For nearly three weeks I've been facilitating The Father Project for some sixty-plus women. The project is designed to assist participants in healing whatever emotional trauma they encountered in their early childhood experiences with their fathers. The work can be deep and difficult for some women as they uncover the early beliefs they developed about themselves and their relationships because of their fathers' poor parenting--such as "I'm not worth protecting. I'm not lovable. I'm not good enough. I can't trust men. Men will hurt and betray me. Men won't love me no matter what I do." These are the types of beliefs that resurface for many women just as they try to feel safe and open to new love, or in any number of situations in which they would benefit from a reasonably intact sense of self and integrity. Their relationship (or the lack thereof) with their fathers can and usually does impact them for the rest of their lives. They must do the hard work of discovering their deep-seated beliefs, exploring them, and deciding that they don't have to be true.
For me, a particularly interesting part of this work is realizing and accepting the impact our genetic programming plays in who we become. Our cells are living, breathing things that respond to thoughts and their environment. Our early environments and experiences contribute greatly to who we become as adult women. When I was babe, my father was one angry, scared, and neglected young man, who took out all his rage and fear on my mother. The energy of violence was regular part of my daily experience for the first decade of my life. There were drugs, fighting, guns, screaming, police, and constant anger. I lived inside of this energy, and I can easily access the feeling of terror I felt in my bones as a little girl. My environment traumatized me over and over again. Oddly enough, I was also deeply spiritual, open, and receptive. In spite of what I saw around me, I believed in magic and fantasies. I prayed for happily-ever-after to come for me. I prayed deep, long, intense prayers to the God of my understanding, and when I was about nine years old, I cursed God for giving me parents who could not take care of me. I declared that come hell of high water, I would be taken care of; I deserved it. And that terrified nine-year-old has been running my experience for over thirty years. I've been waiting for someone to come save me my entire life.
Many women are children in adult bodies--what we have dwelt in as children lives in us until we decide to let it go. Worse yet, if we are still angry, feel abandoned, betrayed, forgotten, unlovable, and unimportant, we energetically and in our behavior pass these feelings to future generations. We continue the cycle of brokenness and trauma, until we consciously put a stop to it. One day I realized that not only will my negativity impact me, but it will affect my child, my lovers and my extended family. I saw clearly how women really do create the world because everyone comes from us. Remembering how sensitive I was as child forces me to know without a doubt that my son is also sensitive and keenly aware of the energy I bring to him. He might not have words to express it, but he feels it deeply. Healing our relationship with our fathers is key, not only to our own happiness, but to the progress and peace of the generations to come. A whole, happy, conscious woman is truly worth her weight (and more!) in gold. She can change her world, the world of those around her, and even the world of those to come.
I've found that my work with The Father Project can be demanding. It's like running water into a filthy container. At first the water will pour out dirty and nasty, but if you continue to rinse and rinse, eventually it will run clean and the container will be like new. If you are hurting and your life is not as you imagined it would be because your relationships with men are filled with disharmony, I challenge you to explore what that little girl within you felt about herself based upon her experiences with her father. You'll likely be surprised by what you find tucked away in the dark places of your heart. The freedom from a damaged self-image is yours for the taking, if you are willing to return to that time, accept your father and do the work to forgive and reframe your experience with your father. Your next Father's Day can be peaceful and warm, feeling very unlike those of your past.