Healing the Father Wound: Part 2 – The Gallery

I believe that every child born into the world is a “Picasso” – a unique creation, special and beloved of the Lord. Born with a disconnected, orphan heart (see Part 1), we await the messages from mom and dad, that we are the apple of their eye. If children are wet cement, parents are the primary engravers.

Each one of us started at the same place in life – the first two years we develop in our sensory/motor skills. We look, listen, taste, touch, and feel. We are dependent on our parents to tell us who we are and every child engages in what is called “projection.” We initially understand our own emotions by projecting them onto our caregivers; for most children this is mom primarily, in the early months, and then secondarily dad.

For example, a baby experiences pain and obviously doesn’t have the tools to objectify what he is feeling. He projects his pain onto mom or dad; in essence saying, “I’m sending a message; please reply.” (E.G. A movie needs to be “projected” onto a screen in order to be seen. Thus, a child projects onto the parent in order to see and understand what they are experiencing.) There are two possible outcomes.

When the caregiver responds with understanding, empathy, and comfort – baby soaks in the objectivity. “This is happening to me and I am learning how to emotionally handle it.” If a parent is consistently not present to reflect back to the child, helping him to objectify his pain, the child will conclude: “This is happening to me and I am NOT learning how to handle it.” We call this “being overwhelmed.” Now, fast forward a few years, or decades. Most children grow up to be young men and women, and eventually adults, right? Do the unresolved issues of the heart go away somehow, or do they remain lodged deep inside, a hollow void longing for redemption – “Is there someone who can help me understand what it is I’m feeling?” Not surprisingly, when adults see a counselor to understand why they are feeling a certain way, the answers are sought from the childhood years.

Emotions can be tricky to discern. If I am experiencing feelings from the past, and am able to view them objectively, then I can deal with them as feelings from the past. Otherwise, it will always seem to be the people in my current story line of life, that are really the issue, “making me” feel the way I do. Unresolved heart issues emanate an accusatory posture. The overload of emotions on my heart seeks out a target. My projector is still turned on; I’m in pain, crying out for help. “I’m sending a message; will someone please reply?”

My own life is the one I know best, so I will be giving some examples along the way during this series. But first, allow me to state a principle. There are two views we can have of our lives: gallery or keyhole. The one is broad, balanced, and objective. The other is narrow, tilted, and subjective.

Left unhealed, our wounds bear the intensity of the telescopic view of the keyhole. (I see the wound but it’s painful to unpack. I’ll just keep it tucked away so it won’t affect me.) Healing, on the other hand, releases for us the gracious view of the gallery and our pain finds a home in a redemptive frame. (Being willing to face the pain of the past in a trusted setting with skilled helpers, enables me to step back, gain an objective view, and allow God to rewrite the story line.)