It’s Father’s Day. Father’s Day is all about those endearing, positive, caring fathers. But what about the abusive fathers?
Yep, fathers are as difficult a topic for dissociative trauma survivors as mothers.
Fathers often are heavily involved in the trauma history for dissociative survivors. Most DID survivors I know have far too many painful memories involving their fathers.
I decided I would recognize Father’s Day by writing briefly about a few of the common but complicated topics connected to fathers. These are difficult, agonizing, stressful father-related issues for DID systems.
I can feel the shuddering going on already.
How difficult are these situations for you?
A. Saying no to your father
According to childhood rules, it’s really not allowed, typically, for DID survivors to even consider saying no to their father. It’s a scary topic. This is a “rule” that gets taught very early on, and takes years of time to challenge. All too often, this very idea is tied to trauma, and abuse, and a whole lot of fear.
And yet, it really is okay, especially as you become an adult yourself, to make your own decisions about your life, and about what you’ll do (or not do). The older you are, the less say-so that your father should have in terms of making the rules for your life. Easily said, but oh so very difficult to do, especially if you have the type of father that doesn’t want to relinquish that position of power and authority.
But still, your life belongs to you, and at some point, it really is okay to claim that for yourself. You don’t have to believe what your father believed. You don’t have to spend your life following his rules or his directions. You don’t have to put his teachings above what you want to decide for yourself. It is okay, and important, for you to become your own person, and to establish your own sense of self separate from your father. To do this, means that at some point in time, you will likely have to say “No” to your father and his preferences.
For many trauma survivors, the healing process is very dependent on you gaining more separation from your father, and being able to make decisions about your life based on what you think, not on what your father thinks.
B. Having an Abusive Father
What about the trauma survivors whose fathers were their perpetrators?
What is your father is still one of your perpetrators?
Boy oh boy, it’s very difficult to think anything positive about Father’s Day when your father was (or is) one of your abusers. It becomes a day of pain, heartache, body memories, flashbacks, fear, and anxiety. Trauma city!
Being hurt, betrayed, and abused by either of your parents creates some of the deepest wounds, and some of the deepest splits within the dissociative system.
- There will often be parts in your system that completely agreed with and supported and even helped the father carry out abuse to various people in your system.
- There will be others in your system that were and probably still are terrified of the father.
- There will be others in your system that have absolutely no awareness of any abuse done by the father, and will defend his innocence with a vengeance.
- There could be others in your system that don’t even know that the father was their father – they will see him as some generic “man” that hurt them.
- There could also be others in your system that only remember the father as a good man, a decent person, a fun and caring person, a good man in the community, and any other variety of being good, just, and kind.
Having such extreme and varied views and experiences with the father creates a ton of internal conflict, making the necessity of splitting into different selves much more understandable. Having different parts, each containing their own experiences, and then keeping these parts separated from each other, is often an effort to minimize the turmoil caused by loving / hating / fearing / admiring the same person. It makes sense. How else would someone manage all the extremes?
C. Being Abandoned by your Father
What about the fathers that simply abandoned their children?
This is a painful topic as well. It leads to feelings of nothingness, low self-esteem, anger, self-destruction, and confusion. Not having a father creates a hole in the heart – an emptiness that just doesn’t go away. To become used to this emptiness can create a type of apathy towards people that can lead to other types of problems in life and relationships. It can lead to addictive behaviors – drinking, drugging, sexual promiscuity – and any other behavior that tries to mask pain with impulsive “I want to feel good” options.
It’s almost impossible to understand how a father could leave you without struggling with thoughts about “am I bad?” or “it must be my fault” or “I made him go away”. Children internalize blame onto themselves, and many dissociative survivors grow far into adulthood before becoming able to shift this responsibility back onto the father instead of absorbing it into themselves. Not taking the blame for your father’s poor behavior is an important task in the healing journey.
Father issues are not simple, and yet, very often, for trauma survivors, sorting out your father issues are very central to your healing. It’s difficult to understand or choose or create healthy family relationships when your whole life experience has been with a dysfunctional or abusive father. Fathers, even the absentee fathers, are very prominent in shaping your very sense of yourself. Your father isn’t nobody. He has had some very significant impact on your life.
When you were a child, you had very little say so about that.
Now, when you are older, and more adult, and more resourceful for yourself, now you can make new decisions that can redefine that relationship and its impact on you and your life, and the lives of your insiders.
Even if it is scary to address these topics, for your own healing, your health, and your well-being, it’s essential that you do.
I wish you the best in your healing journey.
Copyright © 2008-2023 Kathy Broady MSW and Discussing Dissociation