What’s Up With Dad?
If you are in your thirties, forties, or fifties, chances are it felt like dad wasn’t really present. He might have been there physically and provided for the family, but he wasn’t emotionally available. Culture is constantly evolving with the times, so it’s safe to say that this didn’t happen because they didn’t care. They probably cared a lot and did the best they could with what they had, though it may not have felt like enough. This probably goes back to their father or grandfathers – the silent generation. Here’s an important lesson in generational and cultural trauma.
Stress creates trauma. Unresolved trauma can look like culture.
The silent generation experienced war and lots of it – WWII, The Korean War, and Vietnam to name a few. So, what does that have to do with me? Well, it’s a well-known fact that oftentimes with combat, people experience any form of trauma. Some of the main signs of trauma include avoidance, irritability, rigidity, anxiety, and dissociation. Sound familiar? This was during a time where little was known about trauma, and people self-medicated with alcohol, adding another layer of problems with addiction. Though grandad loved his family, he couldn’t be emotionally there for them because of the battle his nervous system was fighting. Read more about trauma’s effect on the nervous system here.
How Generational Trauma is Created.
Emotional neglect in men is something that is real and really sucks. Culture as a whole can be affected by stressful events like war. If grandad and his buddies were all going through it, leaving their families emotionally affected, the culture in and of itself had to adapt. Unresolved trauma can look like culture. Cultural trauma can also become by accepting things that can be damaging, like abuse or neglect. Cultural trauma can even lead to narcissism and that can be passed down generationally, which can become a cultural norm. How did that affect dad? If dad didn’t have the best model of what it means to be a man, a husband, and how to show warm love, then as a father he had to figure it out on his own. Keep in mind, his role-model got away with being rigid, irritable, and emotionally distant, because this became a cultural norm for that period in time. It taught men to have a different type of relationship with themselves, disconnecting them from their feelings and changing the expectations of those around them, insert generational trauma. Oftentimes, this goes one of two ways – dad repeats similar patterns, not realizing they’re unhealthy because again, this was normal for the culture, or he dug-deep to better himself and to others who his father couldn’t be. Just because something is normal or acceptable in a culture doesn’t make it healthy. If you’re wondering how this might have affected the rest of the family, stay tuned for the next blog.
I know what you’re thinking. Not me. I am not my dad. I try so hard to be what he wasn’t.
And you’re probably right. You are resilient and have pulled yourself up by your bootstraps. You have been intentional about breaking the cycle. And you might feel like something is missing. You might be a rockstar at work, but at home you have a hard time connecting with your partner and kids. You might respect your dad, but still feel angry because he made you feel like it was just never enough. Well, that was his crap and you don’t have to carry it anymore. You are worthy and we can work together to fully walk in that space. Whether it means working toward reconnecting with yourself or using evidenced-based trauma therapy like EMDR to rewrite some of those past experiences so they can stay in the past. I know you’re doing your best, and your best has gotten you this far. I’m with you if you’re ready for more. Contact me here.
Zulaikha Straight, MA, LPC, NCC, NCIAC, NCLC
© Copyright 2021 – Integrative GA