Cm0006j, you said,
I think my experiences were not nearly as bad as those in England and some of the other, more organized branches.
Yet I feel hurt by what I did experience.
I spent around 15 years in the school as an adult, which certainly gives you more options than a child would have to make choices about being there or how to behave, and I found that belonging to the school caused some marriage issues for me as it created conflict of interests, time spent etc. The demands placed by the school could be significant and if you did not follow them (as I eventually could not) then you leave (if you have that choice). Having said that and as a parent of 4 teenagers who attend a ‘normal’ Anglican school they are still exposed to plenty of conflict. A minimal amount of this is due to the schools belief system, for the most part it is due to teacher, school culture and peer pressure. I recall my own Catholic schooling where I experienced plenty of emotional trauma from bullying and teasing due to being a puny kid. This caused me to leave school with body image issues and low self confidence, something that is still with me over 30 years later.
I know there's no perfect way to raise kids and I can't be angry at my parents for bringing me up in SES. They did believe in its teachings. They thought it was going to make me a the best possible person, give me the key to life. They still believe in the philosophy, though they are separated from SES now.
Parenting is difficult and unimaginable to people who are not parents. I can see significant mistakes made by my parents when raising me, in hindsight they carry massive guilt for these. How much I can attribute my adolescent behaviour and health issues to is unclear. My own kids have some nebulous health and behavioral issues, something we have worked on for a number of years and can in part see how these might have come about, and how difficult they are to deal with. Having said that most of my kids friends have issues, many more serious than mine. It appears that this is the lot of parenting, and while still affected by specifics of schooling, much of it just comes with the territory.
I really believed in philosophy with all my heart as a kid. I was a teacher's pet type. I tried so hard to do it right, to fit in, to win approval from the tutors, from Mrs. Lambie. I'm mostly just hurt that I never got it.
Even as an adult I wanted to ‘succeed’ at the school, was very compliant and suppressed many counter thoughts to the school in an effort to do the right thing. It took many years to realise that despite the appeal of the teaching, the culture of the school was pushing on regardless of me as an individual. This approach is not unique to SES, I see the same process happening in my kids schools and it still happens to me in the business world. What you experienced in the SES is a feature of all social institutions, some worse than others, but part of human society.
I began to separate the spiritual beliefs I have from the social conditioning of the school and declared myself a Hindu. I now practice Hinduism, but I take it in my own way. I don't listen to gurus, I don't trust anyone to tell me what the truth is, I trust only my own experience. It's been about seven years since I was last in touch with the school.
What is the basis of your Hinduism if you do not accept guidance of any sources? Surely the basic concepts of Hinduism have been prescribed at some point to be followed? My own belief systems cannot be defined even too myself. Many of the principles of the school appealed to me, and I dislike the narrow strictures of any religion, yet I can see that the principles of religions are designed to appeal to all people. I believe in a material world and cannot see the evidence for anything after life, yet I am unable to accept my personal oblivion, so can see that I hold this open as an option. Since this is just what all spiritual systems offer then I could almost say that I have my own personal religion in that it allows be some relief from existential anxiety, but is free from the limitations of social spirituality.
I think the lasting effects are that of feeling not good enough, too emotional, not correct. I'm used to a lot of guilt and fear of doing things wrong. I have great difficulty interacting with the regular world, I don't feel confident in being able to deal with life. I don't believe that I know how to love. But then I think that might just be normal. That might be how I always would have been due to my own personality.
I would say this is normal. Interacting with people as a child, and adult and as a parent, most people are trying to establish their identity. I see many children from wealthy families who have very little control over their own behaviour, no personal direction, no personal security, just as I have seen it in children with far less or no material wealth. The only difference is that the very poor are often too focused on survival to think too deeply about esoteric matters. Being raised in a Catholic school with the often bizarre behaviour of the priests did not appear to affect me much, or even some of the boarders that were exposed to it. I was more affected by my physical appearance and weakness. In retrospect if I had been born with better health and been allowed to mature with normal physical attributes, my life would have been very different. Just not sure if it would have been better as many people who are born with silver or even brass spoons in their mouth seem to know how to squander it. Watching my one child with good natural talent, strong who fins winning at most levels really easy buckle when its time to work hard to win. I have other children who are less physically capable who know how to work hard and fail because they do not have the raw talent. Their expectations are lower and it remains to be seen how well each of them does in life. For myself, my expectations have always been low, and now I know what my mother did in the last days of my pregnancy, it has given my esteem and health issues perspective. Can I blame others and regret what happened?
I don't want to think that my parents were wrong to be part of this organization. They love it, they still practice it. I don't want to hurt them by saying I regret my childhood. Again, I think maybe everyone is damaged by something, and I didn't suffer the way many others did.
Blaming our parents for where they find themselves, often as a result of chance, and their own parents, is easy to do. As the parent of 4 teenagers, I watch as I do things I would not have found acceptable from my own parents. However, its a different time, different social standards, I have my own personal baggage. As parents we do what we can, with many mistakes and they carry over to our children. I can see the effect of things we do (or don’t) affecting our kids, and see it happening with all kids. Some are physical and emotional wrecks in the game of life, and others adapt better, however I do not see any for whom life is not a battle in some way.
One thing that bothers me is the teaching that everything is a choice, like being unhappy is a choice, but anything that isn't school sanctioned is the wrong choice. We're told what our choice should be and then after that told that our hearts will back up that belief because it is Truth. If our experience does not match up, then we are choosing to follow some impure, untruthful part of ourselves...? It's backward from scientific principle, which the school claims to be using.
This is not unique to the school. Its the same in business, whatever your group is doing it must be the right thing. You can see this in politics, sports teams, in every school they enforce their own rules regardless. If you do not conform, then find somewhere else to be. Of course members do change these rules, but this takes lots of energy and struggle. SES is not unique in taking this tack, this is part of social human nature. SES does have some unique ways of doing this, and given it based upon peoples spiritual needs it might strike deeper, but I look at the way the kids try to conform to fashion needs at their school and I see the same blind process.
I'm afraid that I don't know how to live a good life now that the rules have disappeared from under me. It's like trying to walk a tight rope with no safety net.
The school, like all religious groups, offer answers to fundamental needs. Is it the end of me when this body wears out, like I see happening to every person in the world? No says the school, and so do all religions offer a way out of this materialist oblivion. Material wealth does not appear to make anyone consistently happy, and many people with very little appear to be surprisingly happy with their lot. People without enough to eat or poor health appear to be consistently unhappy. Who is living the ‘good’ life and how will we recognise it when we see it? My own vision of the good life is to know what it is that will make me healthy as I feel could have been for my whole life. If I can achieve this (and I have seen glimpses) will this be the good life? I have been driven since my teen years to achieve this image of the real me, and have achieved it for less than a decade. Let me note that many people would envy the state of my health, and by many standards it is good. But for me being too unwell for 3-6 months of the year to play sport, and just being able to work is not good enough, but I am still able bodied at this point. Every aspect of society provides us with standards to measure how well we are living and few ever make the grade. As people age, many accept their limitations are make the best of what they can, and accept that ageing is a real process and there is no way out of life except through death. Make sure your quality of life is the best you can find, because it wont last forever.
It does feed on the idea that we are better, more special, than people who don't accept the teachings. The way we looked down on people who left! I couldn't understand at the time why anyone would walk away from it. How else could one be happy? Have a satisfying life?
Very true, yet not unique to SES. I see this in political parties, business, family life, every group tries to rationalise its unique place. SES, and most religions, offer the holier than thou because their rewards are supposed to be eternal. This is human nature in operation, SES did it in some unique ways but the same principle is all around us.
I thought that SES was the only way to live a good life, to be focused on the correct goal, etc. It's just starting to sink in for me that there are millions of people in the world who turned out just fine without SES!
It depends upon what you mean by ‘fine’. If it means you can get through each day unscathed, have some laughs, enjoy your family, stay in a job, live where you want, enjoy good health, then I agree. However there are many traumas in most peoples lives. From major to minor tragedy. Consider a talented young athlete who shows promise. Just how far do they need to get, how much luck to they need to avoid disabling injury to make it worthwhile? Olympic level, national, state? Is it not good enough to practice sport and exercise moderately for optimal health, with associated diet? Yet we see people who push themselves to impossible physical extremes, and many others who are unable to moderate excesses of drink, sloth, and food?
SES offers respite from all physical limitations, peace of mind through meditation and ultimately unity with the absolute with the teaching. Surely it cannot get better than this, all associated with intellectual reason as opposed to the ‘blind’ faith offered by traditional religion. What a compelling sell this is. Hindu belief is that suffering exists and is real, looking around me seems to validate this.
I stopped meditation after leaving school because I was not disciplined enough, and when I have gone back it certainly gives me more head space to operate, so this was a good thing to my mind. Yoga, tai chi are all positive things to improve the state of the body and mind for this material journey, and can be done from ones own personal discipline.
I have some very strange problems with sexual things and I'm thinking that must be related to the school, the messages that sunk into my brain there.
You might be surprised at how few ‘normal’ sexual things there are in the world, and most people seem to have issues with their bodies, sex and nudity. The school is part of promulgating these social/sexual standards, but we all have our personal bents (no pun intended), and society really struggles to manage sexual behaviour in such a way to keep society and individuals content.
Part of me wants to be angry, but I can't seem to give myself permission to do that.
Anger can demand action to be taken, and this requires the power to take effective action. In our highly social world this is difficult because we are confronted by powerful social groups and if one gets angry and realises we are impotent, this knocks our self esteem. As people age we mostly accept these limitations. I would say choose your battles wisely, you do not want to waste energy needlessly. Note that some people are able to invest their lives fully in noble causes and achieve great things for larger society, but I am not one of these.
Another strange thing is, I remember after I went to the youth retreat in England when I was 15, someone got hold of the email list and sent a message to the kids who had attended that SES was a cult. I was so angry at that woman. I don't know who she was, but I was furious that she couldn't just leave me alone and let me practice as I wanted to. I was very sensitive to anyone calling it a cult.
Cult is a loaded word, however if you look at what defines a cult, most normal schools go a long way to qualify as being a cult. Education is just indoctrination of the young in order that we produce obedient, law abiding citizens, and we do see plenty of students that defy this, just as we see plenty who conform.
I'm afraid to say anything against them. I don't know what I'm afraid of! A big part of me can't let go of seeking approval from the higher ups in the school.
Social approval is paramount in a social species like humans, it is the social grooming that we see in the primates. Since we are so reliant on others for everything in our lives, we do this as a matter of course. You are no different to anyone else. All hierarchy, from the SES, politics, family, business, sports clubs reflect this process in some way.
So, there it is. That's as articulate as I'm able to be about it so far. I am in therapy now and so I think that will help me to speak and think about it more clearly.
I would love to connect with people that I knew from that life, people I went on retreat with, etc. I hope someone will remember me. I'm afraid I'm not very memorable! I was a quiet, withdrawn kid.
I apologise for make this response so much about my life and perceptions, however as I have spent so long in the school as an adult and watched the children be moulded in its image, as well as having my own children outside the school, and have also experienced various religions, business etc, much of what you express is part of every human institution. I have no way to know just how traumatic your life in SES was, and I did not intend to try and show that mine was better or worse. I simply know that I have seen the same social behaviour in business (I have been in corporate business for the past 30 years), and have been forced out of a company due to the repressive nature of people in social groups. I have seen the same stuff at my own Catholic school (sexual and physical abuse), at my kids Anglican school, at sports clubs where you see people following this ‘social’ and ‘fun’ activity get stressed and emotional as if it were life and death in competition for social status.
I agree with your need to express and be angry with the SES, and you could probably react the same to quite a few organisations, finding one you are in perfect harmony with is ideal but unlikely (as it is for anybody). There is life after SES, but we all need to belong some multiple groups and perform multiple roles. Parent, spouse, employee, employer etc and they all throw us into uneasy cooperation and competition with others to retain some autonomy but to also leverage the benefits of others capabilities. The SES is an interesting manifestation of social engineering but it does not warrant such exalted status as we (I have) often given it, but when I was forced to leave my job recently, I allowed it exalted status too. Its a reflection of how much work defines my life, just as my school did, my parents, and now my children. Overarching it all is my physical and ageing body that imposes ultimately upon me. Through all this, it is still possible to enjoy daily life, being alive, the wonder of nature, the simple pleasures of food, arts, family, sunshine and rain. Good luck with the journey.