Thanks to all of you who wrote so passionately in the Guardian’s comment column on my article “Why boarding schools produce bad leaders” in Tuesday’s edition, in which I attempted to expose the Wounded Leader problem. You are really helping the public to see that this issue is real and pressing.
And thanks to the Guardian for allowing me the space to contribute. At the time of writing this blog there have been over 450 comments to the article and had almost 100,000 views.
What is so weird to me is how viscous some of the comments have been. Apparently, I am a ‘professional parasite’ practising something called ‘cod-psychology.’ Many of those complaining concentrate on how there are vested interests in making the case I make, as if there are huge profits to be made out of describing the problems of sending young children away rather that the actually send them way! Now here we are talking vested interests.
It is quite extraordinary, sometimes hurtful, and just plain absurd. Most therapists make a living; I don’t know any rich ones – do you? A few contributors felt compelled to remark on these attacks; here is one:
“Interesting the vitriol for Duffell in some of these comments. Evidently cuts close to the bone in helping people to understand a particularly British psychopathology of power.”
Of course, when I have removed the harpoons hurled at my gut it is pretty clear to see what is going on: here we have both the Entitlement Illusion bullying, exactly like the bullying that the Scottish YES campaign has been receiving, and the Strategic Survival Personality in hyper-vigilant mode.
What happens inside such people, I imagine, who have survived by being what I call Boarding School Survivor Complier Types, is that alarm bells go off when someone says it wasn’t all that great to grow up in a privileged institution. The bearer of such a message is perceived is a ghastly threat. All hands on deck and man the guns, says this alarm.
The response is a kind of fundamentalist terrorism – although I am reminded more of John Knox’s alarm at the “Monstrous Regiment of Women.” For the threat challenges the notion that everything was OK in childhood. The bearer of the the thereat must now be eliminated or the continuation of survival is at stake. So attack!
This internal dynamic is behind one of the most common and most tragic stories I hear from some ex-boarders, who can remember their Dad saying he hated boarding, but nevertheless, still sent them away. If the father takes his son’s plight seriously he has to really look at his internal world, come to terms with his past, acknowledge the reality of his inner child, not project this out onto his real child and then dump him.
I suppose this is what they call cod-psychology?
Oh, well, then it must be. Actually, I have a lot respect for cod. Once upon a time, before “greed got in the way, “ as Dylan sings, the cod were so plentiful in the North Atlantic, from Iceland to Newfoundland, that the early European adventurers said you could almost walk on their backs. The First Americans were grateful nourished on the those “give-aways” from the “cod people”, as they called them. But now, the cod people have withdrawn, and we have fished ourselves almost dry with our greed and ignorance.
I am happily on the side of the cod.