A photo that tells a transformative story

Being held by the other / Isle of Man 1987

Earlier this year, or was it last, I was doing a little bit of research on the New Thought movement and came across Gabby Bernstein

If you are familiar with Marianne Williamson you may recognise Gabby as the next generation.

I was checking my emails and came across one from Gabby’s team encouraging me to view her latest video training series.

She was encouraging people to tell and own their transformational stories. So here’s what I consider my first most significant transformational moment.

I was 16 soon to turn 17, I was in my bedroom and I took my flag down from its holder outside my window.

It was the Northern Ireland (NI) flag

Now I don’t know what you know about Northern Ireland. A simple guide would tell you there are 3 communities,

  1. Northern Irish Protestants usually Unionists ( wanting to remain part of the United Kingdom (UK))
  2. Northern Irish Catholics usually Nationalists ( wanting to unite with the Republic of Ireland (ROI)
  3. Everyone else who doesn’t fit in 1 or 2

Communities 1 & 2 have a flag that denotes their allegiance and for group 1 it is the NI flag, as above. If you are following you will now know that I was part of community number 1.

You may not know that between 1969 and 1998 there was a violent conflict between communities 1 & 2 which resulted in the deaths of over 3000. This was within a population of just over 1.5 million.

Somehow I developed a football fan like zeal for my community to the point that I saw community 2 as the enemy.

I was forefront in any local political protests and was determined that we would not be beaten, “No Surrender” had been our cry since 1689.

I rarely mixed with community 2 and viewed its members with suspicion and antipathy. It was not a healthy way to live for a 16-year-old.

There had been a long-running dispute in my town over the right of Orangemen ( a Protestant fraternity named after William of Orange) to walk through a Catholic / Nationalist area to Church. This became a battle about who was the boss and I was determined that we would win. I listened to the rhetoric of our leaders and believed it.

On the day they accepted a compromise I had a crashing teenage realisation that political leaders meant what they said one day though not necessarily the next.

I was so disillusioned that I left the protest went home climbed the stairs to my room, opened my window and took down my flag.

Looking back I believe I went so far into the political ideology that when tested I fell through it. Like a man who thought his wall was solid only to find when pressed up against it, he fell through it into a much larger world.

Somehow through the experience, I realised that holding such an extreme belief was not worth the sacrifice of diminished life.

Within a few day, I took an opportunity to leave NI and work in the Isle Of Man.

It was while in the Isle of Man that people from the Republic of Ireland gave me assistance and in so doing became friends. This new world meant I could be friends with those who previously had been my enemy. It felt so good to be free of hate and discover the humanness of the other, what Gabby would call transformative.