Seven Mountains:  The Inner Climb to Commitment & Caring

Author: Marilyn Mason, PhD.
Publisher: Penguin Books USA
ISBN:  0-525-93980-6

A manual for facing fear and risk with tips on how to ask for support, trusting, and overcoming “stuckness.”  A solid addition to your personal growth library.

Chapter One - Commitment

“Yevgeny Yevtushenko, the Russian poet, said that shame is the most powerful motivator of human progress.  As I thought about how our society values economic success as the measure of worth, I asked myself, ‘Just what are we committed to?’  I thought about Dermapatches – those Band-Aid-type patches that are taped to the skin to medicate – to prevent seasickness or stop smoking.  Dermapatches, with their continuous low-grade doses, work so gradually that we often forget we are wearing them.  Our culture acts on us in the same way, involuntarily seeping into our psyches, imprinting our brains with cultural messages.  How many of us have been seduced by subliminal or explicit messages that promise us financial success, beauty thinness, sophistication, belonging, or feeling good?”

“I have never thought about balancing my serious investment in those I cared for with my commitment to my own core values.  I now see this new ethos of commitment as a scale with a supportive fulcrum balancing both sides of commitment.  We will always have moral responsibilities to others, but we also need commitments of passion—in causes, arts, athletic, or politics—to nurture our souls.  Commitment is dynamic.”

“I learning that adventure is an attitude – an attitude about a process-that transforms an experience.  In a world filled with choice, commitment also implies risk.  Risk is fickly; one person’s comfort is another’s moment of terror.”

“Conscious commitments are born out of our journey
 of our spirit, our inner climbs.  These inner climbs lead us to living a life with meaning and to becoming more of who we are.”

Chapter Two – Fear

“Facing fear was my first inner climb to commitment.  Often deeply buried, often unknown, our fears are a major obstacle to commitment.”

“What is needed is the willingness to uncover these fears, to face them so that they can be put behind us or transformed into courage.  When this happens, our energy becomes unblocked, enabling our lives to become more free.”

[Patient described in book:]  “I think I’ve been held hostage all these years—by myself.”

“Arthur Miller’s After the Fall:  ‘I dreamed I had a child, and even in the dream I saw it was my life.  And it was an idiot, and I ran away.  But it always crept on to my lap again, clutched at my clothes until I thought, if I could kiss it, whatever in it was my own, perhaps I could sleep, and I bent to its broken face and it was horrible…but I kissed it.  I think one must finally take one’s life in one’s arms….’”

“Fear of intimacy is complex.  It is the fear of connection – of vulnerability, of being seen, of being known, of being loved, of loss, and the fear of giving up one’s myths about oneself.”

“While fear is often covered by denial, it can also be totally ignored through manipulative behaviour.”

Fears of intimacy stem from three sources:
1. Fear of engulfment
2. Fear of rejection – mostly experienced due to misinterpretation of others’ behaviour
3. Fear of exposure – results from secret-keeping, shame, over-active self-protection

“When we surrender to the unknown, awe and fear often join hands.”  Ojibway prayer: “I step into the day, I step into myself, I step into the mystery.”

Chapter Three- Trust

“If you feel highly intense in your mistrust, then you might well have projected some unresolved family-of-origin ghost, or some past event, onto the scene.  ‘Does this person or situation remind me of anyone close to me, or any incident, from my past?  How intensely do I feel about this person?’”

Rock climbing research:  “Women trust their partner most, equipment second, themselves least….Men trusted themselves first, equipment second, partner third.”

“…trust is established in our early lives through the constancy of the child-care giver relationship.  Children often bury their mistrust and blanket it with denial.  Sometimes this denial is born out of a need to protect an old family secret.  ‘There’s nothing going on here—and don’t tell anybody’ is often the implicit rule in families who keep secrets about mental illness, affairs, alcoholism, or suicide attempts [or other similar secrets].”

Chapter Four- Support

“I knew how to appear so competent that no one would ever think I would need to ask for help with much of anything.”

“Conversations reflect that we can become more fully known to one another and assume that the dialogue will be ongoing in our commitment to deepening honesty in friendship.  These friendships outside primary relationships enrich paired relationships and marriages.”

“Support—friendship, marriages, family, work, community organisations, and loved ones-sustains our commitments.  With support we can ask larger questions, hear challenges, make adaptive changes, while staying connected.  We can go deeper into our commitments and accept new commitments in our rapidly changing world.  Most important, we can further develop our lives of commitment to our next generations and to our society—with purpose and meaning.”

Chapter Five - Endurance

“commitment demands…forfeit [of] many of life’s pleasures….The bonds of endurance we form reach far beyond the family, of course.  For many people, maintaining their friendships is of paramount importance.  Often we can rely more readily on our friendships to support our endurance.  Yet these bonds can go even further….”

“Whether passion-driven or family given, whether community causes or crisis-induced, our endurance, our capacity to hang in for the long haul, is what will provide the base for a society in which we tighten the threads of the fabric of the meaning of commitment.”

Chapter Six - The Crux