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May 26, 2014

Been waving in the last few weeks between excitement and anxiety, as I prepare to leave for IamResilience, a creative-therapeutic pilot project working with children and women in a Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon. There’s generally very little for me to go by in terms of regional case studies, mixing the creative arts with therapy, where the work is not artistic, for example, I don’t leave with a play or a film to show, and neither is it therapy per say. The intention is helping to relieve a portion of the anxieties these dislocated peoples would have gone through, in finding themselves in a refugee camp… actually no, it’s not even to deal with the traumatic events, it’s to begin with their current state of being in a refugee camp. I expect to work with healthy people who have gone through traumatic experiences, rather than psychologically traumatised individuals. I’m not interested in talking about the project itself- I plan to write shorter blogs on the Meryna website as I go along- what I do want to share are a few reflections on the therapy training, and my personal unpacking, that have come to mind recently. 

First, thinking back to Laura Perls quote: the difference between anxiety and excitement is breath (something along those lines). I’ve been reminded of this fine line between the two states, and how both have been valuable to acknowledge. 

Second, noticing how I have approached Ending my time in London- I’m away for three months and a half, so it’s not forever (hopefully!)- and reflecting on the Gestalt therapy training from last year, particularly with our therapist/ tutor Kay Lynn, who dedicated  ample time and space for Ending our year of the course. At the time, initially at least, I thought it excessive; this was after all a one-year course, that was coming to an end, and that was that. I had done what I always did with endings: gone to the future. I was thinking of what I will be doing next, planning ahead, and generally looking forward, whilst Kay Lynn saw this as opportunity to notice how we deal with endings. She strongly invited the class to stay present, to find ways that help us commemorate the end before welcoming a new beginning. 

This is where I have been- with a varying degree of awareness, and largely intuition leading this process- I’ve noticed I have done things I would never have done a few years ago. Making sure I finish business as much as possible, from my work commitments of setting-up Meryna, completing art and freelance work to fixing a broken loo! Making time to meet friends and peers, to catch-up, and even having a leaving-drinks at a local place for a small group of friends… this is all very new to me. I don’t even celebrate my birthday collectively, with any group of people, let alone a work trip abroad! 

So in reflecting on this, I feel that only now, on the day I am departing, I am beginning to look forward. Of course, I have been preparing for the future, in terms of consulting with project partners in Lebanon and specialists here, my therapeutic supervisor and the supervision group, but this is different. Staying present for me has been about a coming together, collecting myself, before leaving. I feel appreciative of these rituals, societal and personal, which help commemorate endings and welcome new beginnings.

At the last Gestalt therapy residential weekend, where much of the Ending work happened, I had a mini-collapse towards the end. After deflecting and resisting, I touched on the lack of any form of commemoration in leaving Iraq, my first home. That ending was never acknowledged at any point, before leaving (we’d not planned to stay in the UK) nor after arriving (not knowing if we will be staying for the first five years or more!). Our process, as a family, was just to move forward, and I believe that’s what was needed at the time, and yet it is amazing to be able to acknowledge that now. 

Of course I think of the people I will be meeting in Lebanon, and if my ending with my homeland was abrupt, then what must theirs have been like? And I wonder how the therapeutic work will be around this lack of ending, and reflecting on a more stable time; remembering the rituals and commemorations that formed part of the norm (individually and collectively) and what has remained. These things that help make us who we are, which have since been displaced. 

I’ve just been reminded of the importance of identifying what is working well, in context of IamR, not simply what has been lost or the difficulties of life at the refugee camo. This reminder came from Renos Papadopoulos, who has generally advised and informed the proposed plan for IamR. Renos’s incredible work emphasises the range of responses to trauma, particularly associated with forced migration etc., and to remember that refugees are essentially people who have been dislocated and are in the process of relocation. Their responses as individuals will be as rich and diverse as yours or mine would be… this all seems incredibly basic, and yet so easily forgotten. 

So now, I’ll make my second cup of tea of the day, and carry on with my pre-travel chores. 

Loving this rainy London weather, as I know I will miss it in South Lebanon’s scalding and humid summer heat!  


From → Therapeutic

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