Sustaining a positive altruistic identity in humanitarian aid work: A qualitative case study
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This case study explores the interpersonal and intrapersonal experiences of a single individual who spent more than 35 years in humanitarian aid work. Using interpretative phenomenological analysis, one superordinate theme, altruistic identity (AI), emerges. On return home following a humanitarian mission, AI requires (a) strong perception of empathic validation for intimate reintegration and (b) self-acceptance of personal involvement. However, AI disruption is related to (a) a perception of rejection or weak empathic validation for intimate reintegration and (b) self-blame leading to isolation from intimate others. With AI disruption, validation is alternately sought from humanitarian colleagues and/or by returning to the field. Results suggest that postmission reintegration processes are important determinants of psychological well-being. The authors also discuss the organization's role in addressing the psychosocial care of their staff on return from mission to reduce long-term social disruption and psychological distress. © 2009 The Author(s).
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