"What we traditionally have called normal parenting in this society is abusive because it is emotionally dishonest.   Children learn who they are as emotional beings from the role modeling of their parents."

"As a child, I learned from the role modeling of my father that the only emotion that a man felt was anger....."

"In this society, in a general sense, the men have been traditionally taught to be primarily aggressive, the 'John Wayne' syndrome, while women have been taught to be self-sacrificing and passive.   But that is a generalization; it is entirely possible that you came from a home where your mother was John Wayne and your father was the self-sacrificing martyr."

An incident happened when I was about 11 that I didn't understand until several years into recovery.   At my grandmothers funeral I started crying hysterically and had to be taken out of the funeral home.   I wasn't crying because my grandmother had died - I was crying because I had seen my uncle cry.   It was the first time in my life I had seen a man cry and it opened the floodgates of all the repressed pain I was carrying.     Of course, I went right back to repressing after that because I still hadn't seen my father cry and he was my role model.

The belief that it is unmanly to cry or express fear is part of the prototype for what a man is supposed to be in our society.   Most men are programmed to keep their emotions (except for anger) bottled up in a concrete bunker inside of themselves because that is what they learned from society and from their role models.   Some men, of course, go to the other extreme and because they don't want to be like their fathers are out of balance in not being able to own their anger - these men usually marry women who are like their fathers.

Growing up with fathers who were emotionally crippled by their role models and society's beliefs has damaged us all.   Men can't be emotionally honest with others because they don't know how to be emotionally honest with themselves. Subconsciously they don't have permission to own the whole spectrum of their emotional palette.   It takes a lot of work and willingness in recovery to change the emotional programming we received in our childhoods.

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And it is vital to do that work because being denied access to emotions denies access to our hearts and souls - denies access to the feminine energy within.   A man who has his emotions dammed up in a concrete bunker within has a dysfunctional relationship with his own intuitive nurturing feminine energy and, of course, with feminine energy of those around him.

That is, of course, one of the curses of codependence that women experience men who don't have a clue what feelings are.   If Dad was emotionally unavailable then a woman is attracted to men who are the same - in an ongoing attempt to prove they are lovable by changing an emotionally unavailable male into one who is available.   And if Dad was emotionally available it was often in an emotionally incestuous way (surrogate spouse) so in that case the last thing a woman wants (on a subconscious level) is a male who is available emotionally - because the burden of feeling responsible for Dad's feelings was too heart breaking.

There is an additional way in which women are wounded by their fathers that I have never heard, or read, anyone talk about.   It is a devastating blow that many daughters suffer on a subconscious level.   It comes at a very vulnerable time and contributes more evidence to the message that there is something wrong/less than about being a woman that most girls have already received in ample supply from society and the role modeling of their mothers.

This happens when girls start developing a female body.   Their fathers, being males of the species, are naturally attracted to the awakening feminine sexuality of their daughters.   Some fathers of course act this out in incestuous ways.   The majority of fathers however react to this attraction (which in shame-based western civilization is not acknowledged as normal but rather is so shameful that it is seldom even brought to a conscious level of awareness) by withdrawing from their daughters, emotionally and physically.     The unspoken, subconscious message that the girl/woman gets is when I turned into a woman Dad stopped loving me.   Daddy's little princess is suddenly given the cold shoulder, and often is the recipient of angry (sometimes jealous) behavior from her father - who up until that time, often, has been much more emotionally available for his daughter than for his wife or sons.

In a healthy environment an emotionally honest father could recognize that his reaction was human - not something to be ashamed of - and also, not something to act out.   He could then communicate with, and have healthy boundaries with, his daughter so that she would know she wasn't being abandoned by her Dad.

Whether your father was John Wayne or a milquetoast, whether you are male or female, your father was wounded by his role models - both parental and societal.     Even if he was relatively the most healthy man on the planet, he was still wounded because civilized society is emotionally dysfunctional.

What is so damaging about being raised by wounded parents is that we incorporate the messages we got from their behavior and role modeling into our relationship with ourselves.   At the core of our being is a little child who feels unworthy and unlovable because our parents were wounded.   In order to heal our relationship with ourselves and achieve emotional honesty it is vital to take a realistic view of how our fathers, and mothers, wounded us.   That is necessary in order to heal the relationship with the masculine and feminine energy within us so that we can be our own Loving parent.

next: Father's Day

APA Reference
Staff, H. (2009, January 1). Fathers, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 16 from

Last Updated: August 6, 2014

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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