When one is young one is dependent on the father. A father strong as a mountain is a real need. Those who lose their father soon realize this.
Unconsciously one finds substitute fathers. The apprentice says to his master, and the patient says to his doctor: “You are my father”. Whilst actual fathers do not expect anything in return for what they give, substitute fathers don’t give anything without something in return. This is one of the important facts life teaches us!
I had such a patient. He found himself one substitute father after another. He worshipped every one of them as if they were God! In the end it happened and my patient felt hostility towards the last father. He was being persecuted. As you will guess, he hit rock bottom with his psychosis. He held the substitute father as worthy as God, and at the slightest disobedience that big force would unleash his anger – that is what he believed. He attributed such a power to him. The power was such that the substitute father would know of every step he took. In fact he would even read his thoughts and restrain his ideas. He would put unreasonable thoughts into his head. There was no more room for him in this world. The substitute father was looking for an opportunity to punish his son. So as a way out the young man tried to commit suicide.
Finally they dragged him to see me. As our conversation deepened he felt more confident and started to tell his story. Although he was sure that the substitute father was listening he felt self-confident in my presence. Anyhow, it became clear that he had unfinished business with his real father. It was a tyrant of a father. He claimed to be the most important, in fact the only important person in this life. The God-like power to punish, which he had attributed to the substitute father, reflected the grandiose attitude and despotism of the real father. He questioned himself saying “Who am I anyway?” and he connected everything with the father! And naturally his fear of doing wrong in the eyes of the substitute father was as big as a fear of God.
Through lengthy psychotherapy and drug treatment the unfinished business between him and his real father was reviewed and finally some personality traits became apparent that had been passed on from the grandfather of his father. This means that in many of his actions the father did not have unlimited freedom of will. The space in which he could manoeuvre was limited to his small will. In the end he forgave, understood and loved his father and he made peace with him. The real father took its real place in his head.
As with regard to the substitute father; nobody was or could be his real father. They only loved themselves and would not take a single step without getting something in return…
By the time he realized all this, years had passed… In his own words: “There is noone greater than God, and as for the mother-father, obedience even to them goes as far as they do not claim to be greater than God…”