The Image of Love
Sequel to My Father’s Story and Mine
quod imago autem amor
The Image of Love
Imago is the Latin word meaning image, and refers to the “unconscious image of familiar love.” We are drawn to choose a particular life partner based upon a familiar composite of our childhood caretakers and influencers.
In my last blog entry, I shared that the power of my dad’s love saved me from being ruined by unsafe men. As a young woman, I was attracted to a particular typology of a man based upon the relationship I experienced with two larger-than-life uncles and two magnetically fetching brothers. Although a nuanced and circuitous narrative, I invite you to stay with me as I weave how the subtle voice of my gentle-spirited father proved to be more powerfully saving than the cacophony of compelling charismatic and bewitching narcissistic voices that once beguiled me.
Four handsome men, a quaternity of machismo consisting of two maternal uncles and two of my brothers were the obvious charismatic influencers priming the formation of my imago. Consciously at work in my young heart, the quaternity had taken a foothold in undermining the influence of my gentle and soft-spoken father in the formation of my budding imago. Another factor was the inculcation that these two uncles had in influencing my “Image of God.”
My earliest concepts of God came from watching maternal uncles who were authoritarian, as being always right just because they were my elders, “Respect your elders,” the mantra. Even when they were wrong, they were “still right,” never to be questioned, in the same way, “we never question God.” Their vociferating voices barked at their wives in the name of scripture, “Wives submit yourself to your husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church…” Interrupting them as they attempted to speak their minds, “Woman shut up!” Of course, as you might intuit, that part is not scriptural.
The remainder of the scripture which was not quoted reveals the gentleness of honoring the other in our relationship, “So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord does the church.”
Thus, my early concept of God was a heavy-handed, authoritarian, and unrelenting Divinity. Yet, the ancient scripture spoke of a particular gentleness in how Christ loved the church and that men “ought to love their wives, in that same way; a vast contrast in contradiction. My father, was also a contradiction to these uncles, being the gentle-spirited man that he was. He was not considered a Christian or macho by my uncle’s standards, because he would not speak to, or control my mother the way that they spoke to and controlled their wives. In addition, he did not profess their religious beliefs. My dad possessed an inner faith although he gave up his religion to marry my mother who had been divorced many times. His church would not sanction or acknowledge their marriage so a Justice of the Peace performed the legal ceremony. My father’s family held deep religious convictions as Catholics, and by the Pentecostal teaching of my uncles, the Catholic religion was considered, “The Great Whore of Babylon” because “God said so.”
My uncles were the patriarchs of their clan and kings in their small world influencing another generation of descendants. Who was I to question God in the way they portrayed? When someone flashes the “God card,” on you, there is no conversation to be had as that becomes the final verdict in their mind, and anything else is “nonsense” (as spoken in the deep bellowing voice of my uncle). My dad held a quiet strength with no desire to engage them in their war of words, or false narratives so, he didn’t. He graciously denied their liverish lure although they continually mounted the hooks of their bickering bait.
[A note to the father’s who question themselves and are still entangled in a stranglehold relationship (marriage or post-divorce) and experiencing manipulation, flying monkey maneuvers, and gaslighting of a narcissist or borderline personality): your child may not fully understand your choices or even appreciate them, but will in time, as they mature begin to understand that you would not risk losing connection with them in their formative years or creating a circumstance for them to feel abandoned by you. Rather, you chose a way to stay active in the life of your child/children by not scaling an all-out war that cannot be won with this personality type.]
There was an unfinished generational script assigned to me through my charismatic uncles. This is where my mother enters this story. She never experienced her father’s approval or her brothers. Yet, she was like her brothers in so many ways. She held her brothers in awe and desired their love and admiration as her surrogate father-love, resulting in the unconscious message she transferred to me, “if my uncles deemed me worthy of their adoration and attention, then my mother created the perfect prototype of a daughter,” I could be her redemption ticket. She could feel worthy of love. Instead, I experienced the same soul-piercing rejection she did. Her soul was wounded, I could not redeem her by “being her perfect-trophy daughter,“ which resulted in my mother’s disappointment in me.
What Jung calls the Mother Complex could have held such a stronghold and by all accounts, I could have ended in a diabolical fate marrying a man sharing all the essential emotional traits of my mother and her brothers. Somehow I did not, and for that, I credit the “instilled, invisible gift from my father.”
My dad loved me because of my essence, never having to earn his love by being a perfect daughter. I was loved just because I was his. Even though as a young woman I was attracted to charismatic and exacting men like my uncles and brothers, my father’s love saved me from the demise of experiencing an abusive cycle from my mother’s lineage. Only one type of love could truly suffice my soul’s need in a life partner and this unconscious image of familiar love is what drew me to marry the man I did.
This is the power of my father’s abiding love and this type of father’s love has reconsolidated my soul-wounding by overwriting the previous painful, punitive image of Father God that had been instilled in my fearful heart. My rebirth is in generative motion, and each revelation provides an explicit language to reveal the ongoing reformation of my soul. My dad, if alive, would have turned 100 this month. I wish that he was alive to see the result that his love and sacrifice made on his daughter.
- Disclaimer for any gender bias: This phenomenon is not gendered specific. Because this blog is about my father’s unacknowledged strength, it is written in the context of men who suffer by choice at the hands of their wives/ex-wives.
- For those who want to know more about what it is like to grow up with narcissists: https://youtu.be/Rt2n2jE7NvA Narcissism in a Parent (The Signs You Need to Know)
The reticulated feminine imagination of Firefly Horizons and aesthetic architect of its contextual nature. Crystal establishes artful metaphor and metonymy in interpretative language to convey abstract questions to easy answers. Through sovereign reflection, she initiates imaginative beginnings. Read more about Crystal • Articles by Crystal