My name is Bard. I attended a British boarding school between the ages of 6-10 years old (1976-1980). Yes, that’s me in the picture ‘looking’ happy. Alas, until pretty recently, I had spent my entire life being angry, dismissive and judgmental; this despite a concerted, yet perpetually confounding, effort during my adult years to understand why.
In the summer of 2014 my wife was surfing the web and came upon information regarding boarding school trauma. Though busy with work, I spent the next two days immersed in the material on “boarding school syndrome“, including watching the seminal documentary, The Making of Them. It shook me to my core. Despite years of therapy and personal delving, somehow, no one, myself included, had identified me as what I was, a boarding school survivor.
Right away, I ordered the excellent book upon which the film was based, The Making of Them, by Psychologist and former boarder, Nick Duffell. The book may as well have been entitled ‘The Making of Bard”. It turned out there were good reasons for my rage. It helped to open up my next avenue of healing.
In the spring of 2016, I attended a boarding school trauma workshop in London. Meeting and connecting with 15 other boarding school survivors was both liberating and devastating; liberating because for the first time ever I was in the presence of people who knew and corroborated my experience; devastating because of the mourning that came with that confirmation.
Between the two workshop sessions (2 months apart), as I worked to integrate all that I had learned, I started my blog, Empathy Rising. It explores the reasons behind both the lack of empathy in our culture and the emerging recalibration of the masculine and feminine, which is giving humans, especially men, better access to our long-dormant and terrified feelings.
Brexit happened a month later. It coincided with my realization that what I had experienced at boarding school, and the damage that ensued, was a magnified microcosm of British and Anglo culture. Indeed, it is the centuries-old boarding culture that has had, and continues to have, an immense and foundational influence on British culture at large, if not the world.
Brexit was the perfect backdrop for my next piece, Boarding School: An Invitation to Dig Deeper: Reflections on the Patterned Roles of Betrayal, Trauma & Boarding School on British and Global Politics & Culture. What started out as an article turned into a 10-part series, and a book. You can read the entire piece here on this blog for free or you can purchase the paperback or e-book from Amazon. I have made the book available for free on this site because this is not a money-making proposition for me. More than anything, I want to help my fellow brothers and sisters who had a terrible time of it at boarding school and are seeking help with understanding their experience and the way forward towards healing.
There is a wealth of information and support out there for anyone wanting to explore the abyss that can be the boarding experience. I hope some people find my contribution to be a useful one. And while my own healing has been taken to the next level, the trauma runs deep, and there is still a ways to go. I believe many of us are in the same boat.
If you are an ex-boarder and you are just starting to touch into your unacknowledged feelings of neglect and betrayal, please do take care in opening yourself to this information. To the extent that you do let it in, it will cut to the core. Upon reading it, or any other material of the kind, I’d encourage you to get some support, likely not from family, as you engage with memories and feelings that may at moments feel overwhelming. Know that no matter what your experience has been, you are not alone. Whatever you have done and however you have behaved it has been an unconscious response to the tragedy of your experience. It is totally understandable. It is not you. It was done to you. You are not defined by it.
Though profoundly challenging, healing is possible. It is a choice between remaining miserably and comfortably numb or taking the road yet traveled; the undiscovered country road. The terrain is rough, to say the least, but it has something the other well-worn road doesn’t have… a light at the end of the tunnel.
I’d be glad to communicate with anyone who has read the piece. I’m also available to speak on the subject.
Peace and love,