“ELSEWHERE” AND THE STRANGER INSIDE.

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 LITTLE PSYCHOLOGICAL ISSUES AND TIPS TO FIND, SO FAR AWAY, YOUR HOME.

By Alessia Ghisi Migliari, Psy.D.
 

“Elsewhere” can be a choice. Sometimes, simply, you must live “Elsewhere”. It is maybe a magnificent place, the retirement’s Heaven, the experience of youth that you’ll remember with nostalgia. Or the bend you are drawing in your days, because you are brave and curious. But something is quite sure: Elsewhere is both beautiful and distressful.

Italy’s stereotypes include great art, history, landscapes, wine and food (true). They include happy laughing caring people full of joy (not so true or anyway a little exaggerated). I leave the bad stereotypes to your judgment. It is not an easy country, nor linear or simple to understand.

Its people are more articulated, its bureaucracy is a mental strength proof; and the worlds of job, opportunities and the possibility to give chances to the talent are not so real. This is why a lot of young people go abroad.

But you are here, and I hope you are doing well.

The problem is: Elsewhere is anyway another land. You can find it a good challenge, but it can disappoint you.
Each of us has an identity. Each of us is unique. But there is a multitude of variables that have created this “being unique”.

Our roots are the first, it doesn’t matter if we like them or not. Our families, their history, the geographical and psychological reality in which we become us: well, they matter. So when we find ourselves in another planet - yes, planet - we can have a mixture of feelings and emotions and expectations.

Loneliness usually arrives. We miss our parents or family members; our friends; our boring streets; the little things, the ones which give a sense of being safe. And our language. I am a psychologist. I am a writer (in Italian, of course!). I am a photographer (“Photography” means “Writing of light”). Language is a very important issue: it shapes our thoughts and ability to express us as human beings.

I remember a neuroscience’s research in which it is showed how an instrumental composition (no words) can suggest the nationality of the composer. Because language is a music - poetry is the proof.

So, if you are so far away, you can miss your music and you need it.

Here in Italy, unluckily, teaching “enough” English is not usual. If you can’t talk, you can feel alone. You are glad to learn a new language, but it takes time. In the meantime, you walk in a sort of silence (or you can use gestures, something we sometimes use a lot!).

Other feelings which usually affect the foreigner who come here (I’m talking of the not pleasant ones) are the frustration in dealing with another culture, and the difficult art to learn living in an unknown big square with the loss of direction.

And so, which is healthy, you make contact with other expats, to try to understand what to do, where and when. To feel you as a member of a group.

We have a lot of papers for each thing, and being organized is not our big quality. Believe me: it is hard for me/us too.
And if you can’t interact, you can’t enjoy a lot of nice activities. And the possibility to be part of this world too. Being citizens of the world, member of more than one country, not only someone in Elsewhere.

Plus, we have to consider that, like all the rest of the globe, here too there can be racism: it is usually linked to fear, not knowing the other and his/her way of living, and so on. This makes frustration worse. And then there is the saddest feeling... perceiving that you are not really and deeply part of the place where you live. You don’t belong to it. It does not belong to you.

We need this sense for our identity’s integrity. Belonging to our ground. It is like being divided in two, two worlds. It is a sort of being broken, without home, if I can explain it in this way. It happens often. So it could be a good idea to think about the possibility of some professional figure who could help you. Ok: I am a psychologist - “the usual Italian who wants to promote her activity?”. Do you want the truth (ok, we are down to Earth)? Yes, of course I would like to promote myself.

But because there is an ethical mindset in each person, I’m writing this to be honest.

You don’t need a psychologist because you are in Italy.
You can be totally happy with this choice.
You can find your complete relief in exchanging ideas and meeting with other expats.
You can prefer to learn, to meet friends and do on your own.
I am telling you that we are not necessary for a big part of you.
But we can be useful to others. And they are the ones who are feeling the emotions listed above. The ones who are not able to escape these very same emotions.
We could be a bridge for them. A bridge between two planets.

You can talk with your general practioner (G. P.): despite in Italy psychology and psychotherapy are more often a private reality (psychiatry is another field, and more linked to the Health System), your GP can give you information about places in which both these figures can be free or very cheap. Then, considering the waiting times and other peculiarities, you can choose freely. Or you can decide to make contact with one of us who works in English, online or not. Please, remember that you need an Italian Fiscal Code Card, usually given when you live here.

The key point is this: if you are struggling inside with a sense of loss, with the sensation of being stuck in a place which is not ideal, or you feel lost and lonely and the aid of other expats is not enough for you, it could be useful (if you can’t or if you don’t want to return to your country) to search help. Your GP can help you.

A psychiatrist is obviously a doctor who can prescribe also medicines. A psychotherapist is usually a psychologist who has taken a specialization (there are a lot of different schools) and often they deal with more complicated or pathological cases.

A psychologist (like me) is: Well, it is hard to explain these nuances, because it is different from the roles you know. I think that a Psy.D. (Doctor of Psychology) is similar to what you call “counselor”. We study five years of University, gain practical experiences and then pass a state licensing exam - after this, we decide if we will continue to specialize, or to choose a psychotherapy school. This is in brief, to underline the differences.

Anyway, all these figures are in a list (it is mandatory), the “Albo”. Each region has an Albo that you can find online. Please, check that the person you have chosen is listed in it, to be sure he/she is a professional. 

So, these lines have simple tips for the lonely ones, living in Elsewhere. For the others, I hope you will enjoy the wonderful Mediterranean light that you can appreciate only in Alma Tadema’s paintings.

That light is more powerful when you find it inside. And, if it happens, Elsewhere becomes home.
 
Dr. Alessia Ghisi Migliari offers psychology consulting and therapy services in English. Her web site is vivida-mente.com
 

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