When most people enter my office they are suffering very deeply but they often have no idea why and even less idea that being uprooted may have something to do with it. Moving abroad, whether voluntary or involuntary, can be an absolutely life shattering event. It is a crisis in our lives characterized by a profound period of change, uncertainty and disorganization. It distances you from everything and everyone that you have ever known or relied on, every notion you have of yourself and every coherent story you have ever constructed about your life. It can rip into the very core of your sense of safety and security, leaving you feeling completely adrift in your own skin. It can render you temporarily or permanently homeless, friendless, speechless, jobless, without any community or family to support you for days, weeks, months, or even years. It can be the loneliest and most distressing experience in the world.
The role of a crisis in any journey is crucial, when successfully navigated new growth and consciousness can flower but without adequate internal or external resources to support us we are also greatly vulnerable to psychological disturbance. Each life crisis that we face involves weathering tumultuous internal storms as we grow out of a sense of the familiar and touch closer to deeper existential truths about the universe, truths about the processes we can’t control and the endings we must inevitably endure. A crisis is a painful time as our identity, our very concept of ourselves, must be reorganized and reborn.
This is the point when people living in Berlin usually pick up the phone to find an English speaking therapist. When they finally find their way to my office they are often in despair, plagued by totally overwhelming feelings such as fear, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and confusion. The feelings have slowly taken over, pervading themselves into life and shadowing any joy, excitement or purpose. Most of us can’t immediately recognize what is happening, moving countries, or a re-location, can be a journey full of excitement and new opportunities with so much to look forward to. But it is also a profound destruction of everything that we think we know and a time when everything must be rebuilt. This can be a challenge even for the strongest and most mentally equipped of us.
In the next series of blogs, I will be exploring the trauma of being uprooted, reasons why it affects all of us so differently and what a real process of healing, in any journey, consists of.
I am interested to know your comments of how the migration experience opened things up for you and how you got through it, especially if you had a therapy in Berlin or are an international expat.