Father Hunger

Viviane Sassen, "DNA"

Viviane Sassen, "DNA"

Surprisingly, I have not been able to find much about this topic on the internet, but I see its effects frequently in my office. People struggle with similar types of issues, not realizing the possible link to their fathers. This will be a brief overview with a lot of concepts and I will include a link to more resources at the end. 

A lack of contact with and knowledge of their father leaves children with a gaping hole in their soul, best described as "father hunger" (Erickson, 1998). This natural longing, if left unfulfilled, too often dooms people to relentless personal & professional dead ends in an effort to fill that hole. This usually shows up in different ways that seem unrelated to father loss: food to fill the hole; workaholism in an attempt to run away from the hole; alcoholism or drug abuse to deaden the ache from it; depression from the pain of it; the thrill of sexual promiscuity to distract from the throbbing hurt of it; or violence to act it out or to seal it over. 

All father hunger springs from one main source: desertion. There are seven specific causes of father loss: death, divorce, single mothering, adoption, addiction, abuse and emotionally unavailable fathering. You could grow up in the same house with your dad and still experience father hunger. Some common experiences amongst people who grow up disconnected from their fathers include decreased self-esteem, fear of abandonment, fears of being alone, problems with trusting, problems managing emotions. 

Feeling Responses: 

  • Denial of emotions - "I don't want to feel what I truly feel"
  • Ambivalent connections - "Come here, go away"
  • Displaced anger - Smoldering under the surface & then exploding out of proportion
  • Flat feelings - Feeling numb inside
  • Feeling undeserving - Always seeking validation from others

Behavioral Responses:

  • Difficulty making commitments - Fear of being alone, but terrified of losing relationship or getting hurt, so avoid intimacy
  • Choosing partners who will deny emotions and problems - In order to stay in denial
  • Denies needs - Keeps vulnerability hidden
  • Fearing loss of control - Fear of being hurt or abandoned again (always comes back to this)
  • Competitiveness - Trying to prove their worth; prove they'll never need anyone; trying to win affection or approval

Does any of this resonate for you?

For more, read the informative, "Longing for Dad: Father Loss and Its Impact" by Beth Erickson.