Father and Son - The Tangled Web of Intergenerational Relationships

As a Psychotherapist and Social Worker in the mental health field for almost 35 years, I’ve observed father-son relationships up close and personal. There are some good ones but unfortunately, most are fraught with disappointment and heartbreak. Robert Bly, the father of the modern men’s movement--most agree--feels the reason is as follows: father and son are competing for mother’s love and affection; therefore, there is tension between the two--often extreme and sometimes distain or even hatred. It’s the grandfather or uncle, in some cases, who rescues the boy and serves as a better role model than father, in lucky cases. Unfortunately, many boys raised in single family homes by a mother, aunt or grandmother, get little fathering or proper male modeling; society suffers the consequences.

I often see these young men, middle age men and even old men in my men’s groups. They are usually having difficulties in their marriages as well. They may have had multiple relationships with women--some monogamous and others, polygamous. There are many addicts among them; often sexual compulsives. There are as many recovering alcoholics, drug addicts and gamblers as well. They need help and know it but unfortunately, most have been through the emotional ringer before they made their way to my office.

The purpose of therapy, both individual as well as group, is to help them resolve their old emotional wounds--frequently due to poor relationships with their fathers. Their fathers may have been WWII Vets, like my own case, or Korean Veterans; today, I see many men whose fathers are Vietnam Vets. All of these men have trouble with intimacy or struggle with various addictions, compulsions or obsessions. Poor self-esteem abounds and struggles with alcohol, drugs, food, over-work and pornography or affairs seem to ways these men cope, both young and old. However, something magical happens when these men get together with other men and share their “deepest, darkest secrets.” They allow others to see “their shadow side” as Carl Jung, MD would call it. The part of us that we repress, avoid and deny. This self-transparency has a profound affect on us as well as our fellow group members. We share our humanness and other men share theirs; in this most intimate experience, we start to heal ourselves as do others.

With over 20 years doing Men’s group therapy--both my own and others--I’ve grown significantly in my life, personally and professionally. Clearly, it has helped my intimate relationships with men, women, boys and girls. My family relationships have improved also. My interaction with all humanity has been impacted for the better overall.

©2010, Michael Shaffran

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Mike Shaffran is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Psychotherapist with over 30 years experience in the mental health profession. He's worked most of his time in outpatient Psychiatric clinics where he has provided individual, couples/marital, family and group therapy. He is trained in multiple therapies, including: Psycho-dynamic, Gestalt,Structural-Strategic Family, Solution focused, Brief Therapy, and other methods. He is trained in EMDR ( a type of therapy for PTSD), hypnosis, meditation and guided imagery also. Mike is committed to ongoing seminars, workshops and trainings to keep current with the latest therapy to provide the best services possible to his clients. www.sanluisobispotherapy.com or E-Mail

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