Popular wisdom has it that boarding schools breed strength of character, self-confidence and the qualities of leadership. And yet there are other effects which many ex-boarders are able to recognise: the pain they experienced, the price they may have paid, and the shame they may still feel for apparently failing, despite their ‘privileged’ start.
In the security of these institutions many of us learned to do without our parents, but also to disown our fears and our needs. While excellence was pursued, many were bullied or intimidated; while individuality was encouraged, hierarchical structures produced conformists or rebels, and sometimes casualties. While physical, intellectual and religious values were professed, we learned to repress our feelings and fear our sexuality, thereby loosing a sense of being whole.
Psychologically speaking, we may have learned to internalise the exhortation to build resilient and elite character, and act out our lives either in compliance or rebellion to that call. And yet there may be much more to our experience than that which we have been able to include in our daily lives. For example, we were taught, and have learned well, not to acknowledge our pain – the pain inherited from our families, of enforced separation, of humiliation and the fear of failure.
We needed to survive; and as adults we may, unwittingly, still be driven by that need.
Now we may find ourselves experiencing problems in our lives – with our emotions, our relationships, our careers – which could have their roots in our schooldays. These difficulties could offer an invitation to look back, to tell our story, and perhaps to redeem something from our childhood.
In these workshops we will be drawing on the experiences and perceptions of the group as our prime source of material, in order to build a context for understanding the past and choosing the future. We use a variety of methods, including meditative, gestalt and cognitive techniques, but participants are not required to go further than they wish. We aim not only to point to the possibility of changing behaviour patterns, but also to the value of repression and of survival mechanisms.
This programme is open to those who want to re-examine their experience of boarding school, consider the effects on their lives, and look for ways of healing the wounds. The workshops are particularly suited to those who have never fully shared their experiences, as well as to those who feel they may not have yet fully lived their true potential, because they are stuck in rebellion, anger or distress.
No previous workshop experience is necessary. There is no age limit.