Venturing into the unknown – talking about emigration and the uncertainties

Cartoon of a girl balancing on a paper plane

People are forever moving – to a new house, a new town or city or sometimes even to a new country. The life-changing decision to emigrate from your home country can make the scale of life tip either way. By taking this risk we stand to lose so much, or we can gain so much. 

We embark on this great mission of resettling elsewhere in the world in the hope of creating a better life. This quest, however, has a ripple effect on all concerned. 

Venturing into an unknown world

We all live in two worlds: the outer world of experiences, circumstances and situations, and the inner world of reactions, emotions and thought. 

Emigrants venture into a new, unknown world; they leave the familiar to start afresh amid a new culture and environment. These changes can play havoc with our inner life. 

As an emigrant, you have physically moved to a different country, but your inner world remains the same. This “in-betweenness” results from being displaced from your familiar world. This feeling can aptly be described as “torn between two worlds”.

Although everyone’s experience of emigration is unique, the psychological experience of relocating into an unknown environment often results in ambivalent feelings. 

Emigration may be a liberating and positive experience as some people fully seize the opportunities and continue to thrive in a new world. Others experience a profound sense of being emotionally uprooted, causing feelings of loss and pain. Some experience both. Thus the puzzle of life can get messy.

Uncertainties and doubts

So, for the “would-be” emigrant there may be many uncertainties: Should I leave or should I stay? Have I got what it takes to make it out there? Am I making the right decision for me and my family? Who will take care of my loved ones who remain in South Africa? 

For the “already-there” emigrant there may be many doubts: was it the right decision to pull up my roots and leave South Africa? Will I forever feel like a displaced traveller? How do I prevent drifting away from loved ones back home?

The life puzzle of loved ones remaining in South Africa is also scrambled. In trying to cope, many questions may arise, such as “do I go with them to the airport when they leave?” or “how do I deal with the profound feeling of loss?”, “how do I stay in contact?”

Solving the puzzle

For both the emigrant and those left behind, opening up and talking about how we really feel can be tough. It takes guts to start counselling. It requires you to be vulnerable, to look deep inside yourself in search of clarity. The truth is that all the answers to your life puzzle are within yourself. 

Talking to a professional helps clarify your mental image. Leaving it for too long tends to cause complicated grief. 

In a safe space, a guided discussion will help uncover the unconscious part of your thinking. The pieces must fall in place one by one to restore the bigger picture.

Sometimes one consultation is sufficient to figure out where to place that one missing piece. Others need a few sessions to rebuild their puzzle. Specifically with online emigration counselling, distance is no longer a barrier. For the emigrant, having an emphatic ear can make all the difference. 

Here is the link to the story published.

Daily Maverick Logo

Source: Daily Maverick