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How Emotional Disconnection Holds Fathers Back

Most fathers have an idea of what an ideal father is for them. We intuitively know the values this ideal father would live out.

For me, the values of an ideal father are honesty, courage, compassion, love, wisdom, peace, and strength. For you, there may be different combinations, but no doubt some of these values will be universally shared. They make up the father archetype in nearly every culture around the world.

We already know how we want to show up for our family. We know deep down inside.

The problem we face, therefore, is not what to do; it’s how can we actually live up to our own values and consistently show up as the father we know we can be? What are the obstacles that keep us from this ideal?

The answer is emotional disconnection. I know this not only from my own experience learning how to reconnect with my emotional inner world, but also because I've worked with hundreds of families in various states of distress. And I have seen time and again how fathers' emotional disconnection takes a toll on the whole family unit.

Emotional disconnection is shorthand for describing our inability to observe, process, and express our emotions. It's what keeps fathers from showing up as the best versions of themselves.

When fathers slow down and begin to reconnect with their emotional worlds, it's often more frightening than any physical or career challenge they could face. These outward challenges can only make us suffer in familiar ways. Emotional processing practices, however, bring us face-to-face with deep childhood wounds and fears that we've worked so hard to avoid and ignore our entire life.

But for those courageous enough to make the journey inside and rediscover all of the defensive parts that have protected them since childhood, and then go further to reconnect with all their repressed emotional wounds . . . then true freedom, clarity, and love awaits.

In the remainder of this article, we'll take a look at how and why we disconnect from our emotions, and how we can learn to process these emotions and reconnect with who we truly are.

Emotions get triggered through our mental models of the world

From childhood, we come to understand our parents, our family, friends, and the world at large through mental models (or we can also think of them as mental computer programs with algorithms that tell us if x happens then we should do y to get outcome z).

Our minds build these models because they help us get through life: they tell us how to make mom and dad happy, how to win friends’ approval, how to feel emotionally safe when troubling things happen, and so on.  

The mental models are deeply wired into our minds so that we never see them; they just become “how the world is” and “who we are.”

Emotions are sparked when we see or hear something in our environment that triggers the activation of one of our mental models. Perhaps as children we learned that we needed to perform in the right way to win a parent’s affection. As adults, if we perform poorly at work or something else, our mental model around worthiness of love gets triggered and we experience emotions of shame, defensive anger, or withdrawn sorrow.

Emotions are physical reactions that ready us for some kind of action

Emotions are not mental models—they’re physical reactions sparked by mental models. We know we’re having emotions because we feel different.

Biologically, our body is being flooded with different hormones and neurotransmitters that are ultimately preparing the body to do something: fight, run away, withdraw, fix something, or shutdown. If they’re pleasant emotions, the body is flooded by different hormones and neurotransmitters that ready it for close contact, relaxed interaction, smiles, or romance.

When we were flooded with emotions as young children, we immediately accepted and expressed them. We cried, we yelled, and we kicked and screamed. Or if they were pleasant emotions, we laughed, jumped for joy, or yelled with happiness.

We learned overtime and in various ways, however, that we would be rejected by our family and peers if we continued to accept and express emotions freely. We learned to "regulate" our emotions to be in school, to have friends, to please parents, and so on.

Resisting Emotions

To “regulate” emotions, we learned to resist, ignore, and avoid them. And we did this by cutting ourselves off from their physical feeling. By the time we reached adulthood, we became very good at suppressing challenging emotions (suck it up and shrug it off) and politely channeling pleasant ones (don't get too excited or you won't be cool).

Those of us who identify as men experience this acutely because we’ve grown up in a culture of masculine emotional suppression.

In the words of the psychotherapist James Hollis, “Men collude in a conspiracy of silence whose aim is to suppress their emotional truth.”

We men learn to shutdown our emotions and then conspire with each other to keep them shutdown. It is as if we secretly say to each other: If you don’t bring up your inner world, I won’t bring up mine.

In this way we keep everything status quo.

The Cost of Resisting Emotions

When we resist (or ignore and avoid) our emotions, we don’t get rid of them. The hormones and neurotransmitters that were released take a toll in tension, tightness, pain, and soreness. And the toll accumulates over time until we burst with screaming, tears, or a shutdown like serious depression.

But the most common toll is the damage resisting emotions does to our relationships. When we resist challenging emotions, our body also learns to resist pleasant emotions. We avoid the lows, but we also miss the highs.

We also learn to avoid situations that will trigger our emotions. So, we plan our lives very carefully so that our mental programming is never triggered.

This may bring comfort, but the price is a loss of freedom and deep connection.

Finally, when we resist challenging emotions, we guarantee they persist and even grow more difficult over time. But if we can learn a different approach, one that is based on acceptance and expression, we can move emotions through us so that we can be fresh and ready to experience what life has in store.

Processing Emotions

Processing emotions is all about 1) unconditionally accepting our own emotions, 2) listening and loving the parts inside us that are holding these emotions, 3) expressing emotions in our body safely, and 4) allowing for the whole range of emotions to come back into our lives.

When we’re able to process our emotions regularly, we will see that difficult, challenging emotions can come and go quite quickly, and pleasant emotions can be more powerful, rich, and nuanced than we've known—but only if we accept the whole range by observing, processing, and expressing them.

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How Emotional Disconnection Holds Fathers Back

Emotional disconnection keeps fathers from deeply connecting with their kids and partner. Emotional processing practices help fathers show up in more authentic, wise and loving ways.

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Key takeaways

1

Emotional disconnection is shorthand for describing our inability to observe, process, and express our emotions.

2

When fathers slow down and begin to reconnect with their emotional worlds, it's often more frightening than any physical or career challenge they could face.

3

For fathers courageous enough to make the journey inside and rediscover all of the defensive parts that have protected them since childhood, and then go further to reconnect with their repressed emotional wounds . . . then true freedom, clarity, and love awaits.

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Most fathers have an idea of what an ideal father is for them. We intuitively know the values this ideal father would live out.

For me, the values of an ideal father are honesty, courage, compassion, love, wisdom, peace, and strength. For you, there may be different combinations, but no doubt some of these values will be universally shared. They make up the father archetype in nearly every culture around the world.

We already know how we want to show up for our family. We know deep down inside.

The problem we face, therefore, is not what to do; it’s how can we actually live up to our own values and consistently show up as the father we know we can be? What are the obstacles that keep us from this ideal?

The answer is emotional disconnection. I know this not only from my own experience learning how to reconnect with my emotional inner world, but also because I've worked with hundreds of families in various states of distress. And I have seen time and again how fathers' emotional disconnection takes a toll on the whole family unit.

Emotional disconnection is shorthand for describing our inability to observe, process, and express our emotions. It's what keeps fathers from showing up as the best versions of themselves.

When fathers slow down and begin to reconnect with their emotional worlds, it's often more frightening than any physical or career challenge they could face. These outward challenges can only make us suffer in familiar ways. Emotional processing practices, however, bring us face-to-face with deep childhood wounds and fears that we've worked so hard to avoid and ignore our entire life.

But for those courageous enough to make the journey inside and rediscover all of the defensive parts that have protected them since childhood, and then go further to reconnect with all their repressed emotional wounds . . . then true freedom, clarity, and love awaits.

In the remainder of this article, we'll take a look at how and why we disconnect from our emotions, and how we can learn to process these emotions and reconnect with who we truly are.

Emotions get triggered through our mental models of the world

From childhood, we come to understand our parents, our family, friends, and the world at large through mental models (or we can also think of them as mental computer programs with algorithms that tell us if x happens then we should do y to get outcome z).

Our minds build these models because they help us get through life: they tell us how to make mom and dad happy, how to win friends’ approval, how to feel emotionally safe when troubling things happen, and so on.  

The mental models are deeply wired into our minds so that we never see them; they just become “how the world is” and “who we are.”

Emotions are sparked when we see or hear something in our environment that triggers the activation of one of our mental models. Perhaps as children we learned that we needed to perform in the right way to win a parent’s affection. As adults, if we perform poorly at work or something else, our mental model around worthiness of love gets triggered and we experience emotions of shame, defensive anger, or withdrawn sorrow.

Emotions are physical reactions that ready us for some kind of action

Emotions are not mental models—they’re physical reactions sparked by mental models. We know we’re having emotions because we feel different.

Biologically, our body is being flooded with different hormones and neurotransmitters that are ultimately preparing the body to do something: fight, run away, withdraw, fix something, or shutdown. If they’re pleasant emotions, the body is flooded by different hormones and neurotransmitters that ready it for close contact, relaxed interaction, smiles, or romance.

When we were flooded with emotions as young children, we immediately accepted and expressed them. We cried, we yelled, and we kicked and screamed. Or if they were pleasant emotions, we laughed, jumped for joy, or yelled with happiness.

We learned overtime and in various ways, however, that we would be rejected by our family and peers if we continued to accept and express emotions freely. We learned to "regulate" our emotions to be in school, to have friends, to please parents, and so on.

Resisting Emotions

To “regulate” emotions, we learned to resist, ignore, and avoid them. And we did this by cutting ourselves off from their physical feeling. By the time we reached adulthood, we became very good at suppressing challenging emotions (suck it up and shrug it off) and politely channeling pleasant ones (don't get too excited or you won't be cool).

Those of us who identify as men experience this acutely because we’ve grown up in a culture of masculine emotional suppression.

In the words of the psychotherapist James Hollis, “Men collude in a conspiracy of silence whose aim is to suppress their emotional truth.”

We men learn to shutdown our emotions and then conspire with each other to keep them shutdown. It is as if we secretly say to each other: If you don’t bring up your inner world, I won’t bring up mine.

In this way we keep everything status quo.

The Cost of Resisting Emotions

When we resist (or ignore and avoid) our emotions, we don’t get rid of them. The hormones and neurotransmitters that were released take a toll in tension, tightness, pain, and soreness. And the toll accumulates over time until we burst with screaming, tears, or a shutdown like serious depression.

But the most common toll is the damage resisting emotions does to our relationships. When we resist challenging emotions, our body also learns to resist pleasant emotions. We avoid the lows, but we also miss the highs.

We also learn to avoid situations that will trigger our emotions. So, we plan our lives very carefully so that our mental programming is never triggered.

This may bring comfort, but the price is a loss of freedom and deep connection.

Finally, when we resist challenging emotions, we guarantee they persist and even grow more difficult over time. But if we can learn a different approach, one that is based on acceptance and expression, we can move emotions through us so that we can be fresh and ready to experience what life has in store.

Processing Emotions

Processing emotions is all about 1) unconditionally accepting our own emotions, 2) listening and loving the parts inside us that are holding these emotions, 3) expressing emotions in our body safely, and 4) allowing for the whole range of emotions to come back into our lives.

When we’re able to process our emotions regularly, we will see that difficult, challenging emotions can come and go quite quickly, and pleasant emotions can be more powerful, rich, and nuanced than we've known—but only if we accept the whole range by observing, processing, and expressing them.

Most fathers have an idea of what an ideal father is for them. We intuitively know the values this ideal father would live out.

For me, the values of an ideal father are honesty, courage, compassion, love, wisdom, peace, and strength. For you, there may be different combinations, but no doubt some of these values will be universally shared. They make up the father archetype in nearly every culture around the world.

We already know how we want to show up for our family. We know deep down inside.

The problem we face, therefore, is not what to do; it’s how can we actually live up to our own values and consistently show up as the father we know we can be? What are the obstacles that keep us from this ideal?

The answer is emotional disconnection. I know this not only from my own experience learning how to reconnect with my emotional inner world, but also because I've worked with hundreds of families in various states of distress. And I have seen time and again how fathers' emotional disconnection takes a toll on the whole family unit.

Emotional disconnection is shorthand for describing our inability to observe, process, and express our emotions. It's what keeps fathers from showing up as the best versions of themselves.

When fathers slow down and begin to reconnect with their emotional worlds, it's often more frightening than any physical or career challenge they could face. These outward challenges can only make us suffer in familiar ways. Emotional processing practices, however, bring us face-to-face with deep childhood wounds and fears that we've worked so hard to avoid and ignore our entire life.

But for those courageous enough to make the journey inside and rediscover all of the defensive parts that have protected them since childhood, and then go further to reconnect with all their repressed emotional wounds . . . then true freedom, clarity, and love awaits.

In the remainder of this article, we'll take a look at how and why we disconnect from our emotions, and how we can learn to process these emotions and reconnect with who we truly are.

Emotions get triggered through our mental models of the world

From childhood, we come to understand our parents, our family, friends, and the world at large through mental models (or we can also think of them as mental computer programs with algorithms that tell us if x happens then we should do y to get outcome z).

Our minds build these models because they help us get through life: they tell us how to make mom and dad happy, how to win friends’ approval, how to feel emotionally safe when troubling things happen, and so on.  

The mental models are deeply wired into our minds so that we never see them; they just become “how the world is” and “who we are.”

Emotions are sparked when we see or hear something in our environment that triggers the activation of one of our mental models. Perhaps as children we learned that we needed to perform in the right way to win a parent’s affection. As adults, if we perform poorly at work or something else, our mental model around worthiness of love gets triggered and we experience emotions of shame, defensive anger, or withdrawn sorrow.

Emotions are physical reactions that ready us for some kind of action

Emotions are not mental models—they’re physical reactions sparked by mental models. We know we’re having emotions because we feel different.

Biologically, our body is being flooded with different hormones and neurotransmitters that are ultimately preparing the body to do something: fight, run away, withdraw, fix something, or shutdown. If they’re pleasant emotions, the body is flooded by different hormones and neurotransmitters that ready it for close contact, relaxed interaction, smiles, or romance.

When we were flooded with emotions as young children, we immediately accepted and expressed them. We cried, we yelled, and we kicked and screamed. Or if they were pleasant emotions, we laughed, jumped for joy, or yelled with happiness.

We learned overtime and in various ways, however, that we would be rejected by our family and peers if we continued to accept and express emotions freely. We learned to "regulate" our emotions to be in school, to have friends, to please parents, and so on.

Resisting Emotions

To “regulate” emotions, we learned to resist, ignore, and avoid them. And we did this by cutting ourselves off from their physical feeling. By the time we reached adulthood, we became very good at suppressing challenging emotions (suck it up and shrug it off) and politely channeling pleasant ones (don't get too excited or you won't be cool).

Those of us who identify as men experience this acutely because we’ve grown up in a culture of masculine emotional suppression.

In the words of the psychotherapist James Hollis, “Men collude in a conspiracy of silence whose aim is to suppress their emotional truth.”

We men learn to shutdown our emotions and then conspire with each other to keep them shutdown. It is as if we secretly say to each other: If you don’t bring up your inner world, I won’t bring up mine.

In this way we keep everything status quo.

The Cost of Resisting Emotions

When we resist (or ignore and avoid) our emotions, we don’t get rid of them. The hormones and neurotransmitters that were released take a toll in tension, tightness, pain, and soreness. And the toll accumulates over time until we burst with screaming, tears, or a shutdown like serious depression.

But the most common toll is the damage resisting emotions does to our relationships. When we resist challenging emotions, our body also learns to resist pleasant emotions. We avoid the lows, but we also miss the highs.

We also learn to avoid situations that will trigger our emotions. So, we plan our lives very carefully so that our mental programming is never triggered.

This may bring comfort, but the price is a loss of freedom and deep connection.

Finally, when we resist challenging emotions, we guarantee they persist and even grow more difficult over time. But if we can learn a different approach, one that is based on acceptance and expression, we can move emotions through us so that we can be fresh and ready to experience what life has in store.

Processing Emotions

Processing emotions is all about 1) unconditionally accepting our own emotions, 2) listening and loving the parts inside us that are holding these emotions, 3) expressing emotions in our body safely, and 4) allowing for the whole range of emotions to come back into our lives.

When we’re able to process our emotions regularly, we will see that difficult, challenging emotions can come and go quite quickly, and pleasant emotions can be more powerful, rich, and nuanced than we've known—but only if we accept the whole range by observing, processing, and expressing them.

Most fathers have an idea of what an ideal father is for them. We intuitively know the values this ideal father would live out.

For me, the values of an ideal father are honesty, courage, compassion, love, wisdom, peace, and strength. For you, there may be different combinations, but no doubt some of these values will be universally shared. They make up the father archetype in nearly every culture around the world.

We already know how we want to show up for our family. We know deep down inside.

The problem we face, therefore, is not what to do; it’s how can we actually live up to our own values and consistently show up as the father we know we can be? What are the obstacles that keep us from this ideal?

The answer is emotional disconnection. I know this not only from my own experience learning how to reconnect with my emotional inner world, but also because I've worked with hundreds of families in various states of distress. And I have seen time and again how fathers' emotional disconnection takes a toll on the whole family unit.

Emotional disconnection is shorthand for describing our inability to observe, process, and express our emotions. It's what keeps fathers from showing up as the best versions of themselves.

When fathers slow down and begin to reconnect with their emotional worlds, it's often more frightening than any physical or career challenge they could face. These outward challenges can only make us suffer in familiar ways. Emotional processing practices, however, bring us face-to-face with deep childhood wounds and fears that we've worked so hard to avoid and ignore our entire life.

But for those courageous enough to make the journey inside and rediscover all of the defensive parts that have protected them since childhood, and then go further to reconnect with all their repressed emotional wounds . . . then true freedom, clarity, and love awaits.

In the remainder of this article, we'll take a look at how and why we disconnect from our emotions, and how we can learn to process these emotions and reconnect with who we truly are.

Emotions get triggered through our mental models of the world

From childhood, we come to understand our parents, our family, friends, and the world at large through mental models (or we can also think of them as mental computer programs with algorithms that tell us if x happens then we should do y to get outcome z).

Our minds build these models because they help us get through life: they tell us how to make mom and dad happy, how to win friends’ approval, how to feel emotionally safe when troubling things happen, and so on.  

The mental models are deeply wired into our minds so that we never see them; they just become “how the world is” and “who we are.”

Emotions are sparked when we see or hear something in our environment that triggers the activation of one of our mental models. Perhaps as children we learned that we needed to perform in the right way to win a parent’s affection. As adults, if we perform poorly at work or something else, our mental model around worthiness of love gets triggered and we experience emotions of shame, defensive anger, or withdrawn sorrow.

Emotions are physical reactions that ready us for some kind of action

Emotions are not mental models—they’re physical reactions sparked by mental models. We know we’re having emotions because we feel different.

Biologically, our body is being flooded with different hormones and neurotransmitters that are ultimately preparing the body to do something: fight, run away, withdraw, fix something, or shutdown. If they’re pleasant emotions, the body is flooded by different hormones and neurotransmitters that ready it for close contact, relaxed interaction, smiles, or romance.

When we were flooded with emotions as young children, we immediately accepted and expressed them. We cried, we yelled, and we kicked and screamed. Or if they were pleasant emotions, we laughed, jumped for joy, or yelled with happiness.

We learned overtime and in various ways, however, that we would be rejected by our family and peers if we continued to accept and express emotions freely. We learned to "regulate" our emotions to be in school, to have friends, to please parents, and so on.

Resisting Emotions

To “regulate” emotions, we learned to resist, ignore, and avoid them. And we did this by cutting ourselves off from their physical feeling. By the time we reached adulthood, we became very good at suppressing challenging emotions (suck it up and shrug it off) and politely channeling pleasant ones (don't get too excited or you won't be cool).

Those of us who identify as men experience this acutely because we’ve grown up in a culture of masculine emotional suppression.

In the words of the psychotherapist James Hollis, “Men collude in a conspiracy of silence whose aim is to suppress their emotional truth.”

We men learn to shutdown our emotions and then conspire with each other to keep them shutdown. It is as if we secretly say to each other: If you don’t bring up your inner world, I won’t bring up mine.

In this way we keep everything status quo.

The Cost of Resisting Emotions

When we resist (or ignore and avoid) our emotions, we don’t get rid of them. The hormones and neurotransmitters that were released take a toll in tension, tightness, pain, and soreness. And the toll accumulates over time until we burst with screaming, tears, or a shutdown like serious depression.

But the most common toll is the damage resisting emotions does to our relationships. When we resist challenging emotions, our body also learns to resist pleasant emotions. We avoid the lows, but we also miss the highs.

We also learn to avoid situations that will trigger our emotions. So, we plan our lives very carefully so that our mental programming is never triggered.

This may bring comfort, but the price is a loss of freedom and deep connection.

Finally, when we resist challenging emotions, we guarantee they persist and even grow more difficult over time. But if we can learn a different approach, one that is based on acceptance and expression, we can move emotions through us so that we can be fresh and ready to experience what life has in store.

Processing Emotions

Processing emotions is all about 1) unconditionally accepting our own emotions, 2) listening and loving the parts inside us that are holding these emotions, 3) expressing emotions in our body safely, and 4) allowing for the whole range of emotions to come back into our lives.

When we’re able to process our emotions regularly, we will see that difficult, challenging emotions can come and go quite quickly, and pleasant emotions can be more powerful, rich, and nuanced than we've known—but only if we accept the whole range by observing, processing, and expressing them.

Enjoying this article? Subscribe to the Yes Collective for more expert emotional wellness just for parents.

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