Boarders swallow the pain and become survivors.
It’s been quite a while ago, since I saw this documentary for the first time on Dutch television. That was in 1994, that I was hypnotized by watching the process of sending young boys to boarding schools and the impact on their development. I never forgot about it. I’m glad that I found the documentary again, in five parts on Youtube. This link leads to the first part: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aatIB-yc7nQ/
I don’t know if it’s the whole documentary because in 1994 I wrote down a quote that in boarding school a child becomes an adult into one night, but I didn’t hear that phrase on Youtube. Nevertheless it was very moving again to see children, from eight years old, being left alone by their parents and especially by their mothers.
Headmaster John Paul welcomes the boys and speaks to them of course in a very optimistic way: boarders learn to integrate and to carry responsibilities, he says. In his boarding school they can make friends and they have more opportunities and facilities in their free time than at home.
Men who were boarders in their youth tell another story. They still smell the polish, remember the harsh parting from their parents who left by car, hear the enormous and continuous noise around them, one boarder still senses having been imprisoned, anotherone that he never recovered from a feeling of loss and despair. Piers Partridge, a psychotherapist, cannot believe we still do this to our children in this new age.
The mother of the eight year old George, who is packing his bag, says is a disaster to let him go, another mother on the other hand is thrilled for her son. The feelings of the mothers change and so will it be for the children. Boarding has not the same effect to everybody, but psychotherapist Nick Duffell knows it is not good for ones development. He wrote a book with the same title about the British attitude to children en the boarding school system, published in 2000http://www.amazon.co.uk/Making-Them-Attitude-Children-Boarding/dp/0953790401 and is founder of Boarder School Survivors.
Duffell himself remembers the excitement, the fear and the homesickness. He explains in the documentary about the double-bind situation the boarders have to deal with. They hear from the parents that they love their sons but on the other hand they send them away. Boarders are caught in a trap, which makes them shut down in their feelings and start betraying themselves.
At least there are female teachers in the boarding school in this documentary, who tell the new boarders that tears are normal and the sadness will slowly decrease. But the point is, Duffell says, they are no substitutes for the parents; they can never give love to the boys, who need that so much.
One learns to be who one has to be, to become part of the system and to understand that it is a failure to have feelings. In later years a boader experienced he had to climb an enormous mountain in order to feel that it was allright to be close to another human being. A boarder usually distrusts the world and other persons.
Duffell says that one doesn’t see unhappy children in boarding schools. The boys swallow their pain and when they are adults the pain returns. It is hard for them to have stable relationships. Boarders are survivors. ‘He will design a character that keeps the heat off him, in many disguises. a winner is best, but a clown, a pleaser, an isolate, even sometimes a victim will do. I call this process of self-protection constructing a constructed a SSP which stands for a Strategic Survival personality.’ See: http://www.boardingrecovery.com/images/SurvivingthePrivilege.pdf