Παρασκευή, 30 Σεπτεμβρίου 2011

SPLITS IN THE SELF FOLLOWING IMMIGRATION

Το παρακάτω κείμενο περιλαμβάνει αποσπάσματα από το άρθρο "SPLITS IN THE SELF FOLLOWING IMMIGRATION" του περιοδικού Psychoanalytic Psychology
Issue: Volume 24(2), April 2007, p 355–372, με πολύ ενδιαφέρουσες απόψεις όσον αφορά τη μετανάστευση.

Lea Goldberg, 1970 Immigration, a task of radical changes under the best of circumstances, can precipitate a serious psychological crisis and, yet, also be a unique developmental opportunity for those who undertake such a venture (Meaders, 1997). In the last 30 years, a burgeoning psychoanalytic literature (e.g., Akhtar, 1995, 1999; Elovitz & Kahn, 1997; Garza-Guerrero, 1974; Grinberg & Grinberg, 1989; Mann, 2004; Volkan, 1999) has examined the impact of immigration on inner processes. This has included the pivotal role of mourning (Grinberg & Grinberg, 1999) for the many lost objects, be it people, culture (e.g., language, music, food, cultural norms, and behavior), and the loss of the “average expectable environment” (Hartmann, 1950) and the move to a strange and unpredictable one. It also involves vicissitudes of identity (Garza-Guerrero, 1974) where the sense of continuity, confirmation, and consistency of the sense of self are threatened. The impact of the immigration experience has been seen to be mediated by various psychosocial factors, such as the motivation and circumstances for immigration, age of immigration, preimmigration character organization, the nature of the country left behind, the magnitude of cultural differences between the country of origin and host country, and experiences of efficacy in the new country (Akhtar, 1999; Tummala-Narra, 2004).
 
Akhtar (1999) conceptualizes the inner process following immigration as one where the immigrant is vulnerable to the splitting of self and object representations (Kernberg, 1966) along libidinal and aggressive lines. Before more adaptive ego defenses can be put into place, regression is a mechanism frequently resorted to. Splitting becomes predominant and colors the immigrants feelings about his two lands and his two self-representations. In this process, the country of origin is idealized and the new culture, devalued. Akhtar (1999) also suggests that these splits are subject to shifts (the objects of idealization and evaluation may change places) and contain the projective repudiation of developmentally higher-level conflicts (e.g., oedipal conflicts are reenacted within the triangle of the immigrant and the two lands) together with splitting of the immigrants self-representation.
  
Akhtar (1999) highlights four different tracks of splits and the concomitant integration that can be observed among immigrants while trying to resolve the anxiety they feel. The first track is termed “from love or hate to ambivalence.” The immigrant needs to synthesize “all-good” and “all-bad” representations of the former and new country, which involve alternate idealizations and devaluations until the representations can be brought together to form whole objects. Over time, the immigrant learns to see both the old and new country as multidimensional with positive and negative elements to both. The second track, “from near or far to optimal distance” sees a mending of being “too close” or “too far” from one or other culture. The third, “from yesterday or tomorrow to today” sees a move from idealizing the country and objects of the past and longings to return to it in the future, to a place where the immigrant can live in the present and see a meaningful future in the new country. The final track, “from yours or mine to ours” sees the move from perceiving the new culture, customs and so forth as part of a mine/yours split to a place of “we-ness”. Here, the new immigrant moves from a position of identifying totally with one culture and rejecting the other to a place where they feel a libidinal connection with both cultures that have become a part of them.
[...]  
Volkan (1999) in his conceptualization of nostalgia as a linking phenomenon addresses the dangers of nostalgia, whereby over identification with the representation of what was lost, in which the immigrant identifies with both loved and hated aspects of the lost object (country/culture), can lead to depression, or whereby the mourner/immigrant internalizes the mental representation of the lost country and culture into an introject, later externalized into a “linking object,” which prevents the completion of the mourning process. Marlin (1997) in a look at the difference between mourning and nostalgia following immigration suggests that nostalgia is a return to that which we never had, a fantasy. When fantasies become strong and entrenched in our minds, they serve to deny our losses and then block development and growth. However, Volkan (1999) also suggests that nostalgia used creatively provides a period of time for the immigrant or refugee to make adaptations to a new country.
[...] 
Akhtar (1999) suggests that “all migration is inherently traumatic” and indeed within psychoanalytic literature on trauma a similar debate has been seen whereby splits in the ego following trauma may be seen both as a “restitutive process” (Jacobson, 1959, p. 164) and also as pathological alterations in self-experience (Arlow, 1966). Ulman and Brothers (1988) in their psychoanalytic study of trauma highlight the traumatic shattering and faulty restoration of central organizing fantasies of the self as leading to symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder.
  
Together, one of the questions that arises from this psychoanalytic literature is to what extent or under what circumstances such splits in a sense of self are a healthy and adaptive defense activated after immigration in order to protect the ego or self from overwhelming anxiety, or under what circumstances these defenses become pathological, preventing the acculturation of the individual and preventing a genuine mourning process.
 
Although psychoanalytic theories of immigration have been well grounded in therapeutic and personal case studies and experience, there has to date been no empirical research that has tried to operationalize concepts from the literature and explore their applicability. This study explores the existence and function of “splits” in a sense of self following immigration among emerging adult immigrants from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) in Israel over a period of time and the extent to which these splits may be seen to be adaptive or pathological. It is a first attempt to operationalize the “tracks” that Akhtar describes and analyze their role in adaptation. It asks the questions of whether, for example, an increased experience of splitting as seen by idealization/devaluation of the country and culture are related to better or worse adaptation and psychological health both in the short-term following immigration and then after a period of time passes.
 
As suggested earlier, the experience of immigration is affected both by age of migration and by the cultural gap between the country of origin and host country. This study looks at emerging adults. Emerging adulthood is a unique age, the conceptualization of which began in the past few years (Arnett, 2000). It is a period of experimentation and exploration in love, work, and the young person's worldview (Arnett, 2000; Arnett, Ramos, & Jenson, 2001) in which the young person is both preparing for adulthood and also experimenting with different possibilities. In preparation for adulthood, the young person is involved in a process of consolidation of a sense of self or identity in the various areas of his or her life. Love relationships are experimented with and gradually become more serious. Work experiences become more focused on preparation for adult work roles. Mali Mann (2004) in an analysis of the experience of immigrant adolescents discusses the nature in which adolescents of immigrant families have a much more complicated task in establishing a sense of self-identity because of a limited ability to rely on parental ego function and on their parents coherent sense of identity. They are simultaneously weathering a second separation-individuation process of adolescence (Blos, 1967) and a third separation-individuation process of immigration (Akhtar, 1995). Emerging adults, while slightly older than adolescents, are still going through a process of consolidation of self (Arnett, 2000) albeit with a greater sense of independence and “personal authority” (Williamson & Bray, 1988) in relation to their parents.
  
Akhtar (1999) suggests that individuals migrating at later stages of development undergo characterologic processes that are more subtle and complex than those of childhood or adolescence because the ego is better organized, a postadolescent superego is in place, drives have attained fusion, and psychic structure has ensued. Immigrant emerging adults are in an in-between state of flux, neither children nor adults, and although psychoanalytic literature has not related specifically to them as a group, they are undertaking several complex inner processes simultaneously.
  
This study took place in Israel, a country with large numbers of immigrants. Between the years 1990 and 2003, over 1,100,000 immigrants came to Israel (making 13% of the total national population), of which approximately 9.5% were between the ages of 20 and 24 (figures from the Israeli Central Bureau for Statistics and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption). Aroian, Norris, and Chiang (2003) in their study of immigrants from the FSU in the United States suggest that since the FSU is a relatively Westernized country, there is a smaller cultural gap for immigrants from the FSU to other Westernized countries than has often been studied (e.g., many studies have explored moving from developing countries to the United States).
  
In sum, this study asks the following questions: To what extent can the existence of splits in a sense of self and in self/object representations be seen in the narratives of emerging adult immigrants? To what extent are the existence of splits and the endeavors to resolve these splits associated with better or worse mental health? Can an impact of splits in self/object representations and its modes of resolution be seen over a period of adaptation?

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