Psychology

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    Fikrun wa Fann was a cultural magazine published by the Goethe Institute from 1963 to 2016 that supported and shaped the cultural exchange between Germany and Islamic countries. Together with the publishing of the last issue, “Flight and Displacement” (issue 105), in autumn of 2016 the maintenance and updating of this online portal was ceased.

    The Scent of a Foreign Land
    Migration and Banishment from Childhood

    A psychotherapist tells of the patients from North Africa and the Middle East who come to her seeking help. Many of them either came to Germany as children or grew up here as children of immigrant parents. This situation puts very specific psychological strains on a child – strains that also shape their experiences as an adult. In such cases, it can be helpful to gain an understanding of this situation by way of psychoanalytical treatment.

    People with roots in North Africa or the Middle East have been coming to my psychoanalytic practice for many years. Among them are war refugees, migrant workers, and people who have moved to Germany to be with their wives (who either come from the same culture as they do, or may have their roots in Germany). I also see young adults who migrated or fled to Germany as children with their parents, or followed them to Germany once their parents had established some kind of stability in their lives here, as well as young adults who came to Germany to study. These people are able to come to my practice because of an achievement of the German health system, namely that anyone with health insurance, regardless of their income, can access psychotherapy.

    The challenges facing immigrants

    There are many reasons why people leave their native countries, two of the most important being the dream of a better life and the desire to liberate themselves from unbearable circumstances and misery. Immigration deals a blow to one’s sense of self, a blow that makes itself felt over the course of many years. Coping with everyday life in a different language, indeed the very act of speaking a foreign language (many immigrants only take their first steps in the German language when they arrive here), requires a constant, extra mental effort over a long period. Moreover, the hierarchies here, which are less pronounced or different to those in the Maghreb or the Middle East, can be disconcerting.

    Migration always raises social questions too. As a rule, a person’s social status remains evident in their country of arrival. Those who belong to the affluent, educated classes have other means of developing a new life-world for themselves than those who hail from rural communities in the Rif Mountains of Morocco or the mountains of eastern Anatolia. That said, in the country of immigration relationships do develop between people from different classes – relationships that would be frowned upon in their home countries. Many adults have to put up with social degradation in their host country because their educational or professional qualifications are not recognised, or because the social relationships that ensured them a good reputation in their native countries are either broken or at least irrelevant here. Cultural differences between the country of origin and the host country influence the way migrants find their way into society here. Their arrival is also shaped by fantasies: both the fantasies of those who are arriving about their new place of residence and the fantasies of those who already live there about the new arrivals’ country or region of origin.

    The impacts on children

    I would like to turn my attention to what I consider to be a most significant aspect, namely the very specific influence migration has on a child’s development. What influence do emigration and immigration during childhood have on the relationship between children and their parents, on their sense of self, and on how they learn to assess their own strengths? Regardless of the situation, children, who are not asked whether they want to stay or go, are affected by the decision to migrate. This is something that is common to all children who lose their familiar social environment when their families move away. However, there are differences between a move from Frankfurt to Munich and a move from a village in the Rif Mountains to Munich. The parents themselves are disrupted in very different ways by the new everyday life in which they find themselves. This in turn influences the grounding and security they can offer the child, who also has to find their way around a whole new life-world. I treat adults, but what makes these adults different is that at a certain point in their lives – a time when, ideal-typically, children form a provisional understanding of the world on the basis of all that is familiar to them, and when things change only gradually – they experienced an external rupture that had cumulative impacts. These children’s childish faith in the safety of the world has been destroyed while they were still very young. To a certain extent, they have been banished from childhood at an early age; in severe cases, they are traumatised by this change. Boys and girls develop different strategies for dealing with this situation and with their mothers’ and fathers’ uncertainty. In this article, I would like to focus on female development.

    Example 1: Early separation from the mother

    A married, 29-year-old political scientist came for psychotherapy sessions to address an eating disorder. She told me that she was unsure she had chosen the right profession and ultimately doubted whether her husband still loved her. She asked herself whether she wanted to risk having a child with him and even whether she really wanted to be a mother or whether she was just feeling the pressure from her family, which grew with every passing year.

    She was less than a year old when her mother left her with her grandparents. Her parents were both teachers in eastern Turkey. In the mid-1970s, her mother decided to respond to the recruitment drive for female workers in Germany. Her father subsequently followed. When the daughter was a good three years old, her parents sent for her. She told me that during the period of separation her parents recorded messages for her on cassette tapes and sent these to her with letters. She told me a family anecdote. One day, during the period of separation, she drew on the white walls of her grandmother’s house with a pen. When her grandmother asked her what she was doing, she replied that she was writing a letter to her mother. The grandmother sympathised with her granddaughter’s pain at the separation: she burst into tears and didn’t scold the little girl for scribbling on the wall. As soon as the daughter was old enough, her mother promised her that she would pay for whatever her daughter’s first-born child needed in the first three years of its life. During the course of psychotherapy, the patient became pregnant and considered her mother’s offer carefully. Feelings that had remained hidden deep inside for a long time, feelings that she had not understood but that had plagued her for many years, were brought to the surface once again: her anger at her mother, her distress at having been left alone, and her desire for absolute independence. The outcome of this process was that she decided to accept her mother’s offer.

    Example 2: The victim of repatriation

    A 45-year-old, married, working mother-of-three sought psychotherapeutic help for severe insomnia, a variety of physical complaints for which there was no organic diagnosis, and debilitating depression. When asked about her childhood, she told me that her father, who worked as an industrial labourer in Germany, left his wife and two first-born children (of which she was one) at his mother’s home in a mountain village in eastern Turkey. He eventually agreed to send for his wife and children. The patient was five years old at the time. Some time later, when her grandmother found it too difficult to live alone, the now eight-year-old girl offered to go and live with her grandmother so that her mother could stay with her younger siblings and her father in Germany. Living in straitened circumstances, and under her grandmother’s strict regime, the girl tended sheep and goats and went to the village school. Her parents visited once in five years. At the age of thirteen she lost so much weight that she was sent to a female doctor. The doctor was insistent that the girl’s father should take the child to Germany because her life was in danger.

    Reunited with her family, she discovered that she was estranged from her mother, father and siblings. She could no longer speak German. After a period of rebellion, she decided to assume responsibility for her young siblings and her mother. At school, she began to work harder. One of her teachers saw that she was making an effort and arranged for her to switch from a special school to a regular school. After another change of school, she passed the school-leaving exams needed to attend a university of applied science. The pattern of assuming responsibility has continued until this day, undermining both her physical and mental health.

    Example 3: A small child on the run

    A young woman sought my help just before she was due to complete her studies. When she was eighteen months old, she and her parents fled civil war in a country in western Asia. She was unable to complete her studies for a number of reasons, one of which was the fact that she could not bear the thought of working in a lovely, big office at the company where her father was doing shift work in the basement. Whenever her father described this situation to her in hopeful anticipation, she was filled with searing pain. Once she had gained her diploma and got a job where she was doing work that was commensurate with her qualifications (it was not, incidentally a full-time job, but a job that meant she was earning just enough not to have to take on any other work), she began to fantasise about all the things she wanted to buy for her father and mother.

    At the same time, her parents seemed to her to be boasting or even lying whenever they spoke of all the land they had owned in their country of origin. Her parents came from an affluent, educated background. The young woman’s self-image fluctuated between that of what she eventually referred to as a ‘ghetto child’ and fantasies about being a princess; after all, her great-grandmother had lived at court. Over the course of a long and intense course of treatment, she increasingly became able to integrate divergent internal images and life plans and to endure the tension in those cases where the divergence was still considerable. She also learned to bear the feelings of guilt with regard to her mother and father when she was at last able to improve her own life reality.

    Internal and external pressure

    These examples may give the reader an impression of the feelings, tensions, and actions children have to deal with when their lives are marked by migration: feelings of being deserted, feelings of separation (in some cases even from the mother and father), sacrifices (both in the uplifting and the agonising sense). Parents, for their part, experience feelings of guilt that are sometimes accompanied by efforts of atonement, are sometimes denied, or are obscured by demands. Children instinctively have a keen sense of their parent’s insecurity.

    The intertwining of inner psychological and external constellations is all too rarely adequately recognised and understood. The inner orientation to diverging social expectations regarding roles, which harbour enormous potential for inner tension, is also all too rarely understood. Not only do children and young people remain alone: sometimes the inner tension is even intensified by the reactions of their German environment or the immigrants’ environment. Using another example, I would like to illustrate in more detail how this inner tension continues to makes itself felt throughout the course of a person’s life.

    The scent of a foreign land

    A woman in her mid-thirties came to me because of her increasingly depressive moods. She originally hailed from northern Africa. She told me of a failed relationship with a man and her desire to have children. A short time previously, her grandmother, who still lived in the country from which this woman came, had died. She was the last of the grandparents’ generation to pass away. With pride, the patient spoke of her work in a home for children and young people where she, a qualified educator, had a job that was usually reserved for people who had graduated from a university of applied sciences. She was now afraid of jeopardising everything that she had achieved at her place of work as a result of her listlessness and inattentiveness. She told me about past major conflicts with her family, which even led to her running away from home at the age of fifteen. Despite the fact that she often complained (about herself) that she was not good enough (‘can’t do anything right’), it was clear to me that the person sitting opposite me was a strong, bright woman. We got along well with each other, so I did not hesitate to suggest a course of psychoanalysis, which she readily agreed to, despite the amount of time involved.

    She is the oldest of six children. Her father was already living and working in Germany at the time of his marriage, doing a succession of simple jobs. Latterly, and right up until he retired, he had a secure job. When the patient was eleven, her mother left her husband’s parents’ home and moved to Germany to join her husband, taking her daughter and her two younger sons with her. Three more children were born in Germany.

    The image that the analysand (i.e. the patient undergoing psychoanalysis) painted of her life-world was clearly polarised:
    • She associated the North African world with characteristics such as backwardness, self-interest, hypocrisy, slander, and social control;
    • By contrast, she saw the German world as open, interesting, and desirable. When speaking, she used German expressions and proverbs with relish. She had enjoyed the sound of the language ever since, as a child, she heard her cousins speaking to each other in German during their holidays in the country of her birth.
    The fact that many of her own personal experiences did not correspond to this black-and-white image did nothing to shatter it. Whenever she was overcome by the feeling that she was not good enough, her mood would become depressed. This resulted in her making an even greater effort at work and not daring to refuse to meet exaggerated demands. It soon became evident that the greatest demands did not come from her colleagues, but from inside herself. In order to question this ingrained mechanism, which had become a major shackle, it was absolutely essential that she become aware of it. It was equally essential that she access the good memories that she had buried deep inside. Over the course of time, a more vivid image of her life plans emerged, as too did the ability to pinpoint more precisely the various conflicts for which no sustainable solution had been found and that had fallen prey to repression or the split into a black-and-while picture.

    Scene 1: The princess and the patriarch

    Memories of her early childhood resurfaced, revealing a lively, wild girl who had held a special place in her paternal grandfather’s heart. From early in the morning she would be at his side, playing nearby while he went about his work in the fields. She was allowed to sit on his knee, and he regularly brought her sweets from the weekly market. She realised from an early age that she could get away with quite a lot because she knew without a doubt that her grandfather would take her side in any confrontation with her mother. Everyone was afraid of her grandfather, who had been a stern disciplinarian in raising his sons and daughters: only his little granddaughter felt loved and protected by the patriarch. Bolstered by this sense of certainty, she felt emboldened to brush off her father’s attentions on his visits home and ignore the gifts he brought her. Instead of missing him, he became in her imagination a man who disrupted the peace in her grandfather’s house. She recalled one incident when she was punished for her unruliness and her rejection of him: her father brought her to a tree in the garden and told her she would have to sit underneath it until he allowed her to come back into the house.

    Scene 2: Absent fathers and the scent of a foreign land

    Nevertheless, she could not banish from her experience a painful feeling about her father, who had always remained a stranger. Her demonstrative lack of interest in her father was also an attempt to unfeel the pain of the notion that she was not important enough to him for him to stay with her. She interpreted his long absence, which was impossible for a small child to understand, and the time he spent away from the house during his holidays as a sign of his lack of interest in her. She was six years old before she grasped for the first time that other fathers were absent too (at least one son in every family in the village was in Europe). She understood that there were different kinds of foreign countries, countries that she could identify by the scent of the things people brought with them. ‘Germany smelled of gummy bears; Belgium smelled sweet, like waffles.’

    She also discovered something else around this time. One day, she and her mother visited a distant relation who lived with her daughter in an old house that even the child realised was shabby. Without thinking, she pointed out to her relation, who was the same age as herself, that she had a hole in her slippers. The reprimand that followed was swift and angry: ‘At least you have a father who will send for you!’ The little girl’s reaction troubled her. She eventually understood that the father of the little girl had another family abroad and was no longer interested in the family he had left behind in the village. He sent neither money nor presents. But even before she understood, she was immediately ashamed of the pain she had unintentionally caused the other child.

    Scene 3: Discipline is introduced

    Going to school in the village became a loathed obligation: the little girl, who was otherwise so self-confident, became afraid in class and began to wet her bed. She understood nothing and was held up to ridicule – and even beaten – by the teachers. Other children stole the beautiful pencils and copybooks her father had brought her from Germany. She didn’t want to go to school any more. Finally, one morning, she refused to put on the lace-up shoes her father had given her specially for school, and didn’t want to set off for class. This time, her grandfather intervened: he roared at her and slapped her. She had never seen him so angry before. She was terrified – a feeling that returned when she recalled this long-buried memory in one session – and had no choice but to obey.

    She then found other ways of defiant self-assertion. When she was supposed to do her homework, she would do so out of doors, where she would regularly fall asleep in the sunshine. No reprimands had any effect on her. Things were very different in Germany: she enjoyed going to school here; she suddenly found she was able to do sums; everything was interesting. Her teacher soon recommended that she switch to a class better suited to her age. Although she was still only speaking broken German, she was able to follow the class. She maintained this level of curiosity throughout her time at school and into her professional training; it was also the motor that drove the analytical process.

    Scene 4: From ‘everything was harâm’ to a mediator between the family and German officialdom

    She told me about the increasingly strict dress codes that were imposed on her, about the beatings she and her two younger brothers received for minor offences or misunderstandings. Home became a prison for her. There were many chores to be done at home and opportunities for meeting friends outside the flat were limited. She enjoyed going to school in Germany and wanted to go on learning, do her school-leaving exams, and study. Her parents had other ideas: even though they had considered education important when they lived in their country of origin, and even though some of her aunts there had studied, they now felt that she should become a wife and mother at the earliest opportunity. When the family conflict escalated, the fifteen-year-old girl ran away. The subsequent meeting between a representative of the Youth Welfare Office and her parents made two things possible: she was allowed to return to the family, and to continue her school attendance. Her father’s authority was broken: he did not want to risk the shame of ever again having to receive somebody from the authorities into his home and account for the way he ran his family.

    Because the young girl had the edge over her parents in terms of knowing what is permitted in Germany and what is not – corporal punishment is not allowed in Germany; children have to attend school until the age of sixteen; children can contact the Youth Welfare Office themselves – and because she made active use of this knowledge in an emergency situation, her parents called on her from that point on to act as a mediator between the two worlds. She assumed tasks that would normally have been dealt with by her parents, managed all dealings with authorities and insurance companies, and accompanied her mother on visits to the doctor. In this respect, the division of authority between children and parents was virtually reversed. This radical change began soon after her arrival in Germany.

    Scene 5: The parents’ ‘German’ and ‘North African’ children

    The birth of the family’s first child in Germany was a painful experience that reverberated for a long time. The now twelve-year-old girl suffered when she witnessed her father’s tender affection for his newborn daughter and the way he held the infant in his arms and gave her a pet name. The newborn infant had the father’s unconditional love, and made him happy. No matter how much effort the elder daughter put into her household chores, she never got the love the baby received just for being there.

    This experience revived both the loss of her grandfather’s protective presence, which she had hardly mourned, and the familiar life-world with all its solaces and attractions – her playmates, the adults, the alleyways, houses, fields, animals, smells, and the light – that she lost when she emigrated to Germany. As would become evident in the course of her life, all of this created a much more profound split.

    The establishment of the family in the new country – more than ten years after the parents’ marriage – took place in the midst of a complex process of change. The arrival of the first child born in Germany was a whole new beginning for the family. The position of the mother was in many respects similar to that of her first-born child in the first few years they lived together. Germany was a whole new world for them both; neither could speak the language they needed to complete everyday tasks; both were living away from their large family for the first time. However, with her pregnancy and the birth of the child in Germany, she gradually assumed the position of family matriarch. Since the reunion of the family, her father had also been searching for a new self-image. He found security in a deepening of his faith, gradually gave up habits he had previously acquired (such as smoking and drinking), and began to pray regularly. The eldest daughter had to submit to outdated moral ideas of what a young woman should be: she was repeatedly told about the importance of remaining a virgin. For her part, she had to deal with the typical instincts and urges of puberty, and wanted to keep up with the more provocative clothes and hairstyles of her generation. An attempt to wear the headscarf in order to take some of the tension out of her relationship with her father and mother failed; she stopped wearing it after a short while. She spent more and more time with a friend and her family, seeking guidance and even refuge there.

    A German woman who lived in the same house as the girl’s family became a kind of mediator for them all. Even the father listened to her. It was this woman who, together with the other people living in the house, prepared a welcome for the mother and her children by painting the stairwell and decorating it with balloons.

    Rebellion, responsibility, and the gift of being able to accept support

    An attentive and experienced instructor noticed the young woman’s anxiety in the run-up to her final submission. Over and over again she asked how work on the submission was progressing, until one day the young trainee admitted to her that she hadn’t even started working on it. At this stage, the deadline for the submission was drawing near. So the instructor asked her to explain what it was she wanted to write. Every day, she listened to what the young woman had to say and passed remarks on it. This helped the student straighten things out in her mind and enabled her to start writing them down. She received an award for her work and its clear understanding of pedagogical theory, and was the envy of the others in her class. She hardly dared to be pleased about her success.

    She would have loved to go to university and get a degree. However, in order to do so she would have had to lead an independent life in her own apartment in a distant city. Now that relations within the family have relaxed somewhat, the mother recently said, to the surprise her eldest daughter’s surprise, ‘It wasn’t a good thing for you that we came to Germany so late, otherwise you would have gone to university.’ Of the three children in the family who were born in Germany, one is just completing her university degree, another has just started one, and the youngest is still at the academic high school. All three of the children who were born in Morocco completed apprenticeships.

    Conflict constellations

    These scenes contain a number of themes and conflict constellations that are typical for children of immigrants from North Africa and Western Asia:
    • The big mysteries as to why the family is not living together.
    • The polarisation of life-worlds, which does not appear to the children affected by it to be problematic and, therefore, changeable.
    • The polarisation of their own inner state, which they cannot grasp.
    • The confrontation with parents who, in their uncertainty, become rigid, thereby triggering conflicting reactions in the children: the desire to resist this rigidity, and at the same time to protect their weak parents.
    • The early assumption of responsibility in the family, a role in which they have no models to look up to. On the one hand, this intensifies fantasies of their strength and importance; on the other, it triggers the fear of making a momentous mistake. This constellation is akin to a banishment from childhood.
    • The different status of the children born in the new country intensifies sibling rivalry, which is partially obscured by the early assumption of a mother role.
    Those who come from a culture that is clearly dominated by men, and where instincts are restrained by the demureness and veiling of women in the public realm, will themselves succumb to a greater instinctual pressure in a more liberal culture that has other forms of instinct suppression. This makes them feel insecure. It increases the worry that their children – in particular the girls – will lose all restraint. Both often lead to countermeasures that can result in rigid behavioural and relationship patterns. In some family constellations, the severity of the uncertainty, the conflicts, the violence, and the rebellion take on unbearable forms, sometimes even leading to the most extreme acts of violence. Unavoidable conflicts run a much milder course when the parents respect and love each other, and when the first years of a child’s life are spent in a largely stable life context, and are characterised by the certainty that he or she is loved. Naturally, it is helpful if they have creative power and curiosity and can maintain both throughout all the crises. In these cases, the broadening opportunities of migration will transcend the traumatising aspects.

    Conclusions

    1. Children rely on the care and protection of their parents and the wider family environment for many years. Only gradually do reason and cognition develop, becoming more independent of direct experience and linguistically accessible (Sigmund Freud’s term for this was ‘rehearsal of behaviour’). No child can decide whether it wants to leave a familiar life-world and familiar faces. No child can appreciate what it means to leave its native country; even adults cannot imagine how profound the change is! This is why it is all the more important to speak to children – even to infants – about important facts and changes right from a very early age. The point is not that their minds grasp what is being said to them, but that they are given the feeling of being well cared for. This mitigates the unavoidable severity of the things that life throws their way, such as migration – that of the entire family, of one parent, or of both parents – with all the associated separations, uncertainties, and feelings of being forsaken. At best, the child will develop without any major problems and will learn to turn the constant internal and external conflict to its creative advantage (consider here the strikingly high number of authors, filmmakers, artists, musicians, and scientists of non-German origin in Germany). At worst, the child will be traumatised, which has serious consequences on their psychological and physical development.
    2. The development of the child’s instincts is also affected by the mysteries thrown up by migration. Internal agitation, which always goes hand-in-hand with sexual desire, intensifies the tension in encounters with the external life-world; children and young people cannot always distinguish between the two. This can result in a variety of behaviours. Some will block the desire; others will set out on a restless search for satisfaction without being able to engage in an emotional relationship.
    3. Throughout childhood, the child gradually develops the ability to realise and to bear the realisation that the people it loves most have their dark sides, and that it doesn’t always love its mother and father, but sometimes even hates them. The ability to tolerate the ambivalence of one’s objects of love and of one’s own feelings towards them is a sign of a developmental progress with regard to the initial inner division into good and evil. The absence of a central object of love, or of both – because of migration, for example – has an inevitable influence on this process; as does a life in a new country with disconcerted parents and a deluge of countless new impressions that sweep over the child all at once. The result is a particularly striking tension between the here – the familiar, its smells, noises, language, colours, light, places offering security (the parents) – and the there – the unknown, which is exciting and terrifying and yet stimulates curiosity. This shapes all current and future relationships to other people, to oneself, and to one’s own actions. The result is a split that can at best be overcome and transposed into a conflict so that a tolerable solution can be found. At worst, the split cannot become permeable, but solidifies and is denied, with damaging consequences for the individual and his or her relationships.
    4. Living together with their family in a new country means that the children and young people are confronted with parents whom they also experience as being weak, because they are unfamiliar with so many things. On the one hand, this leads to an appreciation of their own position and the depreciation of their parents. On the other, it generates a fear of making mistakes that could possibly have unforeseen, dire consequences. The development and inner growth of children and young people requires the image of strong parents and a gradual discovery of their weaknesses. If these weaknesses are too obvious, both children and parents will be marked in their dealings with each other. Parents will be ashamed that their children have witnessed their weaknesses and may try to hide them by being particularly strict; children will rebel against this, while at the same time unconsciously wanting to avoid making their parents any weaker. This explains why young people sometimes block out their opportunities for success and unconsciously neglect their intellectual abilities, because they cannot bear the thought of progressing further than their parents, who suffered degradation as a result of migration or exile or have worked extremely hard to gain a modest place in the new society. A strong, unconscious feeling of guilt develops, preventing free development in private relationships and in the workplace. It often happens that such children and young people end up in exploitative constellations in which they overexert themselves mentally and physically without being able to enjoy the fruits of their labour.
    5. Problematic conclusions are often drawn and are rarely seen as being problematic. The inevitable conflicts between young people and their parents are often viewed by immigrant children, or children of immigrants, in terms of their parents’ supposed backwardness. In fact they are part of what young people in changing societies (what Lévi-Strauss referred to as ‘hot societies’) generally thrash out with their parents’ generation. The sensation of the delusions of strength and importance that come with puberty combines with the premature assumption of the role of mediator in their new environment to create a disparaging image of their parents’ potency. The identification during psychoanalysis of this image as problematic is often greeted with resistance. The effect, however, is liberating: instead of a conflict that devalues the (parents’) origin, a typical parent-adolescent conflict emerges. Sometimes, a new view of the parents’ abilities also emerges, namely that their parents were able to provide for them and their family.

    Conclusion

    Psychoanalysis can make a helpful contribution to releasing the libidinous and creative forces of children and young people, and of those who are now adults. As I have illustrated, the ‘analytical space’ can provide a calm atmosphere where individuals can experience and consider the often intensified tension and polarisation in their life plans, without any pressure to take action. This opens up the opportunity to rethink one’s own wishes and fears and old solutions to conflicts, to mourn partings and losses, and to internally liberate oneself for the search for solutions more appropriate to the individual’s current life. The English psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott spoke of the ‘potential space’ that is key to the development of human creativity. Naturally, society can contribute by providing cultural spaces for children and young people where they can test themselves and where high-intensity polarisations are not forced.

    If the inner opening and the mitigation of the tension between the old and the new country succeeds, the individual can finally arrive, in a way that still maintains a link to the old country. In this respect, immigration opens up an incredible opportunity to leave external hardship behind, while at the same time following curiosity and dreams. Diversified life-worlds open up a broad free space for all, even for the indigenous members of society. Even the most cursory glances at the names of those who have won literary, artistic or scientific awards reveals just how much people who do not have German roots are now enriching the culture of the Federal Republic of Germany. Personally speaking, my psychoanalytic work with immigrants has been the source of incredibly stimulating encounters and discussions.
    Sigrid Scheifele has a doctorate in philology and a degree in sociology. She works in Frankfurt as a psychotherapist with a wide range of patients, including many from the Arab-Islamic world.

    Translated by Aingeal Flanagan

    Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Fikrun wa Fann
    November 2014

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