Base Camp Helps Reach the Peaks

Published November 30, 1984. Several people have suggested that I read M. Scott Peck’s book “The Road Less Traveled.” So, I finally bought a copy and am glad I did.

This is an exceptional book, written by a very sensitive psychiatrist. The intriguing aspect of this book is its emphasis on building love and developing spiritual growth in today’s society.

Dr. Peck is concerned about marital disruption and the number of divorces in the United States. He also gives his insights into what it will take for marriages to survive in these contemporary times. The psychiatrist does so by making an interesting comparison between marriage and mountain climbing.

He notes, “When dealing with couples, my wife and I draw the analogy between marriage and a base camp for mountain climbing. If one wants to climb mountains, one must have a good base camp, a place where there are shelter and provisions, where one may receive nurture and rest before one ventures forth again to seek another summit.

“Successful mountain climbers know that they must spend as much time, if not more, tending to their base camp as they actually do in climbing mountains, for their survival is dependent upon their seeing to it that their base camp is sturdily constructed and well stocked.”

Dr. Peck continues, “A common and traditionally masculine marital problem is created by the husband who, once he is married, devotes all his energies to climbing mountains and none to tending to his marriage, or base camp, expecting it to be there in perfect order whenever he chooses to return to it for rest and recreation without his assuming any responsibility for its maintenance.

“Sooner or later, this approach to the problem fails and he returns to find his untended base camp a shamble, his neglected wife having been hospitalized for a nervous breakdown, having run off with another man, or in some other way having renounced her job as camp caretaker.”

“An equally common and traditionally feminine marital problem,” he continues, “is created by the wife who, once she is married, feels that the goal of her life has been achieved. To her the base camp is the peak. She cannot understand or empathize with her husband’s need for achievement and experiences beyond the marriage and reacts to them with jealousy and never-ending demands that he devote increasing more energy to the home.

“Like other resolutions of the problem, this one creates a relationship that is suffocating and stultifying, from which the husband, feeling trapped and limited, may likely flee in a moment of ‘mid-life crisis.’”

So, what does Dr. Peck conclude? “The women’s movement has been helpful in pointing the way to what is obviously the only ideal resolution: marriage as a truly cooperative institution, requiring great mutual contributions and care, time and energy, but existing for the primary purpose of nurturing each of the participants for individual journeys toward his or her own individual peaks of spiritual growth. Male and female both must tend to the hearth, and both must venture forth.”

Do you agree with Dr. Peck’s analysis of contemporary marriage and his comparison to mountain climbing? He suggests husbands need to spend more time and attention to the base camp, and wives need to scale more mountain peaks if marriages are going to not only survive, but also thrive in these modern times.

There is also something else to consider. Both husbands and wives must also realize that no success in mountain climbing can compensate for failure in the base camp.

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