In this post, we'll be going over ideas about shadow work for daddy issues.
But first, let's quickly go over the shadow and what shadow work is.
What is Shadow Self & Shadow Work?
Your shadow self, or shadow, is the side of yourself you have no awareness of. It holds all the qualities you disowned during your formative years.
Although you learned to repress these qualities and push them outside of your awareness, they still live underneath the surface.
They unconsciously guide your actions and are the unseen cause for many of the troubles in your life.
Shadow work is the intentional practice of becoming aware of your unconscious shadow and integrating these neglected qualities into your being—becoming whole.
This is a process of building self-awareness, self-acceptance, and universal Love.
"Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate."Carl Jung
Shadow Work for Daddy Issues
Everyone has an "inner parent" that reflects their image of mother or father caretakers.
These "inner parents," or parent complexes, make up the atmosphere of your psyche. They are a source of your most pervasive, underlying assumptions about yourself and the world.
These parent images also develop your ideas of what is masculine and what is feminine. Much of these become the expectations of your own sex and the other.
Even in a family of all men and boys, where there is no woman, there is still an image of "woman" in their psyches. The boys will unconsciously pass this image onto their sibling, despite the lack of an actual mother figure.
However, many people have developed an "inner father" image from a figure that wasn't adequate. Whether it be due to the father's emotional absence, severe judgment, or their own unattended inner wounds.
A father's inability to bond or develop an attachment to their child heavily impacts how they expect the world to receive them. For example, if a child notices that their presence annoys and upsets their father, they will learn that the world is an unwelcoming place.
Or, if a father is absent, the mother will instead impart her own "father" (or sometimes just "man") image onto the child to take the place of the lacking figure. This is more notable with older generations, where there was the societal expectation that men wouldn't really be around.
Impact of Parent Complexes
Generally speaking, many people have relatively good complexes that aren't causing them a lot of pain. However, some have painful, negative complexes.
For many families, there are generational expectations to being a son of a father. Meaning that a father would become a banker, military official, or some other notable position, and the son would follow in their footsteps to do the same—then the pattern repeats.
Living up to these parent complexes can come at the sacrifice of the child's true innermost desires.
The Damaged Father
There are cases where a parent can experience and go through very traumatizing or unsavory events that lead them to believe that they are "unclean."
For example, a thug who knows himself to be a bad influence may find out he has a child. But fears to connect with the child because he doesn't want to "taint innocence and purity" or influence the child to be like themselves.
There are many types of absent fathers. Some of which were never around. Others died early on in their child's life, and others never connected with their child enough for a definite father image to develop.
Often, a child will take on an unconscious task of redeeming their absent parent, a form of psychological inheritance. The absence is somehow relevant to the parent's "life not lived."
Then there is the abusive father who puts down his children. Which again damages the child's view of how the world will receive them.
The Negligent Father
A negligent father is someone who lives his life with no real effort to make his child any type of priority in their life. This can be due to addiction, narcissism, etc.
This impacts how the child grows to relate to themselves and others.
Some of these patterns that are a result of a negligent father are:
- Excessive Self-Sacrificing
- Codependence Issues
- Abandonment Issues - This emotional lack of connection can lead to people having devastating reactions to rejection since their childhood abandonment runs deep.
- Avoidant-Attachment Style - They've learned to not depend on others since they've been consistently let down.
- Not Trusting One's Own Instincts - They learn not to ever listen to their intuition or "higher guidance."
- Lack of Confidence/Self Worth
- Depression - Due to anger towards parents being turned inward in the form of depression.
- "If Only" Syndrome - "If Only" this they would love me.
- Lack of Boundaries & Assertiveness
People with a negative father complex can learn that their wants and needs aren't important. So they focus on other people's wants and needs in an attempt to acquire love and security.
On the other hand, it can also lead to a person who takes excessive pride in their independence. They do not allow themselves to open up and trust people, take it easy on themselves, or cry even when they need to.
We Project What's Needed Onto Another Father Figure
Women may unconsciously seek the vigor that their father lacks and see it on a romantic partner or mentor.
In my personal experience, since I've typically dated women 2-5 years younger than myself, I find that they like the security and emotional stability I can bring. But at times, they want to challenge this.
On occasion, they like to "bust my chops" in a way that feels like they are challenging a father figure who won't abandon them but instead entertain and manage their seemingly childish behavior in a firm and fun way.
It's much like a verbal, emotional, and sometimes physical "rough-housing" you would traditionally expect how a father plays with his children.
I've had the frustrating experience where an ex would dismiss my opinion, and they treat me as if they are trying to break away from their own father's grip. It didn't even feel like she was opposing me, but instead some invisible person standing between us. Sounds weird, right?
This is worth mentioning because challenging the parent is one of the most significant ways a person individuates and becomes their own person. Because by telling yourself, "I'm not like him," you are defining who you are.
The Abusive, Critical Father
An abuser's child is trapped between their need to bond with a traumatizing parent figure and their anger towards how they are being treated.
This creates a split in the psyche's image of a father. Where there is an ideal father image that the child will be pleasing towards, then there is an oppressive father image that the child will be undermining.
This leads to a child being excessively pleasing in hopes of receiving the "loving parent" image from their father in real life, at the cost of their ability to tap into their aggression—which becomes shadow.
The child so desperately wants to receive the "loving parent" that they delude themselves from the reality of things; he won't give you what you're looking for.
I refer to this way of living as "hope and cope."
How to Deal With the Negative Father Complex
Some men with a negative father complex are blocked off from their desires and are often left in a depressive state.
Some women have a particular negative father complex that creates a sense of unrequited love, where she seeks something that she can't ever find (outside of herself).
Women with negative father complexes often will treat others, or even themselves, the way their father treated them.
Understand that to have a father complex, you must have a child ego state that is reactive to that. It's the part of you that reacts and activates to make you feel small, impotent, and powerless.
- An inner parent is where all your assumed "shoulds" and "shouldn't" come from.
- The wounded inner child is that which was impacted negatively by the inner parent.
Many times you may actually project your own wounded inner child onto another person. Followed by yourself taking the role of your inner parent and shaming the person you are projecting your inner child onto.
But since you may consciously identify too much with your wounded inner child already, you don't realize how capable you are of acting in a harsh, judgmental parental attitude until after you've done it.
Although harsh, it's necessary for these people with negative father complexes to experience. Because it allows them to tap into their shadow and reclaim the aggression that they likely repressed in their formative years.
Differences Between Boy & Girl With Negative Father Complexes
It may be easier for the boy to assimilate some of the father's abusive behaviors simply because it's easier to identify with the father based on sex.
This can lead to a willingness to bully others.
However, a girl may feel more estranged, so she's more likely to repress instead of assimilating these abusive behaviors.
It seems to be the opposite case when there is a negative mother complex.
Integrating the Negative Father Complex
So often, we tell ourselves that "we won't be like them," only to find that we are only hurting ourselves and our own potentials by repressing these qualities we happen to share with them.
Healing involves being able to access the father archetype within you.
This includes embracing the fact that the qualities of the negative father complex are within you too.
That's right, you have the very same qualities that you despise.
It's by making peace with this inner resource and consciously accepting its qualities that it becomes integrated and healed.
This is shadow work—the process of becoming aware and integrating the qualities you once disowned back into the spectrum of your entire being.
It's by realizing that the qualities that you both admire and get triggered by are within you too.
If only you'd take an honest look within.
Griefwork - Giving Back the Responsibility & Taking Yours
When you take responsibility for your own healing, you no longer tell yourself "if only" he did this or "if only" he did that.
Instead, you become aware of the ways you can heal and move forward.
That's when you realize that your father couldn't do any different because he's not some perfect being who was capable of doing better.
He's just a guy.
Another flawed person.
Wishing things could've been different or that he could've done things differently is all fantasy. Not real.
That fantastic version of your dad that some of you have imagined doesn't exist. Never has.
Taking the time to grieve over the parents you deserved to have but will never have, is the grief work you need to do to let go and move on.
Here are some resources I recommend:
Shadow Work Course is based on my in-depth research and personal experiences with shadow work, projection, sadomasochism, inner child healing, triggers, and all things shadow. This course is updated every year and gets new content at no additional cost. Learn more here.
A Light Among Shadows is a guide on self-love and being. This short course goes over consciousness, spirituality, philosophy, and makes sense of why people are the way they are. Recommended for people dealing with resentment and self-hate. Learn more here.
Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Shadow Work Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.
Manifestation Manual: The Path of Least Resistance bundle teaches you some holistic and systems thinking along with how to mend your inner child wounds so you can align with your higher self and move forward in life. This includes 20 video clips as a free bonus.
Shadow Play (or “DsR”) is a small sister website that goes over “sensual” shadow work through my BDSM experiences. If you are 18+ and are interested, go here.