Tag Archives: emotional health

What Makes a Good Father?

Did you have a good father?

I would love to know what percentage of you can answer yes, and feel it. What made him good? I know already he wasn’t perfect, there isn’t such a thing, but I wonder why there aren’t more who were (are) good enough. What do we need in a father?

It’s a good question for Father’s Day. We need fathers: their strength, their guidance and directions, their understanding and gentleness. But so often they are either a detriment or just absent. Being a woman and a mother, I don’t really understand that. Having a father who worked very hard, I do appreciate the responsibility and loyalty of men for their families, but why is it so hard for them to relate to their children?

I know they have the same love mothers have. I’ve watched and talked to my friends. Are men afraid of attachment? Are they raised to avoid deep relationships? Is it because they stop talking to parents at puberty? Is it that the separation from mom is so traumatic and the separation from dad often violent that they have a feeling of being alone? They seem to be more isolated inside than women are. Are they more afraid of their emotions? Afraid to own them, to have them? I’ve only experienced it vicariously through my clients.

I recently worked with a man who believed love was weakness. His dad was absent, his mother too. But why would a man who had a good relationship with at least one parent think that? There seems to be something inherent in a man that says you have to be strong. You must be independent.

Separating from parents is important, but it is tough if you don’t have a relationship with them. Cutting off doesn’t get it. You end up feeling isolated. So men usually identify with their work–what they do becomes who they are. But is that really the same? It would explain why they focus on work. And if they haven’t had a safe-feeling relationship, they will shy away from emotions.

Falling in love is the next emotional connection, and if it goes badly, which most first-love experiences do, because of immaturity, lack of identity, and rushing into them, it will fail him. Perhaps making him lock up softness and affection even tighter. A man’s emotions are more fragile and yet more powerful than a woman’s, but much more rare.

If a man doesn’t mature them in the second and third decades by being slow and purposeful with relationships and choices, emotions do not mature from disuse or misuse, and they can be scary and feel out-of-control. Drinking, drugs and porn seem easier than growing up emotionally. I worked with a man, a very successful pastor of many years, a master teacher, but who was so emotionally shut down he didn’t have any idea what he felt. And life had gotten hard. He had never learned this, and addiction got him.

This I can relate to because I shut down  emotions early. I can remember making choices to do it at 8 and 9. According to my mother my emotions were defective, and my father was pretty much absent. I didn’t start actually looking at them and understanding them until I was in my late 20’s and went to therapy for the first time. That was a short, very helpful stint. I began to unpack them. Later, I faced them again–eight-year-old emotions that came up in a 34 yr-old relationship. I took them to God, asked what was going on, and He told me I had saved them for a safe man. But they needed to be lived with every day and matured.

It’s important to grow up emotionally. God is a balanced, loving, ever-present father who will never abandon you. He is a safe person with which to unpack your emotions and practice them. He made you with them. And whether you missed the critical second and third decades of growing them well, you can start today. Journaling, writing your feelings to God every day, is a great way to start–whether male or female, whether you are 12 or 72.

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Black Friday

I was a little down Friday–probably the result of too much food over too much time and too many chemicals. Not the first time I’ve witnessed the  effect of food on the mind. My husband went biking–I’m so glad he still likes that at 74! He didn’t feel good either, and said it was really hard to get going, but just after deciding he should quit, he started feeling better and kept going.

I wonder if that is how everyone feels after Thanksgiving Day? Maybe we need some new traditions. Maybe that is why retailers have seized on the concept of Black Friday. Get them while their in a food fog and they will spend more money. And it gives them something to look forward to and gets them moving.

Yes, that’s my humor, but it was another good reminder that what you put in makes a big difference in how you think and feel. “Black Friday” seemed appropriate. You might have guessed I’m not a shopper; and doing it with mobs of people doesn’t appeal.

But I had no motivation for anything. That is rare for me. So I thought I’ll do the things I usually love doing and I’ll pull out of it. I don’t love exercising, but I know it makes me feel better, so I did my 30 minute workout. Didn’t help. I didn’t think I was sharp enough to write, so I sat in the sun in my gazebo for a while and read a book my husband wanted me to read. That helped–the sun always helps.

Then I walked around my yard and got caught up in a project that had been calling me but I hadn’t had time for. That took about an hour and it helped. But I realized I wasn’t choosing to get out of my funk. Under the surface I was feeling a little sorry for myself that I was so far away from family.

While I was exercising I had talked to my daughter who was busy and had just said good-by to her company, and then to my sister who was going shopping with her daughter. It’s their tradition. I think I got jealous. I’m a person who does well with solitude, but sometimes you just need people! We’d had a great time with friends the night before, maybe that heightened it. Put that with my physical state and I felt depressed.

Realizing it put me in touch with choice. I commended myself for choosing not to eat that day and started making some other good choices, and by that evening felt good enough to invite my friend for dinner. (Earlier I hadn’t even wanted to be around people.)

The point is I started making good choices, and my body cooperated, and I was able to start choosing to think better. I was reminded (by God I’m sure) about the wonderful news from a client I heard two days before, and then also the wonderful news from my friend who’s valiantly fighting cancer–yesterday was her birthday–and I began giving thanks.

I still wasn’t normal the next day, but on a nudge from Spirit, I invited some people I had only briefly met for lunch, and it ended up being just what we needed: a lot of laughter and some new friends.

I’m always amazed at the power in choice and thanks to turn a body and a mind around.

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What is Emotional Health?

Thinking about emotional health, I have decided that the video of Brene Brown on  my site http://Godhelps.net is better than anything I could say.

I started to write this last week, but was too focused on the parenting talk I gave this week, in which I ended with her remarks, “We should give the message to our kids, ‘even though you are imperfect, you are worthy of love and belonging, and you are hard-wired for struggle’.”

Take the 20 minutes to watch it and expand your mind. Besides, she is entertaining–a wonderful quality in any speaker, but especially in a social researcher. This TED talk is the culmination of her six year study of vulnerability, and well worth the time.

And because it bears repeating, I ended my talk with “Don’t do for your kids things they should be doing. Don’t take away their struggle. Like the butterfly, they need it to become beautiful.” I really believe that. But I failed at it as a parent. So I’m passing it on to you who haven’t failed or at least haven’t finished parenting yet.

When I asked about my mistakes, my daughter, who was 30 said, “I wish you had been harder on me–made me deal with hard things.”

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