A few months after arriving in UK and searching for a job that I would not entirely hate, I realized my self-image started to shift. Who am I here, in this new country, among people who do not know me?
The concept of derailment in psychology refers to the disconnection between your present and past self. When I happened to read about it I realized this was what was happening to me:
“There’s evidence that having a stable, constant sense of self and identity is important for psychological wellbeing. However, this thread can rupture, leading to an uncomfortable disconnect between who we feel we are today, and the person that we believe we used to be – a state that psychologists recently labelled “derailment”.”
You might become someone else when you move to another country. The reason is simple enough: much of our personality is defined by the way we learnt to interact with other people. Until you cut yourself from the people close to you, you might not realize how much they contribute to who you are. You are someone’s best friend, someone’s favorite colleague (or least favorite), someone’s neighbor, someone’s cousin and so on. Of course, theoretically, you remain all these things even if you leave the country, but practically, you will not act these roles. They will become potentialities, not real manifestations of who you are. And so, you might end up feeling you lost some part of yourself.
When you also change professions, this feeling is even more powerful. And the effects can seem devastating for a while. You might start doubting your choice. You might start appreciating more the life you left behind. It is a natural process, but in the beginning it can seem so confusing.
The antidote to feeling overwhelmingly derailed is taking control, as much as possible. Make choices about who you want to become and what you want to do. Experiment with different roles and socialize with new people.
What do you do when even after “reinventing” yourself, you still miss your old “you” and your old life? That is a story for another time.