“Which of the two eternal roads shall I choose? Suddenly I know that my whole life hangs on this decision; the life of the entire Universe. Of the two, I choose the ascending path. Why? For no intelligible reason, without any certainty; I know how ineffectual the mind and all the small certainties of man can be in this moment of crisis. I choose the ascending path because my heart drives me toward it.”
“Τhe Saviours of God, Spiritual Exercises”, Nikos Kazantzakis.
During my work as a psychotherapist for refugees, with my specialization directed for the most part on torture survivors, I have often found myself admiring the extensive courage exhibited by these individuals reflected within decisions that would significantly influence their lives. Their courage can be showcased by the acceptance and acknowledgement of certain fundamental dilemmas, and by them undertaking a major risk foreclosing intense implications towards both their physical and emotional well being.
In a number of occasions, along their search for a better life, the majority of these people were required to address dilemmas that touch upon existential themes; certain matters some of us come to face at a latter part in the course of our lives. “What is it that matters the most for me?” “What am I willing to sacrifice in order to escape dehumanization or emotional degradation?” “Which of my loved ones would I live behind, and in search of what?”
The answers that these human beings were called to provide, predominantly revolved around their personal ethical values that they themselves have set, without neglecting their right of dreaming resistance towards the establishment, against their existing and non existing enemies, state terrorism and sadistic practices and traditions.
Having already met the terms of the risks entailed in their choice, to this day, they still face the consequences of their decision, leading to their psychological break down and continuous doubt of their righteous act of running away from the place they once called home.
The ability of effectively communicating with and listening to these individuals, as exhibited by the therapist and by every other professional, is still distant from the ability of accurately empathizing with the survivors. The so-called process of “feeling sorry and pity” and corresponding “drive” of providing a helping hand, only serves our emotions of altruism well, but fails to go beyond that. It addresses our own needs, and not to the patients’ own experiential perspective; a perspective that reaches beyond the mere survival throughout the course of life.