This year I learned what it is to have father issues and how I could let go of some of it.
My father was an emotionally unavailable man and he still is. He can’t really show his feelings and he cannot handle feelings of others very well. He does the best he can, he lives in his own world, and most of what he does is taking care of himself. This is largely due to his character and to circumstances: before he was 6 years old he lost both his parents in Indonesia in the Second World war. Of course this has had a great impact on his life.
I have long ago accepted that my father is who he is and I do no longer blame him for who he was during my childhood and how he treated me. I became who I am now also because of his behavior, always trying to make him love me by reaching higher, working harder and paradoxically making myself smaller. By not listening to my feelings of what I wanted. I was doing what I thought my father wanted or needed of me.
But it is one thing to know that my father is emotionally unavailable.
During my walk to Santiago I met several men. Two of them were in my company longer than 50 days. These men had many similar characteristics: middle aged, introvert, they did not talk a lot, they liked silence and doing it their way. Sounds like my Daddy.
Imagine Miriam walking next to them. The first ten days of the camino I felt like a young horse for the first time out in the meadow, full of energy and jest for life, highly extrovert, talkative, open and curious.
Did I stay that way?
Within days in their company I totally changed and did as they did. I adjusted completely and felt miserable in doing so. That is what I did.
WOW, did I have a hard time with these guys. I totally failed the test, or so it seemed, during the camino, it is now in retrospect that I see what I learned from it.
My father issues evolve around feelings of powerlessness and that my Daddy is stronger. When I was about six years old I must have taken the decision that I am weak, small and powerless and that I will be weaker than my father always, for the rest of my life.
A couple of days ago I read this piece of text:
(…)Or if he [Daddy] never turns up, you not only fear abandonment by all men, but at the same time you may seek a relationship where you let them have more control, in the hope of finding that intangible feeling of comfort that you have been missing from your father all of your life. You end up being uncertain about what type of man to go for due to the lack of shining example in your life and will struggle to engage with men in a healthy way.9…)
I got it.
I was doing all I could with these men on the camino to act just as with my Dad. I gave them all control, I wanted them to take on the role of an unconditionally loving caring father, the father that I never had. I needed them to approve of me.
I was not good enough and was working so hard to get their attention. Was it a healthy relationship that I had with them? No, that was not possible, I was doing a big job on healing my Daddy issue. I adjusted and cried inside, doing all I could to make sense of it.
I am home from the camino 7 months now. How is it between me and my father?
Much better. We talked about our relationship both in the past and the present. Once I even asked him if he could tell me that he loves me. He got really shy and looked away. He could not say it.
It was perfectly all right that he could not say it though. I love my Dad and it is enough to know that he loves me. It would be nice to hear him say it, not obligatory. A wish.
And my attitude towards emotionally unavailable men?
I don’t know yet. The experience on the camino made me very aware on how I behave around them, how I adjust and try to control the situation to get their approval. I know that now, I will never forget what it feels like when I do it. If I meet one of them again, I can recognize the feeling and choose another way to deal with these men.
There is no need to repeat my Daddy issue any more. One Daddy is all it takes in life.