An evening of taboos at The School of Life

An evening of taboos at the School Of Life

Last week I found myself invited to a rather unusual event. I arrived at the venue in the evening, where I was given a mask to hide my identity, then I descended to the cellar to meet a room full of strangers who were all wearing masks too.

It’s all starting to sound a lot like ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ isn’t it? Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, you have nothing to fear, dear reader, because it was an interesting evening of talking about taboos and money with a dash of philosophy and psychotherapy thrown in. Nobody had to shag Tom Cruise and it was all fine.

I’d been invited to an event at The School of Life, and it began with everyone being given a box of ‘Up!’ cards. Each card had a question on it, designed to spark meaningful conversations, and we started by randomly picking some ‘Speak Up!’ cards from the box. These were relatively gentle warm-up questions, for example:

  • What’s the most conspicuously expensive thing you own?
  • Complete this sentence: If I was running the country, my first act would be…
  • What’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told, and why?
  • If you had just one day to spend a million pounds, how would you spend it?
  • For the rest of your life, if you could either have good health or never have to worry about money, which would you choose and why?

It was interesting to hear people’s different thoughts, ideas and priorities. Also, their hopes and fears, and confessions of thoughts and behaviours we tend not to express – sometimes even to ourselves.

We were then treated to a presentation and discussion about taboos, money and life in general. Much of this centered around the history of the above, and the importance of being authentic and more open in our communications with others, as well as becoming a better listener.

There were more questions from the Up! cards interspersed with these discussions. The intermediate ‘Wise Up!’ questions were tougher, including:

  • Is it harder to find a job you love, or someone you love?
  • Would you rather have a sudden death or one that you knew was coming?
  • Complete this sentence: I envy my partner’s working life because…

We moved around the room and got to talk with new people each time. This was my favourite part of the evening, and I found that when we really got talking, quite a few people had had difficult or even shocking experiences in their lives, many of which I’d experienced myself and felt stigmatised by. Bad romantic relationships, cruel relatives, bullying bosses, grief, money worries, poor health, the works.¬†They’re taboo subjects, so we rarely discuss them, but if we don’t talk about them they have such great power to isolate us and drag us down.

Getting it all out into the open was a strangely uplifting, shared experience. We tend to put a vast amount of psychological energy into avoiding difficult topics or social embarrassment, so taking the brake off and allowing ourselves to be more vulnerable seems to unleash some extra power, usually for the better.

We ended the session by ‘Signing up’, each making a personal commitment for the future. Things always seem to go better when you have a plan, don’t they?

I was a guest of insurance provider AXA at The School of Life.

Similar Posts