Charlie, a seventy-year-old man who lived in an upscale retirement community, asked if he could talk with me. When we met, he told me his childhood story of repeatedly thinking about ways he could kill his father. He recalled lying in bed when he was only eight years old, listening to his father abuse his mother. This was a common part of family life.
“All I could think about,” he recalled, “was how I could kill my dad. I thought about using a kitchen knife or finding a gun, or hitting him really hard with some object.”
Charlie’s home was a prison of fear and anger. He hated the man that should have been the most important person in his life. Home should be a safe place for children, a place filled with heartwarming memories. Charlie looked back on a place remembered for the fear and anger it produced.
How does it affect a young boy’s emotional and psychological well-being when the most formative years of his life are lived in such an oppressive home? Should we expect him to struggle with identity issues? Do we expect it to influence his sense of security and affect his future relationships?
He came to talk with me about his upbringing because his wife insisted that he see me. At seventy years old, he continued to battle feelings and fears connected with this part of his life that adversely affected his adult relationships.
Men will sometimes hold out on looking back until those who are close to them insist that they seek help for processing their past.
Men are wired to be reluctant historians of their emotional past. They tend to mask pain behind a perceived obligation to “man up” in the face of hardships. “There’s no time for licking your wounds or wallowing in the past,” they believe—no sense in putting the past up for review because none of it can be changed.
Those who travel in close company with these men tend to see things differently. They feel firsthand the lingering effects of their troubled past.
(From Chapter 1 of my book, “The 18-Year Factor: How our upbringing affects our lives and relationships”) Purchase at Amazon here