I saw this young man for about 3 years in my practice of clinical counselling. We ended the treatment when he felt that he was stable enough and ready to end his therapy. His self-report of traumatic experiences was quite horrifying and I had the opportunity to receive supervision while working with this client. It was about 4 years ago that he ceased coming in for his weekly counselling sessions. I wished him all well and that was it. Now, however, something quite unique is happening. Every now and then, sometimes a few months apart, I receive a phone call from this past client who just likes to update me on how he is doing. His updates are mostly about his improvements and new learning experiences. I listen to all his updates with compassion, interest, and empathy. His most recent update was a couple of days ago. I have been thinking of his reason for why we have these short 5 minutes phone calls or updates. I realize that it was not me that he is updating at all! He is, instead, confirming with himself that indeed he is doing well and there is no reason for fear anymore. This person has indeed done a tremendous amount of changes in his life; having a full-time job, having gone back to school and working towards his bachelor, plus being in a stable relationship. As to why he needs to update me; it is because he needs to remind himself that he is on a right path. If I as a therapist have witnessed his suffering, now it is time to witness his success stories.
Poran Poregbal, MA, RSW, RCC
Canada is in the process of accepting a large number of refugees, in particular people from Syria. Welcoming and bringing home refugees from Syria became a happy news in December 2015, when the first group of those individuals and families started to make the airport life more exciting than normal.
You could think that most settlement agencies across Canada, have instructions or plans in order to settle refugees and help them to integrate into their new communities’ best they can. However, the great question remaining is that what is the plan for the provision of mental health services for this population? What is the plan for treating and providing for mental health issues that most of the refugees are dealing with? Surely the research shows that refugees are the population prone to develop mental health issues due to the level of experienced pre-migration and at times post-migration challenges.
As a refugee, you arrive with the deep level of emotional pain and trauma simply because your life has been turned upside down. It is simply traumatic if you are forced to leave the known environment and knocking on neighbour’s doors for protection. For many people, it is challenging to ask for help and surely there are those who could require more services than others.
Therefore, it is important to understand the level of trauma that refugees are carrying with the self. Treatment of trauma and emotional pain is an absolutely important part of the settlement program for refugees, however regretfully, this issue could be overlooked easily. Treat the pain as the first step towards settlement, that is smart and helps the other steps to happen much faster.
Poran Poregbal, MA, RSW, RCC
Norooz is the new day that we all are waiting for, a new day that earth awakens and all species start a new cycle of growth. Norooz is the oldest tradition and celebration as it is stemming from spring, which is the beginning of all new starts. In the ancient Persian history, Norooz is considered to be a “winner” as Norooz is a fighter that always wins the battle with the darkness of winter, it is a real source of hope and light.
Norooz is the day that human mind will integrate itself with the freshness of earth, the beauty of nature, and the brightness of daylight.
Over time of human history, Norooz has been there and it has had many enemies, however Norooz is a winner of all time and no one can stop it from happening.
Norooz is beyond tradition or religion or any boundaries, Norooz is about life and growth that naturally is waiting for us all. Norooz is about surviving darkness and challenges and surviving the days that no lights are in the sight.
Norooz is an answer to all our pain and sorrow while it has a component of natural cure for all pain. The cure is to go back to our mother earth and find the real source of hope as Norooz is on our door.
Happy Norooz and happy spring.
Poran Poregbal, MA, RSW, RCC
Canada is accepting refuges from Syria. This is a great news and while the world is struggling to deal with Syrian refugees, Canada has already started to settle in those who are arriving every day.
It is important to understand that what refugees need is beyond physical settlement. Psychological settlement includes helping the individuals explore the traumas that they have endured. What the global community is dealing with is not a refugee crisis but a human crisis leading to millions of people feeling like they do now in Syria and that region.
As the Saadi Shirazi said in 1291:
Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.
In my professional view and in the position of having worked with refugees a longer time, I would argue that most of refugees arriving with some or multiple symptomology related to the Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or PTSD.
For the professional community, it may be obvious that refugees are a group of individuals who are arriving with many challenges including trauma, loss, grief, and emotional pain. Still it is important to educate both the public and the arriving refugees about the meaning and reason for symptoms that encompass PTSD. I will continue writing about those symptoms soon.
Poran Poregbal, MA, RSW, RCC
Have you noticed that many of us, Iranians, individuals and families, live in distress, anxiety, and confusion? Families are divided between here and Iran, between all countries around the world and Iran, between everywhere they live and Iran.
There are many things that bother us, first of all this notion of migration; we do not know how to handle it, yet, Iranians are one of the most successful groups of immigrants everywhere they go. Just here in North America, there are a number of reports proving this point. As much as many families and individuals adjust well to new societies when they first arrive, after the settlement period there are many identity questions that stand out: Who are we and what are we doing here anyway? How do we live our lives as newcomers, immigrants, and new Canadians? How does our identity match up with the norms and styles of life here?
Some of us are also unhappy people; we complain about many things and sometimes about everything. We compare here (Canada) and there (Iran) to the point that we cannot catch our breaths. All the flights to Tehran from North America and Europe are always booked, yet, we are missing something! We are not sure about our new identity, as individuals, as a group of people, and as a collective around the world.
Why are we this unhappy group of people?
Humanity is alive with hope; we are all in need of hope! Hope of having hope back in our home country. Hope for a home country where happiness is appreciated and everyone is encouraged to live a better and happier life. Hope for no more wars, no more conflicts, and no more hostile attitudes toward anyone.
We have many excellent subjects to work on. We have got the most resilient people in the world. We have all these educated women and men, who, if they could put their minds together, would form an ocean of creativity that would make us the most happy nation and most proud people on earth.
The question is: are we able to put our minds together?
Have you listened to Nazanin AfshinJam’s new song called “Someday”? It is most possible that you will shed some tears if you listen with your heart. Maybe because her words are all we need and want: “Someday darkness will fade away,” she says. Thanks Nazanin, we need this hope! You are a light in the darkness, truly!
We need to raise our children with a new identity, as being human beings who belong to this new world, a world of migration, a world of movements, a world of creation. Right now, we are like isolated islands either with no bridges or with broken ones. I am trying not to be negative, because this is the last thing we need, I am hoping to create a dialogue, to challenge our collective minds, and to awaken our collective consciousness about what is missing.
Let’s admit: we are all isolated individuals who may be successful in our individual fields, but that we need to rise above and move beyond our egos if we are looking for a solution. That is my humble opinion.
Just here in Vancouver, not talking about Canada, and not talking about the whole North America, how many Persian TV, radio, and satellite programs do we have? On a local basis, we have almost a dozen hard working media people who are, one by one, all sitting on their isolated islands making programs about our culture. It is difficult and frustrating to say that this happens because we do not know how to collaborate and how to cooperate in order to make one, two, three, or even more programs that are useful, meaningful, educational, and helpful for this widespread number of people who are all searching for a new identity in this community. Look at our satellite programs that are being broadcast from the States; they are nothing we can be proud of, just hostility, empty words, and copied songs and pop music that is not ours. Let’s try to be ourselves, to find what we can contribute to this culture of humanity and culture of being Iranian!
It is to be acknowledged that all this happens in the light of offering good programs but the content is equal to air bubbles, it says nothing that is caring or constructive. Lengthy talks about trivialities do not cure any pain. Let’s talk about ways in which we can start searching for the cure!
The most successful event I have seen here in Vancouver was the celebration of Women’s Day, which was arranged by a group of community women, who worked hard and created the most organized celebration. The tickets were sold out because they were very inexpensive at $15, and these women were able to convince their communities to attend. This group of women and also men in the background were the most selfless, caring, and humble people who could put such a nice event together.
Our media men have to ask what these women did and learn from their experiences.
Let’s be frank, this all happens because we do not know anything more than what we do. Now it is time to know better.
Those of us who have seen Mirzanouroz’s Shoes may need to go back and watch this beautiful historical movie again. Misdemeanour could not let go of the old, torn apart, and ugly pair of shoes that had brought so much unhappiness to his and everyone else’s life. He held on to those shoes and every single time he ran into trouble, he was backed up by a wise, and logical man who tried to ask the Hakeem for forgiveness and to not punish him for the damages he had caused because of his love for the old shoes. This wise man would tell the Hakeem, “Please forgive him, because he is a family man, he has grace, and he is a hardworking man. He made a mistake because this man does not know more than he knows!”
Now let’s relate this advice to our new life situation: We need to know better: to know more than we know! Let’s look at this a bit closer; we have got increasing numbers of Iranian immigrants. Just slowly, in past couple of years, we have got individuals and groups of Iranians who try to work on community building, New Year’s parties, celebrations, speeches, and socializing clubs are in place as grassroots activities. As long as these events are free of charge many people show up but when there is a small fee involved, the number of attendees decreases dramatically. Families, who are very well off, sometimes hesitate to pay a $5-$10 fee for being part of a group in order to break the cycle of collective depression and individual suffering.
I guess the concept of group work is very new to us and it takes long time to learn this way of finding support.
We have a common well-known concept here that many families lives are based on: Mazdak people. This concept of mardane Zan dar Canada, in our Persian community, which means “men with wives in Canada.” Men who cannot let go of their businesses back home and have to travel back and forth to take care of their companies and also families here. Women in these families work hard to keep the children and family life together. How much of family life and father role can these men give their families? This type of life is also another aspect of the forced migration to our nation.
Right now, we have a huge number of community programs that are happening in Vancouver. In every single Persian Newspaper, you will find many ads about groups that are being offered by various organizations. We can attend and learn if we leave our egos at home and be ourselves! Our people tend to go to the free ones and not the ones that charge a few dollars to cover at least their paper work. We do not need to isolate ourselves. Migration is hard; being new is harder; longing for a home is hardest. Let’s do it together, ask for help and also help those in need.
June 12, 2007
This article is also published at Goonagoon, June 22, 2007 Issue. See www.Goonagoon.ca
My home country has been taking as hostage. This is not a new incident. Thirty years has gone by without any real acknowledgment of this invasion. The safety of the world was endangered just because of this silent invasion of my home country. No one cared and no one noticed, but us. We had no voice then and we still don’t. However we will not let go.
The invasion occurred by those who said they were sent by god. They changed the notion of religion forever, at least for us Iranians. They have been persistent in creating misery. Our free will is in prison; at least it has been there past thirty years. Every time we opposed they tighten the ropes of control on our necks. We got scared of claiming our rights. We chocked due to the chaos.
Iran as a country has been taken hostage by people who are against happiness and joy. Millions of us had to relocate, flee, leave, and disconnect due to the level of fear these people created. Millions of us became victims of this hostile hostage taking inside our home country. A few circle of applauding supporters have got the best deal in this invasion. The rest of the nation is on its own. How about is the psychological damage to these victims? Well, many books are to be written in addition to few words that has been said by now. The damage is not known yet. Generations to come will wonder what happened.
What these hostage takers wanted? They demanded us to replace our home country for a hallucinated ideology, our culture for illusions, and our life for melancholy. Partly they have succeeded. Partly we Iranian, although we are hurt and impacted badly, still we cannot and will not let go.
Hostage taking of our home country did not occur only in a physical format. The unfolding events during past thirty years resulted to the psychological and political invasion of people’s homes, minds, and beliefs.
They took control over our lives in zero time. We were dis empowered in no time. Hostage takers got us all in their net, one by one. This was what they wanted.
Just to refresh our minds, we can look at the Personality traits and character of hostage takers. They are usually hostile, violent, hateful, inflexible, rigid, dangerous, out of control, and inappropriate.
The hostage takers use variety of methods to get what they want.
They start with threatening, intimidating, creating crisis, requesting submission, and acting violent, all and all in order to get the power over their victims.
The private logic of hostage takers is that if they get what they want, then they are no longer losers. They will overcome their own feeling of inferiority. They will compensate for what they do not have, knowledge, sophistication, and compassion.
Victim rights are never ever the concern of the hostage takers, why should it be?
Some more conscientious hostage takers promise to set victims free if and when they get the ransoms they are seeking. However, promises could be only worthless words and gestures. Gaining power and attention is the main concept when someone or a group of people act as the owner of the victims. This is what we Iranian experience, clearly.
The real illusion is that we start believing our hostage takers. The real damage is that we start identifying with our hostage takers. We hallucinate that they have the capacity for change or reform.
These wild people would only hurt us more if we believe them. Promises of the hostage takers of my home country were never real and will not be believed. Question is when and under what circumstances these hostage takers or better say criminals will give up this crazy act. The problem is that they have nowhere to go. We Iranian are doomed to negotiate with our hostage takers, to let them to keep the change of billions they have already received as ransoms, and to ask them to leave us alone. How would this be done as peaceful as possible? Well, I do not know.
Note: This article was originally written and published in EzineArticles June 9, 2008 by this author.
How would our life in migration look like without the phone?
With the new developments of the Internet and the new world of technology we Iranian should really appreciate all those people who are working to give us the chance to call home.
What do I mean? Calling home means calling to Iran, contacting our loved ones, and communicating with those whom our life are intertwined with.
Once in a while we have those phone calls which we wish we did not have. small or big requests from our families and relatives back home, who seem to think that we have carpets of dollar bills in our homes and if we want we could share a piece of that carpet with them. Many of us are scared of phone calls when we can not afford those requests, not to mention that we are unable to say no, and no does not always mean no for some of our families back home.
All the calls that make us to get emotional in this side of line because the longings, the dilemmas, and the injuries of migration are being expressed. Sometimes these phone calls save lives and sometimes it pushes people to the edge of craziness or self-hatred. We tend to be unaware of the impact of our spoken words even over the phone line.
Sometime we have calls that are for very good reasons. Phone calls to those we care about and those whom we like to hear their voice, a familiar voice that appears to understand us, and a voice that can validate our feelings.
We call because we need to share our life experiences with our loved ones or hear about their well-being Phone calls are truly part of our daily life, our Iranian daily life.
All the love calls from people who are marrying over the line of communication and over the phone calls for the arrangements. All the promises, words of love, encouragements, threats, interests, and plans that we Iranian pass down to the people on the other side of this long phone cord. And all the constructive and destructive conversations we have with our people back home, all and all these are constructs that challenge our lives every single day.
The impact of phone calls in our Iranian life are numerous and if we want to recognize them it takes books after books to be written.
However, it is important to identify some of the impacts which make our life miserable, different, unstable, and overwhelmed. There is a notion of not having any boundaries that make our lives vulnerable, nevertheless over a phone call. the impact depends on how long we have lived out of Iran, how fresh is our contacts, how much need there is out there for maintaining the contacts with people back home. There is no definite format for the impacts of phone calls in our Iranian life.
Certainly we can name many areas of our Iranian existence that are being handled over the phone with our loved ones back home.
Perhaps we can only look at one aspect at the time. How about marriage?
We are all familiar with those marriage issues that are being handled over phone calls with parents back home who try to intervene once conflict and marital issues are significant.
The topic of marriage therapy is fairly new in our Iranian culture. Couples have traditionally learned to discuss disagreements, challenges, and conflicts with elders.
Now the life in migration makes people use the phone to have someone to hear their issues in the marriage. The same as many marriages in the first place happened within the permission territory of our parents, divorce and separation has to also be (sometimes) confirmed or at least recognized by them.
We Iranian usually like to give advice, even to our adult children. Some parents although not knowing the circumstances in which their adult children live in, they do not hesitate to dictate what is right or wrong, good or bad, proper or improper.
There are many stories that many of us Iranian discern about how parents are influential in the life of their children, even over the line of telephone. There are some astonishing stories, true ones though, when a mother back home tells a son here in North America, whom to marry and what to do with their life.
It is incredible that many people can help their inability to make decisions by involving parents or relatives back home who have no idea about the actuality of life here in our communities we live in.
Not to mention that, many decisions about divorce, separation, news about educational successes, loss of friendships, or gain of new relationships are constantly being communicated to- with people back home.
This is certainly a sign for how our Iranian life in migration is still new and fresh. As much as we are trying to integrate into our new communities we manage to keep contacts, although very superficial ones with people back home.
With people I mean, parents, siblings, cousins, and friends. also all those contacts to government officials back home when some one on this side of the continent is trying to buy, sell, rent, or lease their properties.
It seems that arrangements or conflicts in our new lives are being handled by the taste of our old way of curing wounds.
Remember those years, whenever we had any wonderful, exciting, and rewarding situation we would run to our parents home or to those who would love to hear our stories. Now in our newly migrated life we may not have those people around us. Where do we turn to? We may call a person who is willing and interested to listen to us.
Over the phone we share many life experiences, stories, attachment issues and thoughts that are in need of being explored.
This reality is sometimes overwhelming in its nature, once we do not have any audience who can listen to us here wherever we live in; we pick up the phone to use our old patterns.
However, the painful reality is that our life and our circumstances have changed our life is never the same as when we lived back home. Many times our Iranian families who feel being isolated or alienated from their communities, they get stressed out about the unmet expectations in their new life. Phone calls may or may not help them at this point. The reality of life has to be looked at.
With or without phone calls, however we need to find meanings in our new lives, to view family rituals, roles, goals, and symbols in the light of our new realities. Surely, our family tasks and reunions at the end of the day, have changed.
Nothing is the same; we have to accept, to learn, and to cope. We still have the options of calling home, this is the least we can do when we need to hear some familiar voices. The good news is that phone calls these days are cheap compare to even twenty years ago, when many of us paid huge amount of money to phone calls, once we could not afford anything else. Now at least we do not pay that much money, yet, the quality of phone conversations and the reasons for the calls are the same. We care and we keep contact.
Life in migration with the new technology and computerized calling systems are really much easier today. We should appreciate this great aspect of our Iranian life, phone calls.
Note: This article was originally written and published in EzineArticles July 18, 2008by this author.
For creating a Family we need to have a set of principals. We live in a world where we receive manuals for every single item we purchase, yet, once we are building families, we have no manual to follow. Obviously there are huge number of literature and accumulated work out there; however, in our Iranian world, although we Iranian are family oriented, we still lack the main characteristics of family building.
I am certainly hoping that people from my home country and the Middle Eastern region would one day be able to have manuals talking about how children and families all deserve to live a peaceful, dignified, and respectful life. We all agree that individuals and families alone can not do it all. Stability comes with peaceful family building concepts that are practical enough for anyone to follow.
We Iranian often talk about how much we can die for our children. How about to live for our children and supervise them carefully?
We all believe that our children, just ours are the most talented and genius ones, how about to view all children, I mean all of them, as capable and genius?
We Iranian parents emphasize on respect, education, conformity. How about we respect our children to do what they are best at without asking them to follow our sometimes not best advises?
We Iranian have either too much control over our children or have no control at all. How about to work for social equality in our families, give our children a voice while we be the adults in our homes?
We Iranian often talk about our great love for our families, while not spending time with our children. How about encouraging all family members appreciating one another?
We Iranian parents lie to our children as we do not tell them the truth about our life situations and then we ask them to always be truthful. How about we model honesty by sharing what is going on in our families with our children (in an age appropriate manner)?
Once are life is distressed due to many life situations, our children feel the pressure twice. Once our families are separating, our children are much more in pain. There is a tendency among us, we Iranian, to think that children do not understand. We keep realities away from our children by manipulating them to the fictional life we believe would help them grow better. We do not tell our children how we feel as we fear to see them upset. How about having an open communication and share what is on our minds with our children?
This is the best private school we could offer to our children, school of truth and honesty.
Once our men and women divorcing each other, our children are in conflict.
We need to build a family, with or without both parents, in peace and harmony. We have no other choice.
If we use the Iranian common sense that we are all children of god, why not treat each other with respect as much as we believe god does. Middle Eastern countries for thousands of years have had people from all shapes, colors, and cultures. Why not to go back to the time when people traded with each other based on equal values and dignity. We need to be brave enough now, need to act like our heroic ancestors, and to voice our concerns about how much peaceful family building is important.
Family building based on individual values and peaceful conflict resolutions can be gradually transferred to our societies and communities. We Iranian should revisit our great philosophers and poets such as Molana (Rumi) to see how they define love and compassion for one another.
Family building should be encouraged and passed on to the next generations. We can only change ourselves. We need to change, to grow up, and to evolve; from inside out. Be in peace.
Note: This article was originally written and published in EzineArticles July 2, 2008 by this author.