Learning from life

Counselling in Twickenham

Long before I became a counsellor or therapist, I learned about other human beings through my work, travels and experiences around the world. I have been an explorer, anthropologist, teacher, youth worker and one-time finance officer at Kew Gardens. But I think I'd have to go way back to my childhood to understand where this journey began. As a counsellor, I cannot reveal too much about myself, because it would get in the way of my relationship with clients. But I can share some of my experiences here to give you some insight into what I have learned from life to help me in my career as a counsellor at Counselling In Twickenham (also counsellors Whitton area).

To some extent I need to remain an impartial observer, and take a neutral position I so that my clients do not get too involved and feel free to focus on their own affairs. In some senses it is important to remain a blank screen, when we begin individual therapy so that clients can feel safe enough to bring any issue and not feel judged. However, I also feel it is valuable for clients to get some sense of who I am and the experiences that have shaped me as a therapist. After all the relationship between us will need to be based on mutual trust and respect. And for a client to know they will feel comfortable working with me.

Mostly, I suspect clients want to be understood. For this reason is is essential to have enough life experience to appreciate a client's struggles at work, in school, with their families, children and partners. Equally, it may be an important part of the process for clients to know their counsellors are able to challenge them and the choices they make. It may be sufficient to know that I too have had my conflicts and that I do not try to represent myself as the finished article. I am able to make mistakes as much as the next man or woman. And despite my qualifications I can be down-to-earth and communicate in a way which is easy to understand.

It is my journey that has brought me here. As a child, one of my most powerful memories is sitting entranced and staring wide-eyed at an Atlas, with various world maps, images of wild creatures, local people and historic buildings situated in the around the globe. I also recall some old black and white photos of people in far flung regions, performing local rituals and customs in an old 1930s Encyclopedia. I was also fascinated by the stories of Dr. Livingstone searching for the source of the Nile, the plant hunters at Kew Gardens, Scott of the Antarctic, Darwin's voyages in the Beagle and the conquest of the Aztecs by Cortes in South America. Not that identified with their lust for power or to dominate others. It was more an endless source of fascination, curiosity and a longing to belong somewhere else. As a child I remember feeling a bit of an outsider myself being from a different culture, as well as wanting to fit in when I needed to, like a social Chameleon. I dreamed about growing up as an adventurer travelling to distant lands, eating exotic food, and participating in strange rituals.

I loved films like Jungle Book, The of Snows of Kilimanjaro and Tarzan of the Apes. I had a special affinity with the wilderness. So I used to sit for hours tracking with my tiny index finger across the map, replaying these images in my head of exotic locations, ancient monuments, hidden jungles and lost civilisations. For me it was a world of awe and wonder. A retreat from the mundane reality of everyday life. I also felt a special affinity with people who were lost and wounded souls themselves. I often remember wanting to heal the wounds of others, while sensing my own. You might call it empathy, but like most human beings I also remember causing distress and pain to others. As well as finding myself in conflict with others and needing to find resolution.

For me life was a constant process of rupture and repair. Looking back, despite my troubles, I was also aware of the desire to be better. Occasionally, I found support in teachers, friends, mentors and inspirational elders like my grandfather. These people will probably never know how much impact they had on me, probably because for them it meant very little. But they are the people who I have internalised as my guides. I carry them with me for consolation, challenge and guidance. The thing is, without knowing it, I have always sought out people I wished to learn from; as well as having an abiding sense of motivation to share my stories and experiences with others. The most interesting thing I learned was how so many 'ordinary people' had led such extraordinary lives, even when they weren't aware of it.

In New Guinea I lived in the Trobriands and studied the infamous island sorcerers. I was also present for the Yam festivals and the mass slaughter of pigs for the feasts which took place over many days. I attended the mortuary feast of a chief from a central village on Kiriwina. And when I travelled to the mainland I witnessed spirit seancés in the men's longhouses that took place between the spirit mediums and those who were possessed by ancestral spirits. I witnessed songs and beautifully choreographed dances by men dressed in masks, body paint and head-dresses made out of bird of paradise feathers. It was a really awe-inspiring, but also quite dangerous, as ceremonies could often erupt into disputes and violence between rival clans.

At the turn of the millennium I travelled to Brazil and found myself work as a senior coordinator of a language school. I also travelled around that vast country during my breaks and participated in the rituals and festivities of an old slave religion known as Candomblé. It was part of a spiritual revival among African Brazilians which included spirit possession, initiation ceremonies, spirit surgery and animal sacrifice. I was in my element. I now focus on my practice at Counselling In Twickenham, where I also offer clients nearby when looking for counsellors Hounslow areas. Counselling is offered to a wide diversity of clients from different social backgrounds, genders, ages and cultures.

I offer individual counselling and psychotherapy in Twickenham areas. If you live in Twickenham, Whitton, Hounslow or Isleworth please consider contacting me as a counsellor for your initial consultation.