Love, Relationships, Limerence & Affair Recovery

The challenges of being a son raised by a father who is a holocaust survivor

April 11, 2021 Dr. David Perl
Love, Relationships, Limerence & Affair Recovery
The challenges of being a son raised by a father who is a holocaust survivor
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Love, Relationships, Limerence & Affair Recovery
The challenges of being a son raised by a father who is a holocaust survivor
Apr 11, 2021
Dr. David Perl

I wrote this back in 2014 after visiting visiting Auschwitz with my father. He hasn’t returned there since being imprisoned there as a 13 year old boy during the second world war. His mother, father and 7 brothers and sisters were all murdered there. So much of my work now is to help clients understand their own backgrounds and the impact of a dysfunctional family of origin. I find writing and putting this stuff out there helps break the taboo in my family of origin of letting the world know were are not a healthy functional family. Maybe it will help others.

I woke at 1 am last night after yet another nightmare. I’ve had recurrent nightmares for as long as I can remember. I had night terrors as a young boy. They always involve dark negative entities, witches, monsters, ghosts that are trying to get me. Last night’s was one of the worst. I woke up screaming feeling such visceral fear that words don’t encapsulate my feelings. Every fibre of my being felt invaded by terror. The fear of being annihilated. Sleep did not return to me easily last night. I lay in bed and raged that once again my father’s inability to deal with his own feelings bears its burden in the trans-generational trauma that I carry.

There is no coincidence me dream was preceded by me meeting my dad for lunch yesterday. I haven’t seen him for 4 months. I’ve purposely been keeping a low profile as I’ve increasingly noticed that I somatise after seeing him. My knees and ankles become inflamed, causing me much pain for weeks at a time. I’ve been pain and nightmare free since I last saw him. Over the past two years we have both been working at rebuilding the bridges between us. Perhaps that should be building the bridges, as they were never laid down when they should have been – whilst I was growing up. With the help of therapy and more latterly, the men’s work through the ManKind project, I have been able to have more honest conversations with him about my feelings.

I was raised in a family where feelings were not allowed to be expressed. My three sisters and I were raised with many dysfunctional beliefs, one particularly pernicious one being “don’t do anything to upset your father, he’s suffered enough” – his torment being at the hands of Nazi persecution. So even now, when I have the temerity to tell him about his less than stellar fathering, it feels viscerally like I am doing something very wrong. I recognise this is my inner child who is expecting to be punished for speaking out.

Yesterday’s lunch started as it always does, with superficial stuff. I wasn’t going to raise the issue of my withdrawal unless my father asked. After 20 minutes he asked about the men’s work I am doing, what’s involved? Who goes along? Do I get paid for it? I explained its about learning how to be a better man, to live a life with integrity, honesty and taking responsibility, how to be a better father to my daughters and a better husband to my wife, how to feel safe amongst other men that don’t judge me and to help me get more connected to my feelings.

He then asked about us, our relationship. I asked if he wanted me to be honest? He said “I want to know why you are angry, why cant you just leave things be but don’t tell me anything that I might find hurtful”. How’s that for a double bind? I told him I cant predict if he will find what I say hurtful All I can do is talk about how I feel, to take responsibility for my feelings and I that cant be responsible for his reactions. If he doesn’t like what I say, then that’s for him to reflect upon and take to his own therapist he sees at the Holocaust Survivors Centre.

He tells me he gives his therapist therapy such is his sceptism of the effectiveness of talking therapies. What was said between us was little different to what we spoke about a year ago, although this time I also reinforced my appreciation of the things he has done for me and also how I am starting to gain respect for some of h

Show Notes

I wrote this back in 2014 after visiting visiting Auschwitz with my father. He hasn’t returned there since being imprisoned there as a 13 year old boy during the second world war. His mother, father and 7 brothers and sisters were all murdered there. So much of my work now is to help clients understand their own backgrounds and the impact of a dysfunctional family of origin. I find writing and putting this stuff out there helps break the taboo in my family of origin of letting the world know were are not a healthy functional family. Maybe it will help others.

I woke at 1 am last night after yet another nightmare. I’ve had recurrent nightmares for as long as I can remember. I had night terrors as a young boy. They always involve dark negative entities, witches, monsters, ghosts that are trying to get me. Last night’s was one of the worst. I woke up screaming feeling such visceral fear that words don’t encapsulate my feelings. Every fibre of my being felt invaded by terror. The fear of being annihilated. Sleep did not return to me easily last night. I lay in bed and raged that once again my father’s inability to deal with his own feelings bears its burden in the trans-generational trauma that I carry.

There is no coincidence me dream was preceded by me meeting my dad for lunch yesterday. I haven’t seen him for 4 months. I’ve purposely been keeping a low profile as I’ve increasingly noticed that I somatise after seeing him. My knees and ankles become inflamed, causing me much pain for weeks at a time. I’ve been pain and nightmare free since I last saw him. Over the past two years we have both been working at rebuilding the bridges between us. Perhaps that should be building the bridges, as they were never laid down when they should have been – whilst I was growing up. With the help of therapy and more latterly, the men’s work through the ManKind project, I have been able to have more honest conversations with him about my feelings.

I was raised in a family where feelings were not allowed to be expressed. My three sisters and I were raised with many dysfunctional beliefs, one particularly pernicious one being “don’t do anything to upset your father, he’s suffered enough” – his torment being at the hands of Nazi persecution. So even now, when I have the temerity to tell him about his less than stellar fathering, it feels viscerally like I am doing something very wrong. I recognise this is my inner child who is expecting to be punished for speaking out.

Yesterday’s lunch started as it always does, with superficial stuff. I wasn’t going to raise the issue of my withdrawal unless my father asked. After 20 minutes he asked about the men’s work I am doing, what’s involved? Who goes along? Do I get paid for it? I explained its about learning how to be a better man, to live a life with integrity, honesty and taking responsibility, how to be a better father to my daughters and a better husband to my wife, how to feel safe amongst other men that don’t judge me and to help me get more connected to my feelings.

He then asked about us, our relationship. I asked if he wanted me to be honest? He said “I want to know why you are angry, why cant you just leave things be but don’t tell me anything that I might find hurtful”. How’s that for a double bind? I told him I cant predict if he will find what I say hurtful All I can do is talk about how I feel, to take responsibility for my feelings and I that cant be responsible for his reactions. If he doesn’t like what I say, then that’s for him to reflect upon and take to his own therapist he sees at the Holocaust Survivors Centre.

He tells me he gives his therapist therapy such is his sceptism of the effectiveness of talking therapies. What was said between us was little different to what we spoke about a year ago, although this time I also reinforced my appreciation of the things he has done for me and also how I am starting to gain respect for some of h