Innocence

Innocence: The First Step In Growing Up

5 Minute Read

Our shame culture detaches us from our child-like innocence. Our Source of creativity.

“…the first step toward creating the life you want, is to courageously show your vulnerability to the world.” 

Our relationship with innocence

As children, we are born innocent, beautiful and happy. Our innocence is the key to our wonder with the world – everything is new and exciting. This drives our creativity and our desire to learn. But over time, most of us distance ourselves from our innocence and as a result, our creativity and learning.

It’s not that we’re stupid, un-creative or have nothing left to learn. But rather, we fear that our innocence makes us vulnerable. We’re ashamed of being vulnerable. So we hide it from the world. But everyone is vulnerable. We are all physical, finite beings who will one day die. So there’s really no point in pretending that we’re not vulnerable.

We’re told to put on our big kid pants, and accept that this is all part of growing up. Life’s tough. Stop complaining and get on with it. But this is very unhelpful. In fact, ironically, not properly addressing the difficulties we face in life, and the suppressing of our childlike innocence, keeps us locked into immaturity. We get stuck in our development. Whilst our bodies age and grow, we remain (psychologically) children.

Trauma

Trauma is not well understood in our culture. Traumatic events literally change the way our brains work. Neural pathways are forged/reforged and brain cells are damaged, sometimes permanently. Trauma could be as subtle as our Mother flashing us a look of anger as a baby for crying too much. The reason being that Mum is God when we’re a baby. We look to her to make sense of things going on around us. We learn from her responses to those things, including to our own behaviour.

So if we receive a flash of anger from her, and we’re too young to rationalise that as “maybe she’s having a bad day”, then we turn that anger on ourselves. “There must be some thing wrong with me” we think. This can cause a lifetime of self-esteem issues, anxiety and depression. So imagine what more obviously traumatic events can have on us. Imagine what sexual abuse can do to us, for example.

As I’ve said above, we’re all vulnerable. But when we become aware of our trauma, we feel even more vulnerable. Our culture teaches us to feel shame about that vulnerability. If we succumb to shame and pretend everything’s alright, we will always remain, on some level, unhappy and unable to create the life we desire. It may not be a totally conscious thing. But even right now, on some level, you probably feel that something isn’t quite right with your life.

Fear of judgement

If we do express our vulnerabilities and shame, then we may receive negative responses from the people around us. But that is purely a result of their own feelings of shame about their own vulnerability, perhaps relating to similar issues. It is scary to be confronted with a truth that you’re unwilling to accept. If you’re having an angry response to this, that’s probably you and you should pay attention to the next bit.

We, all of us, given the proper incentive, are capable of the greatest acts of love and the greatest acts of hate. We all have the potential to become a Ghandi, or to become a Hitler. So stop demonising others! Our experiences are relative to our experiences. My worst experience is felt as strongly to me, as your worst experience is felt to you. It’s all valid and in order to get through it and the first step toward creating the life you want, is to courageously show your vulnerability to the world.

The beauty of doing this is that you begin to reclaim your innocence. This will start opening you up to your innate creativity, your wonder with the world, your excitement to learn always and the creation of a happier and more successful life, by whatever criteria you measure that success.

My Vulnerability

So here I present my vulnerability. I will lead by example, as all good Servant Leaders should. I will allow myself to be seen by you in the hope that you will allow yourself to be seen by others.

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This is baby David, born on a rainy November evening in Cardiff, 1985. In many ways I had a blessed upbringing. I had parents who worked very hard to provide, so I never wanted for anything. I was born in a country with relatively vast freedoms as compared with a lot of the “civilised” world.

But shortly after this picture was taken, my health deteriorated. I suffered various infections, a major operation and convulsions until the age of 4. Due to the illness, I wasn’t socialised much, which led to me being physically and psychologically bullied every day for four years of secondary school.

I became withdrawn, lonely, shut down emotionally and creatively, and had mild learning difficulties. Seeing a chance to take control back, I pursed a career that I thought I would be good at.

So from 14 years old I pursued my career in IT. Being angry. Having rock bottom self esteem and confidence. Having difficulty getting on with people. Feeling that things were not quite right with me and the world I was building around myself. This went on for 7 years, until 2007 when I had a breakdown.

Some may call it a “spiritual awakening” and I certainly had some experiences that felt supernatural to me. In reflection they were just altered stated of consciousness, “peak experiences” that are available to all of us naturally. But I still didn’t know what to do with myself… I was emotionally unstable, intensely anxious, agoraphobic, claustrophobic, un-directed and profoundly confused. I realised my choice of work was built on fears, not genuine enjoyment of the subject.

During this time, I started to feel like I was being pulled along by the current of something beyond my control, but which I felt totally at ease with. I was “in flow“. I volunteered for an environmental charity, which led to me being hired by them. I bulk-bought food with friends, which led to us founding a social enterprise. I attended various forms of therapy, I began training intensely in the martial arts and I studied psychology.

I slowly (and at times rapidly) started to open back up, reclaiming my innocent, wondrous view of the world. I started to notice and work on my strengths – those that had been persecuted due to the insecurities of others, such as my aptitude for seeing through people’s facades. I started to develop my creativity once again. I was moving toward a life that felt authentically my own. But the work is on-going, and has become part of who I am and who I wish to project into the world.

For more of the above story, please read – My Vulnerability.

A message to the men

Most recently my work has taken me to study masculinity. You may have heard that “masculinity is in crisis“. I don’t believe that. I think we are remembering what it means to be a man and at the same time, figuring out how to apply ourselves to the challenges the world currently faces.

Society tells men not to show “weakness”, by which is meant vulnerability and its associated shame. We’re told to be “strong”, meaning emotionally hardened. However being strong in this way is the single most weakening thing you can do to yourself. It’s probably a huge factor in suicide rates among men being three times higher than with women in our society.

My studies in this area have included a course by Charles Eisenstein – see that here. That course then led on to a 3 month men’s rites of passage – Reclaim Your Inner Throne. RYIT is heavily influenced by the work of Neo-Jungians Robert L. Moore and Douglas Gillette – “King, Warrior, Magician, Lover“. I’m currently in week 2 – “Reclaiming Lost Innocence”. Thanks to Eivind Skjellum and the RYIT team for the work they’re doing. Moving more men into authentic, mature masculinity will play a vital role in tackling the huge, complex issues we’re facing on a global scale today.

Reach out

If any of this is hitting home and you’d like to chat more about my and/or your experiences, please feel free to contact me at david.p.schofield@gmail.com. For now, here are some videos for you to get your teeth into.

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My Vulnerability

So here I present my vulnerability. I will lead by example, as all good Servant Leaders should. I will allow myself to be seen by you in the hope that you will allow yourself to be seen by others. I will omit some details as I don’t wish to add to the shame of others. I’m also not blaming anyone, as we are all products of our environment and upbringing. I have and will continue to approach people directly.

Illness

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This is baby David, born on a rainy November evening in Cardiff, 1985. In many ways I had a blessed upbringing. I had parents who worked very hard to provide, so I never wanted for anything. I was born in a country with relatively vast freedoms as compared with a lot of the “civilised” world.

But shortly after this picture was taken, my health deteriorated. When I was 7 months old I had an ear infection, which was left untreated for 2 weeks while doctors diagnosed and treated the issue. I believe this created an auditory processing disorder and mild learning difficulties (un-diagnosed).

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Taken in hospital, recovering from operation

I went on to have convulsions between the ages of 8 months and 4 years, probably related to a narrowing of my urethra, which was operated on at 2 years old. It was a major operation, with general anesthetic, which can cause beahavioural and emotional difficulties. At this narcisistic age, we feel we’re in control of the world. So being pulled away from my Mother and forced into an operation, I probably felt that I had failed immeasurably at life. Something that stuck with me.

The illness meant that I wasn’t socialised with other kids much, so the subtleties in human interactions weren’t ingrained as early as with other kids. My social skills suffered as a result.

Bullying

20160927_162330In school, this led to my being misunderstood and bullied, physically and psychologically, every day for the best part of four years. I was the most “unpopular” kid in my class and most likely in the school. So I had no friends to turn to during these times and felt distant from my parents, so wouldn’t talk to them. The feelings of isolation and loneliness I felt during this period were heavy. I couldn’t understand what I had done to deserve the treatment I was receiving. So I turned inwards.

The results

This created a lot of anger in me. Once I started to grow physically and realise my strength, I started fighting back, at times becoming the bully. I projected a “don’t fucking come near me” attitude to prevent bullying, but it also prevented friendships. I projected an aloofness to show that I didn’t care what people thought, whilst in reality I was desperate for connection. The pain of my emotions was overwhelming, so I began to numb myself to them. But you can’t numb the bad stuff alone. As Brene Brown says – when you numb, you numb everything.

I stopped being part of the school plays which I loved, for fear of being seen. I stopped pursuing music, for fear of being heard. I started to draw and write, as I could hide these forms of expression more easily. But feeling stupid and worthless meant I didn’t develop these skills much. So when I realised at 14 years old that I was the best with computers in my (small) class, I started to pursue a career in IT. For the first time in many years, I saw as an opportunity to regain the control over my life that I felt I’d lost.

So I went on. Pursuing a career in IT. Being angry. Having rock bottom self esteem and confidence. Having difficulty getting on with people. Feeling that things were not quite right with me and the world I was building around myself.

This went on for 7 years, until 2007 when I started to see some of the behaviours that were holding me back. I had finally found community and felt safe with a group of people all going through similar experiences. I felt capable of being vulnerable for the first time, dropping my defenses and looking at my psychology objectively. I realised that the life I’d created around me did not come from my authentic desires, but from the trauma I’d experienced and shame I felt. This led to a fairly intense breakdown.

Breakdown

Some may call it a “spiritual awakening” and I certainly had some experiences that felt supernatural to me. In reflection they were just altered stated of consciousness, “peak experiences” that are available to all of us naturally. But I still didn’t know what to do with myself… I was emotionally unstable, intensely anxious, agoraphobic, claustrophobic, un-directed and profoundly confused. An existential crisis. I had studied IT for 8 years, but felt no connection to working in that world any longer. My social skills were at rock bottom, so I didn’t feel I could use the “who you know” strategy to find work. So with eternal gratitude for my parents’ support, I began a part-time masters in business, allowing me the space to figure things out.

Build up

During this time, I started to feel like I was being pulled along by the current of something beyond my control, but I felt totally at ease with. I was “in flow“. I volunteered for an environmental charity, which led to me being hired by them. I bulk-bought food with friends, which led to us founding a social enterprise. I attended various forms of therapy, I began training intensely in the martial arts and I studied psychology.

I slowly (and at times rapidly) started to open back up, reclaiming my innocent, wondrous view of the world. I started to notice and work on my strengths – those that had been persecuted due to the insecurities of others, such as my aptitude for seeing through people’s facades. I started to develop my creativity once again. I was moving toward a life that felt authentically my own. But the work is on-going, and has become part of who I am and who I wish to project into the world.

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Dave’s Year: Looking back on 2015

4 Minute Read

David discusses traveling, tribe and learning to move with the current of life

“With these options in mind, I decided to return to the UK, get a dead-end job for six months, save and go. Remaining “out of context” seemed by far the best option, until I got to Bristol…”

This year has been pretty adventurous, as my years go… I’ve moved abroad, lived on a farm and traveled. I’ve been a labourer, website developer and festival organiser. I also ate and drank far more than my guts should be able to handle… I reached the other side of the world, only to realise that my place was back in the UK with my community. With a fresh perspective, I am now finding new and exciting opportunities that I didn’t expect.

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Travelling the world

After spending eight months in Portugal, I took the opportunity to travel. Over two months I visited Australia, New Zealand, Philippines, Malaysia and United Arab Emirates. Almost everyone I met was extremely accommodating. A good welcome was to be expected from friends in Australia, Philippines and UAE. But as a total newcomer to New Zealand and Malaysia, the welcome was just as warm. Other traveling Brits were equally impressed with the ease at which people approached one another and struck up conversations. There’s the British reserve for you… After buying a pint for a performing guitarist in a pub, I was given the full tour of Wellington, NZ. In Sarawak, Borneo I was plied with free food and drink, attended free feasts and was welcomed into the rain-forest home of a Bidayuh family. I spent most of my “down time” thinking about my next steps. I’d had various offers of work along the way. I could help set-up a business in Melbourne. Work in an ex-pat (immigrant) bar in Kuching. Work in a hostel in Rotorua. With these options in mind, I decided to return to the UK, get a dead-end job for six months, save and go. Remaining “out of context” seemed by far the best option, until I got to Bristol…

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Returning to Tribe

Bristol is a city that has been on my radar for close to a decade. Most of my core group of friends live there. I’d forgotten the impact their presence has on my state of mind. On top of that, Bristol is diverse, with a rich history of creative, independent thought. I immediately fell in love with the place. With a desire to stay in mind, I started to look for more “appropriate” work. I applied to charities and social enterprises, looking for work in marketing, office management and events. Failing that, I would join a call centre and follow my original travel plan. The job hunt involved the usual self-evaluation. What can I sell (without selling my soul)? How should I sell it (without being inauthentic)? I found a few great (on paper) opportunities, which didn’t come off and I’m now glad they didn’t. Finally, I had found an opportunity in Devon that stood head and shoulders above the rest. I immediately forgot all of the reasons I wanted to be in Bristol.

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Taken from www.embercombe.org

Embracing one’s purpose in life

I could potentially spend eleven months living and working (voluntary) at Embercombe. To describe this place as only an education centre and intentional community does not do it justice. Their aim is to empower people to realise their unique strengths – a cause I’m extremely passionate about. Very little encouragement is given (in our education system) to the discovery and development of ones natural gifts. More often we’re encouraged to fit into the prevailing economic model. I’d like to see this changed in my lifetime. So I went to Embercombe for three days to assess whether it was right for me (and me for them). It was fantastic! I met interesting and interested people, worked the land, spent time in nature and ate excellent, home grown food. All whilst living in a yurt with a wood-burning stove. Beautiful. But after just three days, I was exhausted. Emotionally, physically, drained. As everything was full on most of the time, I found it difficult to honour my inner introvert and take time for myself to process everything. When I returned to Bristol I almost instantly remembered why I had wanted to stay in the UK. I wanted to contribute to my community. To give a year of my life to Embercombe, whilst extremely valuable, would have been a big sacrifice.

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Taken from www.davidpschofield.me

“Settling” for the right work

Back to the job hunt… Following my exposure to Embercombe’s philosophies and an impassioned talk offered by its founder, Mac Macartney’s, I was in question mode… Why am I doing the things I’m doing? Am I living courageously enough? What more could I do to live up to my potential? (Appropriately, as I write, this song came on Spotify). Looking at my Google Calendar, full of interviews, I realised that working full-time was not for me, right now. Even working part-time for charities with noble causes wasn’t right. So what should I do? To pay the rent, I was/am picking up a few shifts with my friend at Plaster Bristol – reconnecting with materiality. I will also be working on IT projects at Embercombe one week per month – reducing my food bills. I am developing a website in return for Indian Head Massage through Street Bank. I also have a business ideas bubbling (The Ethical Organiser), which I need time and space to develop. Not to mention, working on Toward Community. So, it’s essentially a full-time (plus) job, but set-up unconventionally. I encourage people to look beyond the context that has been chosen for them. If the “get a job, work full-time, buy a house” route works for you, then great. But the amount of people I know doing so and that are miserable doing so, baffles me… There are alternatives. But in order to live a life more authentic to you, you must first figure out what you are in service to. What is your life’s purpose?

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Taken from www.thesacredmasculine.net

Looking forward to 2016 and beyond

Figuring out our purpose can be a long, but immeasurably valuable process. In order to help me along this new phase of my life, I have refined my life’s vision (It’s not the first draft, but with each I’m getting closer to the core of who I am…) This will serve as an overall guiding statement, a purpose that will keep me on course toward my future. In it’s most current form, it reads:

“To create and protect opportunities that empower people; directing their collective energy toward creating just, peaceful and regenerative societies.”