A Son’s First Hero and a Daughter’s First Love

Have you heard the saying “A Father is a son’s first Hero and a daughter’s first Love?” No matter whether we are boys or girls, our first male role models teach us—just like our first mother figures—what love is. Through them we experience what it feels like to be safe, comforted and loved, or if they are unable to provide that for us, we learn to comfort ourselves and not to expect this from others. They also teach us courage and integrity, or lack thereof; they become our first heroes—if we are lucky.

Sons first hero daughters first love

How many of us have actually had a father, step-father or father figure who understood himself and his own wounds well enough to parent consciously and not repeat the same family patterns that are often being passed down from generation to generation?

In every love relationship, our childhood issues and family patterns are being revived. We watch our parental figures struggle to solve their old issues with each other. In the relationship with us, our parents also mostly respond and act from their conditioning. A father—or a mother for that matter—cannot love much differently from what they themselves have experienced when they were children.

Working with clients, I have over the years heard different family patterns repeat. Sometimes it’s patterns of addiction; other times fears and traumas are resurfacing from generation to generation. In some cases, the patterns don’t affect us negatively, for example a pattern to leave one’s hometown and move abroad, other times they cause a lot of pain. One pattern, I am sharing with the permission of the client, is the loss of a parent at an early age.

This father, let’s call him Dave, left his first wife to remarry when his son was four. Unfortunately, the ex-wife was so bitter that she estranged his son from him. Dave felt helpless and allowed her to continue doing this until he didn’t see his son at all anymore. The little boy essentially lost one parent due to the mother’s manipulation and due to Dave’s inactivity to counteract her words and actions.

Looking back at his own childhood, Dave realized that history had repeated itself. Dave himself lost his mother when his parents divorced when he was four. His father was the one who decided to take him away and remarry a step-mother Dave hated. But that’s not where it started. We can go back another generation to notice how Dave’s father Adam was unconsciously repeating the pattern of his own childhood. At the age of four, Adam’s own mother died and his father William remarried, presenting Adam with a step-mother.

The pattern of losing one parent and having an unwanted step-mother or substitute mother most likely goes back even further. Unfortunately, most of us do not know enough about our family history to notice and break those patterns. So we, for example, end up estranged from one parent.

I wasted many years of my own life grieving for the father I wished I had and believed I didn’t. For several decades, I chose to focus on what he was not, instead of accepting and loving all that he was and is. I used to look at him and see the man who did not stand up for me. I thought he was weak. I believed I didn’t matter enough to him to fight for a relationship with me. I felt I had an emotionally absent father. I listened to my mom’s story born out of her own wounds. Her story was having a husband who disappointed her and never stood up for her. She probably didn’t realize until he lovingly cared for her when she had cancer, that he was always there for her in the way he knew how. For many years, I allowed her to make her story my story as well. It wasn’t that she was doing this on purpose or that she was lying. She shared her perspective and experience unconscious of how that would affect me. This was HER story, it didn’t need to be mine.

Familie Kurth 1943 crop 2

My father grew up during WWII and for many years, my grandfather was not around as a male role model. When my grandfather returned after the war was over, he was emotionally exhausted and quietly took a place in the background of the family, not making much of an effort to connect with his oldest son. My father was only acting in the same way his own father had acted. He was absent. When I recognized the family pattern, I was able to let go of the story and heal the relationship with my dad.

Today, I see clients of all ages and the stories are similar. “My dad left…”, “My father didn’t care…”, “His new wife was more important to him…”, “My father was irresponsible…”, “My father had anger issues…” and it goes on and on. There are of course circumstances like severe addictions or sexual abuse where the only healthy interaction is no interaction. However, in all the other cases, I invite you to re-examine your stories.

Let’s use Byron Katie’s four questions:

  1. Is my story about my father true?
  2. Can I absolutely know my side of the story is the only truth? Or might there be other sides to this?
  3. How do I react or feel when I believe my story?
  4. Who would I be if I let go of the story that my dad does not care about me? What if I let go my expectations of what he should be saying or doing if he truly loved me? What if I worked on healing my old wounds and allowed myself to interact with him in whichever way is possible?

As children, we don’t really have much of a choice what happens to us, the adults in our life make the decisions. However, once we are young adults, we can examine our stories and change them. We can choose to continue with the narratives of hurt, disappointment and resentment or we can get to know the person our father or mother, step-father or step-mother really is. Life is not like baseball, three strikes and you are out. It is possible to extend another chance and to start over.

In order to do that, we have to stop wishing or hoping our parent figure was different from what he or she is. We have to stop waiting for them to change and finally do or say what we always wanted them to. They didn’t get the same “script” to this play called “Life” that we got and they have no idea what we are waiting for.

Script

A Father’s Day just passed and if you did not send a card and did not pick up the phone, you might have missed an opportunity to live a real relationship with your father, beyond all disillusionment.

Relationship Coaching,

Angelika, 905-286-9466,

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

If you enjoy my posts, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.

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Knowing Our Sensitivities and Vulnerabilities

 

Sometimes, when you’re feeling your lowest, the real you is summoned. And you understand, maybe for the first time ever, how grand you are, because you discover that vulnerable doesn’t mean powerless, scared doesn’t mean lacking in beauty, and uncertainty doesn’t mean that you’re lost. These realizations alone will set you on a journey that will take you far beyond what you used to think of as extraordinary. There is always a bright side,

– The Universe (Mike Dooley)

 

During the first three weeks of my broken ankles, my life narrowed down first to the four walls of my bedroom and then to the house itself. For the next four weeks, I was working from the wheelchair, teaching from the wheelchair, doing an Expo from the wheelchair and going out in the wheelchair, experiencing life from a totally different perspective. Every step took planning ahead and a normally small errand turned into a big excursion. Being a physically less-able person is quite a different experience.

On these wheelchair outings, I have experienced how what supposedly is wheelchair accessible is not always so. Even more interesting to observe, was how people responded to the wheelchair. Some people were very nice, others treated me like a nuisance, but the majority of people were plain awkward. Most people did not look at me. I could feel how they were quickly scanning me and the wheelchair, and then they were looking away, looking over me, or even addressing the person pushing my wheelchair rather than me.

Wheel Chair Silouette

 Why is that, I have wondered? Do we not learn how to appropriately interact with somebody who is different? Have I done the same, looked away, in the past without being aware of it? It is understandable that we do not want to stare at somebody in a wheelchair, yet, is it better to make them feel invisible and incapable?

What I came to truly appreciate—it was literally like a ray of sunshine in every outing—was the occasional stranger who actually looked me into the face, smiled at me or even said “hi”. I have never felt such warmth before when I was walking on my own two legs, from a simple friendly acknowledgment.

When people have expressed their sympathy for me over the last seven weeks, I usually replied that there have been many gifts and great learning in the experience of having two badly injured feet. One gift is deep gratitude for what we usually take for granted, another one is slowing down and being present and a third one is the experience that nothing can stop you from what you feel passionate about. It has been empowering to figure out my everyday life and continue to work and teach.

One particular gift I haven’t really written about that much are my vulnerable moments and what we learn about ourselves and our relationships during those moments of vulnerability. Being completely helpless for a while has brought great clarity for myself and my family about my areas of vulnerability. Some family members knew exactly what tone to use and what to say to help me relax into the new situation and to make me feel loved and taken care of. When we examine our moments of sensitivity closer, clear patterns emerge.

“If we really boil our issues down to their essence, I’m willing to bet most of us will be able to identify only three or four with the power to make us feel bad.” (Stan Tatkin, Wired for Love)

IMAG0926 cropped

Stan Tatkin lists eight common vulnerabilities depending on our attachment style:

  • feeling intruded upon
  • feeling trapped, out of control
  • fear of too much intimacy
  • fear of being blamed
  • fear of being abandoned
  • fear of being separated
  • discomfort at being alone
  •  feeling you are a burden

When we know our vulnerabilities and what makes us feel unsafe and also what triggers our loved one’s fears and primal fight, flight or freeze response, we can truly help and support each other. Instead of setting those instinctive responses off, we can say or do something that helps the other person feel safe.

You can do an exercise to figure out in which way you tend to feel vulnerable:

  1. Sit down and think of past issues which have deeply affected you from as early as you can remember. If you have experienced abandonment in some form in childhood, perhaps a parent or other important person died or left, this could be one of your vulnerabilities.
  2. Recall more recent incidents when you felt angry, depressed or upset. What was the situation or issue that caused those feelings?
  3. When you have completed your list, look for commonalities between those situations. You might find they all fit into three or four different categories. For example, did you ask your partner to do something and he or she responded with a sigh and rolled eyes to your request? Did you have a conversation with your sister-in-law about your special food requirements for a family dinner and she reacted in a snippy way? Both situations could fall under the category of feeling like a burden.
  4. Once you have figured out your own main categories of sensitivities and vulnerabilities, do the same for your partner. Then share with him or her.
  5. Commit to being aware of each others triggers and supporting the other in feeling safer by saying what they need to hear or doing what calms them. Perhaps your partner needs touch or eye contact, perhaps he or she needs a certain tone of your voice or particular affirmations like “I am here for you” or “We will solve this problem together” or “How about we do this or that to make you feel safer?”

Of all the gifts the accident and injury had for me, the best gift is probably the reminder of how I am “wired” and how my partner is “wired”. The vulnerable moments brought, and continue to bring, a greater conscious awareness of how we can make each other feel secure in any situation in life.
Couple bubble quote

The secret of keeping each other safe lies in understanding what past experiences predetermine us to be vulnerable in a certain way and in establishing a strong “couple bubble” as a safe space. A couple bubble implies guarantees and agreements like:

  • I will never leave you.
  • I will never frighten you purposely.
  • When you are in distressed, I will relieve you, even if I’m the one who is causing the distress.
  • Our relationship is more important than my need to be right, your performance, your appearance, what other people think or want, or any other competing value.
  • You will be the first to hear about anything and not the second, third, or fourth person I tell.

 

If you want to learn more about how you are wired and what constitutes a couple bubble, read or listen to “Wired for Love” or “Your Brain on Love” by Stan Tatkin.

Angelika, coach & workshop facilitator,  greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca, 905-286-9466

If you enjoy my posts, you can follow Greendoor to receive an e-mail notification whenever I post a new blog. All you need to do is to click the “follow” button in the right-hand corner of your screen.