Daniel De Lima (2004) Clinical Considerations about the Immigrant

This work is a clinical study of Brazilian immigrants coming to a clinic in a city in Massachusetts. This experience of working with both immigrants and ex-patriates using a psychoanalytic approach is an attempt to investigate the psychodynamic issues of immigrants, as well as the unconscious motivations of migration. From a clinical perspective, this work investigates the psychological distress of the immigrant seeking therapy. Why do some people after migrating still feel a great emptiness or develop many new sufferings which they never expected or imagined when they decided to migrate? Using a case study approach this paper examines this question. Conscious and unconscious motivations for people to migrate are reviewed, such as the need for recognition, rejection of the old culture, economic and social ascendance, personality features, and other motivations. The question of why some of the people who migrate experience psychological distress is examined through case material from individual and group. Separation from the mother, discrimination, language and culture are all factors. A Modern Psychoanalytic contribution helps us to understand that migration may be an attempt to resolve internal conflicts by an external change. It may be a search for an environment that provides adequate relief from tension, more opportunities for pleasure, freedom from internal and external demands and pressures. A Lacanian perspective will inform the discussion considering concepts such as mother tongue, “jouissance,” Oedipus, and maternal and paternal function in personality formation.