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Finding Our Fathers : How a Man's Life Is Shaped by His Relationship with His Father Paperback – May 8, 2001
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A groundbreaking, classic work, [this book] offers a beacon of understanding and a ray of hope for men and boys -- William S. Pollack, Ph.D., author of Real Boy: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood
Finding Our Fathers is a treasure. It is a classic that greatly influenced my thinking. -- Dan Kindlon, Ph.D., coauthor of Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys
From the Inside Flap
"Erudite...sensitive...There is a nice blend of family and work concerns in this book, which helps to make it one of the better contributions on male and female psychology thus far."
THE BOSTON HERALD
In this ground-breaking book, Harvard psychologist Samuel Osherson shows how a man's unreconciled childhood images of his father affects his relationships with his wife, children, friends, and boss--and how it can lead to a profound sense of loneliness, vulnerability, and rage. Osherson shows how every man can resolve the inner conflict of the father-son relationship and begin to develop a new sense of strength and purpose in his family life and career. --This text refers to the Digital edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
He wrote in the Preface to this 1986 book, “[after] my first direct encounters as an adult with the reality of loss and my human helplessness in the face of it…Writing has always been the way I’ve tried to sort things out… so it’s not surprising that I started keeping a journal… This book really began with that journal… At first I wrote mainly about the present… but then came memories and feelings about the past… When my difficult and conflicted relationship with my father came into focus, I realized that I had found the man I had been searching for, the father who, more by his absence than his presence, was the key to the sense of emptiness and vulnerability in my life… During this time I had the opportunity to hear about the lives of many other men. I was directing a longitudinal study of a large number of Harvard men… My research gave me the opportunity to talk in a relaxed, unhurried manner with … men from around the country… From these talks I began to see how profound and painful were the consequences of the predictable dislocation between fathers and sons… Many of the male-female skirmishes of our times are rooted in the hidden, ongoing struggles sons have with their fathers… So I set out to write a book about men’s unfinished business with their fathers.”
In the Introduction, he explains, “In this book I shall explore how men’s early and ongoing relationships with their fathers shape the intimacy and work dilemmas men coming of age today face. My focus is on the emotional vulnerabilities of normal adult men as we struggle with the demands of work and family in our lives. What I hope to show is that to understand men’s feelings about love and work we need to understand our unfinished business with our fathers… I also draw on other research… plus my clinical experience in counseling men of differing ages and circumstances.” (Pg. 4) Later, he adds, “The interviews I have had with men in their thirties and forties convince me that the psychological or physical absence of fathers from their families is one of the great underestimated tragedies of our times.” (Pg. 6)
He says, “The end result of the boy’s separation-individuation struggle is that men carry around as adults a burden of vulnerability, dependency, or emptiness within themselves, still grieving… When men are put in touch with this pain today, they will respond ambivalently: with rage or shame, attempting to prove their independence, as well as with curiosity and a desire to heal the wound they feel.” (Pg. 10)
He suggests, “It is possible to heal the wounded father within. Men are not passive victims; much of our [activity]… is actually an attempt to heal the wound within ourselves, so that we can become more confident and nurturing as men… Healing the wounded father within is a psychological and social process that unfolds over time and involves exploring a new sense of self, and understanding the complex crosscurrents within our families which affected us as we grew up.” (Pg. 16)
He states, “The wounded father is the internal sense of masculinity that man carry around with them. It is an inner image of father that we experience as judgmental or angry or, depending on our relationship with father, as needy and vulnerable. When a man says he can’t love his children because he wasn’t loved well enough, it is the wounded father he is struggling with… The internalized, wounded father is rooted in the son’s experience of the father, a composite of fantasy and reality, not always corresponding to the reality of what father was really like or exactly what went on within the family. “ (Pg. 27-28)
He observes, “I have the impression that today the wish for forgiveness and reconciliation with father often goes unmet… The rites of passage common to men in adolescence and young adulthood today involve joining such institutions as the army, football teams, medical schools, and large corporations. Those institutions play upon the young man’s wish for an idealized father to love him, offering an exaggeratedly masculine way to live up and be a good son.” (Pg. 46)
He points out, “A greatly overlooked aspect of men’s psyche is their fear of doing harm to or being hurt by those they love. Many men I’ve worked with and talked to carry with them an unexamined feeling, often never verbalized or acknowledged, that they are destructive or violent. A key issue for men in their thirties and forties is what to do with the unconscious rage dredged up by the experiences they are having in the family.” (Pg. 145)
In the chapter on fatherhood, he comments, “The man may wonder if he will become a father for whom the provider identity absorbs all… Yet provider anxiety may have less to do with money than with intimacy. Among many men the fear … is also fear of losing intimacy and family in the process of becoming the traditional father… There is a reality behind that concern. Since we lack images of a truly participatory, emotionally involved father, many men will confront internal and social expectations to the effect that their main and primary task is to get out there and protect and provide for the family… We become fathers not just to our children, not just in the eyes of the outside world, but in the eyes of our wives as well.” (Pg. 190)
He asks, “What does it mean for sons to heal the wounded father, our internal image of father as wounded or angry, which lies at the core of our own sense of masculinity? Healing the wounded father means ‘detoxifying’ that image so that it is no longer dominated by the resentment, sorrow and sense of loss or absence that restrict our own identities as men… We are speaking here of a process of grieving… In trying to understand our fathers, we confront the depths of our neediness and that of our fathers.” (Pg. 206)
He notes, “By the time many men try to work it out with their fathers… they don’t get to work it out because the roles are almost reversed; father may be ill, less productive, less energetic… Healing the wounded father becomes more complex when a father is dead, emotionally inaccessible, or physically unavailable. In such cases one is deprived of the actual emotional healing that comes from reaching common ground with one’s father, hearing and seeing a new bond forged between the generations. And the son is deprived too of feeling that he has been able to give to his father, helping to heal his father’s emotional wounds.” (Pg. 224-225)
He concludes, “At bottom, healing the wounded father is a process of untangling the myths and fantasies sons learn growing up about self, mother, and father, which we act out every day with bosses, wives, and children. It means constructing a satisfying sense of manhood both from our opportunities in a time of changing sex-roles and by ‘diving into the wreck of the past and retrieving a firm, sturdy appreciation of the heroism and failure in our fathers’ lives… Every man need to identify the good in his father, to feel how we are like them, as well as the ways we are different from them. From that, I believe, comes a fuller, trustworthy sense of masculinity, a way of caring and nurturing, of being strong without being destructive.” (Pg. 229)
Although nearly thirty years old, this book contains timeless insights into our relationships with our fathers, and the effects is has upon our lives. Anyone looking into this area will be well rewarded by reading this book.
Finding Our Fathers explores how men's early and ongoing ties with their fathers affect their own identities and their subsequent relationships with wives, children, friends, and bosses, and shows how current situations on the job and at home rekindle feelings of loss and separation left unresolved in growing up. Osherson vividly displays how men recreate or redefine the father-son relationship with mentors or bosses; how experiences with infertility and pregnancy reflect and shape men's views of their wives and their power or powerlessness--in creating new life; how working, autonomous wives and mid-life changes when the children leave home expose men's hidden dependence on the traditional family structure; and how men come to terms with being a "father" themselves.
Penetrating the shroud of silence which often prevents men from discerning their deepest desires and fears, Finding Our Fathers reveals that this inner conflict can be healed when men reconcile both the heroism and failure in their fathers' lives. Only by recognizing both their father's sense of loss and need--and their own--can men truly discover their own new masculine identity.