So much is written about the importance of the mother/child relationship, the damage that can result from this being troubled, the influence of the attachment in this relationship being brought to bear on future relationships and so on, but, much less is written about the father/child relationship.
How important is the role of the father? How much does his presence or absence impact on our development?
Fathers can be physically present or absent and/or emotionally present or absent. Many children grow up without the physical and supportive emotional presence of a father. As a result of this, they seem to struggle more with issues of identity and self-esteem as they move onwards and upwards into adulthood than their counterparts who have fathers who are around in both senses.
According to Ian Gordon-Brown, (Journey in Depth, 2002) the father is chiefly concerned with identity, effecting it at every level. His role is about vocation, knowledge, looking at the present and the future. Father is linked with the head, the rational, thoughts - the Will, in Psychosynthesis terms. This implies that it is the father that facilitates our breaking out of the nurturing relationship with our mother and moving forward into our futures, our careers, our relationships. Whereas mother might want to hold on, father wants to encourage us forward.
Fathers can be associated with the bottom line in discipline, the “wait until your father gets home” threat. They can, fairly or unfairly, be lumbered with taking a huge amount of responsibility for the practical areas of everyday life. They can also be weak, unengaged and opt out of responsibility.
We need, also, to remember that fathers have their own context. Their relationships with their fathers and grandfathers, their understanding of what it is to be men, how they learned how to be men, to be fathers, particularly as, within the last century, there have been not only two world wars but also, more recently, huge pressures on them to shift from the status quo of their roles.
As with our relationship with our mother, our relationship with our father warrants our attention. We are inevitably impacted by his presence or absence, and, we can learn that, whatever the relationship or lack of one, there is the potential for deepening our understanding of our father and ourselves. There may be wounds as a result of that relationship or lack of it, and, as well as those wounds, we may discover some gifts.
Siobhan Tinker is a training supervisor at the Trust.
Siobhan and Brian Graham are holding a workshop: The Wounds and Gifts of the Father at the Psychosynthesis Trust on Saturday, 18th April, 2015. For more information and a booking form, please contact Siobhan : firstname.lastname@example.org http://psychotherapistsevenoaks.co.uk/