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You Can’t Handle the Truth!!!

October 31, 2011

The famous scene in A Few Good Men where Jack Nicholson blares, “You can’t handle the truth!”, is quite instructive for us as fathers.  Nicholson is bringing a high level of emotional energy exhibited by his anger.  Unfortunately, for many of us as men, anger is the only kind of emotional energy that is OK to display.  Well, maybe an occasional joyful outburst at a football game when a touchdown is scored is OK as well.

My point is this:  our kids need us to be emotional present for them.  This goes beyond anger and its unexpressed twin depression.  Our kids need to see caring, empathy, compassion and altrusim displayed to them by us.  The problem for many of us is that we can never get to those higher levels of emotional energy because we are stuck in anger and/or depression.  Anger means we simply act out our hostile feelings through words or actions, while depression surfaces when we are angry and do not express it and turn those feelings on ourselves and thus sink into a hole.

For me, much of my twenties was spent battling depression.  I was really angry, but did not feel like I could honestly express it.  I have to say the cloud of depression damaged my relationship with my daughter Sarina and with my wife Binita.  Slowly, over time with the help of Binita and some counseling, I learned to express myself in a much wider range of emotions.  Although, by no means perfect, my ability to relate to my wife and kids has gone up dramatically.

The problem with guys like Jack Nicholson’s character is they only can run one play.  Once the angry play has been run, then the behavior has to be escalated to remain effective.  These guys tend to get in a rut and keep their spouse and kids at an unhealthy distance.

Are you that consistently angry (people just piss me off!!) or depressed (I think I will take a nap) father?  If it is you, or you know someone like this, get help from a counselor or a coach.  Your kids and their kids will thank you.

Patrick Donohue is a Life Coach in Oak Park, IL.  Contact him at victorylifecoaching@gmail.com

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