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Purser, G.S. (2016). The Tragedy of Being a Human Being. Att: New Dir. in Psychother. Relat. Psychoanal., 10(1):vii-x.
(2016). Attachment: New Directions in Psychotherapy and Relational Psychoanalysis, 10(1):vii-x
The Tragedy of Being a Human Being
Gülcan Sutton Purser
When the editorial group suggested that I write an editorial about refugees, I felt reluctant to do so. After all, I have lived my life keeping my head down, getting on with my own business, getting along with everyone, and keeping myself to myself. There is so much to consider on this subject, that I almost want to pack it away and not look at it. I hope you will forgive me for my hesitancy, and letting you think for yourself about some of the ideas, because the complexity of this refugee crisis, is, socially, psychologically, and culturally, beyond imagination. But we do have to face it individually and collectively.
It is hard enough to emigrate to another country willingly, but when the migration is forced, the whole thing becomes about loss, ruptured attachment relationships, trauma, fear, desperation. Alienation from one's own culture, assimilation to new culture, becomes the norm, as well as facing the hatred, resentment, and antagonism within the countries that open their doors to them. How do we, as therapists, work with the multiple effects of these traumas on refugee children and their families that are compounded by forced uprooting, massive losses, and the myriad changes brought about by forced migration? These people have been faced with trauma as a result of war, yet are then treated like criminals and blamed for being a “nuisance”. They flee their homes at great cost and then arrive to find that they are unwanted and resented.
People have lost their lives and homes. They are exploited by being charged enormous amounts of money by opportunists, only to find themselves living in unsafe conditions. While travelling, refugees are exposed to physical and sexual abuse, ill treatment from human traffickers, and pressure from police and border workers. Forced to spend days and weeks out of doors, in the cold and wet with irregular meals or no meals at all, and limited or no access to toilet and bathing facilities.
Many refugees have tried to run away, crowding onto small boats. The bodies of thirty-one refugees were found on the Aegean Sea, after they had left a small and pretty seaside town. A storm turned the boat upside down, and their dead bodies hit the shore. News like this is heard often these days.
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