Everyone has a father complex. From a positive perspective, the influence a father has on the impressionable mind of a child is mental strength, will power and self-esteem.
Essential qualities of character such as these are the foundations on which an individual builds a future.
On the flip side, a negative father complex tells another story.
Individuals with a negative father imago typically encounter toxic relationships and a string of disappointments. Often the root cause is a misconception you are not good enough.
You see, the father has a critical impact on your psychology which ultimately impacts how you relate to the world and your perception of it.
According to Carl Jung, the father exerts his influence on the mind or spirit of his child.
“The Father complex has a “spiritual” character, so to speak, in the sense that the father-image gives rise to statements, actions, tendencies, impulses, opinions etc. In men, a positive father-complex very often produces a certain credulity with regard to authority and a distinct willingness to bow down before all spiritual dogmas and values; while in women, it induces the liveliest spiritual aspirations and interests. In dreams, it is always the father-figure from whom the decisive convictions, prohibitions, and wise counsel emanate. Mostly, it is the figure of a “wise old man”, magician, doctor, priest, teacher, professor, grandfather or any other person possessing authority.” ~ Carl Jung: The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious
The type of father you had will be the cause of your father-complex, in both a positive way and a negative way.
It should also be noted that your biological father is not the only cause of a father-complex. The way in which men (and women) are portrayed to be in society ultimately skews the masculine and female principle within yourself.
Moreover, your daddy issues are because your father has daddy demons of his own.
Society’s Portrait of Men
Father’s are recognised as authority figures. In a typical household, the father is often handed the role as the disciplinarian. That’s not always the case if the father is hardly around to dish out punishment, but most children recognise their father is the commandeering chief of the family.
Leadership skills, a good sense of right and wrong, the capacity to offer advice people listen actually to, are all mental attributes you should learn from your father. Likewise, a father’s responsibility to his offspring is to teach them to have respect for others and respect for yourself.
In society, a biological father is expected to have the traits of the archetypal patriarchal figure; the kings of mythical Gods such as Zeus, Odin and Rama.
Traits associated with the patriarchal principle are strength, courage and moral values to live by. These qualities are needed for you to achieve your life goals. In a highly competitive world, the willpower to confront life in the face of adversity can lead to many rewards.
Your ability to sustain a satisfying relationship, commit to productive work ethics, speak up and assert yourself, fend for yourself and succeed at your endeavours are all related to a positive father imago.
People that are successful with relationships of all kinds, friends and lovers, know how to respect the feelings and needs of others.
However, society is designed to deprive a child of their father’s attention. Career-minded fathers barely see their children, others spend most of their spare time outside with their friends, whilst others are distant and emotionally unavailable.
The “absent” father, whether physically or emotionally, is the cause of many unresolved “daddy issues” in the modern era.
My Father Complex
There can be many reasons why people develop a father-complex. In general, it is when the father is either physically or emotionally absent, abusive (verbally and/or physically), critical, and neglect.
Inevitably, fathers leave a unique imprint on a child’s way of thinking which ultimately has an impact on your emotions.
Modern psychology recognises the father influences his child in six ways:
- Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence
- Sexuality, Masculinity, Personal Identity
- Relationships & Marriage
- Personal and Professional Achievement
- Values & Beliefs
No matter how much you want to pretend you don’t have “daddy issues,” most people will have unresolved wounds that habitually surface.
My own daddy demons manifested as a lack of self-esteem and self-worth. When I was a boy I was scared of my father even though he was barely around the house. When he was at home, he spent most of his time alone in his garage woodturning.
Potentially dangerous tools and absent-minded infants (yours truly) are not a good combination. My interaction with my father as a child was minimal and rarely fulfilling.
Yet in many ways, I have been fortunate. My father was not an intentionally bad parent. He rarely smacked me, and he never beat me once. I have him to thank for instilling in me strong moral values.
His neglect came by way of criticism and emotional absence. He rarely showed any affection and loving gestures towards my mother were also rare.
Unsurprisingly, the marriage ended with a divorce when I was ten. Afterwards, I saw even less of him and the alternate weekends when I did stay with him, we hardly exercised in father-son bonding.
My childhood experiences installed abandonment issues, a lack of self-love, very little self-worth or self-esteem, a judgemental attitude and a woeful lack of willingness to commit to a relationship.
Like many son’s, I looked up to my father and wanted him to be proud of my achievements. If he was, he never showed it.
I remember when I was eleven, I earned the second most merit marks (gold stars) in my class at school. My father’s response was, “why didn’t you come first.”
Most parents do not intend to belittle their children, but off-the-cuff remarks like this plant a seed that will not flower into anything beautiful. The more likely outcome is an innate belief that has a negative effect later in life.
“The child is a defenceless entity, without means of self-protection or self-assertion. His own body, his activities, and the functional activities of his organisms are his only possessions. He has nothing else in the world. These also are the sole means of expression of his will, of his feelings. His environment contains giants, powerful personalities, mother and father, who more often than not in the early days fulfil his every wish and whim, but who later create an atmosphere which is in collision with the impulse of the child.” ~ Israel Regardie, Gold
And so it was.
On one occasion, as a seven-year-old, my teacher gave me a “black spot” for not being able to answer a maths question. I remembered the class being noisy as I stood by her desk, and my mind went blank.
The punishment for a black spot was to stand in front of the entire school assembly to set an example to other children not to be naughty. Or in my case not to be stupid.
Or cared about, it seemed to me.
My mind would often go blank when my father was showing me how to do something. I didn’t realise it at the time, but these brain-farts was fear.
There was a time when all I wanted was my father’s love and attention. On one occasion, I was trying to get into his lap whilst he sat in his armchair watching TV. I don’t recall the precise details but remember he fended me off with his artificial leg.
My father thought he was playing a game. All I wanted was a cuddle.
The harder I tried to reach him, the more he pushed me away. Completely frustrated and devastated I burst into tears. My father said, “Stop being a little baby.” I was six years old.
During a healing meditation, I realised that moment was one of the early experiences of rejection that would eventually transform me into an emotional cripple.
It was certainly a catalyst that would trigger a string of experiences where rejection reared its ugly head. Ultimately it would compound my inability to love or feel wanted.
As a teenager, I built barriers as a coping mechanism. I’ve spent most of my life dead inside.
If I hadn’t learned how to transform repressed energies, I dread to think what kind of car crash my life would be right now.
Symptoms of a Negative Father Complex
A father complex is often the underlying problem in relationships. If you’re the type of person that sabotages a relationship so your partner doesn’t have the chance to reject you, you have abandonment issues which probably stem from your father.
More often than not, it is the father complex that is responsible for your inability to make a commitment, devise an irrational lack of trust in lovers, develop poor communication skills or try to understand our partner’s feelings (although these also share a correlation with the mother complex as well).
Unexpressed anger towards your father is usually targeted at your partner. An absent father also instils a fear of abandonment which will often surface as a lack of self-worth. People irrationally think lovers, and even friends, don’t want them around.
Conversely, people who have a loving and secure relationship with their parents are more likely to grow into confident and self-assured adults.
The simple fact of the matter is that children need a dependable adult to form secure attachments.
Attachment patterns are formed during childhood. Secure attachment styles result from parents that are responsive to the needs of a child and are emotionally available for them.
If this is not available, the individual will develop an “insecure attachment style” later in life.
Insecure attachment styles are categorised as secure or insecure with several degrees and subtypes of security:
Anxious or ambivalent: This type of insecure attachment is notable if you feel overly anxious at the start of relationships, paranoid the other person will reject you, needy, and in constant need of validation.
Dismissive-avoidant: The main issue with the avoidant type is a trust issue. They feel they will get hurt so build barriers and eventually sabotage the relationship.
Fearful-avoidant: People that feel uncomfortable around intimate moments have an insecurity issue that makes them unable to address difficult feelings.
Although psychologists name specific categories for attachment patterns, people will fall into more than one category type. For example, I was anxious and dismissive-avoidant.
Children that suffered physical or emotional trauma in relation to their father can develop patterns of insecurity that make them dysfunctional in a number of different ways so be mindful, and honest, with yourself.
However, it is also important to note the result of past traumas is psychological. They are part of your conscious make-up and can be overcome.
If you feel that you don’t have any coping strategies and feel disengaged with the world, seek help and learn how to look at yourself from a different perspective.
By bringing unconscious content into the awareness of your conscious mind, you can work with healing programs that transform your life.
In some areas, the effects of a father complex differ across genders. Below I’ll address common traits in which the masculine principle is unbalanced in men and women.
Father Complex in Men
Men develop father complexes because they did not get approval from their father’s. Consequently, they develop a lack of self-worth and a lack of self-love.
These negative feelings towards the Self subsequently become reflected by the rest of society. Sometimes, people won’t even allow you to have an opinion which further damages your self-respect.
In general, the father complex in a man manifests in the persona. As one of the dominant archetypes in a man’s psyche, the remnants of unconscious scars imposed by the father can erupt in anger, aggressive behaviour and bouts of violence.
Episodes of rage are the seeds of sadness and frustration bursting forth. When sons are starved of love during their formative years, they typically grow into overly macho stereotypes. They feel disputes are best settled with fists.
In society, the general stereotype of the male is to be the provider and the protector of the family.
Men that are emotionally insecure adopt this stereotype as their persona so they appear to fulfil the requirements expected of a man by the collective conscious.
In reality, macho types have no control over their emotions. The knock-on effect is they have no control over their actions. The reason they have no control over their emotions or actions is that they are not in control of their own mind – society is.
In the north of England where I grew up, the majority of men fit this mould. You are probably familiar with similar types in your home town too. These remnants are of a bygone era where men were taught not to express their emotions.
This idea ingrained in the collective conscious is passed down from father to son through countless generation. This societal construct makes men unhinged and unbalanced.
Similar problems still persist today. Studies have shown that men are penalised for straying from the social norms of masculinity. Men that ask for help or are too “nice” are considered by society as being weak, less confident or incompetent.
In reality, it is the other way round.
Sons that were not given the opportunity to identify with their fathers generally mature into insecure adult men. They are afraid to express how they feel in case they are not considered manly.
However, not all men show violent or aggressive tendencies. Others need to prove their manliness to themselves by being promiscuous. The power of seduction is precisely that; power.
Yet obtaining power over women is an illusion. What men should be striving towards is power over their feminine principle; the anima.
Seduction, fights or pursuing financial or materialistic goals to earn respect from others are behaviours that mask repressed emotions.
In the long term, the types of behaviours that project as the result of a father complex do not solve anything. Until you change your inner world – how you think and feel about yourself – you will consistently encounter disruption and chaos in your life.
The unconscious yearning for power and authority becomes a cycle. Rather than affirm your manliness, it eventually makes you miserable. Unless you cultivate inner peace, you will never have a satisfactory relationship with anything.
Father Complex in Women
The father complex arguably hits women harder than it hits men. Although women with “daddy issues” may show similar traits of promiscuity and encounter issues with their relationships, society has a negative view of women who have multiple bed partners.
Not only is this outlook unfair, but it’s also often wrong. Reports reveal that many women are accused of having “daddy issues” in relationships even when they haven’t.
The reason for this perceived promiscuity is because they are afraid of being hurt. When girls do not receive the love and emotional support from their fathers, they feel utterly rejected and are scared to become emotionally involved with a man.
To avoid being hurt, they sabotage relationships before there is any risk of getting hurt. Psychologists attribute this to a fear of abandonment and rejection.
If this resonates with you, the actual reason for your actions is because you have a fear of pain.
Even women with a positive father complex can be ostracised by other women for not being feminine enough. Ironically, it is the accusers that have daddy issues – and a mother complex to boot.
A positive father complex actually helps a woman strive towards her goals and achieve success. The father archetype is associated with intellect, mental strength and the ability to analyse information logically and rationally.
Many women actually have a strong masculine nature because they had a good relationship with their fathers. Confident women know their mind.
Because they know what they want, and often know what is right, women with a positive father complex can be less agreeable. This enables them to perform better in the workplace.
It may also help manage a successful, long-lasting relationship because of their ability to intellectually spar with their male counterpart.
However, women that consider themselves better than their partner will be overly critical and domineering. This is more likely to make the relationship more toxic.
A daughter will suffer more in adulthood when she is denied emotional support from her father. She can encounter multiple problems because there is a tendency to sabotage things that make them happy.
The father complex manifests in the nature of the animus, the masculine principle in women.
When a father has instilled his daughter with an example of what masculinity is supposed to be, she will be at ease with men. Subsequently, she will be able to have a successful relationship.
If not, she will conjure up an ideal of what manhood is. Needless to say, this image of manhood is moulded by society in the form of macho heroic types and gallant princes. And society has seriously screwed up what a man and a woman should be.
A woman expects a man to protect her. This idea is influenced by fairytale knights in shining armour or the fearless heroes in movies.
Such unrealistic illusions are often the causal root of toxic relationships.
Women with a father-complex also tend to look towards men for validation. They want to be told they are beautiful and feel they are loved.
Whilst this is a natural response between the opposing sexes, complex or not, when women don’t feel she is getting the love and attention she deserves, or desires, she can turn very nasty.
Anger and frustration towards men is an overwhelming fear that he will abandon her just like her father. The abandonment may not necessarily have been physical. Emotional absence also plays a significant role in the development of a child.
Women that are in relationships with a man with a father complex will usually find her love is also emotionally absent. The cyclical nature of your unconscious is searching for the attention you didn’t receive from your father.
The key symptoms of a father complex in a daughter are food obsession, eating disorders, low self-esteem, promiscuity or frigidity, social anxiety, depression, addiction, lack of trust, easily frustrated, aggressiveness, opinionated, obstinate, and a lack of self-worth.
The negative father complex makes a woman feel devalued in everything she does. Ultimately, the search for male approval ends in disappointment and misery.
Girls that flirt aggressively and have promiscuous tendencies is merely an attempt for male attention and affection. They need validation because they are insecure about themselves.
Other patterns of insecurity lead to food disorders such as binge eating, overeating, anorexia and bulimia. Studies show that daughters without dads are twice as likely to have problems with obesity.
Comfort eating comes from deeply ingrained insecurity that develops because they think nobody likes them. A child will think that if her father doesn’t show his “little princess” any love, then nobody will.
When a female believes nobody will love her she then becomes very body-conscious because women’s magazine project the idea that you have to be beautiful and sexy for men to love you.
As a result, girls develop bulimia and anorexia. According to ANAD (National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders) at least 30 million people of all ages suffer from an eating disorder in the US alone.
Moreover, someone dies as a direct result of an eating disorder every 62 minutes – the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
For women, the cure for the father complex is to accept yourself for who you are, develop mental strength and exercise your intellectual prowess. Knowledge is power and with knowledge, you are better equipped to take charge of your own mind.
Father Figures in Mythology
The father exerts his influence on the intellectual capacity of his child. In mythology, the father figure typically appears as a wise old man, a ruler, or a God that imparts advice to the hero.
Kings are either benevolent or tyrannical. Gods can perform heroic feats or pose problems for the world/city they are responsible for protecting. Whilst the world/city can be viewed as a responsibility towards an external entity such as a child, they symbolically represent the body.
You see, the archetypal father figure is the mind. Thoughts are tools of creation. The ancient Greeks termed the power of thought the Logos; the intelligence that shapes attitudes and behaviours.
Whilst it is true that society, via our fathers and mothers etc, pollutes the contents of your mind, your responsibility as an adult, is to identify daddy issues and upgrade the subconscious programs that automatically prompt your thoughts and actions.
“Sometimes the father figure will bully the ego-conscious into the way he should go, which for sheer stupidity he would never have found by himself. The ego nature of the black magician, for example, performs evil for evil’s sake (to help you learn a lesson).” ~ Carl Jung, Psychology and Alchemy
The transformation after healing a father complex can be remarkable. A man can emerge with a stronger sense of his identity and find the strength to achieve anything he puts his mind to.
The same rule applies to daughters. Developing masculine principles in relation to the mind can help a woman avoid unnecessary squabbles and learn to rationalise why thoughts, feelings and instinctive behaviours impress themselves upon her psyche.
For men to achieve a balance of emotional intelligence, you also need to integrate your mother complex which often shows as an anima possession. For more information, check out my article on the mother complex.
Master Mind Content offers a selection of self-development programs. Whether you want to overcome addiction, lose weight, or cure anxiety, our personalised programs show you how to expand conscious awareness and improve your quality of life.
Image Credit Livioandronico2013 (Zeus y Hera detail of “Council of the Gods” in Galleria Borghese)