My wife told me to edit this (too graphic). I didn’t – read at your own discretion.

Via Ben Ralston
on Aug 16, 2011
get elephant's newsletter

I had a pretty miserable childhood.

Don’t get me wrong: I was blessed with great parents who gave me very strong  foundations. But beyond that, I got a fairly tough deal.

Each and every school I went to Sucked. Yes – with a capital S.

Strange really because they were all private schools; or as we say in England (in a  typically counter-intuitive, oxymoronic kind of a way), Public Schools. The schools that  parents have to pay a lot of money to send their kids to.

So I supposedly had one of the best educations that money can buy! Sure didn’t feel like it though… and I suspect that education is not something that can, or should be, bought…


When I was six, we lived in Israel for a year. I didn’t speak a word of Hebrew when we first got there, and I didn’t know a soul, but the ‘teacher’ made me stand facing into the corner at the front of the classroom, all the Israeli kids behind me sniggering at the pale, dumb kid who even the teacher didn’t like.

My mother had to pick me up from hospital one day – I’d had my head cracked open by a rock-wielding Israelite. I must admit, I may have cast the first stone. But his was a lot bigger…

At the end of that year we moved back to England, and my ‘education’ began in earnest…


My first school back home: the ‘headmistress’ force-fed me (fairly violently) a particularly disgusting school dinner. I was about 8 years old I guess. To this day I would rather chew my own legs off than eat rice pudding.

Her husband, the ‘headmaster’, on a separate occasion punished me by taking me into his office – he closed the door, made me take my pants down, and bent me over his desk. He then beat me with a stick across my buttocks, gently. I suspect that he was playing with himself at the same time.

At that school, I had not a single nice teacher. Not one. There were only grey, lifeless, totally uninspired, empty-shell ghost-shadow excuses for human beings pretending to teach us. They didn’t teach. They stood at the front of the room and pointed their fingers, looking bored. The only thing to learn from them was that life is mindless, repetitive, and without joy.

When we, the children, mirrored their boredom, we were punished, usually by being given pages of ‘lines’ to write out as extra homework. Usually from the bible.

I would do my lines in bed with a flashlight so that I didn’t have to tell my parents that I’d been ‘bad’. One time my Father came in and caught me with a bible in bed (I’d managed to hide the paper and pen when I heard him coming). The memory of his face now makes me laugh. He obviously thought that his 9-year-old son was doing late night bible studies, and probably had visions of me becoming a priest!

He said something like:

Ah, you’re reading the bible, eh? Yes, it’s an, er… interesting book isn’t it?

Let me tell you – to a 9-year-old boy, the bible is anything but interesting. But I nodded and waited for him to leave so that I could finish my lines.


One day, when I was about 11, my mother told me she was taking me out of the school a year early. She’d enrolled me in a new school. I remember her saying to me somewhat apologetically:

You haven’t been happy here have you?

So I went to a new school for a year. It was much better. We had to travel a bit further each day to get there, but there were some nice teachers. Also, again, some very lifeless ones, but it was better. One of the nice teachers turned out to be a bit too nice though. He was the drama teacher, and he gave me the lead role in the school play: Hiawatha. He also invited me to his on-campus apartment where he played hardcore porn on his VHS and encouraged me to masturbate. He then sat in a chair slightly behind me, and masturbated himself…

I was afraid of him; fascinated by the beautiful naked women and the sex that he introduced me to; and deeply uncomfortable with the various situations that I kept finding myself in with him. But I didn’t tell anyone. Abused children rarely do.

He ingratiated himself with my parents by nursing my budding acting abilities (for which my Ma was grateful), and before I knew it he’d become a ‘family friend’. He’d come for barbecues and evening meals and I’d sit there inwardly squirming.


When I was 13 I went to high school, and for some strange reason I asked my parents if I could board there. I remember having fantasies of pillow fights and midnight snacks. I had two brothers 10 years younger than me, and perhaps I just craved the company of my peers. I don’t know. But the fun I had hoped to find wasn’t there. Instead there was an accepted culture of bullying and abuse that dated back to the dark ages – literally. Public schools in England are renowned for it.

The teachers weren’t so bad, although I can’t say that any of them were great teachers. They still seemed pretty bored.

Except one. Mr Green, an English teacher. I will never, ever forget that man. He was only there for a year, but he changed my life. In many ways, he probably saved it.

At that school every teacher had a nickname. All the nicknames were things like ‘Witch’ (the very creepy chemistry teacher) and ‘Buttocks’ (the geography teacher whose arse was so large that she had to go sideways through doors. No kidding. I went through a phase of having a crush on her so bad that I would sit with an erection through entire geography classes. If ever she asked me to stand up and come to the front of the class I had to will my penis to behave: not easy when you’re 13-years-old).

Mr Green had long sideburns, and his nickname was… ‘Sideburns’. I wondered at the time how he got away with such an innocuous nickname. Now I realize that it was a sign of our affection for him.

How else do teenagers say “I love you”?

To me he was like a pool of glistening water, an oasis in a burning sandy-hot desert. Going to his classes I was excited, inspired, engaged. He gave us books to read that I could understand and believe in, and he read them out loud with us, sharing his passion with us. Every word of his was measured, had meaning, and was offered elegantly, with a smile.

His eyes shone, and he would encourage us when we did well, and berate us when we were fools, but everything was done with love.

One day I found out that he was leaving to go to a better school. I remember vividly how I felt. Betrayed, distraught, abandoned. He was too good for me.

He left, and I was alone with the shadows for the rest of my time there.

One sentence of his haunts me (in a ‘friendly ghost’ way) to this day. I must have not done something that I should have done (apologized to someone for something?), and he asked me why not – why hadn’t I done it? I couldn’t answer him. And he said:

Ahh. You’re a moral coward

I think that I’ve been trying to prove him wrong ever since.

Isn’t that what a great teacher does? Every word and action transmits wisdom, and the world around them becomes a wiser, better place.

Every word of his was a stone dropped carefully into the pond of my young mind, and those concentric circles of compassion continue to ripple out through my life, even to this day.

If only there were more teachers like that, eh?


Please leave a comment, (even anonymously). And please share this – use the buttons below to ‘like’ it, Tweet it, Stumble it, email it… spread the love.


Abuse causes trauma. The trauma of abuse, until healed, causes countless problems later in life. Abuse is subjective, and therefore not always ‘obvious’ (i.e: sexual abuse). It can also be subtle, (i.e: lack of attention / affection from parents). Most people who suffer abuse tend to find themselves in a cycle of abuse. The good news is that it is very, very easy now to heal trauma, and break the cycle. And it is no longer necessary to talk about what happened (to relive the experience) in order to heal it. If you, or anyone you know, lives with the consequences of abuse or trauma, please contact me, because I can help (or tell them about Reference Point Therapy).


About Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston is a therapist, healer, advanced Sivananda Yoga teacher, and writer. His writings have been read by millions of people and can be found on Elephant Journal, Rebelle Society, and various other portals online. He has been teaching Yoga for 16 years in hotels, ashrams, beaches, gyms and rooftops worldwide. And he runs a busy international therapeutic practice from his home in rural Croatia. Offering sessions in person or via Skype, his therapeutic work is based on healing trauma, and the tools he uses for this are varied – mainly RPT, Shamanism, and energy work. He has also developed some of his own methods, particularly in the area of abuse trauma; ‘resource state’ awareness; and boundary reconstruction. He regularly runs retreats combining Yoga and other energetic exercises with his therapy. He would love nothing more than to see you on one of these retreats, since he believes that this approach to personal development is really the only effective way of bringing love and peace to global human society. Connect with Ben on Facebook. Read more of his writing on his new website with integrated blog! Yes, he's excited about that :)


67 Responses to “My wife told me to edit this (too graphic). I didn’t – read at your own discretion.”

  1. Keren says:

    Dear sweet Ben,
    Thank you for sharing your courage with us. Your honesty will inspire others to heal the hidden clouds away …
    Big hugs to you from warm and loving Sardinia!

  2. rachael says:

    I appreciate this. From the age of 7 til the age of 16 i was emotionally and physically abused by my mother who refused my father access. In those most important years of growing up I lost all my ‘growing up’ and now at the age of 30 feel like that 8yr old girl shaking on the bathroom floor. Lots of other stuff went down but its hard to find any support out there from others because my abuse was not sexual based. I suspect doing this now; being so blatant and honest is because this is just an outlet. However, I felt a sense of camaraderie of that feeling of abandonment and exquisite love in a teacher. Thank you and peace xx

    • Ben_Ralston says:

      The trauma of the abuse you suffered (and it sounds like it was very traumatic indeed) is like a cloud that obscures your vision. But the cloud is not you. It's just a cloud. When you heal the trauma, the cloud is gone, and there will be more light. I know, not only from my experience, but from working with hundreds of clients.
      We are meant to be happy and healthy, and without trauma, we are happy and healthy. Clear the trauma, and it all gets better – and for our children, too.
      With love, Ben

  3. Annmarie Alexander says:

    Refreshingly honest!!! Thank you!! Much love!!

  4. anonim says:

    I was sex.abused when I was 6… and Ben helped me ENORMOUSLY with Reference point Therapy. Really. When I started talking, it was like the energy in the room hugged me and he… listened. He was encouraging me, explaining and at the end, healing. That session was crucial for my travel toward loving myself. So today I have a wonderful bf and my sex life is… woohooo 🙂

  5. Kathy says:

    Another beautiful and heartfelt article. Kudos, Ben!! Love it.

    Thank you!!

  6. Ben, Yours are always some of my favorites to read on EJ, not only for the excellent articles themselves but also for how you always find a way to respond to some of the more "critical" comments with grace. This article was honest, sad and beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing such a personal story.

  7. Laura says:

    I feel sad for what you had to go through, Ben, but also realize (and you probably do as well) that because of all that you had to endure – your "education" – you are now so eloquently able to connect with those who are suffering and lift them higher. Thank you for sharing your story; I can't see you but I know there is a bright light in your eyes. 🙂

  8. Jessie says:

    This is a very good article. I wish everyone to be able to get through their tramas, and to have a mom as smart as mine as far as knowing about tramas. They are not fun, I was blessed to have a mother who explained to me at a very early age if someone did anything abusive in any way it wasnt my fault and that I had to tell someone, so when the moment happened I could stop it before it became a real problem. It is terrible that we have to go through things like this, and Im very happy that you are helping bring awareness, and help. I am thankful for your existence, and for those like you.

  9. Breda says:

    Well, BRAVO! I am honestly happy to read such truthful words…all our lives we hide from thoughts and memories of this kind of experiences…we hide from ourselves…becuse we have norms and moral obligations in society and speaking honestly about what you wrote is but a shameful act..bullshit! we all do it, we are all people, we all have some weird and painful childhood experiences… but we all denie it or avoid it…we are ashamed..i am grateful for your story… and i don’t feel sadness at all, mostly just “feeling stupid” – i also feel like this when thinking back…and i know why – because i couldn’t be myself, i always had to obey someone, be picture perfect for others and fill their wishes of me… and thats the “stupid” feeling 🙂 i am happy now and getting happier, just because all the schools and parents wishes didn’t screw me up too bad…and i found myself back… and that’s the point of your story for me…not the content so much, but the fact you said it outloud, didn’t hide and broke all moral icons and programs in our heads…there is nothing wrong. much love to you!

  10. Rich K says:

    Thanks for not listening to your wife. Censorship for the sake of protecting the population at large is silly. There is too much to learn from life to censor that which makes people uncomfortable. Obviously, your time with Mr. Green was well spent because it is clear that you have developed an ability to educate. Thank you for sharing your life. I hope that people can read this an see the parallels in their own lives, then make changes. Much love!

  11. Melissa says:

    dearest Ben,

    you are brave to tell your story to the whole entire world. so many of us haven't, don't and never will. people like you, Ben, are so important to those who are living with a secret and feeling alone.

    all with love,

  12. David says:

    loved this, thank you

  13. yogijulian says:

    brave, honest, i relate to a lot of it having gone to english church school too.

    this may be interesting:

  14. Jade Doherty says:

    Abuse is a strange one, I reckon everyone has at some point felt abused. With my own abuse stories, I feel like it was just enough to give me something to resolve, a reason to look inside and want to get rid of conditioning and ego positions, but not so much that I'm (totally) fucked up for the rest of my life!

    Thanks for sharing the personal stuff that usually gets hidden.

  15. Bret says:

    Good Shit Brother. Thank You.

  16. Tammy says:

    I see no need to edit this piece what so ever. It is about your life, feelings, experiences and abuse. There was nothing graphic here…only honesty. I feel there are so many stories like this out there that have never been told. It is important for the abused to tell it and claim their life and their joy. Once I started to tell my story (of abuse) it became easier, although it still gives me anxiety. It seems as though it might be harder for men. Men are taught at an early age, not to cry, to be tough and be men…not easy when you are just a little boy. Your teacher was schooled in pedophilia. I am sure you were not his first young boy. It would be nice to think that someone reported the man and he has spent time in prison. I am guessing that is not the case. Anyway…you did what children do, you survived and obviously flourished under pretty rotten circumstances. Your wife should be proud.

    • Stephanie Potter says:

      I just lost a very long comment. To edit my own, I would just say that I Agree, totally what you are saying. I'd like to add that in Western Buddhist Meditation Instruction and from New Teachers, we get a very condescending and diminishing response to something, as you say, we all share.
      And a reminder that for those without resources, safe space, and skilled guides ~ resolving trauma issues is nearly impossible.
      Thank you for your work, Ben.

    • Ben_Ralston says:

      Thanks Tammy. Please check out my website and blog for the healing information. One of the reasons I'm able to talk about this so openly is because I no longer have any anxiety or stress around my experiences of abuse. It's completely healed. Many people still think that it's not possible – that the victims of abuse are 'damaged' by it, but it's not true. We are not what happens to us – we are much, much more. What happened to us (the trauma) is just like baggage that we carried around ever since. It weighed us down a lot, but actually it's possible to let go of it, and then who we really are (pure consciousness) is shining beneath.

      • Linda says:

        This is so true. The baggage of shame, humiliation, etc. It is possible to not only unpack the bags but totally put them away. After countless hours of therapy, soul wrenching story telling, tears, anger, pain, I am free. Free of all that was heaped on me, not of me. Healing IS possible. Thanks for telling your story and being a conduit for healing. The shame is their's NOT ours.

  17. Asil says:

    I do not usually comment but today I feel compelled too I was abused when I was 7 my father went to confront the man and the said I was lying and my father said ok she reads too much it was probably her imagination I found out the man (a family 'friend' ) molested all my cousins who never told their parents. #years later my father came to pick me up and the man was in the car with my naked 2 year old sister in the car . I grabbed my sister and literally shook all the way home. as an adult i realise that my father was an alcoholic more concerned about his wants than his children . While he never molested us he never cared enough to protect us either. Thank you Ben for making me finally articulate my pain (btw you are married?lol) Today I am a teacher and because of my experiences I seek (or rather they find me) the children who are victims and as a teacher I am appalled at what your drama teacher did . Teacher student can never be consensual a child fears losing your approval even more than their parents and we educators know this that man was/is disgusting and at least you can now help us because of those horrific experiences Jah Bless!

    • Ben_Ralston says:

      Jah bless you too 🙂
      I'll say what I'm saying to a lot of people. I, and RPT, can heal abuse really easily. Check out my website and blog, and think about having a session or two – when we let go of the trauma, life gets more wonderful! Thank you for your honest comment. Love, Ben

  18. TMC says:

    thank you, ben! (editing the truth? no need! im sure the actual events were much more "graphic" than the ways in which you described them!)
    it's refreshing, inspiring and reassuring to see that someone can have traumatic events like this in their lives and still come out as leaders, creators and able to connect to so many ppl! for that. i am grateful!

  19. TMC says:

    (oh! random, off-topic question: is that a pomegranate tree in that initial picture?? lol)

  20. KWS says:

    Great article- thank you. 9 years ago as a HS teacher I reported an aid for very inappropriately touching a high school student in my Job Training program. I wrote down the students account and took it directly to my boss. Then I watched a system that is supposed to protect children, protect the aid instead. I never doubted the students account. The extent of action regarding the perpetrator was that he was removed from the work site and put on another site. When I saw the student the next day, he said a heart felt thanks. Then my contract was not renewed because I did not do my "paper work" adequately. I always thought this will come full circle.
    Last week nine years after the incident I saw that the aid, who had now become a teacher, was arrested for sexually assaulting a young man starting twelve years ago and lasting for several years. I called the lead investigator and told her I had another incident to add to her investigative list. We also discussed how the report I generated had never gone to agencies outside of the school system as it should have. At my deposition I gave names, positions of authority, and all the people I know who ended up with my report. This time the state attorney's office is handling the case that appears to be growing. And will look into how this perpetrator was so protected. And how all children who came in contact with the abuser were never protected.

  21. Patricia says:

    My God Ben, I don't even know what to say. You provoked sadness, anger, frustration in me, but most of all fear for my own children. I had a bit of this in the Israeli type abuse in Germany, because we where from Yugoslavia and the kids hated my sister and I, although we have a German mother and look like two little German girls. But in the old Yugoslavia, I have no such experiences, only a very, very hard and demanding school system, which I now cherish for my girls. Nevertheless, my heart goes out to you, and I wish that everyone that feels the way I do could counter all the bad stuff that happened to you. God bless you.

  22. So sorry to hear about your pain, Ben. Seems as though these events led you to the path you are on now–helping many others through their own trauma. Thanks for your honesty. Cheers to you!

  23. Tracy Betts says:

    Dear Ben
    I first read this post when you put it up on the 16th.I wanted to reply straight away, but wasn't quite sure were to begin. First of all, Thank You for posting the unedited version, [with all due respect to your wife!] Your bravery and openness to share your wounds, and declare your healing from these atrocious acts that you experienced, [yes, must confess my first emotion was anger at that monster drama teacher]is to be admired. Your openness is what makes you excel with your work. I have enjoyed most of the comments above, find it exciting that there is so much response to your article, and am horrified yet again at how much pain there is. HURRY UP and get out that book, you are going to be a tremendous help to so many people! Since I have discovered RPT, thanks to you, I feel right down to my bones that this is for me, and would also like to work towards being able to offer the therapy myself. Thank you, you have done this. So I will contact you through your email.The greatest gift of all is to feel that there CAN be an end to this misery, and the sun can shine again. Blessings.

    • Ben_Ralston says:

      Thank you Tracy – I'm deeply moved by your comment (as I have been, I must say, by many of the responses to this piece – not at all what I expected!) and appreciate your encouragement to write a book. I started it yesterday, and it's going well 🙂
      I look forward to receiving your email.
      Love, Ben

  24. Yesterday, while I was at work, my cousin stole my iphone and tested to see if it can survive a forty foot drop, just so she can be a youtube sensation. My iPad is now destroyed and she has 83 views. I know this is entirely off topic but I had to share it with someone!

  25. Thank you for sharing your words of encouragement to us.

  26. Thank you for sharing this post. Anyway's you have an extraordinary sense of humor. And do fair in your life.

  27. 21Lamrim says:

    I get it….Thank you for the article!
    I had an awful childhood with some similarities.
    It's not what happened to me… because it did and was awful…but how I interpreted it, then wove it into my life to single handedly set out to destroy myself.
    This is where forgiveness, acceptance and compassion comes in my situation, along with action to change everything about my old self. I now strive to be spiritually fit and look forward to become who I was intended. I am grateful for Buddhas teaching as well as the 12 Steps, Both have enabled me to see my delusions and character defects and gave me the tools to build a faith in something greater that me and help others too along the way.
    It's not an easy rode and certainly not as wildly fun but…Its peaceful and right.

    • Ben_Ralston says:

      Thank you for commenting Lamrim, and I congratulate you on your discipline, courage, and perseverance. I know it's not necessary though, because the peacefulness that you write about is reward enough for undoing the damage caused by recent generations of our ancestors.
      If you have unresolved trauma, I – or any other good RPT practitioner – can help. It's a very fast and easy way of moving past the past, once you're ready. Which you clearly are…
      With love

  28. yogimom76 says:

    Ben–Thank you. I don't even know you but I love you. Namaste wise self healer.

Leave a Reply