This research project explores Aga’s (name has been changed to protect anonymity), a migrant from Poland who moved to the UK in 2014, lived experience of moving to and living in a new country. Aga shares her experience of moving from her country of origin, Poland to the UK, what her difficulties were at the beginning and during the time she has lived here, and her motivation to stay.
Phenomenological enquiry through the form of relational interview was held at SOUTH LAKELAND MIND in Kendal. The interview reveals emerging themes of
- It wasn’t easy
- I feel frightened
- I feel angry sad and disappointed
I have chosen to use these themes to help describe Aga’s lived experience when she first moved to the UK and during this period of time she has lived here. The research highlights the difficulties that she had during this period, what was useful for her to integrate in the new culture, what she learned from this experience, what she changed for herself and also what she lost and what she gained during this process.
As a trainee psychotherapist in Transactional Analysis, I am required to undertake phenomenological research as part of my studies. I have chosen this this particular subject because it is one that is close to my heart having myself moved to the UK from my home in Romania in 2014.
Aga was a complete stranger to me until the moment I contacted her by telephone. Her contact number was given to me by a polish friend of mine who was a colleague of hers at the hotel that she has been working at since her move to the UK four years ago.
As it has been four years since I moved to the UK as well, it felt like the interview brought up in my awareness the parallel processes and difficulties that I have had during my time in the UK.
The Literature Review proved to be difficult because there are not so many studies made upon the phenomenology of this particular experience. However, the work on Trauma and Migration by Meryam Scouler-Ocak (2015), gave me information relevant to this project along with various other studies which point out that the rate of PTSD is higher amongst refugees and asylum seekers than in the normal population. In a study conducted in Germany, Igel et al. (2010 in Scouler-Ocak, M. 2015.) demonstrated that:
“43,4% of immigrants were frequently exposed to experiences of discrimination, regardless of their specific country of origin. At the same time, in the group of migrants originating from former states of the Soviet Union the researcher found a relationship between these experiences of discrimination and mental health.” (Igel et al. 2010 in Scouler-Ocak, M. 2015.)
Wirtgen (2009 in Scouler-Ocak, M. 2015.) reports that: “
The majority of refugees and asylum seekers are in a very poor physical and mental condition when they arrive in the host country.” (Wirtgen. 2009 in Scouler-Ocak, M. 2015.).
Various studies point out that the rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is around ten times higher among refugees and asylum seekers than among the general population of the host country (Meryam Scouler-Ocak, 2015)
I need to take in consideration that Aga’s decision to move in UK is based mainly on economical considerations, however I do not want to discount the situation she was in at the moment of interview, when she was alone and having to deal with life on her own, which may possibly be traumatic for her.
Also, I have used Helena Hargaden and Charlotte Sills (2002) work on Cultural implications on the transferential relationship, and the work of Basel van der Kolk and Alexander McFarlane (1999) on the effects of overwhelming experiences on the mind, body and society.
I think it’s important to mention here the problems of characterizing the nature of trauma:
“Central to the experience of traumatic stress are the dimensions of helplessness, powerlessness and the threat of life. Trauma attacks the individuals sense of self and predictability in the world” (Basel van der Kolk and McFarlane 1999)
The overall theme to this research is: Aga’s lived experience of integrating in the new country she has chosen to live in.
However, in carrying out this piece of work, I also found information about:
- Trauma and migration
- Rethinking Trauma as a global Challenge
- Polish migrants and their families
- Impact of immigration on mental health
The research was conducted by way of qualitative research in form of phenomenological enquiry.
I have used the work of Linda Finlay (2011) to create in my mind an idea about what this type of research “The descriptive phenomenological approach” is. Finlay (2011), describes the nature of the phenomenon being studied in a broadly traditional, normative and scientific sense. The aim of taking a phenomenological approach is to describe the structure of experiences and the manner in which they are given in consciousness.
“It does not attempt to interpret meanings by bringing external theory to bear” (Finlay 2011).
Also, I liked the idea of Phenomenological Attitude which:
“Is one of the more ,if not the most significant dimensions of phenomenological research’’ (Finlay, 2011)
In this period of time after the interview and until the moment I started writing the piece of work, I have given myself time to dwell on what I felt and think about the interview and during the interview.
I conducted an interview which lasted for 51 minutes. Even if at the beginning of the interview I had a structured idea and questions, during the interview I felt like I needed to be more flexible in my approach and gave Aga the space and time to reveal her lived experience.
I booked a therapy room at MIND in Kendal for two hours. Because Aga was 30 minutes late for the interview I felt a pressure on myself to be more effective and direct during the meeting with her. However, she was happy and excited to be part of this research.
After the interview I checked out with Aga if she needed an extra therapy session following the interview, but she confirmed that it was not needed because she was feeling ok and quite happy to be part of this research and hoped that the problems faced by all of the people who are coming here to the UK from other countries will be seen differently in the future, because of this work.
I started the interview by running through the ethics of this project (See Ethics section of the project). The interview started with Aga telling me the year when she moved in UK and the motivation around her decision. I used open questions, phenomenological questions and empathic questions when needed.
I transcribed the interview myself, which proved to be a more difficult task that I expected it to be because of the language barrier. I am Romanian, and she is Polish, and we are talking in English which is the second language for both of us. I have listened to the interview several times as well reading the transcript a few times. Also, I wrote on different pieces of paper the themes that emerged one at a time and while listening to the interview and reading the transcript just filled in under the themes found, what I thought might be important for this piece of work.
Also, I wrote on different pieces of paper the guidelines that were given to me during the training so that I could read them and follow them all the time. I gave myself a lot of time to think and to feel during this process so that I could find what was important for this piece of work.
During this period of time I studied a few models of research that I have found in Counseling and Psychotherapy research brochures and looked at other pieces of work online.
During this period of time I asked the support of a few colleagues from my training group, also my therapist and my supervisor, because this is the first I have carried out a piece of research and because lot of the time I felt like I had no direction to go with the work.
The Co-researcher is a 31-year-old Polish woman whom I met for the first time on the day of the interview. Following our discussion about ethics at the beginning of interview I needed to take some steps to protect her anonymity. Because of that I have agreed with her not to use her name during the recorded interview or in any other circumstances.
I also respect her wish of the paper not to be published offering additional protection for her. Throughout the research process, data was stored carefully and confidentially, and the recorded interview shall be erased upon completion of this piece of work.
I obtained overall consent from Aga regarding this piece of work at the beginning and prior to conducting the interview. She was aware that she is a volunteer in this research and could withdraw from it at any time. We discussed about Aga having good support after the interview and I offered her a free session with a psychotherapist after the interview if she needed it.
I also agreed with Aga that I will let her know the mark that I will get for this piece of work as soon as I find out myself. I agreed that I will do that by phoning her or by sending a text message in case that she can’t answer the phone.
I have chosen to focus upon particularly strong themes that I felt that emerged in the interview with my co researcher. The themes emerged from my co researcher’s description and comparison of her lived experience in Poland and UK. First is the feeling of “safety” that my co researcher has here in UK, in particular how she feels when she needs to solve problems in institutions such as a bank. Another theme that strongly occurs is the “language barrier”. When she moved to the UK this was a problem that was very present for Aga. During the interview she told me how she attempted to overcome this problem, so she could integrate into the community. Another strong theme that emerged was ”Integration”. Within this theme Aga told me how she organized her life in the UK. And finally, Aga’s inner lived experience, the feelings that she has living here IN UK. All of these themes are interconnected.
HER LIVED EXPERINCE, THE FEELINGS THAT SHE HAS LIVING HERE UK:
“I’m angry and disappointed”.
In this section of the research I will focus on what my co researcher feelings were, related with her experience here in UK, and how are those feelings are manifested in the body.
During the interview I asked her about her feelings that are connected with her life here in UK. She stated that she is angry and disappointed with people from her country and how they behave. I asked her about these feelings :
T39 “Where do you feel that feeling of anger, if you pay attention at your body where do you feel that feeling in your body?”
C39 “All my body, in my chest, in my head.”
C40 “I feel stressed because of it”
I also asked her about the feeling of disappointment and if she wants to say more about those sensations that she has in her body and how living with that stress is impacting her:
C52 “Ah, feels a bit like you would have to start a fight with someone, like a preparation for it and it’s very tiring”.
Having to move from her country in another country is stressful and tiring which felt for me like she is using a lot of energy to keep everything together, almost like a battle for survival. I realized that she is cutting off from whatever she feels in the body as a coping mechanism and didn’t want to go deeper. Considering this, I honored her defenses and didn’t pressure her to go into those feelings.
“I feel frightened”
In this section of the work I will focus on what is the co-researcher’s sense of safety and how she manages those feelings associated with safety.
When considering safety, I think that comparing how safe she feels here in UK with how safe she feels or felt in Poland helped her to be more decisive about whether she wants to live here in the UK. She told me about the trip to Poland that she made with her boyfriend since she moved here to the UK, and how they were robbed at an exchange office. She feels that during and after the incident, she wasn’t offered many choices and she did not trust the authorities to solve the problem
C30 “I went with my boyfriend in Poland once and we had to exchange money there and we were kind of robbed there”
C31 “But as I know that the police cannot do much about that in Poland I decided to not complain, to not report this because we will just lose time during our stay”
When she told me about this event I had a good sense of what safety is like in Poland for her and about her decision not to call the police to help them solve the problem. This was a reminder for her about how careful she needs to be at every step in her own country and also about the amount of stress that she was under while she was living in Poland.
C32 “It showed that I need to be careful with every step where I go there because I never know who will appear there, the police and the company are so different there ,you need just to know everything, every single thing there to feel safe, to protect yourself, family and friends because on every step you can slip’’
Another aspect that came up strongly for me and is related with her sense of being safe is how much contact she has with the rest of her family from Poland. Unfortunately, in the period she was in the UK she lost two close members of her family and now she has only her mother left which makes her feel very lonely and abandoned.
C102 “I’m like on my own really and only have my mom”.
Hearing her saying that felt really sad for me, and I got a huge sensation of loneliness inside and all around her, an almost overwhelming sadness which probably is a great weight for her. Probably, the geographical distance between these two countries makes the feeling of loneliness even more intense, because is not so easy for her to have a direct contact with her mother and the rest of her family and friends still living in Poland.
Living within this context at the moment has a huge impact on her and on how she feels in the world.
C103 “Sometimes frightening’’.
If I think at the current situation the she is in at the moment of the interview, having just moved into a flat on her own, and having a job as a cleaner which is not well paid, then I can understand why she feels frightened and that life is not easy, and her future is not clear. I can also empathize that with that comes a feeling of heaviness in her life.
C104 “As I’m not sure that I’m able to afford for myself everything I wish, sometimes I feel lonely”
The financial insecurity is a big problem for Aga, not being able to afford the life that she would like to have. In her financial insecurity and feeling of loneliness, her future feels very unclear to her, which I sensed as a feeling of helplessness which was difficult for Aga to tolerate.
I was touched by Aga’s words and felt a bit sad hearing of her feelings of loneliness and isolation. The only comfort and support that she has had and has at this present moment is just being in contact with a very few friends. My feeling was that she has a strong character, who is very determined and will go forward no matter what life brings up for her. She has the ability to use the resources that she has to hand.
C108 “I got some English friends here for now or foreign friends as well, so my life is starting to look a bit similar as my life before in Poland anyway, so I feel now quite comfortable.
Having friends in the UK seems to me to be a way Aga has found support with the stress of day to day life. Being involved in these friendships keeps the loneliness and fear away, however, it felt for me like she was really sad because of being in this situation on her own without her friends and family from at home in Poland.
C105 “I think is nothing much to say really as I’m on my own and I don’t have family so, this is how it feel, during situation like that, I guess try to keep friends close, or visit them sometime, to not make them feel like that as well so think we are helping each other.”
It felt for me in this moment that she realized how difficult it must be for other friends of hers from Poland to be so far away from home and how important the contact is in dealing with these powerful feelings that she is having to experience right now. Also, it seems to me that she is starting to accept the reality that she feels alone, that she has no family here and that she needs somehow to overcome this situation by being involved in friendships in the UK.
I asked her life would have been so frightening and isolating if she was in Poland. By comparing the situation in her own country with life here in UK she helped me understand that she feels better here in her current situation than she would if she was experiencing the same circumstances in Poland.
C107 “As I mentioned before. In my country it is much harder to trust to someone, it is much harder to get a better job, so I probably would do the same or worse’’.
It felt for her like she has chosen to stay here because at least here the stress of day to day life is not as big as it is in Poland. The stress of finding a job is greater in Poland. In the UK, the trust that she can invest in other people is greater.
“Now is quite easy, now is ok I’m happy to talk in English”
In this section I want to focus on how she managed her life around other people when she needed to learn another language in order to integrate into the new culture, and how she managed to get the feeling of belonging here where everything was new.
Overcoming the language barrier is a big part in the process of integration and I wondered how it was for her to be here in UK and having to speak a new language. She gave an insight about how is it for her now after 4 years of living and working with people whom are talking another language.
C75 “Now is quite easy, now is ok I’m happy to could talk in English, still learning, as I can talk better now I’m able to find more topics which are interesting for both of us, we are able to joke with each other a bit more, I couldn’t understand some things as the jokes are all about the culture really”.
However, this was not her experience in the early days when she moved here. It felt for me like the language was something that she needed to work on quite hard because she had problems connecting with people and so she did this one step at the time.
C77 “I didn’t feel any connection with the people I was working with, before”.
Aga helped me understand what was difficult for her related with how she talks and communicates in English.
C79 “I might say something in the past what it was ok to say in Poland in polish, and this might be understood differently, it might be even rude sometimes, the way of saying things is very important here, I think the construction of sentences is a bit different here if you want to be polite, so that was difficult to understand for each other. so, I had some not so pleasant situations in the past with people because of a lack of understanding”.
For me, what I felt was useful for her, is that she gave some space and time to understand the new culture and the new people she encountered at work and lived with. By allowing people to have the time to understand her as well, she could start to connect with them. I think this aspect is so relevant because I think language is fundamental to allow people from another culture to connect with people from the host culture.
The other aspect that I think is important here is how she got to the feeling of belonging and connection with the people from the UK, especially at the beginning of her journey here.
C80 “Understanding from their side and from my side after we know each other a bit better the situation got better”.
To help to understand even better the difficulty with language barrier she gave an example of another friend of hers who just moved to the UK from Poland a few months before the interview I had with Aga and is having the same difficulties that Aga had at the beginning, such as understanding English humor and politeness.
C81 “I see similarity with my friends life, as I work with someone who just came here from Poland and even she knows the English much more better than I could know at the beginning and she is still struggling to understand the jokes, the kind of humor, the context of things which have been said, and very often need to explain it to her, what it means and very often this is not funny for her though as well”.
It felt for me at this point that she was a bit angry because her friend and other people like her need to go through the same process of learning and understanding the new culture they are living in. However, she keeps her anger under a smile and irony directed towards herself almost like it is hers or her friends fault that they were born in Poland.
C82 “Because she was raised in a different culture and she doesn’t know many things about the current culture where she lives”.
In this moment it felt for me like she is accepting the fact of reality that she and her friend and other people like them need to learn the differences between these two cultures and the English they knew when they moved here was not enough to allow them to connect with English people.
INTEGRATION IN A NEW COUNTRY:
“It wasn’t easy”
In this section I want to look at what Aga did and how she managed her life in order to integrate into a country that she moved into 4 years ago.
Aga came to the UK in February 2014 at her boyfriend’s invitation Her intention was to stay here for only 3 mounts, so she didn’t put too much thought in to how to integrate. This felt for me like she viewed coming to England as a long holiday, where she could explore a new country and have new opportunities .
I’ve asked Aga how it was for her to move from her country of origin Poland, to the UK. How it was to move from somewhere that feels safe and stable to another country where she doesn’t know anyone other than her boyfriend.
C10 “I haven’t been thinking that deep on the beginning as I was supposed to be coming back to Poland after three months. That was the first idea, but just that I know my boyfriend and because of him I decided to stay here.”
I’ve asked her what feelings she experienced after she moved here.
C14 ‘’Now I can say that I miss my country as a whole, my friends, my family and yes I wish to be there but the same I wish to live here”.
Her answer felt for me like she was sad because of the need to separate and choose between her family and friends and her country and somewhere which is completely new and unfamiliar.
Her life after she moved in UK was difficult and there were many uncertainties about the future. It felt like for me that she was sad because she had to choose between staying in Poland where are her family and her friends lived, and UK where she can make a future for herself. I asked her how that feels for her, on one side wanting to be in her country with her family and friends and on the other side wanting to be here?
C17. “Sometimes it is more difficult, because some difficulties come up during living here but I know that the same could happen over there so after I thought that out it doesn’t worry me that much anymore. I don’t see many possibilities for myself in my own country, so this is why I have chosen to stay over here and try to organize my life over here because I think is better for myself”.
In the last period prior interview, she had some difficulties having to reorganize her life again after the end of the relationship with her boyfriend, a situation which felt like for me brought up some more stress for her because her boyfriend was the person who helped her in the first place when she moved here to the UK. I asked her how she is reorganizing her life here and for me it felt like she was hiding her sadness under a laugh.
C18. “Am slowly he he,he!”
C19. Yes, actually I broke up with my boyfriend like three mounts ago and I had to a reorganize my plans and I had to think again what I really want to do, so it wasn’t easy, but after I thought of everything positive and negative the balance told me that I should be here still.”
Another aspect that I think is important to mention here is how in order to integrate in the new “world” she has to give up something form her identity as a polish woman and learn new ways or the identity of the new culture she is living in. I’ve asked her how she was impacted by having to move from her own country to another county from one culture to another culture. I wondered what it was like for her.
C21 “I probably not able anymore to be me, to say I’m polish”.
The reasoning for that was that after she moved here with her English boyfriend she got used to doing things differently, learning from the new culture and people around her.
In this process of integration, for example she learned that people deal in a different way with stress in the UK than they do in Poland. While here in UK people can smile and look at the positive side of things and how they could solve a problem, in Poland people complain about the situation about life, and about others.
C23. 2Am here everyone can smile even when they don’t, when, when, they life is hard, they trying to do for positives, in my country everything is all the time bad, everyone complains all the time.”
What she learned is that people have a different attitude about solving problems here in UK. In the UK people tend to be more kind with themselves when it is about problem solving, while in Poland they tend to be cold with each other.
C23 “Here is different than when people don’t like something they really try to do everything to change it, most of them as my experience is I could say, a so I like this Kinda of attitude, a like a kindness here.”
The attitude of people she is in contact with makes her life easier in UK, however, for me it felt like she was disappointed again by her country or by the attitude of people in her country specially in institutions like a bank for example where she needed to fill lots of forms for everything she need to do, which felt like for her as C24 “like a survival course”, which for her is tiring, experiencing institutions as a survival course where she is suspected all the time.
By observing and analyzing the differences between these two cultures, the positives and the negatives, she decided to continue living here in UK even if it was hard at the beginning, because she considered that this is a better life for her.
C27. “Ye and it was very hard on the beginning to understand this kind of being, but after I understood I decided that this, that the better way of life and I wish to continue my life like this”.
Taking this strong decision, felt for me like it was a pivotal moment for Aga in her process of integration, probably one of the most important decisions she made. I think it was probably also quite confusing for her to see and feel that it’s possible for people to be kind to each other.
Another aspect that came up for me and felt important in her process of integration was C29 “losing the fear”. I asked her what else was useful for her in this process of integration and her answer was.
C29 “I stop be fright about some things over here, so it helped me with the choice, a, it’s like losing the stone off your shoulders.”
During the interview she is giving me examples to illustrate the differences between the life that she lived in Poland with the life that she is living in UK. These differences are the reason she has chosen to live in the UK rather than at home with her friends and family.
I asked Aga T35 “How is it like for you to see this difference, how that makes you feel?” her answer came very quickly, and I could feel that it was really strong.
C35 “A bit angry and disappointed”
I asked her if she wants to say more about these feelings, as I understood why she felt angry and disappointed with the people in her country.
C36 “A, because I see that easy life is possible and very easy to achieve, all that we need to change is our attitude, and is no point like digging holes underneath each other.”
C37 “With my country, with this the people are not able to change that it’s taking so long even when now they understand the difference they might be kind to foreign person, but they will be again the same for each other, so that very stupid and make me angry.”
One aspect that I think that is important to mention here in her process of integration, is her lack of trust in people. I think this aspect has two facets, one the one hand it helps her create some boundaries but on the other may slow her in the process of integration. I asked her if she can tell me what impacted her and this process, and again by comparing the two cultures she allowed me to understand what is going on for her.
C56 “Am, I think I’m not able to completely trust people”
C57 “Because of my experience from the past in Poland, a, because people from my country barely trust each other, I was just raised with this feeling so it’s hard for me just to trust English people. I expect always something might go wrong, try, I try all the time for the worst even when I think that will not happen.”
What was nice for me to hear about her life here in UK and about how she is getting on with her new life, is that now she has a few English friends. This helps her feel more accepted and gives her more opportunities for contact, and also helps her with the language barrier, which from my point of view is a step forward in her process of integration here in UK. I asked her about this aspect of her life here right now and she confirmed that.
C110 “Ye for sure and probably make me feel more accepted”.
C111 “Accepted ye as we are able to contact with each other as we are able to talk with each other and enjoying friendship”.
Another positive aspect of her life and how she was influenced by English culture in a positive way, is the she learned something very important and quite nice about herself, something that she took or borrowed from the new culture, she learned to be more open to people to friends and friendships.
I think is important to mention here that having the feeling that she belongs and is accepted as she is saying, is very important for her and helped her when she made the decision to live here in this new country.
C117 “To be more open even when I was thinking that I was already open person, a but I found out that I haven’t been that much, I still have stereotypes in my head”.
I would like to add to this part of the research a few words that I got from her which impressed me and touched me in a nice way. Looking around her helped her to understand her limitations and at the same time gave her the chance to improve, to grow and to change herself.
C115 “I could maybe assume that, a, the differences between cultures are actually the biggest difficult for everyone it causes the most misunderstanding the most troubles just to not able to understand the other culture it cause more trouble actually between each other”,
I think and feel that for Aga, understanding this was one of the key points which helped her to make the process of integration easier. I feel sadness myself when I hear how Aga felt about not understanding the new culture when she first moved to the UK and how much of an effort it was for her to really understand what was going on around her.
In this part of this paper I want to focus on analyzing Aga’s experience from a Transactional Analysis perspective and how this could have been traumatic for her. Helena Hargaden and Charlotte Sills (2002) talk about bringing cultural identity further into consciousness.
During the work on this research I realized that all the themes are intertwined with each other, that I can’t really separate one from another. Every theme and everything that Aga does is for the purpose of integration, from the way she is dealing with her feelings, to how she makes small steps to learn English, to how she is helping her other friend to understand the new culture and the way people think, to how she keeps in touch with other friends from Poland who are living here in UK. How she makes sense of the systems and institution and how they work, to how she understands and manages her daily life. This was, for me, the challenge and the beauty of writing this piece of work.
During the interview and after it felt for me like Aga was on a quest to find an identity and a place of inner safety here in UK. It felt for me like she was really sad almost close to a deep depression, the fact that she is on her own in another country and even worse, she ended the relationship with her boyfriend only 3 mounts prior the interview.
I can see how this is a loss, and could be felt by Aga as abandonment and rejection from him especially after the Brexit period. I’m thinking here at how can she fit into a society where she can easily feel rejected, what she needs to do as a polish woman, being part of a big polish minority.
“Many of those groups who have been marginalized by society have often in the past found a way to fit in and thus repress, deny or just lose their authentic sense of identity. They create and subscribe to a false sense of their identity(A1+) in order to belong just as a child does in the family.” (Hargaden, Sills 2002).
From my perspective I could say that the situation is even more difficult for Aga because she comes from a country she feels disappointed and angry with because of the lack of economic stability and cultural growth. I would say there is also lack of safety and trust, and I think here of the example that she gave me when she went on holiday to Poland and was robbed when she needed to change money. The lack of trust in authorities, the police in this case, that they would do something about this.
As she said during the interview, Aga needed to do a lot of thinking about where she wanted to live, to put absolutely everything in the balance, and even if this was a hard decision, she chose to live here in UK because she can see a future for herself, where she can trust in the institutions like banks for example, where she doesn’t feel like she herself cannot be trusted.
What I think that was useful for her was that she gained a feeling of being accepted and that she belongs here. Having a sense and understanding of the cultural identity I think is most important factor in Aga’s experience.
If I’m thinking of her script, what decisions Aga takes in order to integrate into the country of adoption, decisions which could have implications for her life and for subsequent generations.
“splitting of self and other/ false self can be understood as a cultural requirement for survival. The tragedy of such a split is that all value is seen to reside in dominant culture. So, in effect, shielding one’s identity in favor of passing in order to belong involves a parallel devaluation of one’s own cultural tradition, inheritance and sense of self.” (Hargaden and Sills 2002).
I could not say how much awareness she has about the psychological process that she is going through, however, I could say that it felt for me like a massive quantity of energy is needed to be put in place in order to go through this process.
How is she dealing internally with all these feelings? I think by cutting of a lot of bodily sensations and feelings. During the interview she had a few moments when she was in contact with how her body feels in this process, a feeling of anger, like she would need to fight with someone, but after she cut off all those bodily sensations going in to the thinking. I can think here at the work of Basel van der Kolk and Alexander McFarlane (1999) who are saying that:
“Dissociation is at one and at the same time an observable behavior and a form of defense against pain, distress or humiliation”. (Van Der Kolk and McFarlane 1999).
Is Aga affected by the process of moving to the UK? From my perspective she definitely is. I could not say which is the level of impact from only one meeting with her. I could only say that that are some attachment issues that occurred to me during the interview, and how deeply they may impact her life in the future.
I think is important to mention here my co-creation of findings. What I have observed in myself during the interview was that I asked my co-researcher a couple of times about the level of education in her country and how that may have an impact on how people see life, the World and themselves. I did this because this is something that I recognize in my country of origin, Romania. The level of education, or lack of it can have a big influence on how people around me view life.
What I have realized during the period that I have listened back the interview recording, is that that I’ve used quite a lot of times the phrase “I don’t know” in the moments I need to think or to translate from Romanian in English. This is a process that is going on in my mind which I think that could be seen from a positive and negative perspective. The positive aspect could be that she can see that just like her, I need to improve my English, and the negative aspect is that it may appear that I have a lack of experience in the work that I’m doing here with her.
What I think is important is that I too can identify with the lack of safety and trust in state institution like the police, and I could empathize with the feelings of my co-researcher about this. I could say that it is easier for me to understand her situation, being from a country from east Europe where something like this is just “normal”, not to feel safe or not to trust others.
The other aspect that I think is important and I realized this only when I started writing, is that the way I dealt with everything after I moved to the UK is very similar to my co-researcher. I felt that I needed to do something in order to integrate in the new culture, to learn the language, to find a job, to work hard not to lose the job, to please almost everyone around me in order to gain a feeling of belonging.
I also feel like I have lost my identity or have needed to make an adjustment to my sense of identity. All this together I think has a big impact on how I wrote the research, the passion that I have put in it in writing about findings and also the feelings of loss, anger and disappointment that I could find in myself, in my bodily sensations listening so many times the interview. It seems like I cut of the feelings as well, just like Aga.
Another aspect that I think is important to mention is my own lack of education. This is the first time I have ever carried out and written a research project, and I have done it in a second language.
I found doing this piece of work challenging firstly because of the dimensions, secondly because it’s in a second language and not least because of the findings. I could identify a great deal with my co-researcher experience.
At the same time, I think in doing this piece of work I gained some self confidence in my therapy skills and in the work that I want to do in the future as a therapist here in UK. I think the phenomenology of someone who moves from another country to the UK needs more attention and open a door for new information and curiosity about what is really going on at deeper level with this group of people.
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