I was born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but my parents are from Canada. My dad left a successful family business and moved us down to Florida because he had caught a severe case of pneumonia. He needed to live in a warmer climate to survive.
My dad was a pretty intense guy. He was really dominant and reactive toward my older brothers and me. From what I remember, my mom just stayed out of it. I don’t think he found the happiness and success he was hoping for once we moved. Sometimes it seemed as if he took his insecurities out on my brothers and me physically and emotionally.
Most of the time, the episodes with my dad were just verbal. He’d often yell in a threatening manner about something I did or didn’t do well enough. However, on some occasions, they became physical altercations. Some of those would leave marks; on a couple occasions, I recall they required stitches. Every time this happened, it left me feeling small and demeaned.
When I was seven, I brought home a bad progress report with some D’s on it. I was struggling to settle into my new environment and a new school. My dad explained he didn’t want a bad progress report to turn into a bad report card. His punishment was making me pull down my pants and giving me a spanking just before I left for school each morning for an entire week. I would pull up my pants, grab my books and lunch box, and walk to school with my new neighborhood friends feeling frazzled, scared, and confused by what had just happened. The hope of each new day that week was dismantled by this action each morning. My undeveloped child brain had already moved onto a new moment, and my dad’s action would hurl me back into the trauma— this time without context because it was a new day. How did my dad think this was a good idea?
My oldest brother, David, who is almost ten years older than me, moved out at around age eighteen with plans of marriage and a new life. My other brother, Brad, was forced to move out after having a physical altercation with my dad. He defended me after my dad lost his temper and threw me into a door casing and wounded my head, resulting in a few stitches. This left me alone at age nine to deal with my dad with no buffer from my brothers.
By the time I was a young teenager, I struggled with my relationship with my father. It was stressful for me most of the time. He was unpredictable, on edge, and angry.
Unexpectedly, one afternoon when I was at the beach surfing with some friends, my fifty-four-year-old father passed away. Later, we discovered that hemochromatosis, a rare condition in which the body absorbs too much iron, was likely the cause of his untimely death.
Before he died, I remember wishing he would die, so I didn’t have to deal with the pain anymore. On this day, he did. I wondered if my thoughts of wishing him dead caused it to happen. This guilt has been a part of my adult narrative. I most likely didn’t process the trauma from that day properly. I didn’t know how. I wasn’t given a manual.
What I’ve learned as a father has guided me in the opposite direction as a disciplinarian. I have a much more docile demeanor toward my two daughters. As they grow, I continue to strengthen my communication with my daughters in a protective and serving nature. I am now open to having those tougher conversations when necessary. I have begun to question some of my thinking and actions. I continue to explore what causes or triggers me to do what I do by asking myself questions and searching for answers.
I began to wonder, What are the implications of family history regarding trauma? Was my daughter’s anger somehow connected to my unresolved childhood anger? Is the way I discipline similar to or opposite of my father because of experience or genetics? Who was running the programs? My DNA or my mind?
By asking these questions, I can adjust my own behavior with my children.
Brian Ross’ experience is rooted in business and the philosophy of servant leadership, which has been one of the most important aspects of his output to the world. Brian, an award-winning film producer and author, leads by example and holds himself and everyone in his organization to the standard of “remarkable.” This requires being present, listening more than talking, and feeling what the next, right move is for his organization.
For more information about Conscious Content Collective and Light in the Darkness the documentary, visit ConsciousContent.org.