Reflections on The Wall and How to Move Beyond our Endemic Hysteria, Anger and Aloofness
Who better from the RMP establishment to remind us of Diana’s legacy than the country’s new chief diplomat, Boris Johnson. In an article he wrote after the Brexit vote, he said:
“There is, among a section of the population, a kind of hysteria, a contagious mourning of the kind that I remember in 1997 after the death of the Princess of Wales.”
Mr. Johnson drips with sarcasm and disdain for the contagion that is love, admiration and loss. And yes, hysteria, a term that has historically been associated with loss of control by women. Undoubtedly, the majority of Diana’s admirers were women, though there were also hundreds of millions of men. If what I’ve described above is remotely accurate in describing Diana’s singular effect on the people of the world, was the outpouring of grief not justified? Hysteria is exaggeration. How should people mourn for the untimely death of one of human history’s most influential and beloved figures?
By using the word hysteria to compare the fear and confusion over Brexit to Diana’s death, Mr. Johnson only confirms his utter lack of respect and understanding of, and connexion to, the people , women and the feminine in general. Clearly, Brexit is a big deal, as was Diana’s passing – except to those who have difficulty feeling. To Mr. Johnson, any misplaced emotion is hysteria that must be brought under strict control, just like when he was eleven years old. The quasi-exception to this rule is anger. It’s also not really allowed, especially in public, but because there is no stopping it – because it is ubiquitous – we must make room for anger. Anger in one hand, Martini in the other. The Martini helps with keeping it in check, where it should be.
By all accounts, I went into Boarding School a lovely, six year old boy. Four years later, I exited severely damaged. I know about anger; rage; an achingly barren, futile and impotent fury; my constant companions for 40 years… and beyond. My parents, like almost all parents of children traumatized by the boarding experience, had no idea how to deal with me afterwards. I was two handfuls… and then some. My fury was commensurate with, and exacerbated by, their inability to see and feel what I had experienced. In perpetual survival mode, I made them suffer for their unawareness of me. I couldn’t help it, and they did not have the awareness to help me. It’s humbling for so many ex-boarders to accept that it’s likely, and understandably, damn near impossible for the family to reconcile that they unwittingly put their child in a terrible situation. For many parents and family members, this is a non-starter. Unfortunately, the unfeeling RMP and the inherent privilege of Boarding School meant, and means, that most parents cannot see, or feel, the forest for the trees. Consequently, the way forward may not be to seek acknowledgment and restitution from our families, but to find our peace out in the world.
I can’t find it but somewhere in Nick Duffell’s work he mentions that after a quarter century of counseling, the wounds from Boarding School often run so deep that few, if any, recover. When I first read that, three years ago, it took a while for it to sink in. Up until that point, 23 years into my adult life, I had been working hard, really hard, to find a modicum of peace. I’m talking purposeful and direct self-reflection, to the best of my ability at any given moment. Amazingly, after 23 years, while I had definitely made notable gains, I was still a slave to my rage, that I would regularly take that out on my wife and my child; and whoever else crossed my path at the wrong moment. Mercifully, my anger does not present itself in the physical dimension – but we all know that emotional and verbal abuse are just as bad. It took the momentary dissolution of my marriage two years ago for my wall to wobble; the near miraculous escape from the maze only to be confronted by the immensity of the wall. Fortunately, all the gut-wrenching work I had done until that point paid off, just, because as with the CEO on the plane, momentous clarity came to me. Standing before my wife, who had the proverbial last straw gritted between her teeth, I was able to see how far I had come – and how much further there was still to go.
I don’t know if I can find the kind of peace where the anger that wells up in me is permanently muted. At this point, I am still vulnerable under my worst button-pushing moments. Recently, I was having a bad day. I knew that going into the bank to sort something out was a bad idea. But I went anyway. Before I knew it, I was taking out my frustrations on the bank manager for the gross injustice of their policies. The poor guy was only doing his job. It wasn’t pretty, and, as usual, I felt that all too familiar shame right away after I dismissively left him. It took me three days to call him and apologize. This shit runs deep. And so it should not be taken for granted. I am charged with staying centred, or getting back to centre as gently and quickly as possible, for my own sake, and that of others; a kind of graceful vigilance. Shame is the opposite of grace.
Synchronistically, when I came upon the Boarding School Trauma information, my daughter was six years old, the same age as when I went to Boarding School. Through her and her peers I saw what six years old means. It hit me and I felt, for the first time since I shut myself down those many moons ago, what it felt like to deal with being dropped off and what it meant to survive in that place. I realized how much my child still critically needs her mother and me.
It’s humbling to witness the glorious and heart-breaking vulnerability in my child and her peers, and how easily it can literally and suddenly become the end of the world for them. Some adults wonder what the big deal is and castigate the child for getting carried away. All the while, we and the rest of the adults in the world, are living embodiments of “getting carried away” – which our children readily feel and see. Aren’t our children, and their moods, and their health, not a perfect reflection of us? There is little more startling than your own child reflecting back your own anger back to you; the anger that, despite my very best efforts, I have passed on to her. As parents, we have a choice to either recognize where our child’s issues come from and take the challenging steps to evolve as human beings, or we can punish them for showing us what unconscious assholes we are.
My daughter and her friends are only nine years old. She is a kid growing up in a RMP culture, dealing with her RMP parents and the RMP world. They still really need their parents, the best versions of us that we can muster.
It is from this position of gaining access to who I was that I write this piece. It has been a grueling journey. Cut off from my heart and feelings, my anger has always been severe. Anger is a funny one because it is allowed, but then it is condemned, especially when employed by a man – a man who is raging because he is confused and afraid. The anger is seen as shameful, which is yet another blow for the angry man. After all, anger is emotion – out-of-control emotion. One might call it… hysterical. He gets angrier. But because many more men than women exhibit this anger, patriarchy cuts anger slack because it’s never as bad as it seems – at least to the perpetrator (beyond the historical rape of hundreds of millions of women and the killing (via war and murder) of well over 300,000,000 million people since recorded history).
I mean, anger is bad but it’s no hysteria.
What many don’t realize is that anger, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, anger is a loud clarion call that something is very wrong. Unfortunately, despite its absurd obviousness, we haven’t gotten the hint – yet. So, anger doesn’t go away. It will not go away until it is acknowledged, embraced and forgiven – with humility. That is the only way. This illustration, meant for children, is perfect for us adults as well:
Actually, this illustration also serves to reveal the general level of consciousness (up top) and unconsciousness (down below) in our culture.
What is lower on the totem pole than anger? Apathy. Resignation. Being comfortably numb. Aloofness. For many of us, if we’re not angry we’ve just kind of given up; running on automatic; in full avoidance and denial. At least the hooligans are alive and kicking; the little boys in them desperately trying to be heard; wanting the all-enveloping hug from the Mummy in the Mother, and raising hell in the absence of it. How many of us, men and women, experienced the mummy-in-the-mother?
How many boys, in the absence of getting the mummy-in-the-mother, grow up with that void of nurturance which results in frustration and anger? How many men unwittingly look to their partners and wives for that missing mothering/feminine energy? Except we’re not supposed to get that from our sexual partner – so then many relationships are fatally compromised from the beginning, as a twisted dynamic develops between man and woman. Wife is not mother. Meanwhile, most women have also not received the proper maternal mirroring from their mothers – so they don’t even know what a healthy version of that is. This is the inbuilt betrayal of our parents, who themselves have largely played out the historical patterning of trauma that was passed down to them. Most of us don’t know any different, so that ubiquitous lack of deep mothering seems normal; it often doesn’t even feel like a lacking because in most of our lives, and in our society at large, it barely registers to begin with.
Where is that deep mothering? Millennia of misogyny and centuries of the Rational Man Project have relegated women and the feminine to the sidelines; deemed unhealthy, especially for young boys. Hence Boarding School, where you are least likely to find it, where young boys (and girls for that matter) will instead be indoctrinated with all the useful masculine skills necessary to succeed in an RMP world; where you will learn the ultimate lesson: Trust no one. Self-reliance is paramount, because in the end, you are alone.
The repression of the feminine is so thorough that most women are full participants in the worst aspects of the Rational Man Project. That the divine feminine has been crippled in men is one thing – and a given – but what of the commensurate de-feminisation in women? It goes without saying that, generally speaking, the daddy-in-the-father has been permanently missing-in-action.
Boarding School was a pretty awful experience for me but there were a handful of major moments or aspects that kept me from fully going to the dark side. One such sublime moment occurred in 1979. I was nine years old. It was the middle of a weekend day. All the boys, maybe around 150 of us, were in our dormitories cleaning up. The sound of music came, ever closer. One of the older boys was walking towards us carrying a ghetto blaster. The lyrics became intelligible: “We don’t need no education, We don’t need no thought control, No dark sarcasm in the classroom, Hey, Teachers leave them kids alone”.
The entire place went mental. Such easy lyrics to repeat. With kids singing the refrain! Kids like us. Telling our story. It was surreal. We were giddy. Euphoric. Of course, we were children so, beyond the obvious, we didn’t know what the music meant. But we felt it. It cut through like a laser. Acknowledgement of the madness we were embroiled in. It was a moment of clarity and connection that would pass into legend.
Pink Floyd was the perfect soundtrack for us boys. For many Britons and humanity, it still is: Dark Side of the Moon; Wish You Were Here; The Wall. The enduring popularity of Pink Floyd is owed to the fact that their music is arguably the seminal soundtrack to the 20th/21st Century Rational Man Project. The dark hope of that revelatory music etched itself into the tree of my heart. I didn’t listen to The Wall again properly until I was 26 years old – and totally lost. Those were dark days, months and years. It told my story.
For most of my life it was more a matter of intellectual faith that I might possibly reconnect with that mythological place on the other side of the wall; that it was real; and that I was worthy of hanging out on the other side. Three years ago, at the age of 43, knee deep in connecting with my Boarding School experience for the first time in my life, I finally emerged from the impossible maze only to behold the sheer immensity of the wall.
The last three years has entailed me letting go of the wall; acknowledging the wall; appreciating the wall for how it protected me when I was most vulnerable. I wouldn’t have survived without my wall. None of us would have. I had no idea how to engage with my family during this process of discovery. Consequently, I caused them a lot of pain; the pain that is housed within our lineage.
But we are family. We all come from the same place. I may have attended Boarding School but that experience is only one manifestation of the betrayed energy that imbues my collective lineage. That’s how I ended up in Boarding School. It’s understandable that they may not want to participate in that delving. It’s overwhelming. If they don’t want to tap into that aspect of their life experience, that is their prerogative. Unfortunately, this rejection and dismissiveness only serves to make the ex-boarder feel those familiar feelings of isolation and desolation.
But then this is par for the course for so many within the Rational Man Project as we neglect and punish the most vulnerable among us. It’s not personal. No one is doing anything on purpose; not the politician, not the CEO, not the hooligan, not the mum, not the dad, not the boss, not the child, not you and not me. Despite how it seems to the outside world, we are all doing our very best, including those of us who seem to be doing a dreadful job.
Without the balancing effects of the right-brain the RMP system has no shut off valve – hence why it is running itself into the ground; shooting itself in the foot; causing the people to rise up. Many of us are wondering what on earth is going on. Others are crying out for help. Brexit is part and parcel of an ever-building and increasingly audible SOS. Will there be some economic and cultural adjustments that will emerge from the Brexit vote? Will we need more of a wake-up call?
Is there something wrong with humanity? Are we too far-gone to be saved? No. There is nothing wrong with us. We are on a journey and to date it has looked like this. It’s easy to focus on our failures – there have been many – but the more we focus on that, the more difficult it is to see that we are all in this together. In the age of social media, we are saturated with sayings and poems emblazoned on beautiful images. Cliché has never been as cliché as it is now. But, as Ram Dass says, ‘we are all just walking each other home’. In a world in turmoil, that can be hard to see; hard to let in; jaded and bamboozled as we are by centuries of betrayal and trauma, personally and generationally.
The workshop with my boarding school mates was a microcosm of our world. Despite being all men, humanity was well-represented. No matter the details of our own experiences we are all, at once, perpetrator and victim. Amongst our ranks are bullies and those victimised by bullies, at school and in adult life; some of us are just hanging on, sometimes by a thread; some of us realize why we have allowed ourselves to be endlessly victimised, only to take it out on others; some of us realize that, all along, when we insist that our bullying is not as bad as our wives, children and co-workers have suggested, that it has actually been worse; some of us feel, in a deeper way than ever before, the depth of the trauma we have endured – and how much desperate energy we have exerted to not feel it and to hide it from the world, as we hear story after story of betrayal and pain and genuinely feel it, maybe for the first time; feel the desire to walk over and hold that fragile and lovely man you have just met in your arms; just hold him so he feels acknowledged and safe. Maybe for the first time, he has willed the courage to reveal himself – very un-British – in front of a bunch of other British blokes no less; his shame right there for all to see. And… it’s okay because we are all right there with him; because we are him.
Each one of us is a coin. Perpetrator on one side, Victim on the other. The place we are all after is the narrow space between the two sides, though we can see that there is actually a lot of surface area to this narrow space. This is the place where peace, gentleness, generosity and community reside. This is the place on the other side of the wall. The conventional RMP approach insists that life is all about no pain, no gain. If we’re not feeling pain, we’re not trying hard enough. Gain can only come if we go beyond what feels good; sacrifices must be made. Based on millennia of programming, we have accepted that life is a slog. To think otherwise is the domain of the ignorant and naïve. The turmoil in the world certainly gets a lot of airtime. What we have seen much less of, until very recently, is the good stuff. The good stuff is now accessible in an unprecedented way via the Internet; increasing numbers of people are feeling the pull of information and experiences that summon the happy within. It’s the underdog, totally underestimated by those among us who dare not believe; because to actually allow ourselves to believe is the greatest fear; because if we allow it in, really in, will we be betrayed… again? That would be unbearable. Instead, I’ll endure the old familiar… until I can’t any longer.
So, here we are at the wall. It is daunting. After all this way in the cold, how will I get to the other side of this monstrosity? Is there even another side? No pain, no gain tells us that there are only two ways to get there – over or around. Both of those routes are available. Both may get you there but after such a grueling trip you may not have the energy required to reap the rewards.
Maybe there is another way: Courage.
“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart’”
It is our own personal Diana-passage. Let us not focus on the fact that she died an untimely death; let us revel (because that is what hundreds of millions of people did in her) knowing that, even for only a short time, she began to live – and be free. That feeling of freedom is priceless. It is attainable. It is ultimately challenging. Because we are undoing many lifetimes of looking down and digging the ditch, distracted by those odd dull-sparkles in the earth. We and our ancestors, on automatic, have tunnelled to an unimaginable depth. Once in a while we pause, yanked out of our stupor by a sliver of sun that has miraculously reached us from miles above. We never look back – up – because it is usually just an abyss of darkness. But there is something undeniable and irresistible about this light. So… we look up. We see the light.
These are the rare moments of clarity that cut through the fog, as occurred for the CEO after watching, The Making of Them. We all have them. Alas, however deep in the ditch we find ourselves, corresponds with how elusive these magical moments are. The ancient patterning, the ego, works overtime to reel us back in because these earth-shaking events do not just concern that particular situation; they illuminate everything. This is scary. But as Maya Angelou has written:
“In the flush of love’s light, we dare to be brave. And suddenly we see that love costs all we are, and will ever be. Yet it is only love which sets us free.”
How can we transform the “elusive” into the “mainstay”? Through something like what Dr. Gabor Mate calls Compassionate Inquiry, which he discusses here in a brief video:
We are often loath to dig too deeply into the past because we’d rather not engage with painful experiences, including some that have, through necessity, receded so far into the ether that they barely register, consciously anyway. The traditional therapeutic model usually consists of endlessly mining the past, which is required, yet remaining there and trying to decipher what happened can often lead to further confusion and entrenchment. Why? Memory is fatally flawed, especially in service of old patterns of belief that keep us down.
So many of us have engaged with some form or another of therapy. Why do we stop when we clearly have not found the peace we are searching for? Because connecting ourselves with those long-past and dark memories for too long only keeps us connected with those lower frequencies; look for too long and we get mesmerized by the sheer scale of the trauma; and we stay stuck. It makes sense that conventional therapy falls short for so many of us.
However, as Dr. Mate says in the video, “the past is only important insofar as it illuminates what’s happening in the present.” Compassionate Inquiry allows us, and those we look to for assistance, to feel safe and brave as we approach the wall; to feel where we are at, and what’s happening – NOW – in the present. Now is much more manageable than then; it’s much more accessible. Critically, this access can only be granted “when compassion is present”. Only then “will [we] allow [ourselves] to see the truth” – to FEEL the truth – “But it’s a fierce kind of compassion… to guide [ourselves] to those painful places”
Because we are all beautiful at heart, so many of us look around at the world and feel helpless for humanity – and ourselves. There is an enshrined resignation, totally understandable under the generationally traumatic circumstances, which kind of paralyses us. This makes the wall even more fantastic. There is an abiding futility to the task, which would be relevant if not for the recognition that the trip really begins and ends at the self. The self is much more accessible than the daunting whole. Within this inner journey, “once [we] become capable of recognizing where [we] are being inauthentic, which is to say disconnected from [ourselves], then the pathway is clear for authenticity… It’s a matter of patiently and fiercely and compassionately inquiring into what’s in the way of authenticity.”
It cannot be exaggerated the significance of a single human being embracing our authentic selves. A single human being operating from this compassionate and non-judgmental position can interact with tens and hundreds of other human beings on a daily basis. You know that feeling when we are walking down the street and someone walks past us, but not before flashing an authentic and heart-warming smile. Did we miss it? Maybe. Did we see it but are taken aback, maybe because I’m a man and he was a man? Maybe. Or did we let it in; let it wash over us? As delicious as eating our favourite food. It puts a hop in our step. We have been acknowledged and appreciated – by a stranger no less. That is mighty powerful. Simply a given and received smile cuts to the core of everything. This does not require us to be enlightened beings. After all, it’s a process, not a destination. But the more of it we do the easier it becomes; the more peace we attract and share with the world. As Dr. Mate says, the path forward is quite “simple” in a way, once it has been identified. There will be difficult work that follows this discovery but the decision is as follows: Remain in a life that finds us perpetually unsatisfied, with spikes of heart-wrenching melancholy, and the constant whiff of futility; or, leave the situation by courageously embarking on a path to the undiscovered country. Both routes can really suck but at least the second option has the possibility of something… else, rather than the interminable status quo.
Bard Azima is a Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Empathy Miner and Boarding School Survivor.
You can read more of his work at: www.empathyrising.com.
Here are the other sections of this work:
Boarding School: An Invitation to Dig Deeper – Part 3 – Reflections on David Cameron and Boris Johnson: Boarding School, Systemic Betrayal and the Subjugation of the Feminine as Outgrowths of The Age of Reason
Boarding School: An Invitation to Dig Deeper – Part 7 – Reflections on Donald Trump, Ridicule as a National Pastime, The Sheer Scale of Humanity’s Endless Trauma, The Continuation of Global British Influence and the Troubling Legacy of Winston Churchill
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