Father's Day was a protection racket in my home. If you made an offering to the king he didn't hit you, that day. Domestic violence is real. When I see a child staring darkly from behind the looming bulk of an angry adult I sicken at the sight of the inevitable repetition of a cycle that harms not only that individual child, but all of us, because that child grows into the angry adult. That child develops means of displacing the rage. That child will later scream, hit, shun other races, grow obsessed over religion, or sex, or guns, or vote for someone like Trump, or shoot up a playground full of children or elected representatives doing their best to serve the public good. Don't hit your child.
Domestic violence--physical, verbal, sexual--is more common than we know. I hear or see it nearly every day, not infrequently in the implicit violence of how couples communicate; I hear it in the impatience; in the casual slights; in the little demands made without 'please' or 'thank you' that create undertows of resentment. I hear it in the current low appreciation we have for social etiquette, the lack of which often sounds sociopathic, to my ears. We forget the role that every day social ritual plays in our lives by disarming the thousand little misdirections we are prone to indulge; the ritual--the "please" and "thank you"--creates a 'safe' social space we can rely on (which is one reason I like to say that 'meaningless ritual' is an oxymoron) and take refuge in. The stranger who says "please" and "thank you" is the stranger who will have your back in a crisis; who will run toward rather than away from you in a natural disaster; who will come to the aid of a child.
Don't hit your child. Notice each other. Let yourself be seen. Say "thank you." That's a start.
Father's Day Reflections, Cont. - Growing up, I would have given an arm to have an 'absent father,' but he kept coming back. He could also be a charming and lovely man who taught his children not to judge others by wealth or status and could be as unpredictably kind as he was predictably, unpredictably violent, and thus, a 'trauma bond' was born. I loved that man, and in (too) many of my adult relationships--in both work and love--I've sought to be with him, again, finding myself attracted to a certain breed of 'authoritarian' personality, until, at last, one day, I didn't.
I don't necessarily recommend the language of psychology for understanding and learning to surf the internal forces that move us. I don't use it much myself, anymore, but it was a useful transitional tool. Shakespeare works too. As can philosophy. As does art in general, and developing a craft, being curious about the world, giving back where one can, practicing humility (not self abasement), and standing up for one's self without denigrating or oppressing others.
Maybe the most troubling inheritance for me of having had an emotionally and physically violent father is that it often made community difficult to find and sustain, and community is sometimes ALL. Without 'community,' we suffer the illusion of being here alone, and we're NEVER alone, even at our loneliest. We commune with others through the language in which we think--language we were taught by others--and we never cease talking back and forth with the 'introjects'--the internalized voice of those who reared us--that live now within our own heads. (FB and other social media often go wrong for us, perhaps, because the 'disinhibition' we feel behind a computer is often a sign that we're talking not to others on the internet, but to those voices in our head.)
I know some fine fathers out there so this post does not belong to you. On Father's Day itself, I wish the many fine and 'good enough' (to borrow from Winnicott) father's and their loved ones a fine and celebratory day.