A MUTUAL EAST AND WEST TOGETHERNESS THAT ENRICHED
North Russia, north Finland, north Sweden and north Norway have much in common. We have the same latitude, the same long, light summer nights and the same long dark winter days. We have all the long distances, and many dispersed and remote living areas. We have all learned to stay together with others to overcome the roughness and surprises of the harsh natural circumstances. That has stimulated our social abilities. The same conditions have also learned us to be independent and rely on our own individual abilities when we are left alone. That background has contributed to strong family ties and neighbourhood with strong ties. Strong natural networks have emerged.
Until 150 years ago no border divided the countries in four separated countries. The reindeer herds could follow their traditional paths that could reach from Sweden to Norway or from Norway to Finland or from Finland to Russia. The same happened for hunting. We shared the area. Tension between the countries came when central authorities in the south of each country, each of them wanted to gain control over the nothem areas and thereby control neighbour countries. Before that a peaceful togetherness and mutual exchanges existed, to the best for all parts. The Pomor trade was a big symbol of that. When the harvest failed in the inner part of the area, resources could be sought and found at the coast in north. Even two world wars could not disturb this profound togetherness, although the cold war between 1950 and 1990 was a big threat.
When communism fell in 1990 it was most natural for us to look to east to reunite. One in our community, Solveig Wilhelmsen, living close the russian border, was the first to suggest such a reunion. That happened at our June meeting in 1994 in Bjorkliden in north Sweden. Pavel Sidorov and Alexei Kalinin were our guests. They returned to Norway next year in June 1995 before we started to visit Archangelsk. Since 1995 we have been there every year. What we have felt at every visit is the russian citizens’ strong passion for the russian culture. And even if the economic situation has been extremely challenging the last ten years, we have easily felt the strong committment our russian colleagues, young and elder, have had for their country. We felt attracted to that committment. We are also here to join Russia’s joy of freedom from its previous oppressive regime. Russia and we are together on a common path to democracy, which cornestones are justice and solidarity. Solidarity is to share responsibilities. To share work. And to share the outcomes. When Russia and we from the neighbour countries all others are reaching for solidarity, we must all the time fight the tendencies of the oppressive elements to sneak in. Both in our daily personal lives, and in our psychiatric work. Gianfranco Cecchin, an italian friend of us and previously member of the famous Milan team, said the following in a meeting in Sofia, Bulgary in May 2001: ”We must constantly fight against tendencies of oppression, that are characterized by: obedience - silence - secrecy - isolation - exclusion - the idea that differences are dangerous - authorities - medication - instructions - expert knowing - centralizing - excessive niceness - shyness.”
We brought our rather short professional history of newness to psychiatric and psychological work. What we brought was somewhat different from what has been the usual and traditional psychiatry in both Finland, Sweden and Norway.
In the traditional psychiatry in our countries, as in many other countries in the western hemisphere, symptoms and deviant behavior of the patient is seen as expressions of a disease inside the patient. Such symptoms and behavior is expected to be reduced and controlled through different means, of which nevroleptics have been widely used.
What we brought were other assumptions how such symptoms and behavior can be understood, and other ways to handle them. In practicality we brought our experiences of participating in free and open discussions where all who wanted to be heard were offered the possibility to be heard. We see symptoms and behavior as opening possibilities for the conversations we take part in with the patients and their relatives. In our work it is not important to controll the symptoms. Those from Finland brought their 'Open Dialogues in Psychotic Crises' which has proved to be very useful to prevent the deteriorating effects such crises often have. Those from Sweden brought their Open Reflecting Talks in situations where the society intervenes in families to protect children from neglect and misuse and violence. They also brought painting as an alternative to talking, when words disappear or become dangerous. The from Norway brought their mode of Open Reflecting Talks, applicable in a variety of situations.
In our work we have come to understand that it is most important in situations where somebody become psychotic to keep the connections between the patient and those the patient is related to; his network. Within this network it has been important to create such discussions that one can search for a meaning in what at first seems meaningless. That means to search for a meaning in the expressed symptoms and behavior. When such meaning is reached, and what was meaningless becomes meaningful, much of the problems dissolve.
We have admired our russian colleagues’ readiness to participate in such open talks. We have more than admired their very personal committment to this way of working; I would say, we have been very moved by their strong committment. I will not be surpised that our russian colleagues develop further the open, humanistic work they already have found and in ways that fit their cultural and political context. I will neither be suprised if we one day invite them to introduce to and learn us what they most probably will achieve.
I hope this book will reflect the strong friendship between the russian and us that evolved during these years, and the mutual usefullness of this collaboration.