Q I am a medical doctor who treats victims of war in various countries. I work with adults and children who have been injured or fallen sick due to bombings, toxic residues and breakdown of a city’s infrastructure. I have been to Iraq, where I have seen thousands of children over the years who are suffering from missing limbs to various types of cancer. Due to the sanctions their medical facilities are near primitive. According to the United Nations, 500,000 children have died since 1992. I find myself feeling extremely sad, angry and hopeless and don’t know how to deal with such suffering and injustice in the world.

The situation in Iraq since the Gulf War is atrocious. Their lives have never been so dismal. Firstly, recognize that you are truly in the trenches of some of the worst suffering in the world right now. It takes tremendous courage, commitment, and compassion to work in such difficult and painful conditions. Your reward is obviously not money, power or fame. It is the deep satisfaction of knowing that you have helped people from getting sicker and dying. In doing that, you have faced a tremendous amount in yourself and in those you worked with.
Your experiences are very rich and must be mined. If you can begin to explore what you really saw and felt while in Iraq, it will change your life. You will face aspects of yourself that no other experience can evoke in you. Through this process you can begin to make meaning out of the suffering. Their suffering is also your suffering—that’s why you are drawn to go there and help them. As you heal your own inner suffering, you will be able to hold and view their suffering in a whole new light. This is how the world can be healed.

Q I am a gay man from Pakistan. The main reason I left Pakistan is due to the hatred and oppression of homosexuals in that culture. I left angry at everything—my family, culture, religion, and country. It’s hard to believe that people can be so cruel in the name of religion and family values.

After being brought up in Pakistan and then to not be accepted by your family, culture and religion is very wounding. I hope your life here is better. Although your anger is valid, underneath it is the hurt of feeling rejected and ostracized. These are very deep emotions, so allow yourself to feel everything that arises. Then recognize that most people are ruled by their traditions and conditioning. It often isn’t what they really feel in their heart. As you recognize their limitations and live from your own heart, you will help them open theirs.

Alzak Amlani, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist in the Bay Area. 650-325-8393. www.wholenesstherapy.com

Alzak Amlani is a counseling psychologist of Indian descent in the Bay Area. (650) 325-8393. wholenesstherapy.com