Am I Wrong for Hating My Father?

How should you feel if your parent is an authoritarian who regularly harms you?

Posted Jul 24, 2020 | Reviewed by Ekua Hagan

Eric Maisel
Rethinking Mental Health
Source: Eric Maisel

Because I write in the area of authoritarian wounding—those psychological wounds created by authoritarian parents, siblings, other family members, clergy, teachers, bosses, one’s mate, or someone else in one’s sphere—I regularly receive the following question, asked in a variety of ways: “Is it alright to hate my father?” or “Should I feel so guilty about hating my mother?”

What is the questioner asking? It is never, “Am I mistaken in my estimation of my parent’s cruelty?” They know that they are being treated cruelly. The question more translates as, “Am I supposed to turn the other cheek and be the better person and somehow forgive and love this tyrant, even as he continues to harm me?”

The answer is “No.” It doesn’t matter if it is “written somewhere” that you are supposed to love, honor, and obey tyrants—you can be sure that some tyrant did that writing. Nor should you be seduced by your own kind feelings, which only prove that you have a heart and a reservoir of goodwill, and force yourself to bend over backward to be kind to someone who is cruel to you. Nor does it matter if this cruel person doesn’t actively beat you or otherwise physically harm you as if not beating you is enough to make for decent parenting

Take the story of a 17-year-old girl who sent me an email with the subject line, “I hate my father. Is it wrong of me to do so?” She explained:

I hate my biological father. Why? Did he leave me and my mum alone? Nope. Is he an alcoholic? Nope. Does he beat me and my mum? NOPE. (In fact, I wish he was involved in domestic violence so that I would at least have evidence and could show it to the police!) Worse, he is the authoritarian. The boss. The man of the house. The ‘dictator’ blinded by his ego. 

He just never wants to believe that he is wrong or he can ever be wrong. He likes to live in the delusion that he is the smartest of all, and the best of all. And he finds pleasure in making others feel small, worthless, and unwanted. And that is what has got me hating him. Sometimes I just hate myself for hating on someone so bad ...

... He is the reason I think of myself as someone who is not enough. But mother has taught me not to give up on life. The one thing she always says to me is, ‘Ego and attitude don't have a cure. That's just how he is and we can do nothing about it. But what we can do is have faith in ourselves, in the people whom we love, and let go. Forgive. And start afresh. Remember, this too shall pass.’

But, I wonder, do I really have to forgive him?

There are many traditions that admonish you to love, love, love. This is a very convenient position for those in a position of power. They tyrannize and manipulate and otherwise self-aggrandize and you are supposed to love, love, love.

Yes, there are powerful reasons not to hate, as hatred is indeed an acid emotion. But whether or not you are entitled to your legitimate hatred is another matter. Of course, you are entitled to it. It is not a tyrant’s call whether or not you have permission to hate.