Why did you really go abroad?
A bit of distance enables reflection on things that we couldn’t see at the time. Motivations are always mixed, no matter how pure we think they are at the time. Whether I like it or not (and am willing to admit it to myself at the time or not), it wasn’t just wanting to get out of the rat-race in the UK, wanting to serve a greater purpose, or to change the world that drove me to live abroad. It was also seeking escape from family relationships that I found hard. Wanting to be in control of what I did and how I did it without anyone telling me that I should be doing something different.
I couldn’t see it at the time, because I was too driven by my other motivations (and I was in denial). But as soon as I came back, I had to face those other deeper motivations. They don’t go away while you live overseas. They’re there waiting when you come back. That is one of the reasons some people find it hard to settle again in their passport country. Issues which they had escaped for some years now become unavoidable. And maybe that is why some people go back overseas again so soon after returning, because they can’t or don’t want to face the very issues that they went overseas to avoid.
I’m being deliberately provocative here. Chances are that you’re not one of the people with hidden motivations, but maybe it’s worth a look.
Our initial motivations have an impact on our return
Why is it when we return that these unacknowledged motivations rear their heads? When we live overseas, we can successfully (in many cases) pretend that these things don’t exist. As we start to think about returning and in fact return, we are suddenly faced with the things / situations / people we were avoiding. And it’s raw. We’ve been able to pretend they’re not there. We’ve lived as though they’re not. But suddenly you’re back in the same country as the person you were avoiding; you’re in the same area where that situation happened; you feel stuck or bored again; the job is making you feel incompetent in a certain area; the place that brings back memories of a loved one is just down the road…
Then you have a choice. Do you deal with the issue(s) as part of your re-entry adjustment, or do you just sweep it under the carpet again? Some people choose to go straight back overseas – but the issue remains for the next time they come home. The best thing is to be able to acknowledge the motivation and face it. Integrate it into your life so that it can’t come back to bite you.
How to get in touch with the unacknowledged
So how do you get in touch with the motivations that you have denied?
- Be prepared and willing to look. Obviously if you’re denying something it can be hard to find. But if you’re willing to look it can help to raise your awareness of when feelings arise that make you uncomfortable.
- Reflect on what makes you uneasy coming back. What are the things which you would run away from like a shot given the chance? Where do you want to stick your head in the sand? Who / what do you want to avoid? What feelings about being in your home country are all too familiar?
- Listen to your body. Your body has an amazing sense of what is going on – and is often better than your brain at letting you know. Asking your body whether or not you need to take a closer look at something can often illicit a helpful answer.
- Find support. Sometimes these things can’t be dealt with on your own. You may need to seek out a friend to be honest with, or a therapist to help you work something through. Don’t pass on the possibility of getting this issue sorted. These things don’t tend to disappear without looking at them properly. It may take time – be prepared to give it the time it needs.
Unacknowledged motivations can cause issues for you in re-entry – but also give you the opportunity to grow and make sure they don’t continue to hurt you throughout your life. Don’t let yours stop you living to the full!
17th October 2018