Healing the Father Wound You Never Knew You Had

There is one problem that surpasses all others in its impact on men, women, and society. It is the father wound. We focus on the importance of mothers in determining the well-being of children. However, the father wound, resulting from physical or emotional absence of the father, has been largely ignored. The father wound may be the most pervasive, most important, and least recognized problem facing men and their families today.

Here’s how one man described his wound:

“My dad had a ‘nervous breakdown’ when I was around 5 years old. I’m 73 and still remember the ‘shame.’ My mother used to take me with her to collect him after he had been given ECT – still hurts today. Not only the father wound, but because my mother took me as a surrogate partner, my life has been littered with very nice women who could never live up to her standards, even though she’s been dead for 32 years. I’m okay but still working on those wounds and doing my best to help others heal too.”

The father wound doesn’t just impact men’s lives. Here’s how one woman described her experience:

“I feel very threatened and feel like my partner is going to leave me all the time. I have a lot of chaos in my life and nothing seems for certain. I was the ‘black sheep’ of the family on top of the dysfunctionality of a father who was present physically, but not emotionally. I feel that getting older I have become more scared and in more pain. It has been very difficult for my partner. I don’t want to hurt him anymore. He is too good for that.”

On May 7, 2016, six months before the Presidential election, I wrote an article “The Real Reason Donald Trump Will Be Our Next President.” In the article I concluded, “Mr. Trump seems to have suffered abuse, neglect, and abandonment as a child.” He was raised by a father who worked seven days a week, whose basic value was “win at all cost,” and had little time for his role as a parent. Many people identified with Mr. Trump’s rage, without recognizing the underlying cause, and voted for him. When wounded children grow up to hold important political offices, the impact can be felt throughout the world.

As a psychotherapist who has treated more than 30,000 men and women over my long career, I have seen the devastating impact absent fathers can have on the lives of their children and how the wounding causes problems at all stages of life. Boys and girls who experience the father wound often become adults who unknowingly wound their own children. Once I recognized and understood the prevalence and importance of the father wound, I could help people recover from problems that had previously been resistant to both medical and psychological interventions.

According to the National Center for Fathering, “More than 20 million children live in a home without the physical presence of a father. Millions more have dads who are physically present, but emotionally absent. If it were classified as a disease, fatherlessness would be an epidemic worthy of attention as a national emergency.”

The father wound impacts four critical areas of our lives:

  • Our physical health
  • Our emotional health
  • Our relationship health
  • Our social and political health

The effects of growing up without a loving, engaged, father ripple through the generations and contribute to many of the most serious problems we face in our society today including:

  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Depression and suicide
  • Teen pregnancy
  • Sexual addiction
  • Poverty
  • Divorce
  • Crime
  • Broken marriages

In order to help people, we need to understand why most people don’t recognize that they have a father wound or that it is the cause of many of the problems they experience in their lives. It’s difficult to believe that childhood trauma can be at the root of problems that occur thirty, forty, or fifty years later.

The life-long impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) has been demonstrated by landmark studies by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/Kaiser Permanente. These studies have been conducted over the last twenty years and show that most people in the U.S. have at least one ACE, and that people with four ACEs— including living with an alcoholic parent, racism, bullying, witnessing violence outside the home, physical abuse, and losing a parent to divorce — have a huge risk of adult onset of chronic health problems such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and alcoholism.

Scientists are still debating how emotionally damaging experiences in childhood can have physical effects years later, but by now it’s pretty well established that they do. One of the more promising lines of inquiry shows that adverse childhood experiences damages the immune system.

The impact of absent or abusive fathers is one of the ACEs that has been largely ignored. For most of us, we block out early trauma. It was painful at the time, but we survive and get on with our lives, hoping to put the memories behind us. However, what we don’t remember can cause problems later in life.

Fortunately, we now have a host of treatments to heal childhood trauma and its impact on adults. I wrote about four helpful techniques in my book Stress Relief for Men: How to Use the Revolutionary Tools of Energy Healing to Live Well. These techniques include EFT (tapping), heart coherence, Earthing (grounding), and attachment love. They work equally well for women.

Healing begins with understanding and accepting the father wound and the impact of other ACEs in our lives. To see if you have been effected by Adverse Childhood Experiences you can get your ACE score here and you can also learn more about the ACE studies. If you’d like to learn more about the book I’m writing, From Madness to Manhood: Healing the Father Wound You Never Knew You Had, drop me an email. Put “Father Wound” in the subject line and be sure and respond to me spamarrest filter if you’re writing for the first time.

Please share your own experiences and comments, which are always appreciated. They are my reward for spending so many hours writing articles that I think will be helpful to you.

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Comments

  1. Thank you Jed for naming what is often shameful for us to admit. I find every man I meet has some sort of wound. I believe there is also a “brother hunger/brother wound.” The father hunger/wound can run so deep that it is difficult for us to have strong peer relationships. Our longing to discover and share in masculine energy, our quest for the sacred masculine, can hurt.

    • Paul, Thanks for your comments. I’ve found that the father wound, as you say, contributes to other relationship wounds that we experience through life. My new book, From Madness to Manhood: Healing the Father Wound You Never Knew You Had, will be out next year.

  2. Thanks for bringing this to light so compassionately. We need to let our adult self see the child inside who is still there, hurting, FIRST, before it’s possible to heal. It helped me to figure out puzzling emotions and deal with them with loving-kindness as an adult. And I mean loving-kindness for just for myself but also those around me who have most certainly been affected by the wound I was not willing to see for many years.

  3. I look forward to each article you contribute re the plight of men as individuals, fathers and parents.

    Given the tremendous time of exploration and change we are living in, re gender, sexuality and relationships and parenting, there is one topic I do not believe you have written about nor have I been able to locate much insight about anywhere else –

    What, if anything, can a father potentially provide to his biological child that may be uniquely different (from the child’s biological mother) and essential in a family setting for the overall wellbeing of that child?

    Maybe lingering deeper yet is –
    Beyond provider of sperm, for what other purpose or reason (that females or other non-biological males couldn’t provide as well or even better) is a father needed in the raising of a child?

  4. Super informative post. I think as men, we often forget the imprint of our fathers. When we didnt have one around, that imprint becomes a gapping wound. I do see a difference between a dad and a father. To me, dad suggests an emotional bond. Father can be either or.

    But what if you were adopted and no male was around to fill either label. That’s where the wound transforms into a hope.

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