Friday, April 13, 2007



When traveling I have this tendency to personify the places I visit. The following is a brief introduction to some of the interesting characters I have met along the way:

Prague is an eloquent well mannered young lady who has the capacity to steal the line light at any ball she attends. However, she also has a delinquent side that acts out in passive aggressive ways by engaging in poor hygiene and frequenting grungy night clubs. This behavior is considered reproachable by her oppressive ancestors and she relishes in her stubbornness and is proud of her versatility.

Rome is slippery gangster with an ever so slight distain for the world and how it works. With that said, he has the capacity to charm even the most resistant of adversaries with his appreciation for the arts and extravagance.

Sarajevo suffers from an identify crisis. She is filled with conflict and inconsistencies that she would rather avoid or deny. Her father has told her to be tough and resolved with unfaltering faith and a firm perspective about fairness and equity. On a good day she feels like she has accomplished just that; but, her experience to date has left her feeling like an adolescent in the precontemplation stage of dealing with her recent trauma and on a bad day she is edgy, mistrusting and skeptical of just about everything she encounters.

It's difficult to know how to capture Madame Nigeria. She has the capacity to be self-sufficient and successful but appreciates being taken care of and pampered. When worn down or tired, she has the cunning ability to exploit those who have offered support. When well rested and healthy she is the first to offer help to neighbors in need. She is stunningly beautiful with a flare for theatrics and likes to be watched. On stage she is breathtaking and real and this genuineness often stays with her in the dressing room after her performance; but, she can feel lost and alone and has a tendency to fall back on her manipulative ways when necessary.

His presentation interpersonally suggests hostility, glibness and disinterest. However, one quickly realizes this style of engagement is a front: a protective façade of dominance serving as a defense. In reality, he is a frightened adolescent boy on an ankle monitor dealing with the repercussions of committed atrocities. The system isn’t quite sure if it can trust him on the streets but he claims he is motivated and desperately wants to be given a chance. His indifferent veneer hides what lies below, a more vulnerable innocent self that is hopeful and charming but dealing with a childhood filled with pain, suffering and 14 years of abuse. Trust continues to be a burning issue for this boy and yet it does appear he has the capacity for empathy, a positive prognostic indicator. Taken together his risk to recidivate is low but he has a long road ahead of him and many traumas to work through.

Places as People:
Places as People. Things as People. People as People. What a strange way to see the world. No?

Well, given I am a clinical psychologist with a quiet voice that repeats one simple manta anytime I engage with a client ‘it is the relationship that heals’ this world view may make a little more sense. Hopefully it is not so bizarre that it confuses you and leads you to believe I am a psychologist in desperate need of a psychologist. Clearly my impression of these places is unique and personal. It is also influenced by the things that happened to me while I was there. For example, I was robbed by a troupe of adolescents on the Metro in Rome which left me feeling assaulted and alone. And, in Prague, I was called an angle and someone very dear to me expressed loving feelings towards me that had been long denied. In this instance I felt adored and revered and crave these feelings and the view from above.

Current Relationships:
Let me return to our young delinquent Liberia as he is with whom I am presently spending time. Before I arrived in Liberia I was warned about his ways and others freely admit he simply wore them out. Take him or leave him, trust him or question his intentions, like him or hate him - he will have a lasting impact on you.

With Liberia it is a love or hate relationship – appreciating his vulnerabilities when confronted with his defenses doesn’t always look like a viable option but if one is able to see the frustrating parts as a defense against the pain he becomes much more endearing and approachable.

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