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Trauma Abandonment and Privilege Thurstine Basset 28 th November 2014: SRF Conference.

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Presentation on theme: "Trauma Abandonment and Privilege Thurstine Basset 28 th November 2014: SRF Conference."— Presentation transcript:

1 Trauma Abandonment and Privilege Thurstine Basset 28 th November 2014: SRF Conference

2 Introduction Boarding School Survivors workshop Boarding Concern Involvement Links with SRF Boarding school – abuse or privilege or both? Privilege makes it hard to raise the issue Parents make the decision – young children mostly have no say

3 The book – in progress Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege: a guide to therapeutic work with boarding school survivors Authors: Thurstine Basset (survivor) and Nick Duffell (survivor and therapist) Practice-based text book, illustrated by case studies, diagrams, cartoons and exercises.

4 The book – published by Routledge in 2015 Describe the effect on adults of being sent away to board in childhood Locate this within the context of the British attitude to boarding Offer interventions and strategies for therapists, counsellors, psychologists and other mental health workers to work with ex-boarder clients.

5 My experience When I was pushed through the doors for the first time, my sense of bewilderment and loss was almost overpowering. The first and most natural thing I wanted to do was to cry, but I soon discovered that this was frowned upon and discouraged. I learned to bite my lip and joined centuries of British-educated and privileged children who develop a ‘stiff upper lip’. (Basset 2006)

6 My experience (cont) My mother cried all the way home as she held my teddy bear that she was advised not to leave with me. Some weeks later on their first visit, my mum and dad found me in a cheerful mood. I had made a friend and my mum recalls that I almost completely ignored her, as I was so intent on playing with my friend. I ran straight past her. In truth, of course, we both suffered. (Basset 2006)

7 My experience (cont) I have said I wasn’t prepared for going away at 8, but equally the same could be said for leaving school at 18. The feeling of finally leaving after all those years was as high in an almost ecstatic way as the original feeling had been low in a deeply miserable way. Both experiences, ten years apart, had an other- worldliness about them. (Basset 2006)

8 Emotional Courage Emotional courage seems to me to be a means for the expression of emotional intelligence. Half a century is a long time to wait to acquire enough emotional courage to get in touch with some of your innermost feelings – still better late than never as they say. (Basset 2006)

9 Childhood curtailed My headmaster’s report: ‘My one complaint concerns foolish behaviour – nothing serious, merely pestilent – and much of his tiresomeness concerns Matron's department. In a third term he must put away these childish ways’. (1956 – I was aged 8)

10 Good and bad experiences More people are currently seeking psychological help for issues connected with early boarding. Many people feel the experience did them no harm and that it was a very good one. Not all are damaged by the experience but each child has to survive and that has a cost.

11 Abuse? ‘Britain’s most overt form of child abuse is mysteriously ignored.’ (George Monbiot in the Guardian, 26 th March 1998) Tribe of people, mostly in deepest Britain, still adhering to a mid-Victorian doctrine of drastic change to family attachments which are deliberately broken

12 Numbers involved 67,000 currently in boarding schools (2014) 14,000 aged 7-13 (2011) Drop in 1990s – but currently increasing Annual fees £29,000 (2014) Telegraph (2011) – credit crunch/longer working hours – BS cheaper than a nanny Poll - How do you juggle work and looking after your children?

13 Telegraph Poll (2011) Childminder Nanny (paid) Grandparents Boarding School Stay at home Mum/Dad After-school clubs

14 Telegraph Poll (2011) Stay at home Mum/Dad – 35% Boarding School – 23% After-school clubs – 14% Nanny (paid) – 13% Grandparents – 8% Childminder – 7%

15 Theories of child development that support boarding school at an early age

16 Theories of child development that support a gradual transition from child to adult All theories – developmental, maturational, behavioural, educational, psychological, psychodynamic, attachment theory

17 Boarding School Survivor Workshops – 1990 The Making of Them – book published by Nick Duffell – 2000 Boarding School Syndrome – Joy Schaverien – 2011 Wounded Leaders and abuse enquiries – 2014 and beyond 1990 to 2014

18 Other writings Marcus Gottlieb (2005) – ‘profoundly homophobic environments’ Rovianne Matovu (2010) – ‘a double homesickness: a deep longing for my country, home and family; and especially my mother Jane Palmer (2006) – finds healing through therapy

19 General literature Anthony Worrall-Thompson, Peter Cook, John Peel, Frederic Raphael Angela Lambert and Drusilla Modjeska ‘The gain is a discipline of mind that should not be undervalued. The loss, it seemed to us that afternoon, was represented by the figures of sirens and sphinxes that filled Freud’s room: the repressed feminine that our culture denies. Our un- English, feminine waywardness.’ (Modjeska 1995 page 235)

20 Media Films: The Making Of Them (BBC 1994) Leaving Home at 8 (Channel 4 – 2010) Supertramp ‘Logical Song’ (Hodgson and Davies 1979) – young man with a magical life is sent to board so his school can: ‘Teach me how to be sensible, Logical, responsible, practical. And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical.’

21 Brick (Depresso -2010)

22 Brick (cont)

23 What therapists can do Help client journey from survival to living Use RAC (Recognition-Acceptance-Change) model Understand and work with survival personalities – rebel, conformist, crushed. Draw on wide range of theory

24 Survival Personalities

25 Theory that underpins the work Attachment Trauma Survival Other sources of knowledge

26 Boarding school an attachment- deficit environment Being sent away to boarding school at a young age effectively breaks the strong attachments that have nurtured a child. Children find themselves in an institutional world, usually run on masculine and patriarchal lines, with little feminine or maternal influence.

27 Boarding school an attachment- deficit environment (cont) This is an entirely unnatural rupture: no psychological or developmental theory of any kind supports such practice. Instead of growing through a process of gradual maturation over a number of years children are forced to grow up too quickly, to put away childish ways and become adults before their time.

28 Boarding school an attachment- deficit environment (cont) Instead of having a secure base of good attachments, boarding children tend to grow up emotionally and relationally detached. Children compensate by developing an internal refuge: the Strategic Survival Personality, to which they transfer their attachment and reliance.

29 Boarding school an attachment- deficit environment (cont) In consequence, ex-boarder adults often seem to show signs of a child inside of them who has never organically grown up and who tends to dominate some of their behaviours, especially in intimate relationships.

30 Conclusion The last word – a mother The last word – a child Thank you for listening


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