A: Thank you for writing in. You pose an important question that affects many people. As I see it, you are basically asking if the relationships you had (and witnessed) as a child could affect your relationships as an adult. The answer is a resounding YES. Our early attachments and role models have a great deal to do with our ability to connect to others later. If we perceive that our environment is not safe and those who are there to love and protect us, instead impose fear and uncertainty, it can dramatically affect not only our relationships, but also our view of ourselves and the world around us.
There is a lot you can do to turn this pattern around though, regardless of whether or not you confront your father. There are lots of self-help books available on these topics, but two that come to mind are Outgrowing the Pain and Toxic Parents. There are many support groups, both online and in local communities that provide help to adults abused as children, and of course, you could enter therapy to work through the effects of your past with a trained expert.
In the meantime, journaling about your feelings or expressing yourself through art are also helpful. It’s ok to cry, to scream or to do whatever you need to do to release the feelings you have held inside. You will feel much better once you let them out in a safe way. Once you have tried some of these techniques, I think you’ll be in a better position to evaluate if you want to speak to your parents about the things that happened back then.
Welcome to your healing journey!
All the best,
Dr. Holly Counts