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 refugees 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 the refugees arriving with some or multiple symptomologies 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.