Dear Dr. Turndorf,I need your advice on father-son relationships. I am a 31 year old male. Ever since I was young, I did not have a good relationship with my father. He used to verbally and physically abuse me, my mother and my siblings.My mother, and my siblings (all elder to me), have made their peace with him. I left home when I was 23, and for the past seven years, have not seen him or talked to him.At this point in life, I am comfortable with the knowledge that I have made a decent life for myself without his help, and all my anger at him has slowly settled down to the point that I no longer feel hatred towards him, and can let bygones be bygones. I guess time really heals all wounds.Last month, my father wrote me, saying that I should forget the past and come visit him. Though I no longer feel the frustration or anger towards him, I still cannot bring myself to visit him, because I feel that I have left my past behind, and that includes him.I reason that since I did not get any fatherly love from him in the first place, I can’t lose anything more by not visiting him. Since I could make do without his affection for so long, I can as well go on for ever without needing him in any way. Am I right in my decision not to visit him even though he has written to me to forget the past and visit him ?Also, I have read in many books that we should forgive, not for others sake, but for ourselves. How does one go about forgiving ? To what extent should our actions go ?For example, how should I now show any love towards my father when I don’t feel it ? I hope you will find time to take up this question. Thank you for your help and advice
I see you are in a conflict. First of all, when you kill someone off symbolically by cutting him out of your life, there is usually a lot of anger behind that act.Even though you say your anger is over, I’m not so sure about that. You may have felt that you buried much of it when you’killed’him off. But, the feelings are still inside you. All the more because you never told your father how you feel about what he did.True, you don’t need him any longer. But he still is your father. He is reaching out and trying to make ammends. You don’t need to deny how you feel. You don’t need to pretend to love him. But, it would be good for you to meet him where you are. Tell him the truth about how you feel. If he’s willing to have an honest relationship with you, then he’ll accept you as you are now.Who knows what can evolve from there. You may form a new and better relationship with him. This will help you to truly heal the wounds of childhood.Otherwise you will be left with a history that cannot evolve for the better. You are now stuck with a fixed position. Your history is done. You don’t need him, and you can get along without him, etc. . Behind this closed off position, is a lot of hurt. Perhaps you are afraid to let down your guard and be hurt again by him. You don’t need to let down your guard and trust him. You can talk to him with your guard up and watch how he responds. Then you can The point is, you are doing yourself the favor by opening up.Now you sound cut off and scarred. It would be so healthy for you to get beneath the scars that formed around your hurt and anger, and confront those feelings head on. Tell him about them. Allow yourself to evolve, grow, and heal the scars.You may even be able to create a healthy relationship with him. If you can’t, you can always kill him off again, knowing that at least you spoke honestly before saying goodbye again.I don’t think you will need to come to that. Your father sounds like he has grown himself. You owe it to yourself to experience the change in him.