The Unavailable Father

So much of the literature in mental health and psychology has focused on the mother and attachment with the mother. But what about our fathers?

As children we need a healthy father figure. It doesn’t have to be a biological father, it could be an uncle, an older brother, or even a neighbour. We need a father figure to learn what it feels like to be loved in a healthy way by a man.

Boys need it to learn how to be loving, compassionate men, and girls need it to learn what it feels like to be genuinely, unconditionally loved by a man.

So many people experienced fathers who lived with them but were completely unavailable emotionally. Maybe they worked all the time and left the children to be raised by the mother, freeing themselves of all familial responsibility, maybe they were too busy womanising and
drinking, maybe they had mental health issues they were dealing with. There can be many reasons why they were unavailable.

Having an unavailable father usually provokes one of two reactions.

1) Push him away, “I don’t need his love”. Here we punish him, withdraw and close down. We stop expecting anything from him to protect ourselves from being hurt. Maybe we become rebellious and act out in different ways.
2) Chase him; “If I do this or that I will be good enough and he will love me”. This results in the performing child, in the overachieving child, the good girl. Here there is a tendency to lose the self to what we imagine dad wants us to be. We abandon our self.

As adults we can continue this behaviour with men. Either pushing away when our needs are not met or chasing him and doing anything for approval and affection.

If you are aware you are still playing out any of these childhood patterns, please be gentle with yourself. Know you are not alone, and these only developed in response to what you were experiencing.

You CAN break the pattern.