span.fullpost {display:inline;}

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Psychology of the Disappointed Father

After Jake Houseman was informed about Penny Johnson's abortion, he was disappointed in Baby.

Jake Houseman is disappointed in his daughter Baby.
Jake Houseman
Was that what my money paid for?

Baby Houseman
I'm sorry. I never meant to lie.

Jake Houseman
You're not the person I thought you were. I'm not sure who you are.

I don't want you to have anything to do with those people. Nothing! You're to have nothing to do with them ever again!

I won't tell your mother about this. Right now I'm going to bed. And take that stuff off your face before your mother sees you!
Jake Houseman continues to be disappointed
in his daughter Baby

Jake was disappointed to learn that his intelligent daughter suddenly has become involved with troublesome, uneducated losers who have unexpected, illegitimate pregnancies that they abort with successful but unsuspecting people's money. Jake already foresees that Baby's detour might lead her to a bad end.
The Disappointed Father's Perspective
(Click the image to enlarge it.)
For Jake Houseman, his daughter's tricking him into paying for an illegal abortion was amazingly foolish. If the abortion were investigated, he might suffer serious consequences for his personal reputation, medical career and legal status. His daughter's recklessness made him essentially speechless. He could only sputter: "You're not the person I thought you were. I'm not sure who you are." He could not articulate a thoughtful, explanatory rebuke.


Carl E. Pickhardt is the author of 15 parenting books, including The Connected Father and When Your Child Has a Strong-Willed Personality. The magazine Psychology Today has published one of his articles, titled Adolescence, parental disappointment and parental guilt. The article provides insights into Jake Houseman's feeling of disappointment. The relevant passages follow:
.... The greatest impact of parental disappointment and parental guilt often arises after adolescence ends and young adulthood begins. Disappointment is the outcome of parental investment. ....

Parenting is a process of investment. Parents not only invest their care, energy, and resources in their child, they also invest their assumptions, ambitions, hopes, even dreams about how this person will turn out when grown up. The more investment parents make, the more invested they feel, the more firmly wed to expecting, even deserving, a cherished outcome they can be.

For example, an extreme investment in an only or otherwise specially prized child can lead parents to an extreme expectation of return. It's like they're saying, "We worked so hard and sacrificed so much for her, the least she can do is give some of what we hoped for back!" They were treating her like she was supposed to fulfill whatever promise they thought she showed and owed. ....

.... What happens when parents, whose dream for their adolescent included launching a career and remaining single until it was established, gets pregnant, gets married, and gives up the profession they were wishing she'd pursue?
"Of course, we're disappointed," declared the parents in counseling. "This is not what we planned for our child! And we told her so."

"And how did she respond?" I asked.

They replied, "She acted really hurt, like we had let her down, when the reverse was true! And she hasn't talked much to us since."
Then I suggested that if they wanted a close and loving relationship with their adult daughter they needed to ask themselves whether their daughter was supposed to fit their expectations or whether their expectations were supposed to fit their daughter?

Their answer to this question makes a profound difference. If they believe she should live up to their expectations and is not, they will feel disappointed, and communicating that disappointment to her will to some degree alienate the adult relationship. If, however, they believe that for the sake of acceptance of a daughter they love they must adjust their expectations to fit the individual path and lifestyle she has independently chosen, then they will affirm that relationship.

It can be hard for parents to remember that when a grown son or daughter disappoints them, it is not his or her doing but their own. They chose to hold a set of expectations that do not fit the choices he or she is making. ....

The Vice website has published an article by essayist John Saward titled Your Dad is Disappointed. The article describes the mentality of the male author's own disappointed father. Much of the article would apply also to the disappointed father of a daughter. The article includes the following passages.
He wants to know where you’re going. The undefined, metaphoric where: Where is your life going? But also the literal where: Why are you taking this bridge? Why are you in this lane? Why is your seat reclined so much? He wouldn’t be going this way. He wants you to know that. ...

He is drawn to absolutes, comforted by their rigid structure. He measures life in growth and decay. Things are built from nothing, pieced together, and when they don’t work any longer they are torn down and forgotten.

He watches documentaries on underwater tunnels connecting two countries and decisive military campaigns and epidemics that decimate populations and foliage. Things that are giant and unstoppable, efficient, nothing wasted, every bullet accounted for, winners and losers and conclusions.

Abstractions are excuses, equivocations, bullshit. You are stalling. You either have a job or you don’t have a job, and if you don’t have one you should get one, a real one, one with benefits, one during the daytime.

He has vendettas against time, against signs of entropy. Against the squirrels that eat from his bird feeder, the concept of pitch counts, global warming, text messaging, the price of windshield-wiper blades, Republicans. Against the guy who changed his oil, and the memory of his father, who knew how to change his own oil. ...

Fathers see things tattooed deep within, all that is wrong with you: your ambivalence about your future, your feelings of inadequacy, the dread that lurks in every empty moment. And they see the good in you, things that are subtle, because they are always searching, always trying to find the reason, the impulse, why you are the way you are. ...

Your relationship is marked by conversations you’ve had in moments of isolation. Backyards, garages, drives home. Many, many drives home. ... You talk about lots of things, but really they are about the same thing: .... He is trying to be a father ....

But he is really asking you: What are you doing? Where are you going? ... He is always trying to help you. So you sit there, together, in the red light of the dashboard, not knowing what to say, waiting to get out and go inside.

A daughter who feels that her father is disappointed in her might suffer long-lasting consequences.

Another Psychology Today article was written by Peggy Drexler, an assistant professor of psychology and the author of a book titled Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers and the Changing American Family. Her Psychology article is titled Daughters and Dad's Approval, and it includes the following passages:
Though gender relationships have changed dramatically in modern times, the father-daughter bond remains surprisingly traditional.There is, of course, the force of history here. It has always been the father's job to protect the daughter until she is ready to be handed off to the protection of another man. ....

No matter how successful their careers, how happy their marriages, or how fulfilling their lives, women told me that their happiness passed through a filter of their fathers' reactions. Many told me that they tried to remove the filter and -- much to their surprise -- failed. ....

Part of this need takes form early in life-when a father is a girl's portal to the world of men. I call fathers a girl's GPS -- gender positioning system. It's how women begin to orient themselves in a confusing and (especially of late) fluid landscape of gender expectations.

Absent that GPS, many women find themselves adrift. Mallory, a 34-year-old chiropractor who described a cold and disinterested father, still has trouble dealing with the attention she gets from men. She said, "I don't feel I know how to flirt very well or engage with men very well." Would that be different if her relationship with her father had been different? She thinks so. ....

The book Between Fathers and Daughters, by Dr. Linda Nielsen, was reviewed in Verily Mag by Alysse Elhage, in an article titled The Surprising Ways Your Father Impacts Who You'll Marry. The book-review article includes the following passages:
.... Linda Nielsen, Ph.D., professor of education and adolescent psychology at Wake Forest University, has been studying father-daughter relationships for more than a decade and even teaches a college course on the topic. She says that a present, involved father builds up his daughter’s self-confidence by consistently encouraging her and teaching her that she does not need a man to make her valuable.

“If a young woman gets that affirmation and approval from her dad, she is not going to be desperate to get it anywhere else because she already has it in him,” Dr. Nielsen told me. “Fathers teach us as women that we can be happy on our own without a man — that we are enough by ourselves.”

Studies show that girls with present and affectionate fathers are less likely to develop eating disorders, experience behavioral problems, and become depressed. Of course, not all fathers are affectionate, and some are overly critical, which also robs their daughters of the fatherly affirmation they need. ...

Not only do we look to our fathers as our most important male role model, but we also learn how to interact with men from them. According to Dr. Nielsen, it is dads — more so than moms — who “have the greater impact on the daughters’ ability to trust, enjoy, and relate well to the males in her life.” A girl who has been fathered well, she wrote in a recent article, “is the most likely to have relationships with men that are emotionally intimate and fulfilling,” and “to have more satisfying, more long-lasting marriages.” ....

When I asked Dr. Nielsen why young women who had weak relationships with their fathers often make poor dating choices, she compared father-hunger and dating to going shopping on an empty stomach. “A hungry person makes the worst shopper. You come home with junk food,” she says. “Likewise, a father-hungry young woman will go to the dating supermarket and often come home with the worst men.” Starved for father-love, we too often cling to men who give us the male attention we desire, but, without the example of a strong male character, we fail to be as discerning as we should be.

See also my previous blog article, A Movie Depicting a Break-Up Between a Daughter and her Father.

No comments:

Post a Comment