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Daddy Issues
Courtesy of Angharad George-Carey

Daddy Issues is the podcast on the trauma our parents give us

Angharad George-Carey talks to people who’ve experienced fatherlessness and the impact it has had on their lives

Listening to Angharad George-Carey’s new podcast Daddy Issues, you find yourself wondering, why hasn’t this been done sooner? A quarter of all children in the UK today live without a dad, yet conversations surrounding the emotional impact of fatherlessness remain unspoken. Chances are that you, or at least someone you know, has ‘daddy issues’.

Maybe there’s the cultural element of keeping a stiff upper lip, ruminates British psychotherapist Julia Samuel in one episode, but for George-Carey, the emphasis isn’t strictly on why (though she does touch on it), but rather how these absences are processed and, eventually, overcome. “I think having an absent father is normal rather than talking about the fact that ‘having an absent father is really fucking hard’ is normal,” she tells us. “It’s a way to normalise the conversation of dads and fathers, and absent fathers, and masculinity.”

Admittedly, the definition of fatherlessness is a tricky one – a dad who’s physically present but emotionally absent, or abusive, for example, can generate similar psychological symptoms as someone who’s dad has died – but what Daddy Issues succeeds in doing is creating a safe space to discuss these complex and varied experiences. Each episode is a conversation with an individual whose experiences of fatherlessness have been honed into becoming successful in one way or another. “They’ve put that energy into focus and determination, the need and desire to do better and to achieve,” explains George-Carey.

Recent guests on the show include the founder of WAH nails and Beautystack, Sharmadean Reid, who’s never met her dad; GQ editor Dylan Jones, who was beaten by his dad as a child; and model Simran Randhawa, who speaks on what it was like growing up with a dad in prison.

Admittedly, the phrase ‘daddy issues’ comes with a lot of negative connotations, and is commonly used as a throwaway diagnosis to explain away undesired behaviour, especially in women. But George-Carey is keen to reclaim the term: “It’s thrown around so misinformed, because it is a real thing that affects every gender,” she explains. “Even with girls and their relationship with boys, why will they go for someone way less worthy of their worthiness? Or people who treat them badly because they’re used to being abandoned?”

With her podcast, George-Carey hopes to open the conversation surrounding mental health, grief, and loss. “I think the power of speech is fucking powerful,” she says. Below, we speak to Andharad George-Carey on Daddy Issues, growing up fatherless, and the complexity of trauma.

What would you say is the main mission of your podcast?

Angharad George-Carey: The main mission of my podcast is really to get this subject spoken about. In whatever sort of story someone has, to find the vocabulary and for my podcast to be – I don't want to say ‘inspiration’ because that sounds ass-y – but the platform in which someone can finally feel that firstly, there's a vocabulary for them to be able to express their own story themselves and to resonate with other people’s stories.

All of them are somewhat success stories, even though they’ve had this kind of trauma in their background. But it’s really just to get people speaking, that’s the biggest mission for me. Because I think the power of speech is fucking powerful, it’s invaluable, it was invaluable to me so that's how I kind of really realised it really, as a power. And then the feedback I’ve had from people and even other guests themselves post having recorded it, I think it just sorts so much stuff out in your head and makes sense of things for yourself.

One thing I found really great about it is that the term ‘daddy issues’ comes with a lot of stigma, especially women with so-called ‘daddy issues’. It’s very much dismissed and you're just seen as this particular narrative which is very binary because you're labelling that person as just someone with daddy issues, without actually looking at who that person is, you know?

Angharad George-Carey: Obviously I was using it ironically, but also just to reclaim it. Like slut shaming, we reclaimed that term. But, it’s thrown around so misinformed. It’s so misinformed because it is a real thing. It’s a massive thing that affects every gender.

Going back to your original question, it’s also a way to normalise the conversation of dads and fathers, and absent fathers, and masculinity, and all that stuff. Because I think having an absent father is normal rather than talking about the fact that ‘having an absent father is really fucking hard’ is normal. Its like switching those two things.

“Why is it that having a lack of dad – be that for abandonment, abuse, all these fatherless situations – creates a lack of confidence, lack of self worth, lack of direction?” – Angharad George-Carey

Bring control back to the person whos experienced it rather than it being like, ‘oh this is something that I have to tacitly accept’.

Angharad George-Carey: Exactly, and I guess it just goes back, I guess the main thing is the power of speech because just allowing someone to express how they feel, like there are emotions and real sort of consequences and repercussions that does come from these things.

Have you discovered things since starting the podcast that you weren’t originally anticipating?

Angharad George-Carey: So many. I wasn’t clear on why, for example, dads held the basin with identity and confidence: why is it that having a lack of dad – be that for abandonment, abuse, all these fatherless situations – creates a lack of confidence, lack of self worth, lack of direction?

In my podcast, people obviously find that direction and purpose but a lot of the time that often isn’t the case. Even with girls and their relationship with boys, why will they go for someone way less worthy of their worthiness? Or people who treat them badly because they’re used to being abandoned?

Actually, this amazing psychotherapist Julia Samuel came in, and said that what happens is that mums will instill emotional intelligence, they will teach you how to look after yourself in terms of self-care and emotional intelligence and awareness in an emotional way, whereas dads are the ones who pick you up and throw you around, and make you aware of your body, make you confident in your own skin, and make you not scared of things. This, completely subconsciously, instills a huge sense of confidence and self-worth, which as a child, if you lack that physical relationship then you potentially lack that later on in life, and that’s what can be so crushing.

It reminds me of this book by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women who Run with the Wolves, which – I’m paraphrasing – talks of how women use romantic relationships as a safe space to explore herself. I think this links back to dads too, like if you’ve had a healthy relationship with your dad, you are more comfortable in yourself and your surrounding environments.

Angharad George-Carey: That links so well to what Julia said. I think what dads do is provide a huge amount of grounding, and that comes from the physical aspect of your relationship with them.

What would you say defines or brings together the guests that you’ve chosen?

Angharad George-Carey: Apart from the fact that they’ve all had completely different experiences of fatherlessness, they’ve put that energy into focus and determination, the need and desire to do better and to achieve. It’s such a thing when you look at world leaders, like Obama and massive CEOs, there seems to be a pattern with somewhat absent dads in whatever sense, and this burning desire to achieve and be seen.

“The most powerful tool that anybody can have (is) to know who they are and why they are the way they are” – Angharad George-Carey

How did this podcast come about? Is it something you’ve been wanting to do for a while?

Angharad George-Carey: I’m an actress, I was auditioning but not fulfilling my need for creativity. Having done therapy too, and realising how incredibly empowered I was after all these sort of self-realisations and reconciliations over my identity and personally all the things I did with my life – which I always felt regretful or anxious about – I realised that these are all different manifestations of unresolved trauma.

It genuinely was just a realisation that if this has helped me, if I can help somebody else through a podcast, then that’s what I want to do. I also knew that as an actress, I had time to do that, and it’s another way of interacting with people and storytelling. But I’d never thought of a podcast before, and I wasn’t frustrated, not getting any auditions, like ‘what should I do’, and my brother was like, ‘why don’t you do a podcast?’, and then I was like ‘oh my god’, eureka moment.

What are your own experiences growing up fatherless? 

Angharad George-Carey: We were in Hong Kong where we lived, and then we went on holiday to Sri Lanka. We were in a taxi and our taxi driver just stopped to ask for directions to our hotel, and a bus just went into us and killed my dad.

We were all really badly injured, and because it was a shock accident, we ended up for months in hospital, and then transferred over to London, which was obviously insane after being in like the grimiest hospital. But long story short, we ended up in Wales because my mum’s Welsh and had five children all under the age of 10 at this point. It was like I was in a dream, like if I pinched myself and opened my eyes, I would be back in Hong Kong with my friends, and my dad would be alive.

I guess it was PTSD but that only hit me consciously in my early 20s, and I was in waves and waves of grief. I felt incredibly lost, and knew I wanted to be an actress, but I think I was just in a whirlwind of cloud and dealing with it, with one bad relationship after the next. Talking about it a year ago was the most empowering thing ever. My life started to make sense and I started to make sense to myself, and I think that’s the most powerful tool that anybody can have: to know who they are and why they are the way they are.

And while not everyone has the resources for therapy, anyone can listen to your podcast, which is really important, because you feel like you’re not alone.

Angharad George-Carey: Exactly, and it equals people out as it’s like, ‘you have the same vulnerabilities as me even if you’re a CEO, or you're this or you’re that’. And as you were saying, not everyone can afford therapy or they might not have a culture that accepts going to talk to someone. If this (podcast) can take away some of the taboo and some of the fear of confronting that thing that actually is hugely affecting you, then that’s why it’s here.

You can catch up with the Daddy Issues podcast here