Why I’m Writing a Book About the Most Important Problem Facing Men and Their Families Today

I’ve been writing books that help men and the families who love them since my first book, Inside Out: Becoming My Own Man, was published in 1983. Getting books published that focus on men is never easy. The perception in the publishing world continues to be that men don’t read books about men’s issues (unless it’s a sports book) and women aren’t that interested in books that help men (Men, as a group, are doing pretty well. It’s women who need help, many believe). I believe the world is changing and hopefully the publishing world will catch up.

As a writer, psychotherapist, and community activist, I resonate with these words from the philosopher Paul Tillich.

“Every serious thinker must ask and answer three fundamental questions:

  • What is wrong with us? With men? Women? Society? What is the nature of our alienation? Our dis-ease?
  • What would we be like if we were whole? Healed? Actualized? If our potentiality was fulfilled?
  • How do we move from our condition of brokenness to wholeness? What are the means of healing?”

Many have attempted to answer the question, “What is the nature of our alienation, our disease.”

I’ve come to believe that one important answer, that has been largely neglected, is the dis-ease of fatherlessness. It’s certainly a problem that has impacted my own life ever since I was five years old when my father became increasingly angry and depressed because he couldn’t find work to support his family. After struggling for years, he took an overdose of drugs. Luckily, he survived. He was committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital and I grew up without a father.

Although I knew a few other kids who grew up without fathers, I was surprised to learn the extent of fatherlessness. 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.”

But like most people who experience trauma as children, I got on with my life. It’s difficult to know the impact of someone who was missing from our lives. My initial sadness and anger gradually faded below the surface of my consciousness. I became a successful therapist and writer. I got married and had children. I thought I was fine. We all have problems in our lives. Mine included serious asthma as a child, chronic respiratory problems and kidney disease, depression, and bipolar disorder, as an adult.

It never occurred to me that any of these problems might be related to my childhood experiences or my lost father. But I have a different perspective now. Roland Warren, former President of The National Fatherhood Initiative says, “Kids have a hole in their soul in the shape of their dad. And if a father is unwilling or unable to fill that hole, it can leave a wound that is not easily healed.”

 One of the most powerful and enlightening films I’ve ever seen on this subject is John Finch’s The Father Effect. John grew up the youngest of three boys in a suburb of Dallas where he lost his father to suicide at age eleven. As a young man, John did anything he could to avoid confronting the wounds he suffered as a result of being fatherless. His craving for affirmation from a father who was not there to provide it, led him to seek that affirmation from the world in many unhealthy ways.

The film is a moving depiction of how John broke through to heal himself and become a man of value for himself, his wife, and children. On April 10th, 2009, he finally came face-to- face with the issues that drove him to seek approval from a father who was not there to give it to him. By forgiving his father and recognizing what it truly means to be a man by God’s standard, he became a new man, husband and father. I highly recommend the film. Check it out here: http://thefathereffect.com/.

The impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) on adult health has been well documented in a number of landmark studies. “ACEs” comes from the CDC-Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, a groundbreaking public health study that discovered that childhood trauma leads to the adult onset of chronic diseases (including heart disease), depression and other mental illness, violence, and being a victim of violence. The ACE Study has published about 70 research papers since 1998. Hundreds of additional research papers based on the ACE Study have also been published.

The more ACEs we have as children, the more likely we are to suffer physical and emotional consequences as adults. ACEs are quite common and include bullying, losing a parent due to divorce, death, deportation, or dysfunction, physical or emotional abuse, parental neglect, or being separated from a parent due to illness or injury.

We know there are specific consequences of growing up with fathers who were absent or abusive. Research reported by the National Center For Fathering concludes:

“Children from fatherless homes are more likely to be poor, become involved in drug and alcohol abuse, drop out of school, and suffer from health and emotional problems. Boys are more likely to become involved in crime, and girls are more likely to become pregnant as teens.”

Not only does fatherlessness impact individuals and families, but they can impact countries. In her groundbreaking book, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, world-famous therapist Dr. Alice Miller, details the connection between the abusive fathering and child-rearing practices suffered by Adolf Hitler, members of the S.S., and many Germans and Austrian’s raised during that era, with the later atrocities of the Nazis.

In May, 2016, six months prior to the election, I wrote an article, The Real Reason Donald Trump Will Be Our Next President, I said, “Mr. Trump seems to have suffered abuse, neglect, and abandonment as a child. Many of us have had similar experiences and resonate with his rage.” The father-wound not only impacts individuals and families, but can impact countries.

There are three reasons I’ve decided to write a book that will help us address the neglected reality of the father-wound in the lives of so many men and women in the U.S. and throughout the world.

  1. The father-wound may be inflicted in childhood, but it acts like a corrosive poison throughout our lives until it is treated.
  2. Fatherlessness is a powerful Adverse Childhood Experience that has not been sufficiently addressed.
  3. We’re living at a time when many abused boys are becoming abusive men, but millions of men and women are coming together to heal the father wound.

The new book is called From Madness to Manhood: In Search of My Lost Father and Myself.  It is the 14th book I’ve written and had published and my first memoir. In will be available in 2018 and will help the millions of men and women who have lost their fathers through divorce, death, disconnection, or dysfunction.

I’ll talk about my father’s depression and bipolar disorder, how I resisted recognizing my own problems, and the blessings of healing I received that allowed me to address and heal my father wound, which was at the root of many of my adult problems.

But I need your help. It won’t be easy convincing publishers that this is a book that millions will want to read. Here’s how you can help. I’d like to share a few chapters with you and get your comments and feedback. The more interest I can show, the more likely it is that publishers will want to bring out the book.

If you’re interested, please email me and put “The book” in the subject line. (Be sure and respond to my spamarrest filter when writing for the first time.) You can also leave a comment and your email in the comment section following this article. Thanks in advance for your help and support.

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  1. The book.

  2. Arthur R George says:

    Jed: Thank you for your continuing efforts to address the issue of fatherlessness. Many of your recent blogs tell, and re-tell, and tell yet again, the story of you and your father. (I knew who your father was, “Tommy the Puppet Man,” and was privileged to be at his memorial service at which you spoke, and to have learned of his, and yours, long painful history and your resolution of the past.) In all that re-telling, however, there seems to be a focus just on the wound of fatherlessness, and not much on the other two prongs of Tillich’s questions: (1) What would we be like if we were whole?
    (2) How do we move from our condition of brokenness to wholeness? We need to get past endlessly dwelling on the wound, and I fear your recent blogs just keep re-living the wound. Note that John Finch of “The Father Effect” appears to have found a faith-based solution, through prayer, finding and living by “God’s standard,” and FORGIVENESS. This really cuts to the chase, in a way that the endless dance of mere psychology does not. There is a resistance to religion, to God’s standard, we would prefer to be “spiritual but not religious,” whatever that vaguely means. Yet the answer to the wound of fatherlessness seems to be obedience to a standard, by which men can adhere to a standard to be strong (yet not stern) and loving fathers, and by which men can heal their own father wound through forgiveness and submitting to a “Higher Power,” as with AA, to heal that inner hole. So my suggestion: let’s focus on the solution, because you DO seem to have found one in your embrace of the message of John Finch, rather than endless diagnosing of the problem. And how may we return to God, and godly standards, in a way that is palatable in this secular age? Thanks for considering the tough questions….!

  3. Arthur,

    Thanks for your comments. For me, and for many men I’ve worked with over the years, the most difficult step is to recognize there is a problem, to accept the wounding rather than denying it. There are a variety of solutions. I’m telling my own in the book and what I’ve learned counseling men and their families over these last 40 plus years.

    I learned about John Finch’s work by supporting his film. He and I have been talking and I’m now reading and supporting his book launch.

    I’m glad you knew my father. He was a special guy and I’ll be talking much more about the healing in future posts.

  4. Pete Lepanto says:

    “The Book”

  5. MARTIN HATTON says:

    the book, hello Jed.. been following your work and would be interested to see new chapters of book.. please.
    Also posting and sharing your work in fb page on ACE Scottish forum with professional peers