The Boy Outside the Classroom

In “An Evening of Blues and Separateness”: Denny Coates writes about his observations at a social event:

bq. I’m aware that most of the people I encounter in my world are part of the mainstream, and I departed from that a long time ago. This evening, I was aware that most of these good people were operating from a set of assumptions that I no longer relate to. In the old days, my feeling of separateness might have been called “alienation.” In truth, I’m happy with my perspective. It’s what allows me to be true to myself, to be real, to encounter, as best I can, the world as it is, without expectations or assumptions. Which is my source of happiness and spirituality. But I do sometimes feel like a “stranger in a strange land.”

I found a resonance with my own feelings in this post. A few years ago, whilst doing my NLP training, I rediscovered an image from my early years that seemed to have affected a lot of my life – I remember when I was 5, in my first year of school, I was set some extra work (allegedly a “bright” child!) and for some reason the teacher sent me outside to work in the corridor.

From exploring this image during my training I began to see the impact it had had on my life and the power it had as a metaphor of seperateness – a conflict between “doing well” and connecting with my peers. Now as a mature man I have learned how to feel connection, how to engage and associate in the moment but the “boy outside the classroom” remains – I have learned how to use his power rather than fear what seperateness and difference might mean, to appreciate the insights he still sends me.

Some of the questions that come to me as I think about the people Denny calls “the mainstream”: do they not feel this, or do they get a hint of it and as a result try even harder to connect and conform? Are people like Denny and I gifted or cursed? Are we shamans or (incipient, potential) sociopaths? Are we over or under developed? It’s all about perspective and framing I suggest…

Denny responded to some of these questions in the “comments”: :

bq. Are independent thinkers gifted or cursed? Surely there are the downsides, the so-called alienation, which can bring acute discomfort if one lets it. Personally, I’ve learned to cherish my separateness as the best part of me; it’s what makes everything else work. It’s kind of like living in a state of ambiguity, but that’s cool, because so much of life is truly unknowable anyway. Living that truth makes for a lot of excitement. It’s certainly not a worldview I would promote to anyone, however, but simply something that helps me affirm my own life in my own way.

Similar-but-different to how I feel about it. For me the “boy outside” contributes to at least two aspects of who I am today. In part he has turned into the observer part of my mind – able to stand back even when the rest of me is fully engaged and take a look at what’s going on. It’s a great attribute for coaching or negotiating or any kind of face-to-face communication – although one that is almost impossible to explain to people. The other descendant is my independence of thought – although I have my upbringing to thank for that as well – my father in particular managed to put across the message that you should make your own mind up, especially about the important things.

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