Emigration – Stranger in your own backyard?
Emigrating to another country is, for many, a wonderful opportunity. It can be matched by excitement and anticipation of a new beginning and yet once the practicalities of an international move are complete and you have arrived to begin your new life, there are often unexpected emotional and psychological responses that can primarily be explained in existential terms. For refugees or those who move to avoid dangerous or war-torn conditions, the desire for safety is interwoven with the sense of powerlessness of staying in their own country.
Even people whose first language is English find it surprising at how different it is to live in another country and they can become overwhelmed with feelings of loneliness, insecurity, nostalgia and a longing for what has been before. Contact may be deliberately increased with friends and family who are still abroad and discussions often focus on the practical realities of the change in an attempt to assuage the anxiety. However, deep within, there may be a much deeper yearning for ‘What was’ in terms of how ‘You experience yourself in the world’ – since you no longer feel comfortable in your own skin.
Emigration reveals the unfixed nature of our lives and the subjective reality of our lives, often overshadowed by collective cultural behaviours that hoodwink us into believing there is shared consensual experience. In emigrating, we come face to face with the reality that how we see ourselves and who we come to be, is unique and changing Whilst informed by social and cultural influences, we are in a culture of One.
If you are someone struggling with these existential realities – feeling alone, misunderstood and disconnected after emigrating and fearful of losing ‘what is’ and in entering the new world of ‘what is possible’, stop for a moment and take time out. If you can bear the anxiety of this journey and resolve within yourself the existential aspect of your being, you will not be buffeted by these and other changes in quite the same way; instead, despite the anxiety that meaningful living entails, you will live with choice and presence rather than distraction and fear.