I have the distinction of coming bottom of my class British Studies BA (hons) 1984. I subsequently got a Master’s Degree in Psychology (California State University, Los Angeles, 1993) and a Ph.D in Educational psychology (UCLA, 2002). I now work as a psychologist in rural Australia.
I came to Brighton Poly very broken. There were chronic mental health issues in my family. I had learned to ‘pass’ as normal, playing a ‘role’ of a person but not being authentic. That was too dangerous in my family. I was not the only one in my year with mental health problems. At least one of my friends in Brighton had a nervous breakdown and another suicided. Mental health was not talked about then as it is today. I didn’t understand why I felt cognitively ‘frozen’ and emotionally panicked almost all the time. I was determined to get to the bottom of this.
After I graduated I was living in America with my husband and accessed the state university system which was then virtually free. I accessed ‘old school’ scholars who were not only grounded in their ﬁeld but read widely across philosophy, physics, astronomy, politics and social justice. Slowly I began to integrate who I was in relation to the world in which I lived.
It was a drive for authenticity that fuelled my career rather than a desire to escalate my professional status and income. In my work I meet a lot of clients who are inauthentic in order to ﬁt in rather than know themselves. This can have a devastating effect on their mental health and spill over into their family’s mental health.
It is vital that we all examine the spectrum of our own personality, consciousness and even neuroticism in order to ﬁnd, as Pablo Neruda said, “Our place on the porch.” Some of us are cut out to be corporate CEOs, some teachers, some poets and some carers.
The course I took at Brighton, British Studies, tracked the course of colonialism. We examined its philosophy, politics and literature as a systemic whole to understand how Great Britain perceived itself as ‘knower and authority’ and conquered peoples as ‘other’. We looked at how this evolving consciousness eventually fell apart as diverse voices took issue with the macro culture.
We had very strong faculty especially philosopher, Bob Brecher, who has the gift of being able to take students through an idea, to think critically and question both premise and conclusion. The recent commoditisation of education has seen focus on this kind of critical thinking diminish in exchange for professional credentials. The worst scenario here is we have a nation of technicians who neither think beyond their sphere, nor imagine the interconnectedness of systems which are there to serve people rather than the other way around.
The very best thing that Brighton gave me was the platform to question myself and the system in which I lived. This is a gift beyond a degree. It is a skill set for your life’s work.