Have you ever experienced ritual humiliation?
As a young man aged 19, I was going through military training to become an officer the royal Military Academy Sandhurst. We were new cadets, and the first six weeks was all about breaking us down to build us up so we engaged in a lot in some mind-numbing activities like, ‘bulling’ boots – polishing to a glass-like shine – ironing, and cleaning lavatories with toothbrushes late into the night and being deprived of sleep so that they could test our decision-making, tenacity and resilience.
One evening we were bulling boots and the instructor, a Colour Sergeant in the Scots Guards, with the walrus moustache and a similar attitude to match said to me, “Mr. Ekin, how can you be so f***ing ugly with just one head?”
It caught me surprise. I had never considered myself to be ugly! My mum even used to call me “my good-looking son,” and after that, I started to doubt whether she even meant it or was just saying it to be nice, when in fact I looked like Quasimodo!
However, it hurt. I think he was quite a nasty man, and a bully, but that’s history. Such is the power of those we place power in, who can so easily abuse it. I expected to be ‘broken down.’ I didn’t expect to be humiliated.
It still catches me occasionally in my moments of self-doubt but what I’m able to recognize now is to consciously separate out what happened – a bunch of gas, pressure, vibrating vocal cords and saliva, and the workings of along muscle called the tongue – from the meaning, or story that I added, that I was ugly.
Here’s what I learned/ reflected on:
- Monkey Mind: Pay attention to the voice in your head – otherwise known as Monkey Mind or Internal Dialogue – and observe how, like leaves that rustle with the wind, they never stop. Just watch them flying by!
- The Facts: It’s useful to look at what was said and then the meaning, or interpretation we had, otherwise it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Imagine if I had believed what he said, ongoingly. We are not very good at these as human beings, because emotions, unchecked, are very, very powerful. Remember, emotion trumps logic every time, unless we are aware of it. (Ever been into a shop with no intention of buying something, or not even having the money for it, and came out with something you didn’t even need or want? That’s emotion for you!)
- Watch catastrophisation: Often we tend to escalate those thoughts and repeat, which is called ‘catastrophisation.’ What to do? Speak to someone. A problem shared is a problem halved. Just getting it out of our heads and speaking it, can have a very positive impact on the problem itself.
Does this trigger any memories for you? Anything you want to share? Why not drop me a line: email@example.com. I always love hearing from people.
Remember, don’t take care, take a risk!
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