Cracking the Icon

Father icons become problematic only when we worship them as unexamined, monolithic images, lumping together qualities that feel right with others that feel wrong. The solution is to disassemble the icon and create a new image, a mosaic designed to match his characteristics to your unique character and destiny.

Try this: Write down what your dad might say about money, romantic relationships, or career. Picture your father, then "listen" to him comment on each topic. Continue this exercise with any topic that feels juicy to you—anything. Then examine each father rule. Do you agree with it? Does it inspire or discourage you? Most important, does it work? Did it help your father attain happiness? Is it helping you realize your full potential? Does it give you energy or sap your strength? These questions begin breaking up the icon image of the father, shattering it so that you can sort and reassemble the pieces.

Creating the Mosaic

Whatever your father rules may be, treasure them. Don't try to act as though they don't exist. You won't succeed—the psychology of fatherhood is too deeply rooted—and you'll be tossing out something you can use to illuminate, motivate, and inspire your right life.

First, if pieces of your father icon are working brilliantly for you, leave them as they are. Other elements of your father's character may be painful, untrue, or destructive. These you'll need to turn upside down. In their new orientation, these patterns will still have the supersaturated vibrancy of father power.

If your father always supported you, embody his virtue by supporting others. If he habitually attacked small animals, become a protector of the weak, borrowing passion from your revulsion at his cruelty. If he was absent, learn to be present. There is no part of your father icon that isn't useful, once it is examined.

If you develop the habit of continuously noticing when you are worshipping your father icon, examining the rules you learned from your dad, deciding which ones work for you, and repositioning the others, you'll find something better than the worship of idols: the love of equals. You'll stop bridling at your father's flaws or needing him to remain the eternal omnipotent Daddy. You'll begin learning from everything about the man who begot you, rather than railing at a god who exists only in your mind. The beauty you create from the shards of your father's icon is the way to truly honor him.

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