Dunant and Freud


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Henry Dunant, the father of Red Cross movement and Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis are two great personalities who have inspired millions of people around the world. Unlike what the title of this post might look like, this is not the biographies or comparisons of two renowned persons in their respective fields of humanitarian action and human psychology, it is about my personal reflection regarding my work in ICRC and prior experience as a student of psychology. I picked it up as this title often came in my mind whenever I visited National Red Cross Society offices around the country which again reminded me of taking up psychology textbooks to see the pictures of Freud as a student.

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Today I have completed the 2 years of service in ICRC Nepal as a field officer for Hateymalo program, comprehensive psychosocial support for the families of Missing in Nepal. It has been quite some time, time has gone so fast, everyday felt similar and just the routine at times but now when I look back I notice some many changes in my own life and of others with whom and for whom I have worked. I feel proud that the period of hard work has been worthy though I have mixed emotions regarding certain things.

As a student of psychology, I have worked and collaborated with a number of researchers from international universities since 2006. It was back in 2012, I was on a research trip to Taplejung to help a student of Conflict and Human Rights from Utrecht University, the Netherlands. Due to several reasons, the research project had to be dropped and we had to return back from the field. Upon returning, he decided to do his thesis on the different topic and then, we took our separate ways forward. Just after that, I received a message from Jamuna Maharjan Shrestha di (senior Nepali counselor) informing me about the vacancy in the ICRC and encouraged me to apply for it. I looked over the advertisement and I had an ‘aha’ feeling and thought I should definitely give it a try as it was vacancy for the comprehensive psychosocial program supporting the families of missing in Nepal. In 2009, I had worked with another Dutch student from Queen Margaret University, UK on the research topic ‘Psychosocial challenges and Coping Mechanisms of Families of the Disappeared in Surkhet, Nepal’. We had worked in Surkhet district for over three weeks doing field work, visiting families and exploring about their psychosocial wellbeing. They clearly were in need of psychosocial support and I wished so much that I could help them. I had hoped that some kind of intervention would result for the families from the research, and I felt bad as I knew it would not happen overnight as it takes quite some time to transform research into program. That is how I felt motivated to apply for work in ICRC. I had already been working in other thematic areas of political violence like use of child soldiers and other aspects of armed conflict in Nepal. I then requested my senior collaborator and mentor Brandon Kohrt for the recommendation letter. It proved to be the stepping stone in the process. I would like to thank Jamuna didi and Brandon for their support once again at this moment. The rest is the history now. As I look back I see the connecting dots and forming the line of my career. Coming back from Taplejung proved to be good coincidence. Had I been there for two months as we had planned initially, it would have been completely different story now and I surely would not have been writing this. You might have been reading completely different post right now which would be fascinating to imagine!

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Two years in a program, I have worked through different phases with different people. I am glad to see the people with whom I have worked grow, become skilled and competent over time. That gives a sense of satisfaction and I have always emphasized that we are on the journey of learning and providing service to the families at the same time. But it has not been all rosy along the way; I have encountered a number of thorns and obstacles too which have taught important lessons. I have experienced competition, deceit, mistrust and lack of cooperation at times while enjoying friendship, sharing of knowledge, cooperation most of the times. I am also very happy to share that ICRC has started Hateymalo program in Surkhet district as well since 2013 for the families of missing.

Let me go back to being the student of psychology now that is how Freud comes in for this post. He is the rock star in field of psychology even today. He is one of the greatest psychologists in the history of psychology. In the survey that I had conducted in 2009 among university and college students, he topped the list of favorite psychologists. He is an inspiration to many but we know he focused too much upon the negativity and problems of human psychology. Now, after finishing my MA in psychology, I firmly believe we need to balance that perspective and we have to take side by side the study of psychological well-being too (which is taking place but is often overshadowed by focus upon problems). The teachings of Buddha, mindfulness and many scientific studies being undertaken (popular as positive psychology) are useful for to learn about positive aspects of human well-being and mental health.

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