What I learned from locking myself in the bathroom
Transcript of this video:
When I was a child growing up, my parents would drag me to church every Sunday very reluctantly. It was a high Anglican service, very repetitive and much of it sung in a kind of dirge: “He suffered and was buried.. …And on the third day,” like that week after week after week. My boredom was probably compounded by the fact that I didn’t really believe in God. And I was coming to suspect that my parents might not believe either.
This suspicion was reinforced by the fact that my dad would sometimes lend me his Russian Sekonda watch so that I could sit in the pew and watch the secondhand go round because that was actually more interesting than the service itself.
And then one Sunday when I was, I guess 10 or 11, I locked myself in the bathroom and refused to come out as a protest against this ritual. This was a high risk strategy. The lock on the bathroom door was not that strong. And my parents were not averse to sporadic acts of violence to enforce their, their discipline.
There were four or five minutes of angry words exchanged through that door. And then a bit unexpectedly, my mum said to my dad “Oh, Ken, we’ll just leave him at home.” And they, they went to church without me.
And without, as it turned out, any further recriminations. And it was an early experience of taking a risk and setting a boundary. And in that case, succeeding.
Of course, as a child you don’t always succeed. And indeed, as adults, this continues to be a struggle. And even now, much later in life, setting any kind of a boundary often feels quite a risk to me.
I sometimes think about how people often talk about psychological safety. And the paradox of psychological safety is it’s only ever created when someone takes some kind of risk takes some kind of risk to have a conversation they might have avoided.
Often having the conversation – which often is about setting some kind of boundary – creates a different, I think potentially much more creative and healthy relationship. I also think of this in the context of my work on Unhurried, because it might sometimes sound as though, well, the practice of unhurried is always about being frightfully laid back and relaxed.
But of course, that’s not the case. If you, if you aspire to more creative human relationships you do sometimes have to take the risk and set a boundary. And many organisations are are in such a spin of, you know, to use the cliche, doing more with less; are working such long hours that people are being stretched to breaking point.
Rather than just going off sick, it would be healthier if they could somehow find a way to say no. Someone in the organisation has to say no to the frantic overwork, if they’re ever to have the space in which to discover the possibility of richer and more creative human connection.