Addressing Our Own Unmet Needs

As we mentioned last week, we have come to the end of the first part of our #Thursday Thoughts mini-series on the intimacy needs of children and how parents can meet these needs to help their children have good self esteem. How our own needs are met, or not met, in childhood will influence us all in later years. Today’s blog post kicks of the second part of this mini-series where we look at how we can address our unmet childhood needs to ensure that they do not negatively affect us in our adult lives. As usual, the following is an excerpt from Owen Connolly’s book for fathers entitled “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: From Father to Dad”, which can be purchased from reception at the Centre. Let us know what you think by commenting on our social media profiles, accessible by clicking on the icons on the bottom of the page.

Assessing and Addressing Our Own Unmet Needs

If you are now feeling depressed because your childhood and the relationship you had with your mother or father left you with very little confidence in your own ability to parent, don’t despair for help is at hand. We need to understand that in order to mature into adulthood, we must have our emotional, physical and spiritual needs met. And if we have not had these needs met appropriately, we will find ourselves with deficits in these areas. You may never have met your biological father or mother, because you were adopted or fostered or raised by one parent only. They may have been present but you never got to know them and fantasised about what it would have been like to be raised by some other family. The same fantasy methodology can be used in reengaging with yourself and parenting yourself using the following three methods: 1) the leaving and cleaving, 2) the removal of the lies, and 3) the emotional inventory.

Leaving and Cleaving

hand in handThe child is designed, as we have already explained, to survive. And in order to do so the child will form special attachments. Science has shown that when a young boy is born, he has a stronger natural bond with his mother than with his father. Likewise, a mother will feel a stronger instinct to take care of her son than she will for her daughter. On the flip side, a daughter that comes into the world feels great natural affection towards her father, and her father feels a stronger natural bond with her. This is perfectly natural and there is nothing wrong with this. It is a normal part of each person’s development. A son’s strong bond with his mother continues for roughly the first eight years of his life. During this time, he has very protective feelings towards his mother, and his own nurturing, sensitive side is developed. At about eight years of age, he begins to emotionally distance himself from his mother and crosses over to his dad, and till he is around sixteen he learns from his dad “how to be a man.” It’s very important for Dad to be there for him at this time. On the other side, a girl’s strong bond with her father in the early years of life includes her flirting with him and being “Daddy’s girl.” During this time, she learns how to interact safely with men and establishes her own sense of self in relation to his maleness. At about the age of eight, she begins to physically distance herself from her father because she’s physically changing and becoming more aware of her own sexuality. It’s written into her that she needs to move away from Dad at this time and cross over to her mother. The mother’s role, until the girl is around sixteen, is investing the values of womanhood in her daughter and helping her develop her own sense of femininity.

If a boy doesn’t bond with his mother early in life, he is at a huge disadvantage in future relationships with women as his need for attachment, which was firstly for his mum, may now be transferred to future relationships with women, where he may become controlling, obsessive and jealous of his partner.

If a girl doesn’t bond with her father early in life, she may transfer that flirtatious energy towards other men, some of whom may be unsafe. If a father shuns the natural tactile intimacy that his little daughter craves, perhaps because it scares him, the girl will similarly not develop an appropriate relationship with men physically and may also end up in dangerous situations later on. Two notes about this: a father may sense himself being aroused when his little girl is cuddling up to him and it may scare him and cause him to shun physical contact with his little girl. He must understand that this arousal is a natural biological reaction to touch, no different than feeling aroused on a moving bus. As in the case of the bus, he must take charge over his body and say, “This is a natural biological response to touch/stimulation but it’s not appropriate right now, so I must master it. It only means that everything is working.” The second thing to note is that when a girl is bonding well with her father early in life, his wife may become jealous. It is very important for him to emphasise to his wife, his daughter and himself that though he loves his daughter dearly, his wife will always come first. One way to do this is to always greet your wife first when coming into the house, even though your daughter will run to you first when you get home.

At around the age of eight, a boy may not cross over to his dad for several reasons. His father may not be around, due to work or because he no longer lives with the family. It may be because his father is a very angry person and therefore the son is too scared to approach the father. It may be that the boy is sensitive and artistic and that the father would prefer if his son were more macho and into sport, etc., and therefore he doesn’t really know how to relate to his son. Or it may be that the father is jealous of the bond between the boy and his mother. A boy sometimes doesn’t cross over because the mother is holding on to him too tightly. In this case, she is getting her emotional needs met through her son, because her husband is not there for her emotionally, and so she doesn’t want to “lose” her son, who has become an emotional crutch. Whatever the reason, not crossing over has many effects on a boy’s development. He may not develop his own sense of manhood and self. He will have an undelivered “package of love” to give to another man, and if he doesn’t give it to his father, he will often give it – sometimes emotionally, sometimes physically- to another man. Also, because a boy naturally pulls away from his mother in his teen years, if he is still tied too strongly to his mother, he may begin to treat her with disrespect as a natural defence mechanism, and it may be the birth of lifelong misogyny.

If a girl doesn’t cross over to her mother at about eight, she may remain as “Daddy’s little girl,” which may leave her emotionally immature, wanting her partner to be more of a minder/Daddy to her than a husband. She may confuse the husband/Daddy roles, constantly comparing all males with her father. This type of female may go on to have children, but her demand for attention will exceed that of her children and give the wrong signals to the children that their needs are meant to be ignored. She also, like the man who doesn’t cross over, may end up with an undelivered “package of love” for a woman, which can later result in her developing an emotional/physical relationship with another woman.

At around sixteen years of age, young men and women want to take this accumulated security and knowledge that’s been invested in them and go into the world with the ability to share their abilities and qualities with a meaningful other. If the process of giving yourself into the care of your mother and father and finally leaving your mother and father is not fulfilled, the young adult will be still trying to have his or her needs met by giving themselves into the care of another later in life. They will expect their partners to meet their every need, which can lead to childlike behaviour in adults. As such, it is important that all of us successfully go through the process of leaving our mothers and fathers, so that we can join together with a meaningful other, secure in who we are, not depending on the other for our happiness.

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