Dr. Julie S. Lundgren

English Speaking Psychologist in Gothenburg, Sweden

Especially Difficult Adjustments

Certain people have an especially difficult time adjusting to life in a new country. This is usually due to conflicts that have their origins in the past, more so than the here-and-now challenges of the move itself. If you or someone you know have experienced great difficulty adjusting to life in Sweden, consider the following possible reasons.

You moved to get away from a problem, but that problem is inside you. In life there are three different sorts of conflicts one can be faced with: person-environment conflicts; person to person conflicts; and internal conflicts – a battle of desires from within. When internal conflicts are left unresolved, patterns of person-environment conflicts and person-to-person conflicts tend to recur in one’s life. 

Many people have a fantasy that they can escape from external conflicts by making major external changes in life, such as starting over in a new country. But when the original source of unhappiness was internal, inevitably the old problematic issues repeat themselves in the new location.

Only after the internal conflict are addressed and resolved can one break the repetitive cycle of problematic external conflicts and attain that sought after fresh start in a new country.

You have suffered traumatic losses previously in your life. How were separations experienced throughout your life? Were you taught that leaving was dangerous or hurtful? Did people leave you unexpectedly? Was death discussed openly, or was it seen as a taboo subject too painful to acknowledge directly?

These are examples of ways in which anxiety can become associated with separations and goodbyes. When one has received these messages growing up, separations in life come to feel dangerous and destructive. Many experience tremendous guilt over leaving loved ones to pursue their own goals in life.

In these cases, the challenges of adjustment to a life in a new country are complicated by old wounds that need to be understood and resolved.

You were forced to leave your home country. If you were forced to flee your homeland due to war it may be necessary to process the traumatic loss of your former life before being truly able to adjust to life in Sweden. You may have gone from a position of high status in both education and career to essentially being treated like a nobody. Many have also witnessed the torture and murder of friends and loved ones.

Under these conditions, the support of individuals within your own cultural group can play a key role in helping you through the transition toward a new life in Sweden. It may be necessary to verbalize traumatic expereinces in order to prevent them from interfering with your continued adjustment.