FROM THE BLOG…
Atlas and the Men Who Hold up the Sky
Social distancing sucks!
And there is nothing we can do about it right now as we, in England, enter into another lockdown.
The separation and isolation are taking their toll on all of us, it’s true, but for a lot of men, it’s much more than all this that is causing the loneliness, stress, anxiety and other forms of mental unrest.
It’s in the cultural conditioning.
Traditionally men have been brought up to be strong, to cope, to fix things and make them right. To hold it all together. To sacrifice for the good of society and community. To stand in front and protect.
Many of the men I speak to in the course my work tell me about the huge responsibility they feel to support their families, to be a good role model for their children and to provide financial security, regardless of whether they are the main earner or breadwinner.
The need to take care and provide is woven into the fabric of men.
How many times have you seen the responsibility of the family placed onto the shoulders of a young boy whose father has perhaps died or left the family home?
An uncle places a strong hand on the shoulder of the boy and the message “it’s up to you now” or “take care of your mother” is firmly implanted in the young mind.
This burden of responsibility has been passed down through generations of men since time began. It is felt in their masculinity and men are either driven to live up to it or, they may reject it altogether, but either way, it is felt.
I am reminded of the image of Atlas, with a globe on his shoulders, condemned to eternally hold up the sky. An enormous bearded man hunched over under the weight of the heavens! A lonely place for any man, Titan or not! Atlas literally means endurance, to hold up or support.
Where am I going with all this Greek mythology I hear you ask?
What comparisons am I making between the men from our ancient history and the men of today, after all, we live in a very different world?
While our world may have evolved beyond recognition from ancient times, we as humans have not evolved very much at all. We are essentially the same! Physically, emotionally and neurologically we haven’t changed.
So where does this leave men in the 21st century?
Well, for some it leaves them overwhelmed by the amount of information we have to process every day, concerned for the future, worried about money, stressed at work, in relationship breakdown, struggling with mental wellbeing, tired, unfulfilled, scared, numbing the discomfort, addicted, escaping, or any mixture of these unpleasant emotions.
But, the most worrying thing is just how many of them feel isolated! Men are hiding their fears alone, unable to open up to their families or friends for fear of being seen as weak, judged or rejected.
One of the comments I hear most from my clients is the relief of being able to open up and tell me the things they worry about in the dark moments of the night… Men need a safe space where there will be no negative consequences and no judgment.
All around the world I have seen the need for men to have a connection or comradery with other men. From men smoking strong tobacco in cafes in France or a downing a pint in a British pub, to men playing chess in the streets in Belgium or Cricket before sunset in India.
Men need a place to commune together, to talk or not, to be held in a space of companionship, togetherness and support.
Sadly, so many men lack this today. Despite the gift of technology, there is so little time in the day for relaxing and connecting – the demands at home are greater as men take up their fair share of homemaking and parenting. The pressure at work leaves little mental bandwidth for hobbies and interests and the fear of losing it all keeps them pushing ever harder to succeed. Men are letting old friendships dwindle and community spaces are disappearing!
Men must make space to connect with each other. It is vital for their wellbeing.
Studies have shown that a lack of social connection is more harmful to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure, but the good news is that the opposite is also true. People who feel connected are happier, have higher self-esteem, greater empathy, are more trusting and cooperative. This leads to greater inner peace, calm and connection. It seems social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.
So, if you do nothing else today, call your mate, your brother, your Dad, your Son. Get in touch, speak and listen to them. Ask questions and dig a little deeper than the surface. Invite some old friends for a Zoom call, go for a run or a walk with your neighbour, join a club that interests you – and stay connected as men.
And look out for news about THE MAN HUG!
If you need some support here are some useful links:
Fiona Ross, November 2020
Coaching for Men
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