Archetype of the Father

The dream images representing father are many: God; a god; a giant; a tyrant; executioner; devil; Pan; older man; male leader figure; the sun; an older male rival; a holy man or priest; a dominating boss; wise old man; the sun; a bull – and of course father.

A child is, figuratively, like a growing plant. It takes in lumps of external material and transforms them into its own being. A child unconsciously either takes father or mother as its main model for structuring its behaviour and aims. But also, huge areas of our basic identity revolve around mother and father. The absence of an available father in the life of a child leaves an enormous imprint in the developing psyche, just as much as the presence of the father. Our father in our dreams therefore is most often the overall effect, habits, traits, that arise from our experience – or lack of it – of our father. Our father is the great figure of original authority and strength in our life – or lack of it. He is therefore a focus of our relationship with outside authority or power, the world outside the home and family. But there is also a cultural representation of what a father is, and each nation has particular ways of representing this. During our growth, and continuing throughout adulthood, we are confronted with literary, artistic, film and drama representations of the role of father. These also form a powerful part of our inner ‘father’. These, along with the deeply inbuilt expectations at an almost biological level, of what our father is or should be, form our internal male parent, and in synthesis form the father archetype.

But many people do not realise that they have an inner father equally as powerful as an external father. You have taken in millions of bits of memory, lessons learnt, life experiences along with all the feelings or problems met by loving and living with your father, and they are what makes you the person you are. This is true even if your father was never there for you – you still have all the memories of him not being there for you filed under ‘Father’. The memories and experience we gather unconsciously change us and are not lost. It is part of you and is symbolised in dreams as a person or event. Such an inner father can appear in dreams because you are still deeply influenced by what you hold within you.

The description of God given by religion is quite a good example and definition of the father archetype. God is described as the creator, but also the great authority on how to behave, and a judge on whether one has lived well or badly. God might be very loving or vengeful. God is also full of wisdom and knowledge. It is helpful to use this God image in understanding what the influence of the father archetype has in ones life. For instance a sense of failure can arise through never arriving at a conviction of having satisfied or got signs of praise or recognition from ones father/God.

Therefore the father archetype is partly about how we feel about being capable, productive and creative in the outer world. It is about protectiveness and strength, about know-how and knowledge of the world. The father image at its best is about the willingness to stand against the world for the child, and to be a bulwark against difficulties, a shelter we know is always there in need. The following example gives some idea of this in the life of the child.

Example: After I had left my wife and the divorce was through I still visited my children almost daily. Often I would do things in the house that needed repair. One day I was standing on a chair fixing a light fitting and I had an insistent feeling that my children were watching me. It wasn’t that they were standing observing what I was doing, though there was a little of that. It was something else, and when I allowed this intuitive feeling to surface it was like a small revelation. I was led to see that when I came through the front door into the house I brought an atmosphere with me. Also I had come into the house from ‘the world’, from work, from all the extremes of life that were outside the home. And I realised or felt that a great deal of child speculation, in an unconscious way is, “What is it like out there in the adult world? How will I get on in it? Will I survive if I go out alone as I grow?”

So if I came in the door cowed by the difficulties of life I was saying to my children – “God it’s hard out there. It knocks me down and I can’t deal with it.” But if I come in buoyant and smiling, then I am saying, “Hey, that was interesting. There is so much to do out there that is fascinating and involving.” I knew as the understanding arose that the confidence or lack of it my children had in growing up and entering the adult world depended a great deal on how they saw me come through that door. Because in me they saw reflected what the world might do to them.

The negative father archetype involves domination, abuse of the power and authority of fatherhood, and a cold intellectual example of relationship. This negative image involves the use of the child or those under his authority for the father’s own ends, rather than a caring for the child’s own inner needs. The absence of caring love is a main feature of this. Entering into a sexual relationship with the child is another huge negative.

The father archetype doesn’t necessarily involve parenthood or relationship with ones own children, but rather the leadership and caring for the development and growth of people whether they are family or not. In a personal sense it echoes what sense you have of being supported or undermined by your background of life experience and parents. So although it involves your parents, it is much wider than that. For instance it also includes how you relate to your own life process. Do you feel secure that life upholds you and supports, or do you feel life is constantly a chaotic and meaningless accident within which you can easily get fatally ill or killed? Does life uphold or seek to destroy you? Or is life completely impersonal and uncaring?


Struggle or seeking to placate father

May show how we deal with authority or those we see as having power.

For a woman dreamer

Your relationship with the father image is of enormous importance in the way you relate to men and the satisfaction or otherwise achieved in such relationships, and also how you deal with opportunity and life outside the home. Conflict with the father can lead to feelings of not being loveable or capable of love. It can also implicate you in a desire to go against family and social ‘principles’ and lead a life of rebellion – or certainly one that is alternative. A great deal of anger and the urge to inflict hurt or to criticise may be involved in this. See: archetype of the animus

For a male dreamer

The father image or process in you determines how you meet and deal with other men and the world, work, and opportunity. Conflict with the father figure can lead to a continuing fight with or avoidance of any authority figure, and /or an attempt to placate and gain the attention and perhaps love of a male, especially older males or those in authority.

Our baby or child self has no restraints, and in its relationship with father, at times feels urges which as an adult we might find hard to believe or accept. In our dreams we frequently release these urges. Therefore in dreams we might meet themes such as those below.

A difficult or unsatisfying relationship with father can be the underlying urge toward homosexual relationships.

Dreaming about Killing father

This can be about the expression of anger one felt as a child toward father. It is also a way of getting rid of him so there is no competition for mother. Frequently though it is about gaining your own ability to make decisions and be independent. At some point we need to kill the father inside us to claim whatever strength we can from our experience of him and become independent. The death of the father in such dreams is like taking in his spirit, not as a dominating exterior influence making it difficult to make your own decisions and take your own direction, but as a resource that is your own. See Integrating a Parent.

Dreaming of Sex with father

For the woman this is the fulfilment of childhood desires to posses, own and be loved by father. It might also be a sign of gaining power over a dominant and uncaring father or father figure – someone you needed loving support and encouragement from and never received it. For a man it might express the desire to receive the father’s love. As a child sometimes one is ready to do anything to gain this love. And childhood and this tremendous need may underlie the different types of homosexual urges. The father may not easily have shown his love, so the child becomes desperate to receive it. Such love is as important to ones emotional and intellectual growth as food is to the growth of ones body. So the homosexual act can either be an attempt to get that love, or a way of gaining power over the male/father. See Growing up to Love.

Here is an example of a man remembering the urge for his father during a therapy session.

You know why? Do you? Do you know why? Yes, you know why but you would never admit it yourself. You’re a pervert. You can’t love me because if you had let yourself feel love you would have wanted to fuck me. And do you know what? You know, I would have let you. You could have fucked me because I wanted you to love me. I would have let you. You wouldn’t give me your love so I wanted your prick. All these years I have been wanting your prick. That’s why I couldn’t love. I was still after your prick. Dad, you fool. Oh Christ. (That’s why I always got mixed up with queers. That’s why I reacted so much to D.)

Burying father

This is most likely the same as killing him. Facing his death leads to meeting one’s own independence. See: archetype of the animus; father

Example: It felt as if at last I had found my father. I had been looking for God as a cover for longing for my father’s love. Now I felt as if I had found my father within me. A great stillness and peace came upon me. Nothing mystical or otherworldly – just peace. I realised this also had been done already in LifeStream and I was just more deeply feeling it. See People’s Experience of LifeStream.

Useful Questions and Hints:

Can I locate and define my internal father? (Try writing down what the various factors of your relationship with your father were, and how they link with your present self and activities and needs.)

Am I still struggling with my father or trying to gain his love or praise?

Do I feel that life itself – the underlying creative process of the universe – supports or undermines me?

In what way does the relationship with my inner father influence the way I relate to others in a caring, authority or supportive role?

Try using Processing Dreams.

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