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Email dialogue with P.D.A: Greek national transgenerational PTSD…

Thursday, July 26th, 2007 @ 10:55 am
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Posted in  Reflexivity, Research Participants

I have been having a very interesting conversation via email with P.D.A who i met at a conference in Greece in November 2006. He is a counsellor of mixed heritage (one parent is Greek and the other Austrian I think) and he has spend periods living in other countries. We reflected on culture and cultural identity, cross-cultural relationships etc and how we find those elements affecting counselling practice etc. What is mostly interesting is this mutual diagnosis of a kind of  national transgenerational PTSD (Post-traumatic stress dis.) triats that seem to charcterise our Greek nation, resulting from historical and ‘personality’ reactions of the nation. Here i record some of our dialogue:
 

HE WROTE:
 
 “As for your PH.D if I qualify I you could interview me , as cross
 cultural issues, are usually top of my agenda, in the way I am in a therapeutic relationship. In fact. I found out that me, not fitting in into the Greek psychological profile, has a negative effect, in that many clients, dislike it, and the people I actually work with are few. However, there is a preference, of people who would like to speak two or three language in one session. Like i had a client, who spoke, german english and greek. And that I did too, made him (as he said) trust me more and open up, as there was a freedom of expression and a shared culture.

Among multi-cultural people, who are so by birth, they do not fit
 into any culture really. I found that all my friends, the ones I can
 really communicate with are multicultural: In Greece they are
 foreigners, in Germany they are too even though they are
 Greek- German. However, among each other such a Greek German, with an italian-irish person can communicate perfectly and understand each other. It is really interesting. I do not fell or act Greek, in my profession especially, but neither am I austrian. However, in recent years, I found northern and central europe more easy to adjust too, than Greece.
However this cross-cultural really reminds me more of anthropology of psychology, than cross-cultural psychology.”

I REPLIED:
“I think it is very good idea to interview you for my research, i was actually thinking to suggest this to you. All the reflections you share with me about your counsellor identity, the ways the cultures interact within you and your work with clients are very interesting. I connect to them at a personal level, but also, from a researcher point of view, all this material is rich data! I might not be one who was born or brought up abroad, but i never felt i belonged or fitted with the Greeks anyway and the fact that i moved abroad and had rich experiences outside what
 used to be my ‘homeland’ (although it hasn’t felt like that) has affected me at deep levels, personally and professionally, in both challenging and positive ways. i can hear what you say that the Greeks might have some reservations in trusting you, due to your bicultural background, in the counselling room.
 However, everybody has different experiences. i have interviewed a Dutch counsellor in Athens who actually told me that her Greek clients have some doubts at first but then find it very enriching to be counselled by her cause she doesn’t hold the Greek stereotyping and therefore they can feel more ‘free’…..when i get to Greece, i am planning to set up a group supervision group for practitioners like that, will let you know when the day comes……and if you haven’t moved abroad…i guess i am
 looking for a gateway back to Greece and you are looking for one outside Greece……a lot of journeying, inner and outer i feel”

HE WROTE:
“yep the culture thing is very hot issue for those who are aware of it. Even more so for culture differences within a country, like
 Menidi compared to kolonaki. I hate saying it (as I am not a
 communist) but there is a severe culture difference between social classes. I remember the difficulty counselling a truck driver on his relationship issues. Anyway different issue that is.

As for the difference you say as not fitting in, in Greece, I see
 that people who are mono-cultural but travel and live abroad (when living abroad integrate and not make their own colony with other nationals) are very similar with the ones I call cosmopolitan people, or citizens of the world (who in fact have their own issues, as they do not really have roots). It goes for Greeks as well as people form any other country that cosmopolitans can only do functional relationships with other cosmopolitans, but not with mono-cultures. Example in Greece (and I am looking for someone to do research on this) is that all my foreign friends who married Greeks divorce. We can discuss that issue”

I REPLIED:

“I agree with a lot that you say…and yes, cultural identity remains invisible when remaining in familiarity and known grounds. It needs a contrast to reveal itself .

As for what you say about relationships: when i moved to the UK, unlike many if not most Greeks, I chose to mix with other nationalities and didn’t get involved with the Greek community that much. The whole process of relationship with one’s nations has different phases: you might move
from rejecting it to idealising it etc….until hopefully reaching a
level of integration, finding one’s home inside etc
as for couple’s relationships (when they are from different cultures): I have to admit that I haven’t been with a Greek man for over 7 years now (or more…hmm). Even the last relationship i had before moving to the UK, when I was in Athens, was with a German, from Munich. It is not easy to be with somebody from a different culture anyway but depending on the
levels of self-awareness or working on one’s issues, this dynamic takes different dynamics. Men and Women are two different cultures anyway, regardless of race or ethnicity. The way i feel now, reflecting on my personal relationships and how my own identity has formed through the cross-cultural transitions is that, if it was to marry a Greek, i would need to find one who is either of mixed heritage or somebody who is more
cosmopolitan, who has travelled etc if it is to understand each
other…otherwise i would marry a ‘foreigner’ and if it was to leave
together in Greece, i feel i would be able to understand him at a deeper level in terms of cultural adjustment, am not sure if the Greeks (socially etc) would help that though…but anyway, this is long discussion, I thing Greece is changing as well, every time i visit Greece since I left.i can see that

we shouldn’t forget that Greeks have a particular transgenerational relationship with their land due to historical reasons….and am not referring to the stereotypical ancient Greece idea etc..i think that given that even until recently, our parents generation had to defend their land against war attacks etc, there is a tendency to become nationalists and xenophobics….on the other hand, Greeks have been
travellers……but Ulysses always longs for returning to Ithaca, even after 20 years………this trait can be seen both as a curse or
blessing, depending on point of view”

HE WROTE:

“ax ax ax you open subjects, just quick note, in my travels I found out that the same issue I would have with Greeks I have with a German or Swedish  if they havent’ travelled and become cosmopolitan
 
as for Greeks and their relation to their country, I have diagnosed Greeks as suffering as a people, form trans-generational PTSD, that is why they sit like angry children pointing the finger at the unjust world and waiting for someone to solve their problems”

Interesting stuff really…especially around the Greek national transgenerational PTSD. I intend to have a proper research interview with P.D.A. after hols, in september. will write more about it then

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