Boarding School Survivors

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Boarding School

I offer support for ex boarders, their partners or family in gaining an understanding of the impact that early childhood experiences around boarding have had on their development through into adulthood and why they now behave the way they do.  It can be difficult to allow any negative feelings around school experiences as it was seen, and still is, as a privilege and any negative thoughts may be perceived as a betrayal to parents, self or school or just too painful to reveal and revisit.  If healing is needed, I can offer a space for you to unpack the feelings and experiences and support you in finding out what you truly want and need from life and your relationships now, as an adult.

Most child boarders learn very quickly to keep it all together and after many years holding things in, the adult ex boarder is left utterly exhausted.  Every child’s experience and situation was unique to them.   At the heart of it all is the separation from family and home.  The distress suffered following this separation can impact the child’s development and subsequently them as an adult, especially with issues around intimacy and self-esteem.

Nick Duffell talks of the Strategic Survival Personality (SSP) which the child adopts to keep themselves safe, disown their vulnerability and cope with the pain and loss, in the best way they can, as silently and inconspicuously as possible.  This SSP helps the child to identify more with the power and independence of the adult world and reject their childlike innocence, openness and dependence.  It becomes their way of existing and they develop character traits and behaviours which can be destructive or inappropriate, especially in their adulthood.

Ways in which ex boarders may be affected

  • Do you have deep feelings of grief, loss, or isolation?
  • Do you often feel alone, even when you are surrounded by people?
  • Are you finding it difficult to be a parent, commit or sustain a relationship, or have any sexual difficulties?
  • Do you avoid your partner in subtle and not so subtle ways?
  • Will you purposefully avoid conflict, preferring to plot secret rebellion?
  • Are you a workaholic, burying yourself in your career, constantly on the go and unable to relax?
  • Have you any issues with sleep and chronic stress related issues?
  • Do you find it difficult to express yourself?  Do you have a tricky relationship with authority?
  • Do you feel any fear being revealed as a fraud and exposed as an imposter?
  • Do you have a low self-esteem, but outwardly appear confident?
  • Are you always taking care of others needs but unable to know what you need or want?
  • Do you ever have problems remembering events from the past?
  • Have you ever been called arrogant or a bully?
  • Have you struggled with addictions?

Boarding School Syndrome

A term coined by the British psychotherapist Joy Schaverien in an article published in the British Journal of Psychotherapy in 2011.  Schaverien explores the subject further in her book Boarding School Syndrome: The Psychological Trauma of the ‘Privileged’ Child published in 2015.

A major pioneer in the field is Nick Duffell, a psychotherapist, who founded Boarding School Survivors in 1990 and has worked extensively with many ex boarders.  Duffell has written several books and many articles around the subject.  The Making of Them in 2000, Wounded Leaders in 2014 and co-authored Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege. A Therapeutic Guide to Working with Boarding School Survivors with Thurstine Basset in 2016.