The quality of the walk you take with your daughter today reflects the quality of the walk you took with her much earlier in her development. Families are critical laboratories in preparing us for later life. How much access children have to their innate capacity is greatly influenced by early parent-child relationships. For daughters, different things are learned from each parent. Some important lessons daughters learn from their fathers are: how to value their mind, unconditional love, persistence, offering encouragement, how to feel about her body, how boys and men should treat her, the kind of man she might choose, how to negotiate the world, feeling worthy and competent, how to co-create mutually respectful relationships.
Development is imperfect. Even well-intentioned parents unconsciously hold false beliefs about themselves that limit what they offer their children. Once formed, these beliefs resist change, because our brains are “lazy”. They stick to early views of ourselves, rather than do the work to discover our hidden abundance. Active forces also resist change. Psychologists call these “defenses”, but they are really self-limiting habits we rely upon to keep us from becoming too anxious, depressed, obsessive, impulsive, manic, addicted- states that require action to improve our lives. This reliance limits our self-discovery and that of our children.
Relationships are all of this times two! A daughter’s relationship with her father is preparation for what is likely the most important relationship in life, the selection of a life partner. Noted psychologist Harville Hendrix wrote, “The function of marriage is to repair the damage of the past.” Daughters who enjoy good relationships with their fathers are more likely to choose the right partners and remain committed- for better or worse —allowing the function of marriage to be realized.
While the purpose of marriage is personal growth the process involves struggling together with unwavering commitment to the relationship itself. According to Hendrix, the drama is played out through stages—disappointment, infatuation, power struggles, toleration, acceptance, appreciation, and finally the recognition that the ways you are different from each other is by design. What you discover as you go through all those stages is that each of you incarnates what was surrendered by the other early in life. Marriage offers an opportunity to regain those missing parts relinquished in early compromises we believed were necessary at the time.
Choosing a mate wisely means you are secure enough to trust your gut, even though you sense that a major drama is brewing. Good early father-daughter relationships contribute to confidence and courage. A daughter who is seen, loved, appreciated, and valued by her father develops the strength and confidence to engage in the mutual struggle. Daughters are no different than sons in this respect. Each has the opportunity to become more complete in a committed relationship with the right person.
Here is a tip from Business Success through Self Knowledge: External guides should be relied on only until they are embedded in our brain circuitry and we are able to lead from the heart.