A capacity audience gathered together at the Friends Meeting House on 17th November to welcome back Paul Sunderland, a very popular speaker for TAP members and guests.
Paul treated us to some thought provoking insights into ‘Boarding School Syndrome and Recovery – When Privilege is Trauma for the Early Boarder.'
Paul originally trained as an addictions counsellor, moving to senior positions in residential treatment settings and then into private practice.
As the evening’s talk progressed it became apparent that there was a theme running that also ran through a Saturday workshop that Paul put on for TAP in October. The theme was one of ‘self-soothing’ behaviours which may bring survivors into therapy.
For the young child the moment of leaving home for boarding school is the beginning of an episode of adaption. There may be tension between the idea of privilege – ‘aren’t you lucky’ and the reality of life in ‘captivity’ with no care giver present and little privacy. Being unhappy and not feeling fortunate are a good mix to promote feelings of shame in the child. Guilt and shame make up some of the foundation for self-soothing (addictive?) behaviours to take hold as the child finds an often arid environment in which to share feelings.
Boarders and adoptees are over-represented in treatment and recovery services. Do we recognise PTSD in early boarders?
Neuroscience tells us that early experiences shape the brain. Experience is the architect of the brain. If the 7 year old learns to keep themselves to themselves, the pattern will stick.
Boarding schools began around 500 years ago preparation for empire. Graduates would be less likely to miss home.
There exists an ambiguity; socially we may consider it a tragedy when a child is taken into care, but not into boarding school.
A grateful vote of thanks and applause brought the talk to a close, but not the evening. The discussion continued over fresh coffee, various teas and some very lovely biscuits.
The next talk will be on 8th December, alongside a Christmas social event to which everyone is invited! £5 on the door, free to TAP members. Hear Suzie Grogan (a sell-out at the recent Taunton Literary Festival) give a 30 minute talk about Death Disease & Dissection – a Horrible History of medicine for grown-ups.