Ask the majority of Britons about Boarding School Trauma and they will wonder what you’re going on about. After all, isn’t boarding school the domain of the privileged? Doesn’t it set boarders up for success? Certainly for some, but even then only from a one-dimensional perspective. Alas, what is becoming abundantly clear are the significant negative impacts of boarding school on an alarming number of ex-boarders, many of whom occupy the highest echelons of government and business.
What, you may ask, does Brexit have to do with Boarding School Trauma? Much has been made of Brexit, and rightly so, though not for the reasons that most people on either side of the equation believe, so ensconced they are in their binary positions. Indeed, while there is much ado about something, that ‘something’ actually lives below the mud-wrestling veneer. And it wants to be heard.
What is going on in Britain? What is going on in the world? We are confused. Is all of this judgment, alienation, prejudice, anxiety, resignation and aggression “normal”? How did our cornucopia of addictions seamlessly interweave themselves into our lives? Why does our leadership, regardless of party, consistently make decisions that jeopardize the health and well-being of the people? Why is our political system so dysfunctional and out of touch with its citizenry?
Brexit: An Invitation to Dig Deeper – Reflections on the Patterned Role of Betrayal, Trauma and Boarding School on British Politics and Culture, the 10-part article presented on this blog, cuts through the din of perpetual and circuitous media and political distraction to make a case for what is really behind both sides of Brexit, and British culture in general – beyond the obvious Depression Era-like income inequality. It reflects on questions that most are not even asking. Brexit is merely the most recent vehicle that highlights the deep-seated and deleterious influence of the boarding culture. To be clear, because there is so much sensitivity about Brexit this work does not take a position on the pros and cons of Brexit. Why? Because the politics of Brexit are misleadingly provocative and ultimately only of secondary consequence. (by the way, if you prefer to read the e-book version of the piece it is available on Amazon). Furthermore, though this article was first published in October, 2016, while some of the political players may have changed, there remains the same confusion and obfuscations that have been in place before, during and after the seminal vote. Why has so little changed? Again, because of the underlying influences.
Enter: Boarding School Trauma
At the root of what ails Britain is a centuries-old boarding school culture that is the foundation of a hyper-masculine, left-brained society which has eschewed empathy and community to such a degree that we are in a kind of generational collective shock. Our society is a macrocosm of a boarding culture that unwittingly betrays its children. These abandoned children pay a steep price to protect themselves. They build a wall that cuts them off from their hearts, because to actually feel the betrayal is too much to bear. As the child becomes an adult, the unfeeling wall invariably remains firmly, and unconsciously, in place. Then, they find themselves in leadership positions in all areas of society. What else are most of these people going to do but pass on the betrayal to the people in their charge? It’s not on purpose. To their core, it’s what they know. It’s not recognized as betrayal because it is the norm.
After hundreds of years of this privileged mistreatment being handed down to attendee’s children and the unprivileged masses, we have a culture governed by systemic betrayal and trauma, which in turn has engendered a chronic pattern of bullying and judgment against anyone we deem vulnerable. We are a wounded, confused and addicted culture that escapes and hides behind our personal and collective walls. We don’t see the wall because we are the wall.
Boarding School Trauma and Boarding School Syndrome are achingly real. Some ex-boarders feel it more keenly than others. For them, neglect and mistreatment never felt right. Now in theirs 30s, 50s and 70s, it’s still gnawing at them; pulling them, and those around them, under on a regular basis. It’s been this way from that very first day – the day of the great betrayal when they were dropped off at boarding school by parents who genuinely believed that they were doing the right thing. Whether or not betrayal and trauma was already a part of a child’s life before they went to boarding school, they become fixtures of the life ahead; the building blocks of the wall. Surviving betrayal and trauma, especially as a child, entails normalising it. ‘Be a man’. Moving right along. Nothing to see here. Stiff-upper-lip employed at maximum available power at all times. Shame about those who feel more than the rest of us. Left to soldier on, they think there is something wrong with them that they are not able to flourish; that they suffer. But doesn’t this also describe so many Britons, regardless of whether or not they attended boarding school? Boarding School Trauma is the nation’s trauma.
Enter: Brexit: An Invitation to Dig Deeper
This work presents a challenging and unusual perspective for anyone, ex-boarder or otherwise, seeking to better unwrap the boarding experience, and by extension, the British experience. One of the ways in which this piece is different is that, to the extent that it succeeds, it approaches the subject from a place of compassion and non-judgment; not just for the sake of being nice (which isn’t a bad reason), but because of the recognition that, with our heart connections understandably compromised, we are functioning on systematic, ultra-rational auto-pilot. We don’t know that auto-pilot is engaged, and we’d really rather not know because its job is to fly as far away from our personal and collective pain as possible. Compassion and non-judgment because, regardless of our standing in society, we entertain the idea that deep down, surely, there is more to life than this dog-eat-dog existence.
We are periodically presented with reckonings. Brexit is one such moment. There are and will be many others, within and without. The reckoning is scary because auto-pilot keeps disengaging. We keep being forced to take the wheel. In that, there is an opportunity.
By delving into the topics of boarding school, boarding school trauma, addiction, ridicule, colonialism, party politics, the military, Africa, media and racism; as well as exploring the lives of Boris Johnson, Princess Diana, Tony Blair, JK Rowling, Harry Patch, David Cameron, Winston Churchill, Roald Dahl, The Football Hooligan, Prince Charles, Donald Trump, The British Soldier, Theresa May and the Queen, among others, Brexit: An Invitation to Dig Deeper, not only reveals the historic and destructive patterns that govern every aspect of British life, but lays out an evolutionary road-map for how Britons can find the courage to consciously disengage auto-pilot and chart a more humane and productive course.