HOW ALL THIS PERTAINS TO YOUR OWN DAD
Many of today’s dads can be defined as a complex identity trapped in a complicated world.
Dad’s instincts and self image are periodically at war with society. And yes, for many dads, it does feel like war. What he wants to do and what he is required to do, are not the same.
So ask your dad what’s going on in his life, and for most daughters, what you’ll get is a weak, protected answer.
Deep inside his inner defenses, is a fear of showing vulnerability that dates back to the days he stood guard of the cave. Combine this with an unsureness of how to act, and you may begin to understand the barrier that exists between most dads and their daughters. It hampers your ability to truly understand and connect with the real person, lonely, isolated, that resides inside most dads.
We’ve heard it over and over again, through hundreds of men’s group sessions. We’ve heard it through the mountains of personal interviews we’ve conducted in the preparation for this book.
A universal calling out by men.
Just about every man (and dad) described in varying terms, the type of anguish and alienation he feels or has felt at some time or another, about being a man in a complicated world for men. Almost universally, men explained that they wanted to connect on a deeper personal level with people, especially family. But many explained that they just didn’t know how.
For each of these men and fathers, we now understand that deep down, it’s not his fault. It’s his programming, and the expectations of the world that have facilitated him clamming up. They’ve gotten in the way.
Whenever someone tries to get too close emotionally, some dads will use humor, some anger, some silence. But however they do it, most men will find a way to deflect you away from the sensitive subject of their emotional vulnerability — the place where your real dad resides.
Our experience is that most men and dads do want to change this. Most are comfortable opening up to other men about this blockage. Most are comfortable telling other men about this instinctive battle within them, this fear of exposing their vulnerability, that restricts their ability to connect with the ones they love most.
But most of these men and dads also opine that they don’t like feeling lonely in this pain, this fear, this inner turmoil. They want to be freed from these barriers.
They want to be able to open up to someone close, but without sacrificing the little bit of dignity they have left, without giving up the iconic image they possess, of what it means to be a man. They don’t want to become a woman and give up their manhood, just for the right to open their hearts. That sacrifice is too much.
In many cases, you, his daughter, may be the last best hope. You are one of the few people on earth he can trust. More than a spouse, you are his child, his baby. You know things about him that few other people can even relate to.
Think Donald Trump, big shot. Then think about his kids.
How about Michael Jackson? What was he really like? Really? His kids know. They know deep down what kind of person he really was. They know what he was like behind closed doors.
As the daughter of your father, you have an advantage over a son. You live in the world of feelings, more so than most sons can even imagine. You can sense deep emotions that would generally be missed by a son.
The actress Jane Fonda often spoke about the anguish of not being able to get close to her movie star dad, Henry Fonda. The sons talked about the emotional abuse, but for her, the greatest pain was the isolation from this most important of people in her life.
It’s your power as your dad’s daughter, to open the door to the heart, that many men (and dads) just don’t know how to access.
So, here are a few benchmarks to understanding an important part of the dynamics within your dad.
Between being forced to restrain his instincts, losing his stature as the family guru, and being made to feel connected with the negative end of the species, there is little incentive for your dad to open up to you with personal stuff.
Oh, he may fake it (women love to see men cry). But in the end, whatever modicum of dignity your dad still possesses, he’s generally not willing to risk that in an open and sensitive discussion with anyone — except, oddly enough, maybe with another guy (when no woman is present).
As his daughter, you have a unique opportunity to change all that. You have the ability to open an emotional door with your dad that could impact how you interact with the rest of the world, and how your dad interacts with women, with men, and with you.
You may be the only person in his life, who has this power over him…