I was a gutless wonder once. For the last 21 years of my first 28 years, I was a coward. How is that, you might ask?
Well, until I was seven, I wasn’t a gutless wonder. Born In Scotland and raised by aupair girls with a gaelic granny on their days off, my first 5 years were relatively stable. I was, after all, just a child.
Then circumstance brought us to New Zealand, without au pair girls and things began to unravel. Children of domineering parents never have power in that situation anyway, but school was no escape. Brits were “pommie bastards” in those day, and brit kids with English that didn’t sound right, with no local colloquialisms were the butt of playground abuse, along with Indian children, Yugoslavians, and all others who didn’t look fit the mould. Peer-groups pressure is an insidious manipulator, moulder, and controller of convictions.
Our mother dearly wanted her children to be child prodigies, which only compounded my problems. My sister, 7.5 years older, was the brainiest of us all, and watching what being “brainy” resulted in, etched into my mind, the disadvantages.
My first attempt at the solution confirmed my lack of real intelligence. I got by, in the middle of the middle stream (in those days, each form had three classes, brainy, average, and plodders), by day-dreaming and only answering around 65% of any exam papers. Until a teacher happened to ask my mother at a teacher parent night, how come her “capable” daughter only sat 65% of her exam papers. My feeble answer was a lie. “That’s all I have time for.” Bad move. That resulted in my ex-teacher mother, drilling me in study skills and exam planning. Sigh.
After that, I sat the exams, answered what I felt like, wrote porkies, and didn’t know what I didn’t know. A year later, it dawned on me that the simplest solution was to just not to do the work, then you didn’t know a whole lot more, and your results were accurate.
My report cards reflected this accurately, with many entries with variations of, “Hilary’s good intentions seldom come to fruition”
But I did excel at gymnastics, badminton, swimming and athletic field events, none of which had exams and all of which my mother considered plebeian useless activities.
Having been battered at primary school, and held at arms length by all but four class mates, I kept myself to myself. The simple strategy of survival meant doing enough NOT to get into trouble, but not enough to be noticed. I honed the art of strategic lying, which is probably why I can now spot a gutless wonder from a mile off.
But ..... Home and school life was simply not enough to make me want to live.
Ashburn Hall in Dunedin was where this gutless wonder woke up. I had a brilliant psychologist called Harold Bernhardt, who brooked no crap. First thing he did was get me to sit a mind-numbing solid week of tests, the like of which I’d never seen before. Some were IQ’s but different to the stuff done at either school, or career advisories. Others were word association, drawing, writing, picture pairing, and my brain swam. But I loved it. I really wanted to do these tests. They were fun. they stretched my head. They were exciting.
His verdict was quite astonishing. He said to me, “You belong to a unique group of people who get into strife because they analyse too far behind, too far ahead, see to many options, a truck load of pitfalls and quiver themselves into paralysis." How right he was. Even now, I have to make myself live "in" today. "You're actually a 60 year old head, on 20 year old shoulders.”
”I could have told you that!” I snorted. “Is that ALL your tests found?”
”No” he replied. “Your in the top 1% of thinkers in the world.”
After my ribs had about cracked from laughter, I said, “Look Harold, I’ve never scored higher than 124 in normal IQ tests so that’s balderdash.”
He replied, “But I don’t use tests which usually measure whether or not you think according to the “wisdom” of the day. Those tests are calibrated for expected answers. They don’t measure HOW a person thinks. They measure WHAT a person thinks they know, and the two things are not the same.”
I nearly asked, “Who says your definition of the 1% is correct?” but decided to shut my mouth.
Unlike most Ashburn patients, who saw either a head-shrink or a psychologist twice a week, I saw Harold every day. For the next six months, I wrote out my 20+ years, drew a lot, and we hashed out how I’d got to where I was. Then one day, the hospital administration and I came to verbal blows. They were going to have a public open day, and none of us were going to be allowed day leave to escape the "zoo". No point in having an open day with no-one in. It was the first time in my life I’d majorly stood up for myself in terms of "authority". Worse, I organised a lunatic party, for the day, and helped others effectively hide. For us, the open day was a roaring success. For the public, well… who knows? Did we exceed their expectations?
Harold wasn’t pleased at my next appointment, which amused me. We hashed out my feelings, and started hammering out WHY I’d never stood up for myself before, or my convictions in the past:
- I was scared of my mother
- I was scared of punishment
- I was scared of rejection
Bottom line = FEAR, which had made me into a person I didn’t know, because the real me had been locked away to satisfy everyone else’s paradigms and needs, and to spare me pain. In order to survive, I’d allowed myself to become someone called “nobody”.
A week later, Harold said, “It’s time for you to leave. You now know where you’re going.” Our last session formulated three things:
- never resort to survival lies. Tell it as it is.
- find out who I really am, and what I want to do, and be.
- never allow someone else’s agenda to determine my informed choices of decision making.
Why the third one? Because it had been the “control” of others which had got me to the point of “impotence”.
Walking out of Ashburn Hall I had the sense that it was a whole new beginning and it certainly was.
In the next seven years I started to figure out “me”; had some inevitable stoushes as I had to learn that telling it as it is, often causes way more problems than “survival lies” do.
A couple of nasty situations showed me that I was no longer a total gutless wonder.
Then I got married; got pregnant and…..
….up until late November 1981, I had thought I’d lived up to my promises to myself and to Harold.
But.. the birth of our first son redefined to me the word “gutless wonder”. I discovered that actually … I was still a gutless wonder, ... and hadn’t known it.
I hadn’t realised that in order NOT to be a gutless wonder, you have to know who was a different sort of enemy and why. Knowledge is power. Ignorance can lead to helplessness. And... you had to know that amongst people who aren’t enemies, are hidden those who will always be “control hungry” psychos who love to lord it over those who aren’t like that.
Their aim is to make everyone cower into compliance with a prescribed system. Not knowing enough information to protect yourself, results in you being easily controlled.
The next five years were integral to becoming knowledgeable enough about systems, myself, and any medical or other issue, which might affect our family, in order to assert my rights effectively. That education has continued, at that speed, ever since.
I learned that it was easier to stand up for myself than I had thought, because one roadblock to standing up, is that the so-called experts have conned us into thinking that they DO know everything, and that we can’t possible understand anything. Once you realise that experts often know way less than they think they do, questioning, becomes much easier. Standing up for myself required:
- Having enough knowledge to know “What, why, how, when and where about the topic, and where to look if I suddenly discovered that I didn’t know what I should know.”
- Knowing what questions to ask, and how.
- Not caring what others thought about me, since often their own mental perceptions are blinded by their reactions to questions, particularly if it exposes their ignorance.
- Requiring others to be accountable.
- Insisting that the only way to progress was polite collaboration and partnership, not the result of a controlling, patronising dictatorship.
Instantly, problems arose whereby me feet regularly found their way into my mouth, and Peter would have to pull them out so that I could walk again.
Even today, during an anger flash, an acute attack of Foot in Mouth disease can occur.
All around me today, I see gutless wonders, and know how that feels. I wonder how these people can live with the itching powder which accompanies the humiliation of constantly being subservient to their own convictions, breaching their own standard of intregrity, thereby discarding honesty.
And in the case of medical people, making a hypocrisy of the hippocratic oath. I wonder how many hypocrite's realise that the meaning of "hypocrit" is "play actor"?
What am I now?
I'm Just a little Prick. And would that there were a lot more of us around. Ever heard of a goad? If not, think about it. The “goad” which stopped me being a total gutless wonder, was the realisation that it was utterly destructive to me, and our family, and served no useful purpose.
Part of becoming a gutless wonder, is the relentless pecking order of an education system, which results in toddlers and children being thrown together in tribal domination-type age groups from the age of whenever, to when they leave school.
In many ways, peer groups pressure, even as adults, results in a substantial majority being lifelong gutless wonders.
If there was one thing which convinced me that the desire of my husband, who was also a teacher/principal, to home school our children was not only my own school days, but watching him at school, and realising that no matter how vigilant any teachers are, they can’t be everywhere at once, that children in the 80’s weren’t much different than those in the 60’s; and control of bullying and peer-group pressure is ineffectual, when children are managed as a "herd" The "Lord of the Flies" syndrome today, is as strong as it every was, if not stronger.
Neither of our children have ever had school opportunities to become gutless wonders. Any other opportunities were modified by us being close at hand in their early years. They both know who they are, and what they want. No doubt there will be situations in the future, in which they are gutless wonders through lack of knowledge, but we hope their upbringing alerts them to that possibility quickly and they have the skills to rectify that before their own ignorance causes permanent harm.
Until such time as those who are “conformed to the ways of the world”, learn to be true to their own convictions (if they know them) and do something about it, the pschos will always control the systems.
When we wrote From One Prick to Another, the key concept we were trying to get across (other than one obvious meaning!) was to "goad" people into a realisation that if something really means something to you – if you really care about your rights, then like a turtle, you have to know why you’re going where you're going, and why, then SYNO and Go.