On our 10th wedding anniversary, I took my wife on a trip to Colorado. I attended a conference the year before in Colorado Springs and fell in love with how beautiful the state was. We had a wonderful trip and put a ton of miles on our rental car that week.
One of the destinations in Colorado we stopped at that week was Ouray, Colorado. If you are not familiar with Ouray, it is at the start of the Million Dollar Highway that goes to Durango. Ouray is a unique place in that it sits in a valley surrounded by 360 degree views of the San Juan Mountains. In any one spot you may be able to see several waterfalls off of the mountains, huge mountain ranges, and lots of natural hot springs tubs behind every hotel. It fits the classic fairy tale picture.
One of the unique things about Ouray is that there is one road that goes into the city from the north and goes out on the south. The city sits in the valley like the bottom of a bowl with mountain peaks rising completely solid in every direction. It is like being in a paradise where it would appear that there is no obvious way out.
Recently, I read a piece by Dr. John Guarnaschelli titled, “Turning Shame to Gold: Men Feeling Shame, Men Healing Shame.” In the article, Dr. Guarnaschelli described what he called the “daily experience of Shame” with a picture that reminded me of Ouray.
His description goes like this. “I am born with the potential for sailing the entire sea of my life. As I grow older however, the walls of massive, not quite-visible emotional icebergs continually block my emotional entrance into certain areas of that sea. Slowly but surely I learn to fear even the thought of striking against those dangerous and painful limitations. No matter how diminished and contorted they are, I more and more sail only in the areas that I perceive as “safe,” without pain. Later, as an adult, the threatening prohibitions are actually removed. I am in fact free to roam life’s entire sea. But emotionally, I can no longer even imagine such freedom. No matter how reduced or distorted, I continue to sail only within the areas–only according to the emotional patterns–into which I was constrained during my early years.”
I was stunned when I read how accurately that description was for a passive man. I thought of Ouray and how I might consider it a paradise. But why would I consider it a paradise? It was beautiful. It was comfortable. It was safe. To move from that comfortable and safe place required a treacherous road with many dangers.
The Million Dollar Highway was closed when we were there so that they could clear rocks and boulders that might create a dangerous situation for travelers. It is called the Million Dollar Highway because it not only costs a lot to build but because the views along it were supposedly million dollar views. A trip to a city nearby Ouray that is only 8 straight miles away is a 50 mile trip.
When I go back to my Ouray example, I can think that if I stayed there for very long I wouldn’t want to go to where the road was perilous. Even though the rocks and boulders would be removed that would still be a barrier to me wanting to leave paradise.
So, basically a man burdened with the daily experience of shame is paralyzed. He is unable to move forward and surrounded by his own boundaries. This shame could be from a failure in some aspect of his marriage, a feeling of inadequacy as a man or husband, or a feeling that he has not achieved enough in his profession.
I found Dr. Guarnaschelli’s article to be very well written and found myself agreeing that I have felt that way many times before. I plan to do several posts exploring this topic because I feel it is a very important subject for the passive man and even the wife of a passive husband. I will say that it is a very dark place for many men and I hope it is a series that you can learn from and not let it drag you down in the process.