November 23

Clinging Like a Baby Monkey

November 23, 2016

Personal Growth

I saw a middle-aged man who was anxious and depressed, and was having considerable conflict and disappointments in his marriage and at work. The more loved he felt, the more astonished he became at how long he had lived without that life-giving feeling.

For a month or so, I spoke to him nearly every day, and his confidence began to build—from his baseline of nothing. One day he called, crying. “I just can’t seem to get enough of this.”

“Enough what?” I asked.

“Enough loving, enough time, enough listening, enough understanding. I just want to spend all day with you feeling loved, but I don’t want to be too clingy.”

“Who said that was a bad thing?”

“But isn’t clinging unhealthy?”

“If you’re clinging to someone who isn’t offering their attention, yes, it would be unhealthy. But I’m offering you my time and love.”

Many species of monkey fly through the trees as they carry their young on their backs. The babies wrap their fists tightly around the hair of their mothers, and somehow they hang on despite all the violent motions of the parent. They cling for their lives. In time they learn to swing through the trees themselves, clinging to mom only under conditions of great threat.

Early in their lives baby monkeys MUST cling, or they would not survive. In just such a lifesaving way, human babies require emotional clinging, but most babies and children do not have a source of Real Love to cling to. Instead they learn to swing through the trees on their own, without example or guidance. Without help, they often grab hold of branches that are rotten, or they become entangled in the vines, and this practice usually continues throughout life.

If a child doesn’t find a healthy source of clinging, the results are disastrous, and the clinging step must still be taken. Essential steps cannot be skipped. At some point every person, regardless of their age, must have a source of love to cling to. Sometimes that possibility doesn’t happen until much later in life, and often it doesn’t happen at all.

My friend was wisely calling to cling in a healthy way, mistaken only in his notion that all clinging was somehow wrong. Find someone to cling to, someone who can give you the unconditional love you didn’t get as a child. Once a healthy childhood has been completed—regardless of age—we can move on with a loving and happy life.

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