Growing up without a father
This week I found myself talking with some of my clients about growing up with inadequate parents. It astounded me to hear how many individuals have been disappointed by their parents. Feelings of rejection and words such as unloved had frequent mentions in the discussions.
On Saturday morning I embraced my fifteen minutes of solitude before the morning rush of sport activities and driving commitments began. This brief peaceful morning period was just enough time to read an article in the newspaper about screen icon Sophia Lauren, and her childhood memories. In the article, she is being asked; “at what point did she decide that her father was a useless human being?” She responds by explaining: “When you are 5, 6, 7, you follow what your mother tells you because you want to make peace. You want the normality, which we didn’t have. My father always would come to see me when my mother sent him a telegraph saying, ‘Sophia is very sick. Come’. It didn’t matter why he came. What I always wanted, because all my friends had one, was a father. I wanted to be like them, to be normal…but this was impossible. So you see these things when you’re 13, 14, when you’ve almost grown up. You see it for what it is.”
This is very true, we do see our parents for who they are, but even after countless years of maturing and accepting, we still carry the pain and the rejection. Even though we decided we don’t care, the pain is still there. It lives inside the unfulfilled expectation of a parent who failed us. This pain is analogous to the pain we feel when we grieve for someone. Here we grieve for our unmet expectations, and the disappointments that are characterized by rejection, absence, abandonment, and a multitude of unanswered questions as to why. Why this parent chose a pathway that didn’t fit into Sophia Lauren’s childhood conception of ‘normal’.
However, every individual’s experience differs in how and why they categorized a parent as inadequate. Therefore one client’s journey to separate this pain from their daily life will take a different pathway to the next. Taking part in art therapy helps clients to pay attention to themselves and their lives, tapping into their own wisdom rather than looking for answers from the outside world. In art therapy the client attempts to put the past behind him or her and have the option to imagine their life as they would like it to be in the present moment. The process of art connects a person to their feelings, and the expression comes from a deeper level than the mind.
So trust yourself, create and practice mindfulness!