Fathers: the good, the bad, & the bluntly

Father’s Day . . . it compels us to honor the men who taught us to play ball, took us to rehearsals, showed us how to stand up for ourselves, and provided for our needs. 

But what if your relationship with your father wasn’t worthy of a Hallmark movie? I would guess that many of us have some mixed reviews, and some would even qualify as a film noir pscyho-drama.

I would like to share my truth about my dad. The whole truth.

The good . . .

Carl DeLoy Johnsen served in the Navy, studied engineering and worked for the Air Force. He was as mindful as a man born in 1926 could be of self-care. He encouraged me to have good posture, to stay away from anything that could even appear to be trouble, and worked hard, including overtime to provide for five children and my mom, who stayed home to care for us.

He served church callings with reverence and loved to help neighbors, especially the Samoan families in our community, who regularly invited him for their pig roasts and celebrations.

The bad . . .

My dad was abandoned by his mother and father, “a bastard,” born out of wedlock. He was raised by his grandmother, who was mean and incredibly emotionally abusive to him and his twin sister. He endured severe emotional and physical abuse. 

I truly believe he did the best to rise above the upbringing he had, but because of the time, place, and circumstances, his ideas of good parenting were a far cry from healthy, and so he thought it would be helpful to yell, publicly shame, administer harsh punishments for minor infractions, and seemed to prefer watching television to engaging with me or even taking me to church and school events (I remember often needing to “wait until the commercial” which was a signal to me that the TV was more important than my needs).

The blunt . . .

I was told to never ask my dad for anything (and would’ve learned it eventually on my own) because the answer was always going to be “no,” regardless of what it was.

The main reason I decided to study psychology was to try to understand how humans can choose such painful realities and pass them on to children they chose to have.

In my studies, I realized that my dad’s abuse led to his abuse, and really found deep compassion and forgiveness for his decisions and behaviors. I quit holding animosity and contempt towards him and instead let it all go and got to really appreciate how far he had come.

The gift . . .

What a gift to be able to no longer be triggered by my dad. We had several decades of love – still significantly limited because of his own short range of emotions (he still often chose the television over time with me, and passed the phone off to my mom as soon as I would greet him when I called), but I quit being hurt by it.

I learned to translate my dad’s limited capacity to express love in healthy ways into an appreciation for what he could and did do to express his care for me.

But wait, there’s more!

Early on, in my mid-twenties, I assumed that I had healed my father wound because of the complete turn-around in my relationship with my dad, but then I realized that, even though I no longer felt anger towards him, and no longer got upset by his dysfunctional behavior, I was still deeply imprinted with some really gnarly programming around love and relationships. I also realized I had no actual clue what a nurturing, healthy relationship with the masculine looked or felt like.

I caught myself, mouth agape, as I watched a video going around on Facebook about eighteen years ago. It was a dad with his little girl in the bathroom. She was about three years old. She was standing on the counter and her dad was behind her, coaching her to affirm how powerful, smart, talented, and valuable she is. For a moment it was like watching actual footage of a Pegacorn flying through downtown San Francisco farting cotton candy. It was a bit shocking, and then the tears and feelings started to flow. That’s what healthy fatherhood looks like.

I am just now peeling away some of the last layers of self-censorship because I was threatened with physical harm for showing any emotions other than joy and gratitude.

So, I get it. Father’s Day can bring up some mixed feelings.

Even when the relationship itself has an opportunity to be healed, generational abuse from survival, mental illness, and other ancestral wounds takes a lot of deep inner work to deprogram.

Honoring the good ones

So, I want to offer a deep heart bow to all of the men who are doing their best to offer something better than they had, and to give fatherhood a valiant and courageous best effort. I want to honor all of us who have been harmed by the masculine caretakers who were supposed to protect and provide, but weren’t able to.

I also want to honor the men who have shown up in my life with kind hearts, and welcomed me as their spirit sister/soul family. I am truly blessed with some of the finest examples of the sacred masculine. You truly are an answer to my prayers.

May this time of remembering our dads be full of grace, inner peace, and healing.

May the masculine be liberated from the old paradigms of toxic masculinity as a path to success and self-validation. May the masculine feel genuinely embraced from within by the sacred feminine and may there be healing and peace through an elevated co-creative balance between all energies on the spectrum

And if you could use some support in exploring a healing path for your own relationship with the masculine (within and with others), schedule some time to talk with me. I’m here for you and I want to hear from you. >>SCHEDULE A FREE NO OBLIGATION EXPLORATION OF WHAT’S POSSIBLE ON YOUR HEALING JOURNEY<<.

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