PsychBytes

A publication of the Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis

Share This Post

The Importance of Fathers

Mary FitzGerald, LCSW-C & Rebecca Landau-Millin, Psy.D.
WBCP members
January 2019 | Volume 6 | Issue 1

The coming of age film, “Eighth Grade,” illustrates the importance of a father’s steady presence during adolescence. Thirteen year-old Kayla has been raised by her single father, Mark, whose well-intended, imperfect yet reliable support fosters his daughter’s greater self-acceptance. After frustrated attempts at communicating with her father, Kayla reveals, “Sometimes I think that when I’m older, I’ll have a daughter of my own… and I feel like if she was like me, then being her mom would make me sad all the time.”

Mark offers Kayla the opportunity to consider an alternative narrative to the rejecting identification she has internalized with her absent mother. Mark’s capacity to endure the painful and realistic moments in which nothing he says is acceptable to his daughter, at least on the surface, provides emotional containment for Kayla as she struggles with regulating her connection and intimacy with her father.

Kayla, “Can you not look like that, Please?!”

Mark, “Like what?”

Kayla, “Just like, the way you are looking.”

Mark, “Looking at the road?”

Kayla, “You can look at the road, Dad. I obviously didn’t mean that! Just like — don’t be weird and quiet while you do it!”

Mark, “Sorry. Hey, how was the shadow thing?”

Kayla, (interrupts) “No! You were being quiet, which is fine. Just like — don’t be weird and quiet. Cause like, I look over at you. And I think you are about to drive us into a tree or something and then I then I get really freaked out and then I can’t text my friends, so just like be quiet and drive. And don’t look weird and sad. Please!”

Dad — okay….(softly), followed by silence… Kayla looks at Dad…”That’s worse.”

Although these exchanges leave her father feeling ineffective and rejected, his capacity to withstand these moments is fundamental to supporting Kayla’s struggle towards emotional regulation and self-acceptance, and provides a safe haven for Kayla at a crucial phase of development.

Explore more in PsychBytes

Horizons

A favorite amusement during my elementary-school years was a puzzle-map of the United States. The puzzle pieces comprised all the states. The top of the puzzle went beyond the USA halfway up Canada, and the bottom ended halfway through Mexico.

Mad or Sad?

Here I am, taking comfort in the sunroom and emailing off another cartoon to my sister. I have two sisters and have always been especially close to sister number two, Patti. It could be said that we are close because we are nearer in age, but really, we are close because we are pretty much on the same wavelength. We enjoy a lot of the same things including guffawing over clever memes. We like to laugh.

Content Edit Request

Please submit one request at a time.