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Being a Man…🏃

May 1, 2019

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We were recently joined on The Bridge Retreat by ex Marine, Ashley Pawson. Below Ashley shares his view of why men find it so hard to show their vulnerability and what’s possible when they do.

“Being a man it can be so difficult to show your vulnerability and admit if you’re not doing so well. I believe there is still a stigma for men about opening up emotionally as it’s viewed by many as a sign of weakness. We grow up hearing all these ridiculous negative expressions such as ‘boys don’t cry’ and ‘man up’ which just feed into this. For me as an ex Marine, I had spent most of my adult life pretending I was ok when really inside I was struggling. My photos and posts on Instagram bore no resemblance to what was truly going on in my life.

Before The Bridge Retreat I had hit a wall which I just couldn’t get over alone. I felt so completely stuck and lost, like I wasn’t going anywhere and there was nothing to look forward to in my life. I seemed to make the same poor choices and repeat the same old self destructive behaviours from one day to the next. I had a massive lack of self worth too which also led to me sabotaging my intimate relationships. I knew something had to change and that deep down inside I had some issues to deal with, but like many men, I was scared to admit there was a problem, as I felt I would be judged as weak. All of this was preventing me from truly living my life. Luckily I have some good friends around me who encouraged me to seek help as they could see my behaviour and mental health getting worse.

At the beginning of The Bridge Retreat I was very sceptical and judgemental. I felt dubious about how much it could really help me and about the others who were on the course. This quickly changed as we all started to trust each other and open up and share. Very soon I felt less alone and supported, building up strong bonds with people who had been strangers only a few short days ago. I could feel all my barriers dropping as I connected deeply with others in my group. I learned so much in those six days about myself and why I had behaved and felt the way I did. I let go of so much emotional baggage and this was such a huge relief. I didn’t have to pretend there. I could just be me. It felt like a massive weight was lifted from me.

tb-news-ashley-sanctuaryI’ve taken so much from my experience on The Bridge including being more conscious generally and wanting to give back to the world, not just take from it. I’ve recently started volunteering, working at an animal shelter, which has been so positive in my life. I am also so much more accepting of how i feel and that it’s ok to express my feelings, to be honest about them and not hide them. I’m much more grateful now too, appreciating all that I have got in my life rather than focusing on what is missing. My relationships with friends and family have become so much closer and more honest. My self worth has flourished and the nicer the things I do every day, the happier my life has become.

I’ve been amazed that since opening up emotionally on The Bridge Retreat, it has also had a positive ripple effect with other men I meet. Guys have started to talk to me and say ‘yeah me too, I’ve struggled with feeling low and not being able to show how I really feel.’ My message to other men is simple – that seeking help is not a weakness. It’s actually the opposite, a sign of true strength. It will improve all areas of your life and relationships. Trust me, if I can ask for and accept help, then anyone can!“

Ashley Pawson, Close Protection Operative

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