Who’s responsible for what

ethnic woman choosing fruits with daughter in market
ethnic woman choosing fruits with daughter in market
Photo by Kamaji Ogino on Pexels.com

The subject of complex family trauma often comes up in my therapy room. Families where the adults were not there for children when they needed them most. 

Parents who divorced, parents who had children because society demanded it, not because they wanted it, and parents who were not fit to be parents or did not want or knew how to be parents. Many have placed their children in other people’s care for a while in their young childhood, thinking they are too young to be affected, without being aware that this act can place extensive abandonment trauma on their children. Parents who died. 

Now, despite all the things I have mentioned, most parents do the best they can at a given time. Their intention is good. It may not come out how the children need to feel affection. That is another story for children who became adults to discuss with their therapists.

Another true thing is that we all learn from the experiences we encounter in our childhood. Later in life, we are responsible for sorting ourselves out and for healing. A form of taking responsibility for ourselves in adult life is putting physical distance from the places and people we have experienced as being difficult for us.

This is why many people move countries because they feel that they would be better elsewhere. Why would they want to be in a foreign place if they would have had a great life where they were born and raised in the first place?

Yet, even in another country, together with other people from another culture, the behavior would be similar to the one they had in the circle that formed them: family and close community.

If you grew up in a family lacking emotional support and defined by relational poverty, you may face the following difficulties:

– Avoid asking questions when something is unclear to you, living with the impression that only the “stupid”do not understand or do not know from the first, or that you do not understand or speak the language well enough;

– To refuse the suggestions or guidance of those around you, having the impression that you “always” have to manage independently. This can be  a huge set back i a Western country, where people are educated to work in teams;

– Make it hard for you to trust the good intentions of those around you and, unconsciously, look for their hidden motives.

– Feeling awkward when people are kind or friendly to you and avoiding emotional closeness.

– Believing that others do not care about your opinion, you remain silent or speak very little and quickly.

– To hesitate to express your emotions and needs, believing no one cares.

– To encounter difficulties in emotional self-regulation and interpersonal conflict management skills.

– To express your difficulties only after you have overcome the challenges and when you no longer feel vulnerable.

– Being reluctant to make decisions with a low or medium level of risk for fear of being overwhelmed by unpleasant emotions.

Do you recognize any of those symptoms? Let me know if you still need to have your free session or if you need to talk! We’ll book a session asap!

Knowing our life story – is an essential first step toward our psychological maturity. Understanding how the present relates to the past is an essential second step, and acting differently now. Sharing the story with someone you trust is the third decisive step. That is where therapists come into the picture! Let me know if you need to talk!

Best from your migration therapist

Gabriela Sirbu - signaturbilde

PS. A great book I can recommend for identifying various issues is “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk. 

What nobody is warning you about when you move abroad

melancholic black female sitting on windowsill
melancholic black female sitting on windowsill
Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.com

When we decide to move abroad, we initially encounter many feelings: excitement and joy, fear about the unknown, and discomfort and frustration. They are all natural in the process. Yet there is a feeling which sneaks upon us, yet we rarely know how to name it: grief, or perhaps some of us may recognize it when we say that we “miss” people or things from the places we used to live before.

We associate grief with when we lose someone to death. At the same time, when we move away from people and things, we lose them as we knew them when we left them. We will change, and they will change, and the next time we see them again, both we and them will be different. Being away, we also lose the transformations they go through while we are away, and they lose the changes we go through. We meet again, yet we are different people.

What are Grief and Mourning?

In our context, we speak of the grief of loss. So, mourning is not only about someone’s death but about any loss that can be related to a person, but not necessarily. We can mourn because we have lost our freedom of movement, for example, or because our plans didn’t work out as we thought they would. We grieve the loss of our dream, and the feeling is natural and just as painful because it is ours.

Why do we rarely speak of grief? Because we feel other feelings around it.

First, there is the denial

When we don’t want to believe that what is happening to us is accurate and we do all kinds of gestures that, if we look at them with an objective eye after a certain period, seem to have been crazy: we laugh as if it was a good joke, we set out to convince everyone that things aren’t the way they are, or, we find comfort in apparently “unguilty pleasures”: foods, drinks, work, other people’s company where we get distracted with their problems, and we forget our own.

Then there is anger

When we resent everyone and everything, including the world and the Universe, for allowing such a thing to happen, when we can see conspiracy theories everywhere we turn, or we find someone to take anger on, a scapegoat who has nothing to do with the grief we are going through. Then we become bullies.

Then there is negotiation

When, out of pain, we begin to negotiate with people, ourselves, and the Universe. When we replay the movie of events in our minds repeatedly, we wonder what would have happened if we had stayed and tried harder to make a life where we were. Advantages and disadvantages and we make sense of our decisions.

Then there is depression

When nothing around us is pleasing enough, when we cannot find joy in anything, every word from work colleagues, random people, or family members pushes our buttons so hard that we want to punch them. Everything we need to do every day is hard: even to shower and eat, and it is difficult to get out of the house, and we want to hide and see no one. And yet we push through daily because we were taught that only “weak” people are “depressed,” and we don’t like ourselves being weak.

And finally, acceptance

When we start to find meaning or come to terms with what happened, with the fact that we cannot be two places at once, and that we have to choose one place we want and need to be and create a life there, in the here and now, when we are ready to see the lessons too, extract the beauty and choose to keep that one in our soul and let the rest go, let the family and friends stay behind and be at peace with the thought that we will have to start the relationship again every time we meet them.

Only these feelings are not like that, one after the other. They come as they want and when they want and use our bodies as it would be a guest house. And it is only up to us to choose which feelings we want to keep and which we need to let go of. So I suggest feeling them all and then letting them go, eventually keeping their tolerance and acceptance.

It is all a process, and it is important to acknowledge Grief, because if we do not see it and do not let it go, it will only pile up with all the other feelings and hold us in the past.

Whatever the process is for you, please share it with someone you trust. If you don’t have anyone, let me know, and we can chat in confidentiality. Just let me know here.

Best from your best ex-pat counselor

Cultural differences in love partnershipS

One of the most significant categories of people traveling from one country to another is marriage. The reason behind this movement move is LOVE.

In some cases is love. In other cases is duty or the wish to form an alliance, because of material needs, or because of pregnancy, and there are many reasons two people may choose to stay together. In all of them, there are compromises that people make because maintaining relationships is not easy all the time.

When it comes to multicultural couples, there are many issues involved, and the compromises or “the sacrifices,” as I have heard some people call them, have different natures. Sometimes they seem oversized for the person making them and minor for the person they were made for.

I often meet couples where one person comes from a western or so-called “civilized” country, and the other comes from somewhere in the east or “third world” country. The general rule (it does not mean that it is true all the time) is that in a civilized country, there were good possibilities to live in a democratic world freely, eventually study and travel. The parents were tolerant and understanding of the child/youth’s needs to explore and discover who they are and what they want. Men and women are brought up relatively equal, with access to all opportunities the society and the system offer. This means women earn money and have a career, can be independent and free if they choose to.

On the other hand, the general rule in some eastern societies / third-world countries is that they are built on more traditional values where the man builds the house, and the woman makes it a home. The man is the provider of the family’s material resources, and the woman is the caretaker who transforms the resources brought by the man into life by giving birth to children and being emotionally supportive.

The man is supposed TO DO, to act, and the woman is supposed TO BE, to let the man take care of her and the family and be passive. The psychologist David Buss has written a book called “When Men Behave Badly” where he explores the reasons men and women are attracted to and choose the life partners they choose. I recommend the book. There is plenty of good information.

Sometimes, the challenge is when one of these beautiful and independent women falls in love with a man with a traditional and patriarchal values. Because even if these men have emigrated in their 20’s to Europe or the States, they still have the upbringings from their birth land, and some of them would feel “emasculated” and diminished as a man if the woman offers to pay for rent, for instance, or any other material things which are meant for the man to provide in his culture of origin.

The woman does not understand this because she has already lived her freedom and pursued the studies and hobbies she wanted. Now, she wants to settle down, which could also mean a family with this guy who is smart, fun, and still has the joy of life, yet he cannot provide for the family and refuses to receive help from the woman. Why can he not provide, yet? Because he was busy surviving in all the other countries in Europe he has eventually lived in, at the same time as sending money to his family in his country of origin, as many immigrants do, you can read more about this particular issue in this article. Or because he spends his income on stuff and activities that give him more satisfaction than a family would. Who knows, there can be many reasons.

Every time I speak with women in this situation, I realize that it is challenging for them to understand why their beloved one cannot accept the help and the money. Because this is not an issue she grew up with in her birth country, where women were pretty “equal”. She moved countries or cities because of her love for him and is willing to “compromise” or “sacrifice” for a life together. I also see that the man did not necessarily leave his country to find love or a partner. He left the country to be free. To be able to do things he did not have the chance and opportunity to do in his birth country. To study, to pursue hobbies and passions. If they wanted a wife and kids, the family would have sorted that out long ago, and they would have probably stayed in their country*.

The roles in his world have changed, and he needs clarification. He enjoys the love he receives, yet he does not understand why he receives it and does not take it seriously because such frivolities are not allowed where he comes from. People, especially men, were not judged by their feelings but by the material things they could provide. People were not valuable for feeling feelings, which was a weakness. Being human was not a value except that humans could give material things. This is why we also have the “gift” cultures, where people are not considered important by themselves except if they have something material attached.

It is difficult for someone who has never been treated like a human being and to be seen as a human being to understand why a beautiful and independent woman would love them for them. First, a lot of work is needed so they can perceive themselves as human beings, which demands a lot of work.

At the same time, many people, both men, and women, take advantage of this “weakness” called “feelings. Yet, they will be the subject of another article, another day.

If you are the man or the woman who has already lived your life and you are falling for someone who did not, perhaps it could be a good idea to take into account that the person you love needs time, space, and support so they can also live their share of opportunities. You will have to see how you feel, and my suggestion is not to stay in a relationship where you feel you are “sacrificing” way more than you are willing to and do not feel you are receiving just as much in return. In the long run, it may not work.

For men, perhaps the time is not the same as for women since they are not giving birth. Their age does not “expire” like for women, and if you are not ready to be in a relationship where you can offer room and space for the other to develop and grow, then it is better to be honest with yourself first and then with the other.

Suppose you are a man and the only reason you marry a woman from another country is that she has traditional values and she will clean and cook for you. In that case, you should not be surprised that after some years, she will realize she has other opportunities and will want to enjoy them. There are plenty of examples all around, just like there are plenty of examples where the partnership works well until death does part them.

For women, it can be a bitter experience to be around a man who does not want or can commit. This is even more important if, at a particular time, you will wish to have children of your own. If your love is that strong, you can go into the relationship with eyes wide open, knowing that you will have to “sacrifice” more than you have thought.

I do feel I state the obvious, yet, after the number of women I see in the situation described above, it doesn’t seem to be that obvious for them. If you are one of them and you need to talk about it, feel free to sign up for a free one-hour conversation on this link. You can also be a man who needs to talk about his relationship.

And if you wonder what you can solve or achieve in one hour, you can find out more about that here.

Best from your best immigration/emigration therapist

*This argument is also valid for many women who choose to leave their countries. They want to live free. Marriage and children are not on their agenda; some stick to the dream of being free, whatever the cost. Because freedom has its price and “sacrifices,” too.

How do we include others and how are we included?

animal leaf morning spring
animal leaf morning spring
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I often hear stories of immigrants in different countries in this globalized world. How they travel there, how they find a place to live, how they adjust, and how they get friends or not. How they manage to learn the language or not, and how they feel at home or not. 

At the same time, in the past two–three years, I have seen a whole discussion in some social media and professional networking sites about diversity, integration, and inclusion. 

What do they mean, all these big words? We use them, yet I rarely hear definitions. Therefore, I’ve asked the dictionaries:


– the state of being diverse; variety.

– the practice or quality of including or involving people from various social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders, sexual orientations, ages, color, etc.

It comes from the Latin “divertere” which means “to turn” or “aside”. This Latin meaning has a point because we will always have mainstream in everything we do and everywhere we are, and we will have exceptions and details which we will put aside, turn away, or give back because they do not fit into our worlds. Yet they exist, and they make our surroundings more interesting. They fulfill our human need for diversity – so we can avoid boredom and show us what we think we want or don’t want just because they exist. “Divertere” takes my thoughts to “tailoring,” which creates something in a particular shape. 


In the context of people means “the process of intermixing of people who were previously segregated. Again, it comes from Latin “integratus,” which means to bring together the parts of a whole. 

In the context of immigration, immigrants live within the borders of a country that already has a population from before. Therefore, integration would mean mixing the immigrants with the locals to make the mass population “whole”. 


– the action or state of including or of being included within a group or structure.

– the practice or policy of providing equal access to opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or intellectual disabilities and members of other minority groups.

From Latin includere “to shut in, enclose, imprison, insert”. Very interesting, I did not expect this meaning. Because who would like to be “imprisoned”?

As immigrants, no matter the reason we choose to settle in one country, we also select the eventuality that the adjustment may not be as we would like it to be. First, we need to know what we need. Yes, we need belonging. However, that need for belonging can only be satisfied by the locals? Or can it be met by other groups of foreigners or people with the same interests? Yet to find those groups, we need to know what we need and what our interests are. 

On the other hand, if the locals are friendly, they do it in their way: some may volunteer for organizations where there are foreigners. Some may talk to the foreigners they have at work during their lunch breaks. Or they help with training. Others help with language, drive children to places, or be friendly and polite. 

Yet, the question remains: How would foreigners like to be included? First, it may be that they are, yet they don’t know if they don’t see the word’s meaning. Because perhaps they have other needs they would like to be met and not the ones the locals can and are willing to meet in their understanding of inclusion. Because humans are different and because humans need different things that one person or one group of people cannot necessarily help with.

Therefore, my question for you today is as follows:

– If you are a local: how do you include the new people in your circle? Do you feel the need to include anyone new in your already-established life?

– If you are a newcomer (foreigner or not), what do you need to feel included in the new environment you decided to live in?

I will address some of these definitions and questions at my next book event in Stavanger, May 27th. Details are in this link. Hope to see you there.

Best from

One hour in our lives

old fashioned clock placed in aged hallway with ornamental walls
old fashioned clock placed in aged hallway with ornamental walls
Photo by William Fortunato on Pexels.com

Many people have seen by now that I offer the first session for free. And knowing that a process of healing or change can take more than one hour, I have received the following question:

“What can you do with one hour? How much can we solve, and what can we find out?”

One hour contains 60 minutes. As humans, we speak 120 to 160 words in one minute.

In one hour, there are between 7200 and 9600 words, which means a story of about seven to nine (or more) book pages – depending on the layout. That is the story of a fellow human at a particular time. That hour they are speaking with me. That hour that we spend together in a conversation.

My experience and my work with people have shown me that if that story is listened to from a place of presence and authenticity, it can create change in a human’s life. If a person is SEEN and HEARD at the moment when it is most needed and who chooses that moment consciously, they can change life’s trajectory with one millimeter. A millimeter can lead that person closer to healing or to what they need or desire.

The work with us, as humans, can take a lot of time: weeks, months, and years until we leave this Earth. There is no “quick fix”, you can read here how therapy works. At the same time, this long process is formed by happenings, meetings, and discussions with people who, even if they take only some minutes, or one hour, can have a great resonance in the future.

I plead for the small steps. Not everybody is ready to enter a very long-term process. Yet a person can choose to receive or give herself the experience of a conversation with a trained therapist in one hour, no matter where you are in the world.

I have seen that people I speak with, only for one hour, gain a lot of insight, even if they choose not to go further with the process. Because someone neutral can see their situation better and can communicate it back so that it becomes more evident. Clarity offers the possibility of change.

What is my gain?

The joy of being part of someone’s life for one hour.

The possibility to contribute to an experience that can have a long-term effect on the trajectory of actions made by one human being.

Therefore, if you are interested in receiving my offer, therefore one hour of your life and one hour of my life, sign up on this form.

Best from


I sometimes hear this at the end of a first or second session. Usually, after many other issues have been lined up as being the problem, which can determin someone to want to speak with a therapist.

It comes from young people who had an unstable childhood due to their parents’ moving history, yet not only. People who have lived in the same neighborhood for many years can experience the constant coming and going of people who are ex-pats or immigrants. Therefore their children will also experience their friends moving away.

When these young people refer to their unstable childhood, they do not necessarily talk about their parents because the parents were stable. They were there all the time. Yet the environments were different: new country, new house, new neighborhood, new school. People coming and going, and the family doesn’t stay long enough in a place for the children to keep the friends they make, or the families surrounding them leave, taking their children with them. It is not always sure that kids will stay in touch with each other after moving, so bonds get broken.

When they grow up, these children move to study or to work and experience lives on their own, far from their families, in other countries. During their moving lives with their families, they have developed skills like flexibility, speaking a couple of languages, being easy going, and making friends quickly. Aside from all these positive skills, at first sight, there is also the feeling of uncertainty developing, meaninglessness in all the relationships, and a strong need for certainty.

They still feel emptiness, loneliness, and frustration because they know it will not last. There is seldom security in these short relationships, just for fun and where people hang out for a while. Then everybody moves on, and not necessarily with the promise of keeping in touch, even if we live in a world where the internet can make communication easier. Still, it is sometimes different from keeping in touch in person.

Another thing happening on the way is that every time a relationship breaks because of moving, children and later the adults do not learn they need to mourn and be sorry for their loss. Even if we’re not necessarily talking about people dying, still, the relationship, as it was, is lost. I find that people rarely think about this small detail, yet, repeated, it can build up and create a feeling of emptiness and loss. How many times have you been grieving over a relationship you’ve had, no matter it’s nature: friendship, schoolmate, playmate, business mate, workmate etc.

Moving to a new city to study or work is challenging. In a country where it is difficult to approach locals, the easiest is approaching other foreigners, immigrants, and ex-pats, no matter what they choose to call themselves. I leave you in this link what I believe the difference between them is.

First, there are FB groups called “ex-pats in….” the name of your city or country. There are also groups with people from your own country of origin or from the countries you’ve lived in as a child and teenager if there are several. Look for them and introduce yourself. It helps to get in touch with people.

Then, if you have a hobby or several, groups and clubs accommodate people with the same interest. Try to find them and see if they work for you. Internations.org is also something you may want to check out.

I also hear many times that the age differences in these groups can be challenging to handle since there are all sorts of people from everywhere, and not necessarily something organized for people of the same age. Yet, you need to think about what is essential for you and that people you meet are probably just as lonely as you, no matter the age they carry. So, how significant is the age difference in a friendship for you, especially when your standards regarding friendships may differ?

Is it good for you to be alone or with someone, no matter whom? This question is relevant for couples as well… yet that will be another article.

In the meantime, if you want to talk more about being alone and/or lonely, you’re welcome to register for a first free session on this link.


“ENVY” AS immigrants/expats

woman in white and pink polo shirt sitting beside woman in black and white stripe shirt
woman in white and pink polo shirt sitting beside woman in black and white stripe shirt
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

In this article, I choose to speak about ENVY in the context of immigration and multiculturalism.

I know it may not be fashionable to speak about less positive feelings, yet I choose to speak about them because we cannot have positive feelings without feeling the less happy ones. Life is not only sugar and honey. We can get sick of so much sweetness. Feeling the salt, sower, and bitter tastes can make life more interesting.

Envy is a feeling we have known very well since we were children. We were envious of the other toddler’s toy, and even if many other toys surrounded us, we wanted precisely that one the other kid was playing with. 

This feeling follows us all our lives in various situations. And, since I like to be clear, I looked up the definitions of Envy. 

It can be a noun and means: a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.

Or it can be a verb and means: desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable thing belonging to (someone else).

So, we deal with unhappiness provoked by comparing ourselves with other people’s success, qualities, and possessions.

Here is an article that explores the origins of this feeling in a much deeper sense.

When it comes to people who travel to live abroad for longer, shorter, or permanents periods, I find that this feeling of Envy can occur because of the comparison between three big categories of people:

  1. People who are locals, and people who are immigrants/expats; 
  2. Immigrants/expats among themselves;
  3. People married into the new country and locals, or people who married into the country among themselves.

I will explain what I mean by giving examples for each category. 

A. Locals envious of immigrants:

Suppose we think of the immigrants who are refugees. Which means they have escaped their home countries because of war.

We can think about Envy, which occurs among some locals who see immigrants who are coming as refugees. If the government of that country has friendly politics towards immigrants, it will offer a lot of help to the refugees. It will have programs to help them learn the language, help them get jobs, and even give them housing and an amount of money they can live by for a specific time.

Some locals are going to be envious. Why? Because they may feel it is unfair that the refugees are getting so much help, which is paid by the taxes the majority of the locals pay. From some local’s point of view, these people coming from strange shores are getting something without doing anything and may not understand why. They may not know much about the wars in these refugees’ countries; therefore, they may have little tolerance. It may be challenging to understand the reasons behind the action of fleeing, even if that is war, when people have had a safe upbringing sheltered by war. 

Suppose we go beyond the refugee category and consider all the immigrants in a country. Some locals will feel envious of the foreigners’ jobs, and we may hear affirmations like “these foreigners are taking our jobs”. At the same time, some of these locals are unwilling to do those jobs because they may be too hard to do either physically or intellectually. Moreover, not all people in a country are getting an education. Therefore, if some special skills are needed, the companies in need of those skills will bring people from abroad to do the job because they couldn’t find what they were looking for among the locals.

Sometimes leaders of companies prefer to get in new people from other countries and break some patterns within the organizational culture. When people work in the same team for many years, they become so familiar with routines that it can be hard to develop new ideas. Therefore, new and fresh eyes from abroad can either refresh the group or shake it a bit, just like splashing fresh water on the face in the morning, to help wake up. 

Three things may happen when a foreigner is brought into an already formed group.

  1. It may be that the older members will work together to assimilate the foreigner and persuade him/her into the same thinking patterns.
  2.  The group’s older members will stick together against the new ideas and the foreigner. 
  3. Suppose the older members of the group do not get along. In that case, the third thing that could happen is: that they will use the shared experience of the foreigner in the group to bring them together by having him/her as a person and the new ideas that are brought in as a conversation topic. The foreigner may not be unaware of this process since he/she doesn’t have the history of the place. He or she unknowingly may bring the group together.

B. The layer of Envy among immigrants/expats groups has many under categories. 

– between immigrants/expats who were there before and those who just came; 

– between immigrants/expats who receive help from the government in the new country and those who don’t;

– between immigrants/expats who receive a residence permit easier and those who are not allowed to stay without significant reasons;  

– between immigrants/expats who happen to have issues with the religion or skin color of other immigrants;

– between immigrants/expats who have jobs and who don’t;

– between immigrants/expats who didn’t manage to speak the local language at a good enough level so they could have good jobs and those who did use time, money, and effort to learn it and to have good jobs;

– between immigrants/expats who have higher education and those without. Yet, in today’s world, when we have the internet and access to a lot of information, people can become specialists in a field without necessarily having a degree. 

– between immigrants from the same country who perhaps belong to different social classes. If someone from a lower class succeeds in the new country, which offers more opportunities to everybody, then people who belong to a higher class in the country of origin may not like it.

I am sure there may be even more layers and shades of envy among immigrant groups.

C: Spouses. People who are married into the new country. 

Locals can consider that people from other countries are just taking their men and women, and it feels unfair, especially if one has been struggling with finding a partner. One example you can find in this inteview.

Among immigrants, this can also be a subject of envy because it depends on why people marry into the country. Was it love, or was it a necessity and the marriage was used as a ticket to emigrate?

I am sure we all met this kind of marriage, and we also know that many of them can break apart as soon as a residence permit is obtained or citizenship. If this category of people feel like being married to a person they didn’t really like, they have sacrificed years of their lives so they can have the chance to live free in a free country, they may be envious of those who didn’t have to pay this price. 

I have been asked this question many times. My reason was love as well. I loved myself enough to believe I deserved a better education in a different educational system.

As I mentioned in the beginning, Envy is a very complex feeling that we experience since childhood in our families. We will have more or fewer resources to handle it, depending on how it was managed at the time and the support each of us has received from the adults responsible for our upbringing. Nothing more, nothing less. 

The next step would be to work with it, acknowledge it and, put a name on it, speak about how you feel and what would be your reasons.

Are there any other layers of Envy you can think about?

Please share them in a comment below or tell them to me, in a private conversation, by clicking on this link.


how to deal with war?

city man people woman
city man people woman
Photo by Artūras Kokorevas on Pexels.com

I know it is a strange question. How do we deal with it when we don’t have any personal experience? 

I grew up with war stories. My father was born in December ’39, in trenches, and he never knew his father, who went to WWII while my grandmother was pregnant. It is not easy to imagine how a widow with three children (my father being the youngest) survived the war. Nevertheless, we heard stories as children. Stories about German and Russian soldiers who needed food and would do anything to get it. Soldiers who were also missing their children left behind and would seek some comfort in holding my father since he was perhaps about the age of their children. And then they would move on to die or to live, leaving behind women and children robbed of the little food they had, yet alive.

My mother’s side of the family also carries war scars from a grandfather raised by the army. Widows like my grate-grandmother could not afford to keep all their children, and they would give them away to the military. At least they would get food and clothing. When he learned I was going to study in the North of Norway, he told me that he have been experiencing both the Northern Lights and the Midnight Sun while traveling with the army through Russia, up to Murmansk. I think he also spoke some Russian, yet I never heard him speak it. What I heard was the classical music that he was playing since one of the things he learned in the army was to play the horn in the army’s orchestra. Keeping the soldier’s spirits up was also important at the time.

He came back alive and married one of the many girls of a widow who survived the war – my grandmother. They were some of those many people who helped rebuild the country after WWII.

I am not alone with this kind of story. Many people from southeast Europe have similar stories. After the war was over, the communist experiment started in Romania (Ceausescu’s version), influenced by the great power in the East, USSR. That was the only place people could travel in those times and Russian the only foreign language taught in school. 

War was always present in our upbringing through my parents’ attitudes and behaviors, who learned survival skills growing up with the war, like my father, or building the country after it, like my mother. Practical skills and little emotions. No time and place for such frivolities. We are generations who experienced “second-hand war” through our parents and grandparents. 

The war in Yugoslavia was also close in the ’90. The borders were closed and the news was censured until 1990, therefore people didn’t understand what to do with what was told on TV. The politicians at the time had managed to keep the country out of the conflict though.  

In the past 30 years, some of the new generations in Romania, who did not experience either the war or Ceausescu’s communist regime, are making a “psychological revolution”

Many read and educate themselves within the field and started to talk about how war and dictatorship experiences (death, rape, hunger, anger, etc) were sent through generations and how they influenced them. 

They are brave young people who dare take a deep dive into themselves and their family histories and try to heal whatever they can, so they won’t give the wounds further to their children.  

Since February 24th what we thought is in the past became present and very close to Romania’s borders. I hear that tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees have passed through Romania on their way to more stable countries and with a more significant distance from the conflict. 

I see on social media stories from my friends who got involved and are helping the best way they can. At the same time, I live in Norway, a country that is also neighbor to Russia. Until further notice, we are supposed to carry on our lives as nothing happens. Yet I cannot help not noticing Coast Guard ships passing through the fjords every time I drive to the office. Nor the trailers that are carrying military equipment to the nearest military point that was supposed to be disabled. 

I cannot pretend the war in Ukraine is not happening. Nor ignore the newspapers articles from all sides talking about a “true” story about what is happening in Ukraine and Russia. A “truth” perhaps we may never find out.

At the same time, what can we do to deal with war so close to home? I managed to find about 11 points that may help, yet there can be much more. Please add them in the comments.

  1. Work and live as “normal” as possible for the time being. Keep yourself busy.

2. Talk to other people. At the same time, I experience that people who ask me or Ukrainians or Russians or Polish people how we are, don’t want to listen to the answer. They are in a much bigger hurry to tell us how they feel. Because this is how they deal with their fear.

People who are asking how others are so they can speak about themselves we see around us every day. It is a coping mechanism and a “social skill”. So my suggestion would be: don’t ask people how they are if you don’t mean to listen to them. If you need to talk, say it: “I need someone to talk to”, and I am sure people will listen.  

3. Do not watch the news, except for specific times in the day, so you can give yourself time to process the information you’ve already got. Choosing the source of information can also help in getting some accurate ones. 

4. A cold head is good to have in such circumstances. Do what is needed wherever we are, instead of getting emotional and creating scenarios in our heads about a future we do not know anything about yet. War is unpredictable, no matter what diplomacy says. I don’t think the world leaders were prepared for the one in Ukraine. War and its consequences are practical. Yet, to be able to deal with its practicalities, people need to be strong psychologically.

5. Flexible mindset helps, and use of words which would place the mind on a non-catastrophic path: “I choose”, “It’s bad, yet it’s not the worst”, “I don’t like it, yet I’m doing it anyway”, – are formulations which keep the mind in a less comfortable place, yet survival and active one, with a good chance of turning positive. 

6. Make a distinction between behavior and the human having it, when speaking with people: “your behavior is less fortunate” instead of “you’re so and so…”, and I don’t need to mention any less positive words some of us can call people around them. People are good. Behaviours are bad, and they can be changed with will and work. 

7. A detached attitude can also help: “I can’t do anything about it anyway”; “Nothing can happen to me/us”; “It’s not here yet”, and so on. At the same time, there is always something we can do in this digital world within the detachment. I am sure we can write, share resources, provide the information we may know, translate if we speak several languages, volunteer, and more. 

8. Talk to children about the war in a way they will understand. Explain as honestly as possible the emotions we have as adults, and which may occur in the process. Naming them for children and accepting them within ourselves will help them also understand what they are going through. Accordingly to their age, it is good to make references to bedtime stories, films, and books they may be familiar with.

Emotional regulation is a challenge both for children and adults, at the same time, the adults are supposed to be responsible and be able to take care of their feelings and the children’s. We also know that children are survivors and good at hiding feelings. Therefore, paying attention to their eating and sleeping patterns, and the degree of fear and shyness in the presence of other people can help detect if they are really ok.

9. Take care of yourself, if you can, with everything that implies: healthy food, sports, sleep, meditation or prayer, routines, social circle, and whatever makes everyone have a sense of meaningful life. All this will help approach the situation from a better standpoint, and a feeling of control.  

10. Think of a social network. Where can you go for help and when? Who are the people you can trust? Have a plan. Check the municipality’s websites for practical information they may have.

11. And last but not least, if you are an immigrant, do not take the war with you. Remember that leaders make wars, not ordinary people who decided to leave the bad leaders anyway. Now they live in the same country as you.

If you come from a country with lousy leadership and a flawed political system, you are not responsible for it, even if you voted for them. The same goes for people coming from other countries.  Throwing bad words to people from the country your leaders decided to go to war with, knowing that the locals won’t understand the language you’re speaking in, is not very elegant nor says something good about you. If you support the political decisions in your country of birth, it can be a good idea to keep it to yourself while you are an immigrant in another country.

If you need to talk about this war issue that is affecting us today, do let me know on this link

Wishing you Peace!

9 needs you may want to be aware of

worried young woman sitting near broken automobile at roadside in countryside
worried young woman sitting near broken automobile at roadside in countryside
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

Have you ever thought of what is it that you really need so your life can be beautiful and worth living?

When we are born, we are very much in touch with our bodies and emotions. We know when we are hungry and look for mum’s breast or bottle. We know when we want to sleep, and we sleep. We know when we want to pee and poop, and we do that, regardless of who’s around. So for the first five to six months of our lives, we do not care who is watching what we are doing; we follow this cycle which we see on baby clothing: eat -sleep -poop -repeat. And we are entirely dependent on adults around us to help us in this process. We need them to feed us, change our diapers and eventually put us to sleep in a relatively comfortable place. 

Research shows that the most comfortable place for a baby to sleep is on parents’ bodies, so they can get help to regulate their feelings by hearing mum’s or dad’s heartbeat. These two are the ones children are used to, even since they are in mum’s belly. Our body is our emotional monitor, the only place to feel them. Yet, we learn soon enough to shut it down because we need to survive and adjust so we won’t upset the adults around us because we cannot survive without them. 

Depending on how emotionally receptive the parents are, children develop a healthy emotional life or start living in their heads instead of balancing between emotions and mind. This is how human beings begin to ignore many needs they have, which may not be satisfied: by ignoring the body, who’s trying to give hints of what a human may need, through the feelings. 

Unfortunately, our society is just beginning to discover how this world of needs and feelings works and eventually how to deal with it. Psychology is a young science, and emotional education is even younger as a concept. 

I am suggesting here nine needs human beings may have, and only a few are aware of them: 

  1. The need to be seen and validated by other people. We need encouragement and to see that what we do is ok. 
  2. The need to control something or someone in our lives. Usually, when there is a lot of chaos around us, we tend to lean into a hobby, where we feel we have control, or other people can lean into body control and diets. The body is the only thing one can feel a measure of control over. We see it in small children who protest against their surroundings by refusing to learn how to use the pot or peeing in bed when they are older. This last one is not done consciously. It is a sign from the body that it feels insecure, and the child needs more certainty in its life. 
  3. The need to rest. We may often be exhausted. Tiredness can be physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, sensitive, or creative – depending on which kind of activities we are engaged in. At the same time, it is essential to be mentioned that emotions can provoke physical tiredness because strong feelings “hurt” physically. 
  4. The need of doing something meaningful. Adults feel it often. Why do we do what we do? Meaning of life does not have to be in our job. We have jobs (which pay the bills) and work (which gives us meaning for living our lives). If we can combine those two and do our work in our jobs, we are lucky. 
  5. The need of having the energy to do all the things we want to do. When we have big dreams and get overwhelmed by them, we need to break them into small pieces to feel that they can be achievable and we have energy for them. We can also pay attention to what we eat because food is medicine, and according to how appropriate the food is for our body, we will have energy. We also need to sleep enough for our bodies. Lack of sleep leads to a lack of energy. We also need to move every day. Depending on each body, it can be cleaning the house, walking for 45 min, doing some sports, dancing, etc. The idea is to move. Because movement also brings energy into our bodies.  
  6. The need for practical support. We need help with whatever we need to do because we can’t manage everything independently. Therefore, asking for help is essential and saying no to tasks we feel we cannot do. 
  7. The need for emotional support. We need to talk to family, friends, a group of people, a therapist, or a coach. There is a difference between the two of them. You find out which if you click here
  8. The need for intimacy. We need good words, touch, moments of vulnerability to share with someone. Choose wisely when you decide to be vulnerable in any way, and lean into people who can support you in that need. 
  9. The need for pleasure. Life can be joy, and we can find small pleasures every day: a good coffee; a walk in the park or the sun; a warm bath, a good book, good music, spending time with someone dear o us. All these small things are available to us; we need to see them and make them worthwhile. 

What do you need? What is it that you can do, so you can live better with yourself? 

As adults who decide to move abroad, these needs may be challenging to satisfy at the beginning of the new place. At the same time, we need to remember that many people move abroad because some or all the needs I mentioned above are not fulfilled in the country of birth. Therefore, it is even more important to be aware of what we need and fulfill those needs in the new place we decided to move to. As adults, we are solely responsible for taking care of ourselves and asking for help, especially when we are on foreign ground. We cannot expect the locals to see what we need. If they are supportive, they may only be as far as their understanding of us goes. My experience is that those who never have experienced living abroad will seldom know what immigrants need. 

So, if you’re an immigrant, what do you need? 

I can help with need nr.7 – emotional support – if your family and friends do not help you with that. You only need to click here and ask for it.

Best wishes from