Fear of emigration

Photo: Domiriel

Going to live in another country is, without a doubt, a decision that will change your life, your way of being and of perceiving the world, as well as your relationships with family and friends. The experience is bound to have an impact: you will change, in most cases for the better!

Before leaving, packing your suitcase, or announcing your decision to your loved ones, you might be quite scared. You might experience fear of the unknown… of danger, of unexpected situations in an unfamiliar place you’re unsure you can handle, of ridicule, of loneliness, of losing “the little you have,” of failure, of not being able to go back, of being vulnerable, of not having any money… and, most of all, fear of change.

Why are you afraid?

You need to start by understanding what fear is: a basic emotion that has allowed the human species to survive. It is automatic and helps your body and mind to react and make appropriate decisions in dangerous situations. Fear is a normal emotion that helps you avoid being reckless and putting yourself at real risk. As the character that played this emotion in the latest animated Pixar film, Inside Out, said. “All right! We did not die today. I call that an unqualified success!”

So what is the problem with fear?

Today many of the dangers around you are not necessarily real, although they trigger a similar response in us. In other words, your brain reacts similarly if the danger is objective (a hungry lion chasing you) or subjective (a person panics if they have to go into a store to ask for something in another language): the physical reactions that may occur (tachycardia, for example) are activated in the same way and may even block us or prevent us from doing things.

At this point, it’s very important to understand the role of cultural and social influences. We are traditionally educated that to avoid being hurt, it is best “to stay put”, or that you should be afraid to explore because “you don’t know what you’re going to find”. Mistakes areunderstood as failures and not as learning: we’re afraid of what people are going to say and of rejection from strangers, and we are taught at home and by society to be “safe as possible” by doing the “right thing”, which is generally “what everybody else does” and guarantees us social acceptance and in some cases, affection.

Throughout our lives we develop emotions, experiences, knowledge, habits and routines that create our comfort zone. This is not easy to leave: even if it doesn’t generate satisfaction or happiness, it’s what we are familiar withand anything else is perceived as a potential danger. Those who are thinking about starting a new life in another country away from their normal environment andtheir family often experience a fear of the unknown and of losing what they have or who they are.

The reality is that you never forget who we are: if you dare to take the plunge, you can change and grow as a person, form new friendships or relationships, learn new languages, and develop new skills. You’ll be surprised about being able to do things you could never have imagined, expand your comfort zone and discard or modify the habits, customs and relationships that don’t let you fully develop.

This does not mean that the road is easy, or that the process isn’t frightening. There is no quick and easy fix, and you’ll have bad days. But if you trust yourself and keep your goals in mind—if you work hard stay motivated and keep on going—you will meet them and strengthen your confidence and therefore your wellbeing.

Emigrating puts you to the test. You may become emotionally detached, which is normal and necessary, as the process requires a period of adjustment and adaptation. It is a massive change on an emotional level, as it affects all spheres of our life (as you are adjusting to new standards, learning or speaking another language, living alone, separating from your family, experiencing new food, surroundings, schedules and customs, working in a different sector tan the one you are qualified in, etc.). It takes a while to settle down, integrate yourself into the new environment, accept what you have left behind and acknowledge or explore new things.

How long does it take to adapt/integrate?

The time will depend on how favorable the conditions (economic, legal, social) under which you emigrate are, on your personal traits and skills, on whether or not you have mastered the language and whether you can count on or access networks with social support (groups of expats, friends, or relatives living in the same city).

Some people find it harder to adapt and integrate satisfactorily. This may be a result of past experiences or problems that leave them emotionally blocked, so that experience is extremely difficult. If this is the case, it can be helpful to have professional support in order to identify what is happening and help them find ways to get over the initial hump and emerge from the experience stronger.

Another interesting article:

If you have questions or are feeling that your experience is overwhelming, you have online psychologists who speak your native language at your fingertips.

Article by Diana M. Vilar

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