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The "Costa Blanca Effect" Part 1

Hello and welcome back to my fortnightly column. Last time I briefly introduced the subject of psychotherapy and told you a little about the thinking behind it and how the process works. This time I want to begin a look at some of the reasons people come for psychotherapy, paying particular attention to what I have called "The Costa Blanca Effect".

Depression is a concept we are all familiar with. We may have experienced it at some point in our lives and, if not, almost certainly know someone who has. There are numerous clinical definitions of depression, which are mainly of interest to clinicians and not always particularly useful. Today, I donít want to talk semantics, but I do want to draw a distinction between two "types" of depression, which I will call transient and lasting. Keeping things simple so that we can move quickly to the point I want to make, depression simply means we are sad; withdrawn from our normal lives and relationships; and lacking in energy and spirit. Obviously there are degrees, with some people feeling "down" for a while, while other people suffer greatly and can be virtually incapacitated by negativity, pointlessness and a real lack of self-worth.

I want to suggest today that one way we can differentiate between transient and lasting depression is in the proximity in time of the event or events triggering the feelings in us. If a person or even a pet we love deeply dies, or perhaps we lose our job and are constantly worried about paying the bills, then of course we will suffer a depression. In this case, at some level, we and others expect this Ė we used to talk about a period of mourning, which was a great way of expressing what was going on.

However depression can continue indefinitely when we are unable to mourn, to move through what some call the mourning circle. Here we are starting to look at what sits behind lasting depression. We are back into the area where psychotherapy can help, looking at what is to be mourned in our past and finding and unblocking barriers to the process. But what is going on when we are depressed, or lacking energy and direction, stuck in a rut if you like, and there is no obvious cause? Furthermore, what if on the face of it, we have a lot going for ourselves and yet, still we donít feel able to get on with life? This is where The Costa Blanca Effect comes in.

We have arrived for our new life in Spain. It is sunny, it is warm, the wine is good and a bargain compared with prices at home. Furthermore, we havenít come here merely to escape things that werenít right for us at home, we have actively chosen to come and live here in the sun, and we enjoy the excitement of new people and places and of "adopting" a different life-style. However depression and inertia still sets in for some of us. Why?

I believe this results from the huge losses we make when we relocate, which can go unnoticed and be masked by the excitement of the new. A huge jolt to our sense of who we are; to our independence; and to our ability to get things done, occurs when we leave the U.K or Holland, or Denmark or Norway, or wherever we used to call home. As I said earlier, people are aware of stresses that can build up when someone loses a job, or retires, or a partner dies. However, people donít allow for the impact of leaving our homes, our jobs, often our family, our friends, our community and perhaps most significantly, our language, all on one day and of our own volition. This is what actually happens when we step on the plane to begin our new life.

Most of us plan carefully for the practical details of starting a new life, where we live, our prospects of work, where the kids will go to school and the like. Some wonderful people even start learning the language of their new country before they come (Iím sorry to say I donít fit in this category either). But who thinks through or makes space for the emotional and psychological impact of such a dramatic change to their lives?

Problems that follow can have a more pronounced effect on an individual, and their relationship, if one partner is impacted more by what has been given up for this new life or, perhaps was less committed to the decision to come to Spain.

Iím out of column space. Next time weíll look at the Costa Blanca Effect in more detail and start to look at some things you can do to help yourself or others who are impacted by it. Remember that this column represents only what I believe, and that like all psychotherapists and psychiatrists, I can be wrong sometimes. Thatís why I really do want to hear from you with your views and your issues at steveinaltea@gmail.com  See you next time.