Daddy Issues | Research
Daddy Issues: a Stand-Up Dramedy
Is it ever possible to get rid of the father, or is he forever internalised?(1)
My name is Yana and I come from a country called Ukraine. That is, if by the time you read this, it’ll still exist and won’t get swallowed by it’s Eastern neighbour with imperialistic appetites. I am not really a comedian... I mean, I used to act as a kid, then studied psychology, but at some point I decided that I've had enough of self-digging (lucky for me, because, having been in therapy for 7 years now, I know it wouldn’t have ended well back then), so I moved to Germany and became a dancer. Voilà!
Well, sort of... I am a freelance dancer/performer/choreographer – which is just another way to say that you don’t actually have a job. Once in a while I get an opportunity to develop some of my own ideas, creating (dance) performances. While attending one of them – a work in progress showing of the work called “Hiding In Plain Sight: Studies On Symbolic Violence” in which I impersonated a politician giving a campaign speech – people would often laugh (sometimes I did intend them to), and during a feedback talk after the performance someone told me it was a lot like stand-up comedy, so I thought: Why not try writing an actual stand-up comedy script?
(The original picture comes from an online tutorial on body-language…or was it a dating tutorial gone wrong?)
Now, the reason I have done so much stuff in my life already: like completing 2 BA degrees (ok, well, 1,5, if I am honest, despite what I’ve written in my CV), starting an MA degree, working while studying (not that I had much choice, I mean, you've got to eat, even if you are a dancer, and not only apples and carrots)... I did all that partly because I am an amazing, talented, highly self-motivated and, obviously, very modest person, but mostly because I am completely and irrevocably fucked up. Or, at least, I used to be….or so I believe. So, let’s say some of the damage was undone by the 7 years of therapy, but I am rather prone to self-digging, and, you know, “she who seeks shall find”.
Being in therapy made me realize that the main reason for my superfluous self-motivation, as well as overachieving perfectionistic tendencies is nothing else, really, than my daddy issues. And let's face it, we all have them. It doesn’t matter if you had a great father, or you had a shitty father, or you had no father at all: you end up having some sort of issues.
Let’s say you are a woman (or identify yourself as such) and you had or still have a great, loving and caring father, who made you feel safe and all that. Then one day you go out into the world, being the carefree princess that you are, looking for your prince who is as amazing as your father-hero-king. And then you look around and you go like: What the fuck!? Why are there only immature mama-boys, over-testosteroned machos, or perverts and weirdos out there? Where is my prince fucking charming?
Well, sweetie, hate to disappoint you, but it seems like there are no prince charmings and kings left! Why? One could try to explain it away arguing that in the plethora of male archetypes (here I am referring to the work of Jungian psychologists Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette), the “mature masculine” types, like that of a king, constitute only a small percentage. The immature, dysfunctional ones, on the other hand, are in abundance: mama-boys, tyrants, sadists, weaklings…and the list goes on and on. The authors argue that this is due to, generally speaking, the order of things in our fucked up world, in which boys rarely grow up with a manly “enough” role model around, male initiation rituals of the indigenous societies have gone extinct (yeah, right, leaving a boy alone in the forest to be eaten by the ants is a great parenting strategy), and, on top of that, those evil feminists keep attacking poor men-to-be. As a result, most men nowadays are missing an “adequate connection to the deep and instinctual masculine energies, the potential of mature masculinity” (2). Where do this “instinctual masculine energies” come from anyway? And how did this loop of dysfunctional, immature men producing even more of dysfunctional men started?
(Douglas Gillette. It is only befitting that this rather masculine product bares the same name)
While the second question is out of reach of my stream of consciousness here, as for the first one, the Jungian explanation would be that the male and female archetypes are seeded in the “collective unconscious” and are uniform for all humans….How very convincing, especially taken that Moore and Gillette, following the Jungian tradition, are basing their argument on dreams of their patients/clients and Greek myths. But what other evidence could there be? When it comes to psychology (certain branches at least), it seems like subjective opinions, dream interpretations and fairy-tales are the only source of data there is.
But, back to the topic, you don’t give up hope and keep looking and looking for “the One”, who is, unfortunately, not Neo, but, actually, your father (in the guise of another man), because, due to some weird evolutionary joke, that is what we are wired to do. As a matter of fact, it is a weird evolutionary joke that makes us behave like this. Like the geese in the famous experiment conducted by K. Lorenz(3), which, right after they are born, imprint on basically anyone whom they see first moving, regarding this anyone as their mother and expecting the unsuspecting creature to behave accordingly. We, humans, despite being a bit more discerning, “imprint” on our caregivers in a similar way, expecting them to take care of us. The caregiver is then stored in our system like the one and only gestalt of the mother or father, even if this person is, as a cat would be for a goose, not fit for the purpose(4). It follows then that, goose or human, we come into this world with an innate image of an ideal parent, which is, in most cases, shattered by reality. Importantly, the not-so-ideal reality then becomes the new ideal! In order to survive we internalize the new image and adapt to it. Moreover, more often than not, this new pattern jumps in by default when we are choosing someone to pair up with (or just engage in certain fun activities more casually) – that is unless we make an effort to rewrite it.
By “we” I don’t mean goose and humans anymore, the former not really having the capacity to self-reflect, being stuck with the first available father/mother-figure at hand for life; rather, I imply humans of all kinds: males, females, and, as is often offered in non-binary application forms, “other”. However, according to Andrea Long Chu, who was in her turn inspired by Valerie Solanas, known for her “SCUM Manifesto”, there are not all that many options when it comes to gender. Long Chu argues, contradicting Freud, who claimed that “the little girl is a little man”(5) that there is only one sex – female:
(…)femaleness is a universal sex defined by self-negation, against which all politics, even feminist politics, rebels. Put more simply: Everyone is female, and everyone hates it. (…)I’ll define as female any psychic operation in which the self is sacrificed to make room for the desires of another.(6)
It is an interesting theory, nevertheless, personally I find it hard to wrap my head around it. However, even though in reality not everyone is female, there is pretty convincing evidence that all of once were – that is until the sixth week of our lives as embryos. According to a discovery made by a French endocrinologist Alfred Jost in the 1950s, on the early stages of gestation all mammalian fetuses are female per default. Further on in the developmental process the parts that our outer reproductive organs are made of stay the same, they are being formed and arranged differently.(7)
It is exactly when we discover this differences as children when the fun begins: castration anxiety, penis envy, Oedipal complex – laying the ground for mommy/daddy issues. All this happens unconsciously, of course, when we are still too young to go to a therapist to work it through...are we though?
I guess it is never too early to start, right? And with the way things are going, we will soon have therapy for newborns. Some might as well need it….
Anyway, what I was saying is that, according to a man who clearly had mommy issues and a full-blown oral fixation himself, children in the age from 3 to 6, regardless of their sex, experience castration anxiety. Freud claimed that “both male and female children form a theory that women no less than men originally had a penis, but they have lost it by castration”(8), resulting in boys fearing the castration themselves and girls envying the penis, wishing badly to have one. I’m not sure if we are dealing with a projection of gigantic proportion, or if Freud was really onto something here, but the idea seem to have caught on, despite (or, perhaps, due to) its misogynistic implications. Maybe it is the other way round? Maybe, as Solanas proposes, “Women...don’t have penis envy. Men have pussy envy”? Maybe it is not the woman who feels incomplete without a penis, but it the man who wants “to compete himself, to become female”, for, following Solanas’ argumentation, “The male is a biological accident. (...) The Y (male) gene is an incomplete X (female) gene...In other words, the male is an incomplete female, a walking abortion, aborted at the gene stage”?(9) Or maybe, just maybe, each of us is actually complete the way we are, but growing up in the environment imbued with all these contradicting influences makes us feel otherwise? Another unresolvable chicken-egg question to contemplate upon...
Growing up without a father, or a brother for that matter, I guess I've never really gotten the chance to become penis-envious and grew up pretty content with having a vagina. I wasn’t that fortunate in regard to the Oedipal complex though. In the psychoanalytic theory Oedipus complex and Electra complex (a female adaptation later proposed by Jung, which was rejected by Freud) are both, simply put, an unconscious sexual desire of the opposite-sex parent, accompanied by the hatred of the same-sex parent(10). The title was appropriated (or bluntly stolen, not unlike many other “Freud’s” ideas) from Greek mythology. In Sophocles’ play “Oedipus Rex”, Oedipus “unwittingly kills his father and marries his mother”(11). Once the truth is revealed, his mother hangs herself (understandably) and Oedipus plunges his eyes out with the pins from her dress (much less so). The keyword here is UNWITTINGLY. Oedipus did not know that the man he killed was his father and he definitely did not know that the woman he married was his mother. The poor fella just got extremely unlucky, or it was due to bad karma, since he was one hell of a tyrant, who knows... But to claim that children from 3 to 6 years want to eliminate someone who they know is their father/mother in order to engage in sexual activity with someone who they know to be their parent, be it unconsciously or not, sounds a bit radical, if you ask me. Maybe that is the case though, maybe we are that messed up at the early age already...
As I mentioned earlier, my father wasn’t around when I was growing up. My mom said it was better that way, that having him around would have done more damage than good. I didn’t agree with her... that is until I actually got to know the guy, but more on that later.
Even though my father wasn’t around, I wasn’t completely deprived of male father-figures while growing up. My mom was an extremely attractive woman, you see, so there was no lack of potential fathers-to-be. Oh yes, and while I was growing up, she was kind of growing up as well – she had me when she was 17. Not exactly something she had planned, as you can imagine, but well, here I am. When I was around 7 or 8, her boyfriend at the time lived with us and the two of them were pretty solid for around 3 years. I remember one evening me and him were watching a movie together, lying on the couch, my mom being in the kitchen. His arm was around my shoulders and he lightly caressed my arm with his fingers...which gave me a strange tingly sensation in the lower belly...It felt nice, but also kind of wrong. All those sensations and feelings seemed to have taken over me; I remember feeling anxious. I guess Freud would call it instinctual anxiety – “dread of the strength of the instinct”(12). What happens is that the superego, that starts developing around the age of five, fears the id, the unconscious, primal drives, and their potential to take control. Already at this relatively early age our mind is a battleground between different parts of our psyche. The cacophony of the inner voices goes something like this:
- Mmm, pleasure, yes, I want more of it, regardless of the consequences!
- Wait a minute, what is it I am feeling? Is it normal to feel it, or am I a kind of a freak?
- How can you?! He is your mother’s boyfriend, he is basically your father, you should feel ashamed of yourself!
Who put these shaming thoughts in my head? Who put them in yours?
(To be continued...)
1) Katherine Angel, Daddy Issues, Peninsula Press, London, 2019, p.71.
2) Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette, King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine, Harper, San Francisco, 1990. p. xix, and 3-25.
3) Lorenz, K., Der Kumpan in der Umwelt des Vogels. Der Artgenosse als auslösendes Moment sozialer Verhaltensweisen. Journal für Ornithologie, 1935, p.83, 137–215.
4) Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette, King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine, Harper, 1990. p.10.
5) Sigmund Freud, The Standard Edition of the Complete Works of Sigmund Freud, ed. By James Strachey, Hogarth Press, London, 7:195n2, cited in Andrea LongChu, Females, Verso, London, 2019, p.23.
6) Andrea Long Chu, Females, Verso, London, 2019, p. 11-12.
7) Emily Nagoski, Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, New York, 2005, p.19.
8) Sigmund Freud, Three Essays on The Theory of Sexuality, in Andrea Long Chu, Females, Verso, London, 2019, p. 45.
9) Valerie Solanas, SCUM Manifesto, Verso, London, 2004, p.37-38.
10) Sigmund Freud, Interpretation of Dreams, The McMillan Company, New York, 1913, p. 222-225.
12) P. A. Hazard, Freud’s Teaching on Shame, Laval théologique et philosophique, 25 (2), source: https://doi.org/10.7202/102014..., p.239.
Sponsored by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State North Rhein-Westphalia in the frame of the scholarship "Auf Geht's"