Time doesn't heal anything

Last week I had a call from my dad. He wanted to know if I was interested in going kayaking with him. He told me to think it over and give him a call. Several days passed. I debated. I felt I "should" go. I didn't "want" to. I also didn't want to regret not going, and I wasn't sure whether I would. I spoke with my therapist in depth, and earned myself another homework assignment. ;0) But I still couldn't decide. Ultimately, he called again and left me a message. He said that he wasn't trying to pressure me, but he wanted me to know that he'd pay for the outing and for lunch as well. Instead of freaking over the possibility of lunch, I decided to accept the invitation. When I called and told him I'd go, he sounded sooo excited. I was immediately glad that I agreed. After speaking with my sister the next day, I learned that my dad has been very lonely and upset that he hasn't had more time with family. I resisted the twinges of guilt, but I did feel sad for him. We've had a LOT of problems... He was very abusive in his alcoholism. But he's not a monster. And he IS my dad... I would hate to think that I'd wasted the opportunity to get to know him a little bit, away from my mom's presense. I don't know how long he'll be in Houston...

So... Yesterday, we kayaked. :) And you know what? We had a great time!! I felt like he was making a genuine effort. He stopped himself from saying some things, which I was all too aware of... But the effort was noted. ♥ He even told the owner of the rental company that he'll ALWAYS worry about me, because I'm his daughter... Hmmm... I think that showing affection is really hard for him... My sister says he doesn't know how to interact with people... I'm not sure... He can be quite charming when the moment calls for it. But in interpersonal relationships, he seems to struggle. He often has to prove his authority, as if that is the way to gain others' respect. And he has soooo much anger in him. As we were driving around Galveston afterwards, I was reminded of this. Although he never showed anger towards ME yesterday, he was angry and agressive and defensive towards every motorist we drove near. I felt my stomach clench with anxiety. It was a familiar feeling...

Time really doesn't heal anything. It can provide distance, and even clarity, but it can't really solve problems. My family has always dealt with conflict by NOT dealing with it. Someone gets mad, they ignore the person they're angry with, they fume, they stomp around, and when enough time has passed, they smile and act as if nothing ever happened. But the smile doesn't really mean forgiveness. It doesn't really mean the misdeed has been forgotten, or the misunderstanding has been straightened out. It just means, 'I'm tired of acting mad, and I guess you've been punished enough. Now let's go about our business and not talk about it.' I remember the old saying, "Time heals nothing. It's what we DO with the time that makes the difference." I suppose some of these things will have to be confronted at some point... 34 years I've been riding in cars with my dad. Many times with a clenched stomach. Many times with white knuckles due to his drinking and eratic driving. Many times trying to physically make myself small to avoid being noticed or grabbed or hit. I fear his anger... It is frightening to even contemplate confronting it...

Much love to you for reading this far. :)

Jen

Jen...thank you for sharing. I'm glad you had a nice time with your Dad. I do understand though, that time does not necessarily heal. It may only delay or avoid. I agree it's what you DO with that time that matters.
In the case of anger....I'm not so sure I'm convinced that you have to confront the person about their past anger. In the moment? Maybe...or perhaps after the intensity of the moment has passed (for safety's sake). Above all, protect yourself, and with the issue of past abuse and/or fears, I think you must come to terms with it, whether it be with the help of therapy, journaling, etc. I guess each situation requires a different approach..whatever will enable you to move on in peace.
Take care sweetie....HUGS..Jan ♥

I was disappointed when I got to the end of your post and there was nothing more to read. I wanted more. I want more. I feel like you verbalized things going on in my head and explained situations I have been in or felt with my own father.

I hope you two are able to have a healthy relationship with one another. I'm sure this first step was not easy.

much love to you,
h

Jen

Im glad you had that time with your dad.Im wondering if he is trying to make up for the past ..how he was as a father.Maybe he remembers ..maybe being away from you has made him want to be a different person than who he used to be...but hes doing this with baby steps...at his own pace.
My dad when he was angry I was petrified even though is anger was not directed at me..I remember how he made me fear him(crying as I type this)becuase my ex was easily angered and I was so afraid of him,and like my dad when he was angry abused animals.They were both alike in many ways.Both verbally and emotionally abusive.
My dad has mellowed alot and he has changed.I think as hes aged he sees things differently.Maybe your dad is trying to find his own way to change.I do find though that after being this way for so long they dont even realise they are acting a certain way because they have become so comfortable acting that way for so long.

I understand your fear driving with him.Those memories of his anger come flooding back I understand all too well.Anyone that raises their voice in anger and swear cause panic and fear in me.

As far as confronting it..I dont know maybe more time spent together over time will give you the opportunity to confront him ..only you will know if that time comes and how to approach him.

love

My first therapist has heard a lot more about my situation with my dad than my current therapist. She thought I needed to come to terms with the abuse, without dealing directly with my dad regarding it. She understood the danger. Although I haven't said that much to my current therapist, I thought I'd said enough for her to understand. And last week she talked about the importance of confronting things. Not in a "confrontational" way, but in a direct way, so that I don't continue trying to pretend things away... We disagreed. So... My homework is to write my dad a letter. I am to read it to her this week. I wrote a couple of paragraphs this morning, then stopped due to lack of privacy. Haven't picked it up again yet... With all my heart, what I want is to come to terms with this without having to "confront" my dad... I don't need a relationship with him. I gave up that possibility many years ago. And yet... If it's possible to have one... I would leap at the chance. Well... Maybe tentatively tiptoe hesitantly closer, one eye forward, one eye on the exit. ;0) The truth is, as much work as I've done, I haven't "come to terms" with it. I HAVE worked at doing so. I WANT to be done with it. I've MOVED in other directions. And yet... The ghosts follow me in silent shadows. I cannot seem to shake them loose. How DOES one let go of the past? Clearly I haven't been able to do so simply by writing here. Or by talking in therapy. Or in trying to move on with my life without resolving these deep hurts. HOW does it happen? How can I CHOOSE to let it go?? Ahhh... I guess that's me wanting to take control and force the issue, eh?? ;0) But it's been some 14 years since I moved out... It's not happening on its own. And it's not happening fast enough to suit me.

Ah, I wish I could have written more, too, Heather... :) This story needs an ending... I'm ready for that final punctuation mark... I don't know how it will end... I come to some conclusions, and find myself facing further question marks and blank chasms of white paper... And as long as things continue to play out in my mind, will I ever be able to put the past to rest? :0/ I wonder...

I'm afraid of my dad's anger. For YEARS I have pushed away that very thought. I lived in fear of his mood and reaction. Tone of voice, a shift in body language... I learned to read these unspoken signs and watch for them, ever vigillant. Self protection. Preservation. And, as with practiced study I learned to stare my dad in the eye and tell him I "RESPECT" him, I hid the awful truth of my own fear from myself. Because who can be brave when quaking in terror? Who can go sit quietly at the dinner table with the man that threw her across the room 10 minutes before? If I let myself REALLY feel that fear... Admitting it to myself... I could NOT have survived. I would have died of a bleeding ulcer. I could not allow the fear to weaken me. I had to remain strong. So I learned to put on a brave face. And bite back tears. And shrug off hurt feelings. To hide my feelings. My thoughts. To keep private anything that REALLY mattered to me, because to share that would be to risk it. To risk my safety. And sanity. And hope.

I long for a conclusion to this ramble. But it seems I have talked myself into yet another series of question marks. The blank pages of the years to come remain unfilled. The writer in me longs to fill them with doodles and chicken scratch; ANY plan is better than NO plan. But... Alas... I do not possess the gift of foresight. ;0) And perhaps that is a blessing in disguise. ;0)

Much Love,

Jen

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Hi Jen: I am in Florida on vacation and having computer problems also. But wanted to take a minute to say I am thinking of you in this post and I went through a very similar thing with my dad after many years of his alcoholism. We finally healed and bonded our relationship then sadly he died suddenly. But I am so glad I was able to forgive him.... just food for thought. Alcholism is such a horrible disease but people are not themselves when under the influence. Remember how much he loves you. Try to find peace in your heart. NO so much concerned about your outward relationship with him, but the peace in your heart is huge.
Love and hugs to you!!!!!

Thanks, Molly. I'm not sure what I think about the whole thing... Yes, I can see that my dad was dramatically affected by his drinking. For most of life I believed that if he quit drinking, everything would be fine. When I was in college, my mom gave him an ultimatum. He quit drinking for several years. His personality didn't change. And he is a VERY angry person. Even when sober. So, although I know that my lack of trust was justified when he was drinking, I think it extends to him in general, with or without the drunken mood swings... I don't know how to get past that...

Much to think on. ♥

Thanks,

Jen

Hi Jen,

I'm glad you gave yourself the opportunity to have an experience with your dad that from the sounds of it was more positive than not. And more positive than your history together.

I have a lot to say on the matter of getting past what i like to call A-cubed (angry, abusive, alocholic) fathers. but maybe another day.

just want to say each effort you make like kayaking for instance is an attempt to get "past" what you are struggling with. Its not an easy or clear cut process and I certaningly do not have the answers but know there is soemone else out there who has a similar history with her father and is supporting you and sending out some good vibes!!!!

love to you friend

fg

Thanks, FG! ♥ That means a lot. :)

With anger it is tricky. It is important to set clear boundaries and know when it is and is not a safe situation to express your feelings about the anger. I would say in general unless there is a fear of safety it is always better to express in the moment how you feel about the anger. It could hurt yourself more by internalizing it. If you are able to say that the anger, the tone of voice, a particular statement makes you uncomfortable you can then give voice to your feelings and concerns. He may react positively by recognizing his faults and try harder to not go there around you or he could get defensive. If he is to get defensive, escalate, continue with an uncomfortable tone then it is best to step away and state you need distance. I agree with your second therapist in the sense that I think it can be powerful to give yourself a voice and be assertive versus aggressive and confrontational. However, overwhelming emotions that come up around the anger may feel immobilizing. Being assertive is great but nearly impossible if you get stuck in old feelings. I think it is important to keep working on your reactions to the past and present anger with your therapist. My hope would be for you to feel safe enough to speak your true feelings in the moment and be able to move forward in a postive way. Writing a letter is a good idea. It could help with understanding your feelings so that you may be able to articulate them to your father, because writing it out first will give the fear less power. If that makes sense. It may feel good to come to terms with things by getting the feelings expressed to him in some way be it a letter or conversation. With that said if there is truly a negativity present when you are with him that triggers past feelings it may be damaging to keep yourself in and around that. It’s a tough call but in whatever way you go stay true to what your heart needs. You do get to choose. Wishing you peace of mind my friend.
:)

Jen,
I think your title sums it up. Time doesn't heal anything if we don't speak about the thing which is causing us pain. That should be the way that saying ends.

I think the letter idea is great and it seems as though your dad is trying to have some sort of relationship with you without necessarily talking about the things in the past. It seems as though his actions are showing his contriteness to some extent. I may be wrong. Only you know this. I do know saying sorry is something which many people struggle with.

I struggled for ages with the idea of forgiving my dad and wanted him to get down on his ashen knees and beg and plead for my forgiveness but then when i thought and prayed about it, i realised that i still had to move on even if this acknowledgement and/or apology did no come. I am not sure about your beliefs but i read a verse which talked about 'God being ready to forgive'. I know this can mean different things for different people and that some may have no faith at all but no matter where you are coming from, i did take it to mean that i have to be ready even if all conditions are not right. (This only works if we say that the only way to let go of the past is to forgive). May be different for different people. For some, they may just need to acknowledge what happened, its impact and then move on. I don't know.

That may mean doing things like writing letters to air our views and to confront things. Ultimately, we hinder our own progress in life, in my opnion, when we don't or can't forgive. Please do not get me wrong, i struggled with this for years and did not speak to my dad for years but i guess the point at which i realised i had forgiven him is when i no longer felt anger at the sound of his name being mentioned or when i heard his voice.

Your point though, i sense, is about fear and lack of trust which is different. I think someone can only earn trust by their actions and you can only rid yourself of the fear, perhaps, when you are clear that the thing which you fear (his anger, violence), will not occur. Does that make sense? In order for that to be clear, it may mean a conversation with your dad or looking at his current/recent behaviour and seeing whether your continuing fears are merited in light of the 'evidence'. Sorry if that sounds too scientific.

I think you did great to meet with him and still try in terms of your relationship with him given the past. I really hope you can continue to make progress in this area. A work in progress. That's cool. It may take time and that's fine.

Wishing you well.

xx

Wow!! What great responses! ♥

Surrender,

I think there is always a fear of safety. And he gets defensive about even inoccuous things... If another driver, for instance, moves into his lane in front of him, he's convinced that they purposely tried to cut him off and get in front of him because they think they're better than him; it then becomes his job to reassert his "claim" and show that he deserves to be there. Usually this assertiong comes in the form of yelling, agressive driving, honking, and a blood red-face. Such is his anger about even accidental "slights" from annonymous strangers. You can imagine, perhaps, the force of his anger when he believes that his own CHILD has disrespected him. A CHILD! Someone that is CLEARLY lower in this world and of less value than him.

Ahhh... Obviously I AM angry with him. ;0) But I lack confidence in his ability to hear me without becoming angry and defensive. And that's a big road block.

It was that lesson that taught me to be cautious and guarded in other areas of my life... Because I couldn't trust HIS reaction to my honesty and feelings, how on EARTH could I trust others?? My boss? Friends? Students' parents? If my own FATHER could react with such violence? The world has not felt safe... That's a BIG fear to conquer...

Sreb,

You're so right... I can't trust myself to be honest with him because I fear that his angry responses WILL still occur. I understand that one can work to let things go without an apology from another person. I'm just not sure what to DO... I'm frustrated at my own road block. It's a dirty window. I can see the general shape of things on the other side. But everytime I try to reach out and claim it, I run into the glass. I sat with him in that kayak, and we laughed at the fish leaping all over the place because they were surely "happy fish", and not because they were being chased by hungry predators! ;0) There are relaxed moments in which I can imagine having a deeper conversation with him. But his anger is still present. Sometimes it's still directed at ME. I don't trust that his propensity towards violence has gone. The evidence shows me it's still there. Lurking beneath the surface. And it's fairly shallow...

Lots to think on... Perhaps I'll finish that letter today. ♥

Love,

Jen