It has taken me ages to write the second entry of this so-called blog. Some of my delay has to do with me being super busy doing other stuff. But to be honest, I have been putting a lot of pressure on myself for this to be a good blog, and that just have stopped me from writing. Questions like what should I write about? What is the audience? What is the purpose of writing about my experience? What things I cannot say? What if I say something that is incorrect? Should I write in English or in Spanish? … the list keeps on going. As a result, writing this became kind of stressful and I just procrastinated. However, something happened last week that made me decide to write again.
We were going to start doing the data collection Montes de María, the first set of autobiographical interviews after almost a year of getting prepared to do it (yes, very exciting!) Before the data collection, we did a clinical training with Juliana, a wonderful psychologist that prepared us to support participants who experience negative emotions when recalling memories of very painful wrongdoings. The training was very useful to take care of the participants, but it went beyond that: getting prepared to take care of ourselves as researchers.
Quick summary: we were going to interview victims of the armed conflict in Montes de María, Colombia. They have experienced unspeakable wrongs, for instance, forced displacement, forced disappearance, homicides, torture, sexual violence, and threats. Hearing these experiences as researchers is profoundly impactful and it basically moves you emotionally in positive (yes, positive), but also some “negative” ways. Describing all the feelings is honestly very difficult, but it definitely moves you. Dealing with these emotions can be challenging, so part of our clinical training was about taking care of ourselves and taking care of the team.
The conversation about this with all the members of the research team was very fruitful and we talked about some collective strategies to take care of each other as a group. Juliana also asked us about individual self-care routines that we had, and some of the answers were taking pictures, drawing, writing down what we achieve, writing, and talking to close friends.
I kept on thinking on what were my self-care strategies, and some of them are reading novels and trying to be careful of my sleeping habits. However, I thought that writing is also something that can be a selfcare strategy for me, as long as I don’t push myself so hard on it being good. I also feel kind of bad to write in English, I feel it’s kind of a treason to my roots. However, it is honestly easier for me to write in English about this (which was also se case for Alejandra, one of our research assistants). Juliana told us that it can be this way because writing in your non-native language requires to take some psychological distancing. So, I will just forgive myself for not writing this in Spanish. Also, it can be a weird desire, but I want to share this experience with whoever wants to read them. That’s because I think some of the experiences that I have doing research and being in academia can be useful to other researchers, particularly, those interested in research with non-WEIRD populations. This requires some personal exposure (which is not super easy for me), but I am making peace with that.
Thanks for reading!