Christian Counselor Seattle
Part 1: A Father’s Impact on His SonThe wounds of the heart can determine a destiny… if we let them. One of the most difficult and courageous choices in life is to take stock of one’s past and to seek to understand how it has impacted and continues to impact one’s present. This is not usually done unless a catalytic crisis occurs, such as a relationship that is harmed or ended, the loss of a job or a loved one, a legal or moral failure, or the struggle of a child. Men who struggle with abandonment issues – such as attaching too fast or too soon, constantly fearing rejection and abandonment, or struggling with anger that sabotages relational intimacy – are often wounded in their relationships with their parents. This article is the first in a two-part series in which I explore the possible roots of abandonment issues in men. In this article, I focus on the impact a father can have on his son and how Christian counseling can help men who struggle with abandonment issues.
The Consequences of Neglect
Neglect or loss through physical absence, divorce, prolonged sickness, or death can leave a boy with a severe lack of emotional connection with the most influential male in his life. This neglect can give rise to constant attention-seeking, struggles with insecurity, the fear of abandonment, an avoidance of feelings and relationships, and anger that seeks to pre-empt anticipated rejection. It can also lead to depression, addictions, and gender insecurity. Whether overt or covert, intentional or un-intentional, a father’s neglect can contribute to insecurity and a sense of inadequacy in one’s relationships, one’s chosen profession, and one’s life. (Dr. David Stoop in Making Peace with Your Father)
The Failure to Bless
A lack of blessing is a particular kind of neglect. The ancients of many cultures communicated value and a successful future to young and adult children both formally and informally through a spoken blessing, which was literally a good word that was usually spoken by a father. In order for this blessing to be internalized, these affirming words need to be confirmed by an active commitment on the part of the father to see them fulfilled. Without this blessing, a boy can grow into a man who struggles with a sense of lost-ness, has problems with authority, is often restless, is unable to make commitments, and lacks the ability to bless others. If this blessing is missing, his spirituality or experience of relating well to God can also be impaired in many cases. A father’s lack of blessing can leave a man without a sense of direction and competence in life. (Gary Smalley and John Trent in The Blessing)
The Consequences of Abuse
Abuse at the hands of a father, or of others, can be experienced as trauma, loss, and abandonment. The physical, emotional, and psychic pain that results from abuse can have continuing effects in men and women. Whether physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual, abuse that is perpetrated by a father, or a father who fails to protect one from abuse, can lead to compulsions and addictions that are intended to numb the inner pain. It can also lead to the re-enacting or perpetuation of abuse in order to gain control and to compensate for the loss of control experienced in abuse. Moreover, abuse can also result in lingering questions about responsibility, sexuality, gender adequacy, continual anxiety, and difficulty in trusting others. (David Stoop in Making Peace with Your Father and Andrew Comiskey in Pursuing Sexual Wholeness)
Christian Counseling for Abandonment Issues
A man who has experienced abandonment often needs insight into his current relational and internal emotional struggles. Christian counseling can become a safe setting in which to explore the possibility of neglect, lack of blessing, or abuse. It can provide insight into their effects, and enable you to process the grief that comes with such losses with someone who shares the hope of redemption through Christ. The Christian counseling relationship can also provide an opportunity to experience attunement and to learn how to address one’s need for healthy attunement with others. Christian counseling is a process and an opportunity to experience healing and relief from trauma from the perspective of Jesus Christ as ultimate Healer. It is also one possible source of mentoring for character formation (see Michael Gurian in How Do I Help Him?) and re-education for healthy relating.
“Alone in a crowd,” courtesy of Kevin Dooley, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0); “On the metro . . .,” courtesy of Giuseppe Milo, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY 2.0), www.pixael.com; “Man Thinking,” courtesy of Pezibear, Pixabay.com, CC0 Public Domain License
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