William Fley, School of Psychotherapy & Counselling Psychology alumnus
It is January 2012; exactly 19 years after my time at Regent’s College. I was a recent arrival to London from New York.
I had arrived with my life in a suitcase knowing I would not want to return due to a series of traumatic events that left me feeling like an American refugee.
I guess many people have various reasons for starting again. This cross-road of my life at Regent’s College was an opportunity and challenge which I happily embraced. Although my old friends of uncertainty, fear and anxiety played a role in this process, courage, hope and excitement were the dominant themes of 1993.
Regent’s College turned out to be a mixture of positive surprises for me. Not only is the College set in the most beautiful open gardens in London, but the atmosphere was a great place to find inspiration. There was a great international feel about it and, most importantly, I did not feel alone.
I can now look back and assess some of my mistakes and accomplishments involved in the process of starting again. This is particularly useful since taking an inventory of my mental landscape and assessing what has gone wrong, is an invaluable tool for putting things right. It is also important to ascertain what I have done right and can be proud of. So I write this short piece with the intention that it may aid other people in remembering the best of them. And in particular, for people who have gone through life-changing events.
Looking back at that time of life I can compare myself now with what I was then – in particular what I have achieved and what I haven’t. And can examine how I measure success, happiness and even contentment. I think that in 2012, a time of global economic crisis and political changes around the world, more people will start to evaluate their values and what gives meaning to their lives. Many are worried about what the future may bring, and this anxiety is justified by global and national events. Education is now becoming more of an expensive luxury. And yet education is still – rightly – seen as the key to future success.
I ask myself what is there for me to learn, and to pass on to others, from this reflection at my time at Regents College. I acknowledge self-determination, dreams, and courage as my most valuable assets. And include also my sense of compassion and a need to help other people through their struggles in life. I think empathy is a skill and a kindness which we all can develop; and it is an under-rated tool which connects us to our humanity. Many people lose touch with this basic tool and this can lead to experiencing real difficulties in life. But essentially most people long to be understood and to be able to share their pain. And remembering and cherishing our best qualities and building up relationships that will enable growth is not that difficult to achieve.
Sometimes events happen in our lives that make us forget who we are, what we want out of life and what our greatest strengths are. We become lost in confusion and in trying to balance the many parts of our hectic and often difficult lives. Some of my biggest mistakes have been about comparing and measuring myself to other peoples’ place in life and their values. This is a common, though inherently faulty, way of thinking that in many ways is encouraged by society and a materialistic culture propagated by intensive and all-pervasive advertising. So at times we need to re-think and refresh our intentions towards life.
I have spent the greatest part of the last 20 years working in trauma, loss and bereavement. I qualified as a therapist, and have acquired numerous degrees, including two MA level qualifications. But at the end of the day what gives me the most satisfaction is the power therapy has to help peoples’ lives. At times this involves making sense of loss and helping others regain themselves and re-introducing them to their goodness, and that which makes them whole. Listening to the real life struggles and triumphs of other people is a very humbling experience. What resonates most in my work is how people can change and develop and find the resources they need to overcome disappointments, difficulties and traumatic events.
There are some threads that we all share as human beings, and one of them is suffering. It is something which can make us connect to one another and does not discriminate. I believe we are living in a time where we can all make a difference in each other’s lives and help to bring out the best in each other. I am convinced that it is a time to take stock of our lives, to question our goals and commitments, and to move forward and develop in a positive way that will help not only ourselves, but those around us and those who we care most about.