Wellbeing update

By Kirsten McLintock, Head of Wellbeing & PSHE

Block 3 have been prompted to reflect on ‘character’ from The Guardian article, The real Lord of the Flies: what happened when six boys were shipwrecked for 15 months. For centuries western culture has been permeated by the idea that humans are selfish creatures. That cynical image of humanity has been proclaimed in films and novels, history books and scientific research. But in the last 20 years, something extraordinary has happened. Scientists from all over the world have switched to a more hopeful view of mankind. As we are living through this unprecedented lock down and as our theme in Wellbeing for Block 3 this year is ‘empathy’ I felt this cross-curricular article would resonate with Bedalians. The real Lord of the Flies is a tale of friendship and loyalty; one that illustrates how much stronger we are if we can lean on each other, and that we should always look for what is good and positive in people. As a Block 3 student reflects: “I enjoyed reading this article a lot. I found it very interesting and I enjoyed the expectations vs reality of it all. Books make it appear as if people being trapped on an island together will lose all sanity. Good to know that isn’t necessarily true!”

For Block 4’s theme on identity this year we have been exploring self-awareness and acceptance. Dr Brene Brown’s research and teachings permeate the entire Wellbeing curriculum provision at Bedales, so it was opportune to task students with watching her two TED talks.  Dr Brown is perhaps best known for TEDx talk, The Power of Vulnerability. Recorded at an event in Houston in 2010, the talk is one of the five most popular in TED history, with more than 60 million views. It summarises a decade of Brown’s research on shame, vulnerability and courage.

The Wellbeing curriculum at Bedales takes an approach to topics such as addiction, self-harm and risk-taking that is couched within research such as Dr Brown’s; this equips students with self-awareness and insight that such behaviours are commonly sought to numb feelings or shield shame.  For our students to ‘know themselves’ is at the heart of our wellbeing journey.

Some Block 4 reflections on Brene Brown’s TED talks include: “It’s a moving talk and very emotional. I was really interested in what she was saying and I like how she didn’t only talk about women but men too. I found it really interesting to hear from her own personal experiences; trying to be perfect is a waste of time because it’s our imperfections and vulnerability that in actual fact makes us strong.” Another student commented: “I was particularly interested by the idea that we should learn to be kind to ourselves before we are able to be kind to others.”

Dr Brown has released her Podcast series during lockdown which parents might find of interest: https://brenebrown.com/podcast/introducing-unlocking-us/. Recent topics have included comparative suffering, practising empathy, regulating emotions and making meaning from grief. In one episode, on responses to anxiety, Brown described the psychologist Harriet Lerner’s concepts of “over-functioning” (“I won’t feel, I do; I don’t need help, I help”) and “under-functioning” (“I won’t function, I’ll fall apart; I don’t help, I need help”), contrasting the two modes as “learned behaviours for getting out from underneath fear and uncertainty.”  But the show’s most rewarding moments have come from her conversations with guests, including the grief expert David Kessler and the emotional intelligence researcher Marc Brackett.