A Better Way to Heal Your Father Wound

Noted author Gail Sheehy once wrote, “The lack of loving, respectful relationships with their fathers is one of the greatest tragedies males suffer.”

How about you? Was your father emotionally close to you?

Let me share with you an emerging new power.

Fatherhood can heal. As men learn to be involved Dads, they exert important effects on the emotional well being of their children.

And, by extension, on their own emotional and mental health.

One spots this truth on Nick. He repeatedly expressed a sentiment during our sessions: “I want to be a good father to my two children. I don’t want to have a relationship with my kids that I had with my own father.”

Nick knows. He wants it so much between himself and his children. Rather than be seen by his kids as a remote, controlling disciplinarian, he desires them to see him as kind, trustworthy, and dependable.

“Fathering is one of men’s greatest opportunities for personal transformation,” says Dr. William Pollack, assistant clinical professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

I think Daddies are changing nowadays. A new-model Dad is on display inside malls. One carries his baby girl around his neck, her little hands, grasping his fingers. Masculinity redefined via reinventing fatherhood.

I’ve met men and women in my sessions countless times suffering from “father wound.” Quite a number struggle to heal and break the cycle. Warming up to their own children doesn’t come naturally for they never had a “hugging relationship” with their own fathers.

But almost all of them sense a level of need to reconnect with their children. Bridge the awkwardness with them. It’s a longing to repossess their own emotional lives largely shut down for most of their adulthood.

An effective way for psychologically wounded men to feel loved and needed and healed is to be a different Dad – a work-invested father without losing the chance for closeness with one’s children.

Indeed, significant studies on fatherhood affirm that being a success as a nurturing Dad is actually good for a man’s mental, spiritual, and physical health.

Feel that. Don’t miss it!

“I Was Wrong”

“I was wrong.”

Those words are one of the most difficult things to say for most people. Whoever we are. Whatever our situations or circumstances.

Perhaps this is the tragedy of fraternity student members of Aegis Juris at the University of Santo Tomas. These frat officers and members were caught in a major hazing scandal that led to the death of a neophyte.

Based on latest news, these young men, along with their “big brothers” and lawyers, have become so vehement in their defense. Despite obvious evidences, they insisted that the hazing did not take place or they were not involved if there was one.

The need to “cover up” the crime and wrongdoing so offended the senators who were hearing the case. This led to the imprisonment of its frat leader as well as the victim family’s call to disbar the lawyers assisting the cover up.

What was the main crime?

I think it’s not so much the initial mistake or wrongdoing done as it was their insistence on their own innocence. I believe this case is a poignant illustration of the disastrous results of being unable to say, “I was wrong.”

I’m reminded of one of my patients, Charle. One of the clearest indicators of his psychological and emotional illness is inability to admit and deal with self-destructive behaviors. He specializes in self-justifying and self-excusing.

When I asked the father, who used to abuse Charle physically and verbally since childhood, to join in family session, the request was turned down. He said his son was to be completely blamed for his condition.

Medically speaking, if a person has a wound, he has to admit the wound. Then, allow a doctor to open it up and remove all foreign articles so he can heal. Once the infected area is cleansed and treated, tissues can be new again via healing elements.

Such concept is at work as well in psychological, emotional, and spiritual healing. Shameful acts, wrong attitudes, dysfunctional behaviors need to be admitted as they are. Taking responsibility for them starts a person’s healing of his mind, emotions, and spirit.

Self-justification and mental health. Do you want to be right or well?

Discovering the Best Psychotherapy

Recently, I read of this article by a psychiatrist who was critical and disappointed of his own profession. He found from his research that as much as 70% of depressed people who consulted psychiatrists were so minimally or not helped at all.

Interestingly, he noted from his study that over 80% who consulted a minister gained significant relief. Such particularly disturbed the psychiatrist for his profession was into helping people and yet it’s not making a desired difference.

One middle-aged single woman’s depression and addictions drove her to psychotherapy. Her previous years of psychiatric drug use and hospital confinement were so ineffective that it made things worst for her. Lately, she became promiscuous and had sex with different men within just a month.

When she came to me, she was overwhelmingly depressed. She’s attempting suicide. She’s not only depressed but staggering under an overburden of guilt. In addition, she was pregnant. For the years of psychiatric treatment, she should buy drugs and pay other services to house her?

There must be a better way!

While we may not hesitate to go to a cardiologist or surgeon for our physical ailments, a “doctor of the mind” is something else. The meaning of the word “psychotherapy” comes from the original Greek roots “psuche” and “therapepuo” which means “mind/soul healing.”

God’s ways are not man’s ways (Isaiah 55:8,9). In the real healing of mind and soul, only God’s ways apply. Therefore, we should not be surprised when the theories of Freud, Skinner, Adler, Yalom, and others are diametrically opposed to God’s ways as stated in Scripture.

Humanistic psychologists or drug-based psychiatrists have no or little to offer by way of genuine psychotherapy. They’re committed to helping people with only the humanistic or physical tools/concepts available to them. Both humanism and science (man-centered) try to solve mankind’s problems independent of God.

What is the best psychotherapy? Jesus said, “Without Me, you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) If you’re healing in the areas of mind, emotions, and soul, particularly those that spill over into life values, you’ll have to know God and His healing principles.

Self Parenting

Once, during a quiet evening, I saw and heard this over TV Channel 7 broadcast, “Paano ka mag-aalaga ng bata kung ikaw ay bata rin?”

It struck me a lot. A therapeutic question!

How indeed do you bring up your child when you’re a child yourself?

That question gave me one of my most insightful points during a self parenting seminar that I did for  a large, South Manila-based school.

Around a hundred people or more came (fathers and mothers, teachers, principal, guidance counselors, including the wives of the municipality’s mayor and congressman).

It’s a different kind of parenting seminar. That’s because my focus was on the parents themselves and not on the children.

In the seminar, I shared about inner healing and character formation of the parents first before they can apply healthy parenting techniques to their children.

I also shared about my own parenting journey. My ups and downs. My mistakes and joys.

More than a psychotherapist, I’m a human father with three children. I’ve known and experienced how essential it is to be an “adult father,” not a “child father.”

I hope to reach out to more parents in this area of “self-parenting.” I’m not an expert on child rearing techniques (others can more effectively teach that!).

But I believe I’ve been raised in a unique way to teach well on how to “parent one’s self” and heal the “inner child” as a foundation for authentic, longterm, healthy parenting of children.

I know. I’ve been there.

And I’m thankful for the opportunity to experience it first-hand myself.

Finding Peace Within

Thomas Kempis once wrote, ” … make peace with yourself, so that you may then bring peace to others.”

When victimized, its essential to acknowledge that one’s self has been wounded. An offender brought damage to it.

Some people deny or repress the hurt they experienced. They want to appear unaffected. They try to forget without working through. They make excuses.

Because they do not want to risk shaming themselves, they betray themselves by refusing to face their damaged emotions head-on.

If this is happening, any efforts towards healing of one’s self from the offense and sin of others are going to be unattainable and merely illusory.

What exactly can you do to make peace with your self when a spouse has betrayed you … a friend duped you with millions of money … a group of men raped your daughter … the police killed your loved ones … And so forth? How do you heal your self from these terrible offenses?

Let me cite here one major key psychological and spiritual step: forgiving your self. Before you can even think of forgiving your offender, you need to first re-establish your own internal harmony. To do this, you have to avoid being “contaminated” by the offensive acts of the other with forms of vengeance or self-harm. You attain internal harmony by forgiving your self.

Forgiving one’s self, as psychologist John Monbourquette put it, means “reconciling within one’s self the offender and the victim: stopping the offender in one’s self and breaking free of victimization.”

That involves refusing to identify your self with the offender. You need to call on your Higher Self with the Higher Power than that of your wounded ego self, naturally caught responding in the “twin role of offender and victim.” It is this Higher Self that can break the impasse and recreate your internal harmony to make peace with your self, finally.

Distance is Dead!

Once, I had an emotionally-charged session with a foreign couple. Suddenly, the woman partner told me she’s moving back to her home country. She said she could not bear the infidelity of her man.

We were both disappointed. Sessions had been going well, but incomplete. No significant momentum yet.

Then, a few days after, she phoned me. She thought of a practical alternative – session via Skype. This provided her hope and continuity, which she needed a lot during that time. It’s like face to face too such as in traditional sessions.

The medium of video and voice conferencing through Skype then became instrumental for her eventual healing and stabilization – personally and relationally.

We do live in a different time now.

With the fast rise of Internet and technology, psychotherapy and other mental health services have been moving in with the times.

For the final sessions with this hurting couple, we did meet in person again, which felt like a more appropriate way to end the sessions.

Both the couple and myself felt “upbeat” and at ease. Such seemed to be a reflection of our Skype sessions at processing issues and maintaining therapist-patient relationship.

We commented that our face to face sessions did not feel that much different from our previous Skype sessions.

Overall, I think that being able to continue our sessions via Skype was incredibly useful for both the patient and me.

Distance was no longer an obstacle to heal. In both my and the couple patient’s opinion the therapy had been successful. Skype played a role in this.

The use Skype and other modern forms of distance communication technologies could improve access to psychotherapies for people living in remote areas or foreign countries.

It’s helpful to those who are busy traveling or working, those housebound, disabled, or bedridden.

In my observation and opinion, the role of online therapy delivery is going to expand and is likely to continue to do so due to people’s needs and our changing times.

9 Keys of Treatment

In my assessment, most problems or individual dysfunctions are a disease of “core pain,” “lost selfhood,” or “false self.” Recovery needs to be complete, addressing the whole person – cognitive (the “head”), the emotional and experiential (the “heart” and “spiritual”), the physical (organic health), and personality (with learned and constitutional factors).

To treat and heal the “psychological wounding,” a process can be started requiring several action steps. These actions are closely related and generally occur in a circular fashion, with work in one area a link to another area. The “Treatment Plan,” which includes tools, vehicles, methods or techniques that help in the healing and recovery, include taking action on the following:

1.) Complete physical examination (to rule out any medical causation)

* Unless there is some major brain or organic damage, I don’t recommend drug therapy or
taking any kind of synthetic drugs for psychotherapy/counseling. Have a right diagnosis
to rule out any physical/medical causes of your psychological/emotional distress.

2.) Abstinence, detachment, or detoxification

* … from whatever person, place, thing, activity, behavior, chemical, or experience that
pollute, block, or distract the treatment/recovery plan

3.) Individual counseling and psychotherapy

* Regular and adequate attendance and workups, which may include psychological first aid, couple or extended family work, with a therapist/counselor.

* Process is usually composed of three pillars: diagnostics, treatment plan, relapse prevention.

* Psychotherapy is mostly internal work to finish “unfinished business” or unprocessed pain, which includes areas such as grieving, original pain work, working through the core issues, doing “personality” work, completing developmental tasks, setting healthy boundaries, among others.

4.) Group therapy or support group

* … that is specific for type of wounding being treated, such as depression, dysfunctional family, affairs, divorce, alcoholism, drug addiction, sex addiction etc. and depending on person’s needs

* Group therapy or support group provides emotional and social support. Here, you can hear others’ stories, increase your awareness about what happened, and begin working a 12-step or healing-is-a-choice program.

5.) Expanding circle of support

* Regular contact and sharing with one or more trusted and safe friends etc.

* Starting and cultivating new, healthy friendships, and choosing to connect to a safe community for volunteer opportunities or community involvement.

6.) Inpatient or other intensive recovery experiences, such as workshops/seminars, weekend retreats etc.

7.) Adequate self-care

* “Food therapy” or healthy diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, and natural supplements.

* Taking up an exercise program, such as running or jogging, to boost brain power and the immune system.

8.) Self-education on area of psychological/emotional wounding, such as depression, infidelity/ divorce wound recovery, anger management, wounder inner child, toxic parents etc.

9.) Beginning and/or continuing, conscious contact in a relationship with a Higher Power.

As previously noted, these “treatment plan” steps or actions interact and merge with one another. They are not necessarily distinct or separate areas of the the healing and recovery process.