Tuesday, May 26, 2015

On the Healthiness of Corners

I was born in 1952, like Mad Magazine, (that's my Alfred E. Neuman impersonation), in the days when corporal punishment was commonplace. My misbehaviors were often met with a threat, or a deliberate spanking. I'm sure I'm the better for it in some ways.  But the punishment I dreaded more, the punishment I believe was much more effective, for me, was simpler: kneeling in the corner.

"Go kneel in the corner" was a simple punishment, but very effective.  A bit of meditation, time to think about my actions, or in-actions, and their consequences. No one to talk to, all by myself. No chance for misbehavin' in the corner. If I was too energized to kneel in the corner, my father might stand behind me, making sure I didn't run away, giving my body time to settle. "Face into the corner. Think about what you have done."

Talking was no use.  The corner was for silence.  If I tried to talk, the answer was "no talking", or "we can talk about it after your time in the corner". Of course after my time in the corner, I had little interest in talking.

Only the corner to look at. Even if I closed my eyes, I could still see it.  My siblings, in the background behind me - playing, paying no attention. Me, stuck in the corner. I didn't dare move - spanking was the next level of punishment and only temporary a respite, because afterwards it was back in the corner again.

How long in the corner? I never knew.  It felt like forever, but I suspect my entire time in the corner was less than an hour or two. I had to stay in the corner until my mom, or dad, said I could go.  Had they forgotten about me?  Not allowed to talk, I couldn't ask. How long had I been here? Hard to tell... minutes seemed like hours.

What to think about? There was only one thing to think about: how did I get here?  I might place blame on my brother, or my sister, or my parents - but that got me nowhere.  I was the one in the corner.  The corner kept reflecting my focus back to me, giving me time and a reminder to reflect on myself, and my actions. My siblings were free to go, inside the house, outside playing.  And I was here, stuck in the corner.

I don't remember my parents talking to me about what I had done wrong.  Maybe they did, but I don't remember. I don't remember what I did - 50 years ago.  But I remember the corner.

When I got older, I was allowed to stand in the corner, instead of kneeling. Interesting, because I could sway left to right or back and forth.  This let my mind sway as well, considering different actions I might have taken, different choices.

Today, I have a healthy respect for corners.  Corners are everywhere. They exist where one side joins the other side. Edges are inside-out corners. Change happens in the corners, at the edges. One wall is marching along, and it hits the corner and turns. Change can happen when you are stuck in a corner as well. Corners are the end - as far as you can go. Corners are the opposite of freedom. If we want freedom, it is important to understand the opposites, and their logic.

If you've gone too far, you can find yourself cornered, stuck in a corner. Then what? Rushing away can be ineffective, take some time, ask yourself - how did I get here?  How can I avoid getting stuck here in the future?

Next time you are stuck in a corner, use it as an opportunity to reflect, to learn, to health yourself. Ask "how did I get here?"  "have I cornered myself"... My parents never put me in the corner - I did it all by myself.  What?  Me worry?

to your health, tracy
 Tracy is the author of two books about healthicine: