Padlocks, chains and a groin.

Anon writes: “My problem is like a set of padlocks and chains around my groin. Is there anything that MoM would suggest about this?”

Metaphors of this sort are quite common, especially amongst young men. An observation is that bondage style metaphors tend to be most common amongst 1. the middle to upper class and 2. individuals with no particular predilection towards bondage. As a result, we can see much prevarication around metaphor elicitation with numerous boundary violations that prevent first access to the metaphoric experience.

I remember one particular individual who after much difficulty finally said words to the effect, “Fine, then I’ll tell you!” and blushed bright red as he said his metaphor was like a rope tied around his testicles, at the other end of the rope was his wife and she was dragging him along a beach. This whole image was quite embarrassing to him and conflicted with the narrative that he had about his relationship and his own masculinity.

For more the masculine types of guys. That “gimp” scene from the movie, ”Pulp Fiction” seems to have influenced metaphoric imagery rather a lot.

Anyway, back to Anon’s metaphor. If we begin with idioms and expressions that fit the metaphor:

– he is keeping his groin safe.
– his groin is safe.
– his sexuality is safe.
– his sexuality is secure.
– he only has safe sex.
– he’s cocky (“cock key”).
– there are historical links with his groin.
– there might be a missing link.
– he has too many / insufficient links to his groin.
– he lacks sexual freedom
– he can’t get to grips with his genitals.
– he isn’t able to take his true nature in hand.
– no one else can handle his sexuality.
– these padlocks and chains stop him from being a wanker.
– he can’t feel himself being a man.

If we explore the structure of the metaphor, there are several overlapping taxonomies:

– there is the burden aspect, the carried object. Typically, burdens denote responsibilities. Usually these are handed to the person at some point in their history by someone else, “Here kid, take this and carry it forever.” It’s their very own personal cross to bear.

In this case, the responsibility is that of not permitting sexuality, it is a sex that must be kept under tight control, tightly constrained, inhibited, locked away out of sight. Only those with the set of keys (for there is more than one key required) may be granted access. The victim here has been given the locks and chains, but evidently, they lack the keys reveal themselves.

Presumably the person that handed over this burden is keeping the keys for themselves.

Historically, sex is sin, and sin is a contamination that must be washed clean. Baptised with [holy] water, cleanliness is next to Godliness, wash away the sin, purification with [holy] water and so on. In more extreme circumstance, purity can be created with fire, whether the temple is consecrated with smoke (incense), candle, or the sin is burnt out of the afflicted with fire (i.e. in cases of witchcraft or demonic possession).

The padlocks and chains prevent that contamination from occurring in the first place. It is a restriction against sin, an effective prevention of being dirtied by the unholy fluids of another.

Such burdens are typically carried until death because the carrier knows not that they have a choice. Jesus had no choice but to carry his cross to his death, and when he faltered he was simply assisted to carry it. Culturally, such powerful imagery forges some interesting beliefs that go unquestioned for generations. Questioning these beliefs can get one punished, banished or, until relatively recently, imprisoned or killed.

– The other overlapping taxonomy is that of “containers”. The chains form multiple strands of container metaphor, which tells us this is not a new problem, has been present for all of his adult life and for a significant portion of childhood. We also know that this was inevitable, which means there was nothing within his ability to have done anything differently. Anything he would have done differently would also have been doomed to failure. This is the nature of container metaphors.

Thus by the time a person reaches out for help for a problem of the nature of a container metaphor, they will often be faced with a sense of helplessness and hopelessness and desperation. Self doubt, self esteem and so on may all have been compromised as the person is subjected to repeated failures.

There is nothing they could have done differently.

Other than to grow up.

But the other parties involved in the creation of the container will resist this. To grow up and out of a container metaphor is to reject all that came with it, and not everything was bad or negatively intended.

– Containers trap us, but they also protect us.
– They hide us, but they also give us identity in the world.

And so on.

As a child, there are many factors that reside outside of our awareness. These factors usually remain hidden until a person “grows up” and out of the container and not everyone in the individuals social and family nexus wants for this.

Also with freedom comes responsibility and fear. Freedom for the child now adult comes with apprehension and fear in the parents.

For example, the sexually precocious teenager may not perceive her 30 year old ”boyfriend” in the same way that appropriate adults will view them.

And sex is one of the greatest sources of fear and apprehension for parents when it comes to their [adult] child. It is one possible reason that people appear so comfortable with religious organisations taking control and responsibility for how our populations are supposed to have sex (i.e. our preferred cultural narrative is that no sex should really be allowed before a marriage occurs in a holy place and in front of God and then only occurs to create life. It must never be outrageously fun and outright naughty. Self pleasure is a sin for which there must be atonement. We are most comfortable with the conservative baseline narrative, even though the actual reality is so very different.)

And herein lies a little secret not yet taught in the MoM training. Containers also represent familial beliefs that are designed to protect the contained person from the aspects of outside world. For, in this instance, the outside world might demand interaction with his groin, and this outside world isn’t always quite so trustworthy or reliable as a child would like to believe.

The person contained probably thought it was the other way around though, so he might want to think about that a little.

So, in summary, MoM trainees will know that working with container metaphors can often be a single session job which creates an immediate change in the person’s perception. But, immediate outcomes from the work might take the form of anxiety, feeling vulnerable, feeling exposed, feeling lost and so on. So the client may not report an improvement immediately afterwards, and it will be up to the skilled practitioner to decide if further work is needed, or if it is just a matter of time for the client to work though and adjust to their new position.

As always, I’d love to read your thoughts and comments below.

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