Being the Father You Wish You Had
Author Calvin Sandborn blames patriarchy for
stealing the hearts of fathers, and here is an
article written by Scott McKeen, which appeared in
the Edmonton Journal recently:
This one's for men who seethe inwardly, men who
rage outwardly and men whose reflexive anger
protects them from hurt feelings.
In other words, it's for the vast majority of
men in our society. Last Monday I wrote about the
psychological void in most men caused by
emotionally distant fathers.
Today's column is about how that void is oft
filled with anger -- one of the few emotions men
feel safe to express, along with laughter and lust.
Calvin Sandborn's book, Becoming the Kind
Father, is today's inspiration. Sandborn is in town
to give a workshop on the topic of male anger.
Lest you think his book and workshop is only for
violent spouses, think again. Physical violence is
the rare but shameful expression of a common
darkness in the hearts of men.
And lest you think I'm siding with radical
feminism, you are so wrong. I do not believe men
are inherently violent or angry. Nor are they born
emotionally stunted. In fact, studies show male
babies to be equally or more emotionally expressive
as female babies.
The sad fact is that both boys and girls are
warped by societal expectations -- by what Sandborn
"I know, all red-blooded men cringe when they
hear that word, patriarchy," says Sandborn. "But in
our resentment against feminist criticism, men have
missed a vital point. Patriarchy has stolen our
hearts and is killing us."
The theft, according to Sandborn, is of the
ability to express, process or even feel a normal
array of human emotions.
Patriarchy stresses power over weakness and
individual achievement over community and intimacy.
Girls lose their voice, their power, under such
pressures. Boys learn to be ashamed of their
sensitive or "sissy" feelings. So boys suppress
such feelings, though they can't ever outrun them.
Sandborn says men, if made to feel ashamed, sad
or hurt, react by getting angry at the cause, be it
a boss, spouse, child or friend. The "other" gets
blamed for making him feel what he shouldn't feel
as a man -- vulnerable.
"He gets mad, the adrenaline starts flowing, he
feels powerful and before you know it, he's not
feeling sad anymore," says Sandborn, a University
of Victoria law professor who grew up with a raging
alcoholic of a father.
"The point is, if you scratch an angry man,
you'll often find a grieving man underneath -- a
guy who has never learned how to identify and
process his vulnerable feelings."
According to Sandborn, no one is victimized by
the angry man more than the angry man himself. What
he learned from his father, he learned well.
"Most men don't have very good relations with
their fathers," he says. "Perhaps 10 or 15 per cent
of sons report a good relationship. Others report
angry fathers, critical fathers, emotionally
distant fathers, absent fathers."
Essentially, how the father treated the son is
the way the son now treats himself. The critical
voice now lives in his head.
"As Shakespeare put it, the voice of a father is
like the voice of God," says Sandborn. "And that
critical voice is often incorporated into the
ongoing internal narrative that we use to define
Expressing anger doesn't work for angry men,
either. A feedback loop starts when anger is
expressed at a loved one, for example. Anger leads
to guilt, leads to self-loathing, leads to more
This all comes at great cost. Not only are
families hurt by angry men, so are the men
themselves. Stress kills angry men at a rate much
higher than others. Men are twice as likely to
become alcoholics -- four times as likely to take
their own life.
The answer? To begin, men must soften the cruel
self-talk by adopting a patient and supportive
inner voice. As Sandborn says, a man can become his
own kind father.
"This makes all the difference. By treating
himself with compassion, a man allows his heart to
re-emerge -- he re-establishes a relationship with
self. And for the first time, close relationships
with others become a real possibility."
He advises men to pay more attention to their
feelings. Give yourself permission to feel things.
The truth is that feelings, with permission, will
rise and then pass. Admit your guilt or sadness to
yourself. But use a gentle voice. Everyone is
flawed. Everyone makes mistakes. No one is a
perfect husband, father or friend.
Remember, too, that anger is natural when a
person feels attacked. But Sandborn says we can
express angry feelings without losing our temper.
Often, what we want to express to the other person
is not our anger, but our hurt feelings.
Sandborn was raised by an angry father. He
became an angry man. Yet he knew in his heart it
wasn't the kind of father, spouse and man he wanted
"I know people can change because I have," says
Sandborn. "And so have many other men."
© 2008 Mark
Other Father Issues,
* * *
To this day I can remember my father's
voice, singing over me in the stillness of the
night. - Carl G. Jung
a Masters degree in counseling psychology and has
been a counselor, business consultant, sports
counselor, and a certified life and business coach.
He has worked with individuals, teams, and
businesses to improve their performance for over 20
years. Prior to life and business coaching Mark was
a world-ranked professional tennis player and has
coached other world-ranked athletes. He has helped
hundreds of individuals to implement his coaching
techniques. Mark specializes in coaching men to
balance their lives and to improve the important
relationships in their lives. He is the author of
the popular e-books, 25
Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent
Your Wife in 30 Days or Less (And Improve Yourself
at the Same Time
Mark is also the publisher of the Dads
Dont Fix your Kids ezine for fathers.
To sign up, go to www.markbrandenburg.com
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