Displaced Persons

We have had to leave our home for a few months whilst some building work is carried out. Some work is new. Some work will improve the existing fabric. Going back is an odd experience. It is our house  but almost everything that made it home had gone. The pictures, the  DVDs, the books and all the other ” stuff ” that one accumulates rather like geological layers. Each item has its place and it’s history and contributes to a sense of place. Only for the next few months most of these things are in store and only accessible with a lot of inconvenience. We look round our current digs and see a room full of unfamiliar artifacts that have nothing to do  with us. There’s china we would never buy, African face masks that would never be our choice. Nonetheless it’s a kind of home. and we can make the most of it and make ourselves at home. But our “souls” don’t feel “at home”. Its rather like watching two people who look and sound like us living our livs whilst the real “us” are somewhere else. Like a pair of disembodied ghosts, we’re still haunting our proper home.


For us, this is a temporary state which we can manage partly because we know we will and can go back home. The psychological state of being a diisplaced prson is less easy to live with. In psychiatric language it’s referred to as Borderline  Personality Disorder. But it’s a state of mind that I see often in my counselling patients. There is a sense of not feeling real which is expressed by failed relationships, depression, eating disorders and various other difficulties. Whilst making generalisations is never wise, what seems to connect so many of my patients is this feeling of being a displaced person.


There is one further category of displaced person. Namely one who is ” internally displaced”. These are people who have had to leave their home and move somewhere else within their country. Often due to war, famine,, persecution and the like. Their return is dependent on external intervention or change-a dictator being overthrown, a change of government or similar. This status of being an internally displaced person   more closely matches my patients experience. Often due to external circumstances like a marriage breakdown, redundancy etc. their world is changed internally and externally. They have become internally displaced and need external help to relocate their Self. Their relationship with a counsellor helps them find their bearings again. Sometimes this can be done in a single session, sometimes it lasts several years.But the hope is that they leave feeling they have come home-wherever that home may now be.


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