Finding Our Fathers:
How a Man’s Life is Shaped by His Relationship with His Father
Samuel Osherson, Ph.D. (1986, 2001)
What the Book is About:
Osherson himself explains his book in his preface: “Self-understanding is an essential first step for men today. If a man is to be a good father to his son, or a good husband to his wife, he needs to know what he got, or wanted and didn’t get, from his own father; how he was both strengthened and wounded by that relationship; how it has influenced his own fathering style and his own identity as a man.”
Although this is an older book (first published in 1986), I looked forward to reading it because several other more recent books I’ve read quote or reference it. Clearly, this was an important foundational study for much of what came later in the area of facing difficult and complex, sometimes painful, realities in our relationships with our fathers. No wonder it became a national bestseller.
To give context to my comments below, it will be helpful to first see the titles of his seven chapters:
- Unspoken Debts: Men’s Struggle to Separate from Father
- Dealing with Authority: Mentors and Fathers
- Of Working Wives and Men’s Loneliness
- Vulnerability and Rage: What Not Being Able to Have Children Tells Us About All Men
- The Empty Urn: Do Men Get Pregnant Too?
- Fatherhood as a Healing and Wounding Experience
- Healing the Wounded Father
In some ways, I was both rewarded by and frustrated with this book. Reading the prefaces to the first and second editions, the introduction, and the first chapter were stunning. I kept thinking to myself, No wonder so many later books reference this one. This is going to be a very important read, particularly regarding the Father Wound, in which I’m so interested.
As I read chapters 2 through 5, however, I kept feeling a sense of disillusionment that the book had somehow taken a left turn and was no longer talking about the subject by which it was titled. The subjects discussed in these four chapters were in themselves interesting, but they did not seem at all to fit the title of the book (Finding our Fathers). It was not until the last two chapters that the book thankfully returned to the promised theme, and in doing so, once again seemed brilliant and of tremendous value and use.
The beginning and end of the book, perhaps more than any other I’ve read, resonate with an important focus of The Great Dads Project: the identification, embracing, grieving, and healing of the Father Wound so many men carry within—a wound that powerfully, and often subconsciously, affects the men we become, the husbands we are, and the way we father our own children.
There is some great stuff in this book, well worth reading, especially if you are exploring your complex relationship with your own father and how profoundly that relationship has shaped your life and relationships now.
Over the past 25 years, author Sam Osherson, Ph.D. has been doing research and writing on fathering, gender issues, men’s lives, and the parenting dilemmas of contemporary life. He maintains a private practice of psychotherapy in Cambridge, MA, and is currently Director of the Alonso Center for Psychodynamic Studies at the Fielding Graduate University, where he is also a Professor of Psychology. Osherson is also a partner in the Stanley King Counseling Institute. He holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from Harvard University.
Osherson is the author of several critically-acclaimed books, including Wrestling With Love, Finding Our Fathers (considered a classic study of the relationship between grown men and their fathers), and The Passions of Fatherhood.
He has taught at Harvard University, MIT and the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Osherson is an active speaker and lecturer and has written for a variety of magazines and newspapers, including The Boston Globe, Cosmopolitan, Utne Reader, and The Miami Herald. (bio from http://www.samosherson.com/about-sam/)
This book is for men who may be searching to make sense of their relationship with their father, their own identity as a man, and the impact of the father-son relationship. It is for men who are willing to take steps toward what he calls “self-understanding.” That journey often begins with beginning to understand one’s father.
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