Fathers and Sons

Fathers and Sons
Fathers and Sons

Here is what the German poet Rilke had to say:

Sometimes a man stands up after supper

and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,

because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.

And his children say blessings on him as if he were dead.

And another man, who remains inside his own house,

Stays there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,

So that his children have to go far out into the world

Toward the same church which he forgot.

The church in the East is a symbol for the inner journey.  It’s living the ‘examined life’.  Even though a father might become pre-occupied with a spiritual quest  for a while, he always stays connected and lives up to his responsibilities to his family and to his son.  It is not a literal departure to unknown lands, rather it is a necessary separation from the falsely advertised  security of the silent majority and from the bitter illusion of the materialistic con called the ‘American Dream’.

If a man is to become himself, he has to venture upstream and liberate himself from the downstream psychology of those in the mindless collective, who are slaves to consumerism and the bullshit celebrity culture.  If a Son doesn’t see his father’s life as soulful , he is pressured to bear the tremendous burden of his father’s ‘ unlived life’.  Only a father who has looked deeply into the mirror and acknowledged both the light and dark side of his soul can teach his son to individuate and find his own way and not be dependent on approval from and applause by others.  If a father doesn’t blaze his own trail to the ‘church in the East’, he hinders his son’s journey as he cannot teach or transmit what he hasn’t acquired himself.

When that occurs, the mother-son relationship carries too much weight.  Most mothers love their sons, but they cannot initiate their sons into something they are not.  A mother hurts her son by either doing too much or doing too little.  A son needs a father to pull him out of his mother complex.  If the reader will allow me to oversimplify again – a ‘mother complex’  in a man keeps him imprisoned in two basic lifestyles.  He is either overly dependent, needy, clingy and poisonously passive-aggressive or he compensates for his dependency with a power driven, controlling macho attitude.  I’ve seen enough macho types in my office, who when their wives finally find the strength to leave them, totally decompensate into a lengthy meltdown.  Neither the passive nor the power driven man can be soulfully connected to a woman – a mother complex makes a man’s relationship not personal.  A son needs to get this understanding from his father.

A father also needs to instruct his son how to work, how to bounce back from failure and adversity and how to tolerate frustration and delay immediate gratification.  He needs to promote his journey from home to horizon and teach him how to chip a piece of earth out for himself and be responsible for it.  A father needs to tell his son it’s perfectly normal to be afraid and most of all that he loves him deeply and accepts him.  Finally a father needs to teach his son about women.

If this was not provided by our fathers, we have to learn to father ourselves.  Finding a mentor who is connected to the wisdom of the forefathers and who knows about the shadow world can be very helpful.  Becoming a man amongst men, finding our peers and sharing our lives with them is essential.  An education in history, philosophy and literature can provide good fathering.  All the major battles in life are waged within the  soul.  When we take a conscious look  into our inner psychic landscape, the land of complexes, fears, dreams, internal allies, demons, abysses and wisdom….healing occurs.

P.S: The man who is brothers to all men cannot be defeated !

Peter Milhado © 2013

13 thoughts on “Fathers and Sons”

  1. I liked parts of your article, but mostly it upset me. Are you suggesting that a single mother, without a man around the house, can’t raise a son to become a responsible man? Anna

  2. Peter Milhado PHD

    No Anna. I have too much respect for the single mothers I’ve seen over the years and the incredible sacrifices they have to make in an often uncaring and cold society. As a single mother you have to provide both maternal and paternal love. Maternal love is unconditional -the son is totally accepted as he is and loved just for being alive.Paternal love is conditional and based on performance to give tools to the son so he can grow up and become self-sufficient in a tough world. These tools include perseverance with difficult tasks,responsibility for self and service to others,accepting reasonable limits,exploring uncharted waters….getting up at 5am to honour a committment rather than sleeping in etc.Parenting is not a democracy. A ‘conscious’ single parent can provide both paternal and maternal love.Finally it would be very helpful to find a man—-a teacher ,brother, coach,neighbor-who is willing to mentor your son. It s best to formally request the mentoring.


  3. Dear Dr. Milhado, I think all this stuff about fathers and sons is a bunch of garbage. I think mothers make great fathers and vica versa. I also think you are quite adorable and handsome. By any chance are you rich? If so, you can contact me.

  4. Peter Milhado PHD

    Dear Ms. Hazel, Thank you for your interest in my work. Please send me a copy of your curriculum vitae and a current fullbodied picture taken from multiple angles . Best regards Dr. Milhado

  5. Greeting Dr. Milhado,
    The forces were with me last week at the Cup of Beans when I came upon your article in the View. Rilke mastered crafting words into mirrors and I took these home with me to share with some brothers.
    This piece by Rilke took me back into Thomas Mann’s tretrology, “Joseph and His Brothers.” My father’s six days on Iwo Jima precluded the examined life for him and became a boon/burden for me. Fortunately, Mann took 1500 pages to tell his Old Testament father – son – brother tales and, like Rilke, they quickened me and eased my way. Thanks and a hat tip, for the memories.
    Richard Kline

  6. Peter Milhado PHD

    Dear Richard Kline
    Thank you for your thoughtful e-mail.
    There are some losses in life we never get back.
    I agree with you– it is how we approach these losses that either makes them life long burdens or potentially beneficial opportunities. stay in touch.

  7. “There are some losses in life we never get back.” I too agree, without hesitation; however, “it is how we approach these losses that either makes them life long burdens or potentially beneficial opportunities”, feels a bid giddy.

  8. “the man who is brothers to all men, is a friend of none”. This was written long before i discovered it.

  9. I have been a single mom. I take no offense at your suggestion that this role has limitations and is less than ideal. I only wish I could have understood this then (20 years ago). My son was a 3 sport athlete and I believe his coaches served as a mentoring role into the world of masculinity. But sadly too many had overcompensation with machismo. You, my friend, understand.

  10. My 2 sons… one of whom passed on in 2006, I often told, “can think, fast and wait.” I also repeatedly suggested they “choose their friends wisely and watch where they put their penis.” Love your work by the way. Used to live near Ojai and am a MKP man. Blessings.

  11. Dear Dr. Peter

    I feel all kinds of emotions towards this article. You might be right or wrong, I don’t know, but one thing I can’t deny, is that a Ying is not a Yang, and when a mom tries to perform the dad’s role… in some cases, she’s just started to nurture a total collapse of her identity in the future. That’s what happened to me and now I find myself trying to start the search of the church in the east. I wish there would be hope as to a mother teaching her son to stay in touch with whatever it is he needs to stay in touch with in order to become the man he wants to be. If there’s no father around, or the father just doesn’t care, the anxiety and the guilt can be overwhelming. I really liked the idea that an education in history, philosophy and literature can provide good fathering. I’ll keep that in mind as I’ll keep in mind not to encourage my son to became the type of man I like (what a tremendous conscious responsability). Thank you for all your articles, they are of such relief and encouragment to go on and seek meaning in one’s life. Thanks for this sudden desire to go back and re read The Man and his symbols by Jung, too.
    Best wishes to you,


  12. Dr. Milhado, it has been a while since we have wrestled with my demons in your office. I do believe you saved me in many ways, and most certainly made it possible for me to trust my own judgement. You showed me how to pull myself up with my boot straps. You explained to me that the mother-son bond is far more powerful, deeper than the father-son and everything I have experienced validates that. I have noticed that it is easiest for me to dwell upon my lifes failures and ignore the successes, but I do not accept that as a judgement of a failed life–infact I am very comfortable calling myself a ‘good man’, even when I do not feel very good. My only son had been a drug addict for 10 years, and twice he died overdosing, last year he stayed dead. Perhaps it is morbid, but I am happy he is no longer suffering and I too, am relieved from the burden of rescuing him daily. I am not certain that I mentored him well, but I feel I did. Many people have said kind things, but only one person, a very dear friend who knew my son & I intimately, brought me comfort when he said, “You never gave up on him, most people would have”. You can tell a tree by its fruit and my tree is overloaded with loving family & friends & a Jack Russel Terrier who saved my life last week (really, but that’s another tail)

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