I’m responding to myself quickly, because a reader, Abigail (see the comment at the bottom of the last piece), provided a wise and caring corrective. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge her insight.
When a father carries the anger in him of which I spoke, it is the mother who can and must be the healer. It is always better when both parents bring their unique kinds of warmth to the child-rearing task. But if it is not that way, the protective nurturing falls upon the mother. It is she who can keep the child from being overwhelmed by the cold seas of the father’s hidden anger.
A case could be made, and has been in literature and myth throughout history, that a child benefits from the dual reality of a father’s distant “sky god” righteousness and the warm nurturing of a close and caring mother’s earth embrace.
But that is too far from my own understanding and expertise. It is as a father, not as a psychologist, that I speak. And I know from my own successes and failures, and those of men around me, that the father who loves before judging, who leads rather than ordering, who shares before demanding, is badly needed in the world today.
After a short cultural dalliance with a kind of “soft” male identity, we have come back with a vengeance in our cultural assertion of strong, aggressive, competitive maleness. I do not believe it will serve us well.
Until we master our desire for mastery, on both a cultural and a personal level, it will fall upon the women — traditional bearers of the power of the feminine — to correct and heal the excesses a misshapen maleness produces.
Those who are lucky enough to have a mother strong enough in her powers of embrace and nurture to counteract the effects of father anger, are lucky, indeed. Perhaps they have the best of both worlds. At a minimum, they have a place to go to grow freely and with hope.