Therapy went pretty well yesterday. I have reached a comfortable stage in the therapeutic relationship that allows me to let down my guard. I am not fighting the stigma of mental illness that I usually impose upon myself when I initially talk about my depression. So, that’s all good.
Lynn wanted to hear about how the medications are working; we got that out-of-the-way first. Then I looked at her and candidly said, “There is one thing that I’ve never talked about to any therapist in all my years of therapy.” I paused briefly because I like to pique the interest of the therapist. As if, “this is a hidden piece of the puzzle of my life.” Which I thought perhaps it was. But, when I said, “The relationship I had with my father” it didn’t feel like that big of a revelation. I didn’t cry for what our relationship lacked nor for the grief I feel from his death (which was more that 20 years ago).
I told Lynn I never lived up to his expectations. If he were alive today he would still feel disappointed in me. Lynn asked me to tell her about my dad. My dad was in the top 2% of the population that is highly intelligent. Like, off-the-charts smart. I could never live up to that and I have never felt like I achieved enough to make him proud.
The real disclosure is that I can’t remember him holding, hugging and showing me physical comfort and affection. I suspect that is why I feel he was disappointed in me. There are fleeting images of happy times but none of them are because he showed his love with affection in a physical way. But, I’ve got boxes of letters he wrote to me when I was in college and they all show he cared about his daughter. He sent me cheap little valentine cards every February 14, even when I was past the age of young childhood. His love was shown through affectionately written letters and cards and with spoken language of wit and humor that would make me laugh.
But, I missed his physical touch.
I told Lynn, in therapy, that after my dad died, I explored the issue of my father-daughter relationship with my mom. She and my dad divorced when I was 10 years old but my dad remained an integral part of my life until he died when I was in college. Anyway, my mom said he rarely held me and she wondered about that, too. I told her I missed out on feeling close to my dad because of that. My mom asked if he was ever inappropriate with me in a sexual way. WHAT? That question threw me for a loop and I quickly said, “No, why would you ask me that?” (She knew my brother sexually abused me but my dad?) My mom said he was very sexual in their marriage. She didn’t elaborate but I imagine she meant he liked sex frequently. Okay, so he was affectionate to her.
Telling this story to Lynn, I was afraid she would think I repressed some memory and perhaps surmise I was sexually abused by my father. I do not think I was as my memories of what my brother did are vivid and not repressed at all.
Lynn gave me an explanation that satisfied me. She helped answer the question, Why didn’t my dad touch me. Lynn explained that some men do not show physical affection in any other way except for sexual. Perhaps my dad did not know how to show me his love in a physical way without feeling sexual so he just didn’t touch me. This makes perfect sense and is enlightening. Thank God he didn’t show sexual feelings toward me. In some way, I should be glad he put up a boundary between us if touch equaled sex for him.
I must look at the ways he did show me love and not regret what wasn’t there. ♥
“Acceptance of our faults and the faults of others helps us to be patient and to avoid hurtful kinds of criticism or judgment. By accepting faults we become more able to trust and celebrate strengths. Paradoxically, acceptance often leads to growth because it creates a safe space for insight and understanding.”