24 Jul 2024
Surfing between the known and the unknown
Expat Support Health Mental health

Surfing between the known and the unknown

I’ve just uploaded twenty mediocre and imperfect selfies to an artificial intelligence app. It promises to take this base material and turn it into professional gold; sixty headshots worthy of a LinkedIn listing. I am hoping AI will professionalize these slightly scruffy and big nosed ‘Lysannes’ into the therapist you’ve always dreamed of employing.

It’s not that I haven’t got anything better to do. It’s just that I’m finding little projects to distract my uneasy mind to allow me to hang out in the zone between the known and the unknown. And being between identities as I am, it’s reassuring to know that AI can provide me with one.

The big decision is made, moving to Sweden. The house in Holland is sold. But after that comes a milelong list of macro and micro actions, with ‘find a new house’ at the top. And although I’ve seen about ten properties on recent visits, my heart remains lukewarm about all of them. Which leaves me trying to ‘sit’ with the unknown, this ocean of adventure, risk, and fear. I try to embrace this void between letting go of the old and not yet knowing the new. It’s like a psychological workout. Finding the courage to control what I can, to accept what I can’t and the wisdom to know the difference between the two.

Am I prevaricating on a new home because I feel resistance to let go of the old? I explore what I know and what will become the unknown: what I know is that right now, I am home in this place where no one asks me where I’m from, where the unwritten social rules are woven into my DNA, whether I agree with them or not. What I know is a life where my son and I spent short intense clusters of time together, interspersed with long periods of phone and text contact. What I know is a work/life balance that feels secure.

And letting all that go, I’m opening the door to the unknown of a new living environment. The unknown of a transition from ‘just’ motherhood to also being a grandparent. The unknown of financial stability. So many questions arise in the unknown; will I get enough work? Will I feel like an outsider again? Where will I live? Who will look after the dog? My mind swirls round and round like a fairground ride. This move, like every other move, feels as tantalising as it is daunting. Full of potential for life enhancing failures and triumphs alike.

And like all normal human beings, I dislike uncertainty. Some people will avoid change like the plague, clinging on until they’re pushed into it by life circumstances. Others that can’t stop plunging. As soon as the unknown has become familiar, they’re off on another adventure. Many of my international clients and friends have taken so many leaps into the unknown that over time even the ‘unknown’ becomes a version of the known. And yet, both clingers and plungers do themselves an injustice. If we have the courage to sit in the void, the true gold lies at the bottom. In the helplessness of not knowing we find our true core.

This mirrors the therapeutic journey, where letting go of the familiar is essential for growth. On the inner plane we are constantly asked to let go of the old and embrace the new. From each dying cell in our body, every seven years, to taking on new roles. Sitting with the not doing of what you’ve always done, breaking old patterns, it puts you right there in the unknown. Trusting that a healthier inner guide will step forth requires great courage. I ask my clients to trust the process, to trust me, as I trust them in their process. As children these changes are imposed on us. Echoes of how we experienced change in our lives then often lies at the heart of our clinging or plunging behaviour now.

And so in all this psychological working out, I give myself a fun break. I get the AI headshots so that my mind feels it is being useful. And there I am. LinkedIn ready. A gallery of sixty perfect Lysannes for the price of a double espresso. The pictures stare back at me, a faint reproach to remind me of all the plastic surgery I should have had, the physical workouts I might have done. I will still use one or two, but I find my own beauty, and that of others, lies in my imperfection, in the work-in-progress that I am. In the transitions between being and becoming and embracing.

And so, the opposite of fear is not fearlessness, it is trust. And from that quiet trust flows wisdom. The wisdom to know what is right in each moment, even if it appears to our mind to be total madness. Trust and wisdom are buried into the depth of our psyche, and we can only find it when we stop rushing around trying to become certain.

It is in our own inner truth that we are always known, always home, always safe. It’s where our true identities are not shaped by AI but etched into our souls for us to discover as our lives unfold.


Lysanne Sizoo, international Mental Health specialist

Mental Health International

With over two decades of experience, Lysanne Sizoo specializes in assisting expatriates, international professionals, and global nomads facing mental health challenges. Her professional journey has taken her to the United Kingdom, Sweden, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. While her practice is set to relocate to Stockholm by the end of 2024, she continues to serve a diverse clientele through online consultations.

Living away from one’s native country comes with its unique set of psychological hurdles, alongside the everyday ups and downs of life. This holds true for global nomads, cross-cultural adults, and children alike.

In the upcoming months, Lysanne will share her insights through blog articles and by addressing readers’ concerns. She will also chronicle her personal journey as she returns to Sweden after a decade in her home country.

If you have specific topics or issues that you’d like Lysanne to explore in her articles, please reach out via the contact form on this website or directly through her personal website. Rest assured, your privacy and confidentiality will be upheld.

Lysanne Sizoo

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