(This is the third episode in my father wound series. For an overview of the father wound, click here, and for my father wound story, click here.)

What drives your ambition? 

Are you passionate about creating something or out to prove something?

Or are you out to prove someone wrong

In my twenties, I fell into the latter category, unaware of how my father wound drove my career ambitions. 

I was also unaware of how much my father wound was influencing the romantic partners I chose. 

In this episode, I am covering how an unhealed father wound impacts our relationships, careers, and health to raise your awareness and hopefully save you years of pain, heartache, and dissatisfaction. 

Prefer the audio? Listen here.

What Is A Father Wound?

A father wound is a psychological and emotional injury from growing up with a father (or father figure) who was absent, abusive, critical, controlling, or not emotionally attuned/available to you.

While many folks minimize absence, it is a huge factor here. Whether your father passed away when you were a child, left after a divorce, was forced to leave by other means, or you never met him, you can have a father wound. 

Father wounds can come from any father figure you had in your life. It doesn’t only pertain to a biological father. 

How the Father Wound Impacts Your Romantic Relationships

Striving to be considered “good enough” is often part of having a father wound, which can result in unhealthy relationships and friendships. 

When you have a father wound, you might be attracted to unhealthy partners, especially unavailable partners. 

Part of this is because having a father wound can create low self-esteem. 

If you had a punitive father, as a kid, you may have thought, If only I was better, smarter, prettier, more athletic, my dad would love me.

Kids create stories like this to make sense of why a parental figure doesn’t seem to care about them. Naturally self-focused, they often blame themselves in these stories.

I was my father’s last chance at having a boy, and I thought he wasn’t interested in me because I was a girl. 

It was less painful to believe I was the wrong gender than to believe that my father just wasn’t interested in me. 

These beliefs have a massive impact on our sense of worth

Having a father wound also affects how we attach to others.

We often talk about having attachment issues about our relationship with our primary caregiver. 

But my mother (my primary caregiver) was loving and present, and I still became anxiously and insecurely attached in my early relationships. Having a father wound and an attuned primary caregiver can co-exist. 

Having a mother to whom I was securely attached allowed me to have healthy friendships, but this didn’t translate to healthy (or happy) romantic relationships. 

My father’s absence created a sense of longing in me. I then chose romantic partners who were physically absent or emotionally unavailable, unconsciously recreating the same sense of longing. 

I call this a repeating relationship reality, which I think of as the child within seeking a “do-over”. 

My father was distant, cool, and emotionally unavailable. When I saw someone similar, I unconsciously recognized them as an appropriate partner because their behavior was familiar. 

Getting into a relationship with an unavailable partner activated the child within me. Wanting a different outcome than the one I had with my father, I tried everything to change how they interacted with me.

I over-functioned, over-gave, and became codependently connected to them. I anticipated their needs before they even had them. 

I saw this dynamic play out with my parents, too. My father was sort of ‘above’ the rules in the family system because he worked so much. He always came home after my mother, sisters and I were finished with dinner and my mother automatically made food for him. 

“Being of service” was integrated into my unconscious mind. It took a lot of therapy to uncover it and then realize I didn’t want a relationship where I had to manage the other person. 

Think about your romantic history: are you in a repeating relationship reality? I’ve put a few questions inside the guide (which you can download here) to see if you are. They will help you identify patterns throughout your past relationships. 

How the Father Wound Impacts Your Emotions

Internalized anger about not getting your needs met from a father figure can turn into depression. If anger wasn’t allowed in your family system, it may have felt too threatening to feel.

This was the case in my family. Crying was okay, but rage was not, so I turned my anger into tears. I often misnamed my emotions and said I was annoyed or upset when I was actually angry. Talk about confusing- I didn’t know how I felt!

How the Father Wound Impacts Your Boundaries

It is common to have disordered boundaries when you have a father wound. Meaning your boundaries may be too porous or too rigid

Having an unreliable or absent father figure can lead to rigid boundaries and hyper-independence because, as a child, you learned you couldn’t trust others. 

Growing up, I managed a lot of things on my own. 

I couldn’t rely on my father emotionally, and while my mother was present and loving, she wasn’t great at negotiating systems. 

I was the only person I could rely on.

If not for the generosity of a guidance counselor (who wasn’t even mine!), I wouldn’t have even gone to college. 

He asked me if I was attending college in April of my senior year and was surprised when I said I didn’t know. 

He helped me apply to three schools, which is how I ended up at  C.W. Post (now Long Island University). 

This experience reinforced my belief that if something was going to get done, I needed to be the one to do it. I became comfortable with hyper-independence because I did not want to owe anybody anything. I still struggle with asking for and accepting help. 

On the other hand, your boundaries may be too loose. You might be a people-pleaser, feeling like you need to be available to everyone 24/7 or that you must add value to people’s lives to “earn” their love. 

How the Father Wound Impacts Your Career

What drives someone with a great father and what drives someone with a father wound is vastly different. 

After years of therapy, I discovered that my ambition was partially driven by a desire to prove to my father that I could be more successful than any stupid son he could have had.

When ambition is driven by anger, fear of unworthiness, or scarcity, it is less joyful. 

Healing my father wound has allowed me to enjoy my ambition. Now, I’m driven to be of service and to help you. 

Not because I feel unworthy. But because spreading as much healing as I possibly is my dharma. I want to even the playing field and provide more access to solid therapeutic material. 

I want everyone to have the information they need to heal their father wound, which is why I am doing a free 3-day training on the father wound on May 29, 30, and 31 from 12-1:15 pm Eastern each day. Sign up here if you want to learn more! Replays will be available, too. 

How the Father Wound Impacts Your Health

A father wound can drive over-functioning, over-giving, over-doing, and codependency. 

All of these behaviors are unsustainable. We have finite energy. There comes a point when you burn out and have to stop and reevaluate. 

If now feels like the right time to stop, I invite you to download the guide for an inventory to surface unhealthy patterns in your past relationships so you can focus on healing them. 

Don’t forget to register for my free 3-day father wound training, too! All the details are on this page, and replays will be available if you can’t make it live. 

Do you think you have an unhealed father wound? How is it impacting your romantic life, career, or health? Do you think you are experiencing a repeating relationship reality? Let me know in the comments or on Instagram (@terricole).

I hope you have the most amazing week and as always, take care of you.

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