The Trauma of Being Uprooted-Loneliness

Alienation is at the heart of the migrant experience and international relocation.  The word alien conjures up feelings of fear, bringing to mind something slimy and distasteful, foreign and disturbing. When you cannot express yourself or what you want, when you feel that no one is listening or interested, when you have no close friends or family, you begin to feel like you don’t have a place in this world, like an alien. From birth I had a card that enabled me to live in the US. Across the top in big blue letters was written “Legal Alien”. At least I was legal.

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Loneliness is an emotional response to feeling alienated and perhaps the most painful and intense of all human emotions. It can take on all the dimensions of being different, undesirable, rejected, and reviled, tapping straight in to our deep primal need for human closeness and nurturance. When you feel lonely you may become hyper sensitive to signs of love and connection around you, a couple kissing or a laughing family could feel like someone just put an axe in your back. Loneliness makes your inner world louder and more out of control. Voices in your head are no longer tempered by the soothing of familiar others, instead they are free to play into colossal fantasies and mendacious perceptions about the world around you, perpetuating a vicious cycle of further withdrawal and alienation. Loneliness is a slow death, a slow withdrawing from the warm furry world of mammalian nurturing into the cold reptilian world of survival.  When uprooted people start to look for an English speaking therapist, part of what they need help with is the loneliness and depression that they are encountering .  The common language then becomes the first step to making a bridge out of the intolerable inner world.

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