What Are the Rewards of A Balanced Life? -part 4

How Does Parental Attachment Impact the Quality of Future Relationships?

“The fact that many people find romantic excitement in a lover who displays the qualities of a rejecting parent, an excitement that they do not find in others, suggests the degree to which they remain not just committed to but enthralled by early attachment figures.”                                                                                                                                     – Robert Karen – Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacities to Love                      Oxford: Oxford University Press (1994)

Experiencing healthy love and attachment behaviors from a primary caregiver will lay the foundation for a child to attract and sustain optimal relationships throughout their life.

But reconstructing the bond of a parent who didn’t provide their offspring the type of love they needed may take some children decades, while others could struggle for a lifetime.

“Due to ineffectively functioning relationships, individuals regularly suffer frustration, anger, sadness, damaged personal and professional connections, emotional distress, broken families, divorce, inabilities to concentrate, lowered productivity, loneliness, the need for treatment and/or medication, among numerous other negative experiences,” wrote Marianna Klebanov, JD in The Critical Role of Parenting in Human Development which she co-authored with Adam D. Travis, M.D., Ph.D.

Kids and Parents Bonding

For a child, releasing a mother or father who didn’t love them the way they needed is complex, and can be painful. Unraveling lingering hurt is an arduous process.  To begin the healing process, one must first integrate their charged emotions through awareness — a step which can lead to forgiveness, and ultimately reconciliation.

While there are a host of available resources to put the wheels of change in motion, sustained progress to a more peaceful and empowered state of mind is possible only with a serious commitment. Having a “BIG WHY” — a significant reason to change —  will keep the momentum going in the midst of personal setbacks, shifting priorities, and challenging family dynamics.  

The charged emotions a child carries can trigger impulsive or ineffective behavior that does not serve their long term best interest. So how does a son cultivate the awareness necessary to understand his father’s limitations and improve his own shortcomings? To what extent can forgiveness become a bridge to a son’s reconciliation?   

Bonding: Dad and Son

Cultivating the awareness to understand a father’s limitations begins with a son observing — without judgement, despite how difficult or painful it might be — the negative and positive influences and behavior his father experienced while he was growing up. A son would need to consider the prevailing attitudes, both from within his father’s family and the community in which he lived, to understand the treatment he received from his dad. With understanding comes awareness.

Stepping far enough back from the angst and the tears to examine their differences and similarities will help a young man to gain a healthy perspective about his father. Although coming to terms with certain memories and making constructive changes might take a son many years, it is possible and can impact the extent to which that son develops healthy relationships — both personally and professionally — and ultimately parents when he becomes a father.

Father Son Relationships

For a son to cultivate the awareness necessary to understand his father’s limitation, he must first be willing to open his heart and then utilize resources by experts in the field of psychology and spirituality that can help expand his perspective. Committing to a sustained therapeutic or journaling process could augment any of the new resources he chooses.   

Although there are many worthwhile films about reconciliation between fathers and sons, books can be especially worthwhile as passages and sections can be slowly digested and integrated over time. The classic The Power of Now by Eckhardt Tolle or the incomparable The Presence Process by Michael Brown can foster a transformation through a unique interactive process which encourages reflection and meditation. Either book could help with integrating the charged emotions required to facilitate the building of a bridge to forgiveness.  

Journaling regularly, especially upon waking and just before retiring for the night, is a powerful process to explore subconscious images that may appear in dreams or to review the significant events or challenges of the day. This process can also help awaken and sustain a connection to the gentle voice within that is connected to the universal source of creation, a healing energy with the potential to rebalance and renew.

Write Father, Write Son : A Bond-Building Journey , a book I co-authored with my son, Jared, took me through a healing process. As a young man, I had no idea that the greatest challenge in my relationship with my father—communicating constructively—would turn out to be his most valuable gift.

What began as a way to praise and guide my spirited eleven-year-old son led to the most important lesson I could have ever learned. The letters in the book were my investment in Jared’s development and our relationship through his adolescence as he approached adulthood. The process of regularly communicating with my son was cathartic as it enabled me to remain connected to him while integrating the charged emotions derived from my relationship with my father.

“Through the letters and stories,” wrote Alfred Guart, Pulitzer Prize nominated investigative reporter, New York Post, in the foreword of the book, “we see how a man struggles to be a better, more accessible father than the one he know. We see a boy mature and become a young, responsible man of insight and compassion.”

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