Thank you sooo much for that!! I hope to see more of you on my blog!!! thanks again!

My Chosen Child
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