The monkey-bar phenomenon

We’ve had some very deep talks recently, surprise, surprise.

One theme that seems apparent is a theme of lack of courage.

We call it the “monkey-bar phenomenon.” When our oldest was young, he loved to climb and do monkey bars, no fear at all. He liked to play soccer as a fun thing to do with friends. When we lived in our last overseas country, there were some local boys who were bullies. It was hard on our son and he lost that fearlessness for a while. It got to the point where, even though he loved to do the monkey bars, if there was anyone else at the playground doing monkey bars, he wouldn’t even try. And, he wanted absolutely nothing more to do with soccer. It made me so sad for him. And, it reminded MC of himself who refused to do anything if he felt that, in comparison to others, he would not do well at it. As a child, I too had similar proclivities. I don’t think it is an uncommon instinct. However, it has the potential to become pathological and I think that is dangerous.

Our son has steered away from certain sports that he was bullied about overseas. But, I am happy to say he has found a niche that has been very affirming for him. We’ve had a lot of talks about this with him. You don’t have to win the race, and so what if you lose the race, it is still better to participate and try than to sit on the sidelines because of fear. It is a hard lesson to learn, even for adults.

I was so worried about our son for a while. But, this boy has really come into his own. He has a mind of his own and he speaks it. He is not afraid to be who he is, he is not afraid to stand by his beliefs, he is not afraid to stand-up for himself or other kids being mistreated, not in an aggressive way, but in a calm and matter-of-fact kind of way. I am so PROUD of him.

Courage isn’t protecting yourself from consequences, courage is facing the consequences, even when painful and/or scary. Courage isn’t arrogance, courage is knowing when you need help and asking for it. Courage isn’t telling others what they want to hear and then doing what you want anyway, courage is matching your actions to your words. Courage isn’t going along with what others want because it is easier, courage is voicing your opinion and then working together to find solutions. Courage isn’t agreeing to do things because you are afraid of people thinking poorly of you, courage is being able to say “no” when you need to do so.

I am starting to strongly believe that when a man lacks courage, he will question his masculinity and this leads to poor  self-esteem and possibly some very dark places to compensate. Every time MC acts with courage, I see it building belief in himself. The more he does it, the more he moves away from being a little boy and being a man, not just to me, but to himself. When MC started turning it around, I saw our son starting to turn it around. It is a healthier place for all of us and that gives me a sense of safety for all of us. MC still works hard to have courage in the face of fear. I know it is not instinctive yet, there is more work ahead. But, I also know he is learning, he is growing and I do see that he has come a long ways, and continues the work to move forward, to become stronger, to become healthier.

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5 thoughts on “The monkey-bar phenomenon

  1. By the way, I know I need to act with more courage in some ways too. I’ve been working on learning to say “no” when I need to do so and on voicing my opinion gently, lovingly, but giving it voice sooner than later, so that it could be done gently and lovingly as opposed to with frustration and anger. It doesn’t threaten my femininity when I fail to act with courage. It does threaten my sanity, which is more than enough.

    I suppose whether male or female, not acting with courage is allowing us to place ourselves in the role of child, instead of adult. Perhaps when we don’t act with courage, we feel as if we’ve given up a sense of control over ourselves and our lives, which is not a good feeling. We all need to act with courage. I think it is more mentally and emotionally healthy place to be. And, it is probably not such a unique struggle.

    I just see in MC, in addition to the child versus adult aspect of this, that lack of courage was also a threat to his masculinity, leading down some very dark paths.

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    1. TL, a lovely, thoughtful post, thank you. I just wanted to say that we mustn’t forget the courage required to stay together after adultery. I don’t even know if I’ll ever trust my husband again and he has no idea if his adultery will ever be put to rest. He could have run away but he didn’t. Pig Shit wanted him to live with her. Wanted to make everything ‘wonderful’ for him!!! But he knew that he’d fucked up big time and finally realised where his priorities lie. It’s a painful, slow process, dealing with adultery and betrayal. Not for the feint hearted.
      You & MC are braver than you think – facing up to the truth is fearsome when it doesn’t reflect well. But this is where character is forged.

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      1. MR, you are so right! I think whether the betrayed stays or goes, there is a temptation to sit on the sidelines of life in fear. The courage in staying, or going for that matter, is to not sit on the sidelines, not to pretend it all away, and instead run the race (live life) to the best of our abilities, in spite of the fear. I do focus on not pretending it all away, but I do know I need to do a better job of allowing myself to truly live life.

        For the unfaithful, their version of sitting on the sidelines would either be running away to the fantasy that never lasts and continuing to run each time reality sets in, or trying to sweep it all under the rug, or sometimes even appearing to run the race but pretending the hurdles aren’t there instead of understanding they too are part of the race.

        So, there is something to giving our husbands and ourselves some credit for staying and actually running the race, hurdles and all, even with the fear of tripping and/or losing. That does take a lot of courage, I should be a bit better at recognizing that fact. We are most definitely forging some character! 🙂

        Also, just to clarify, I hope everyone knows I don’t really think of this as some kind of competition or race, it is just a handy metaphor.

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  2. Trusting someone again, after having that trust betrayed in some way, is in many ways, the bravest action there may be. Giving up your heart again is certainly courageous. But the rewards can be tremendous.

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  3. Reading this post was a bit emotional for me. In addition to our son and me, this reminded me of our cowardly dog that we rescued from an abusive situation. She was beautiful and strong. But, she had a difficult time behaving properly around many people outside our family. She was afraid. She reacted by barking ferociously. A well socialized dog is brave. A brave dog does not bark so much at people who are not threatening. Our dog needed quiet confidence. Instead, she was afraid and she was scary to some people.

    The post also reminded me how much our society struggles with resilience lately. Why can one person survive great adversity and perhaps even find joy while another person concedes and resorts to suicide or other destructive behavior? The difference is resilience. The first person has it, the second does not. We all need to do the hard work of developing resilience within ourselves. I can think of some ingredients that might help. These may include family, friends, physical health, mental health, faith, counseling and probably so much more. Resilience is not something we are necessarily born with or not. Rather, it is something that each of us can work to develop.

    One common thread for me as I work on faith, counseling, and commitment to trying to repair the damage I’ve done is that they all contribute to resilience for me.

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