A client shared with me recently how they had been looking for accounts of Third Culture Kids repatriating, and how little they had found to very little to inform them. This challenged me in more ways than one – first to consider why the narrative of TCK repatriation...
I knew it’d be hard to read Tanya Crossman and Lauren Wells’ recent research. I was right. As much as I eagerly read the methodologies and results of their work, “Caution and Hope: The Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences in Globally Mobile Third Culture Kids”, I could feel a heart clench of pain for the many TCKs I work with who know the pain of adverse childhood experiences all too well.
I’m currently sat at my desk in a mild slumpy grumpy space. It’s because I’ve eaten too much sugar, and drunk too much coffee and now I feel I need a good long lie down. I want to hide from myself, because I’m cross that I over-indulged. However, given that I’m me, I’m feeling curious as well as grumpy – why did I do it? Why did I eat and drink more than was good for me? Now I’m getting all philosophical and asking the BIG question – why do we do what we don’t want to do, and why don’t we do what we want?
I’m really excited to be sitting here at my desk, writing to you. I had a ‘TCK moment’ yesterday when I realised I needed to move all the furniture around in my office to get my writing mojo back – and a few hours of mess, one dismantled desk and a big bag of rubbish later – I’m in a much better place. Literally.
How are you doing? I mean, really? Something I’m hearing a fair bit of right now is how people are suffering from the ‘winter blues’. This seems to be a fairly common phenomenon in the northern hemisphere, and not a particularly Third Culture Kid issue. Humans need a certain amount of vitamin D, daylight, fresh air and physical activity to feel good – and winter typically messes with these elements.
Change can be a sticky topic for Third Culture Kids. We lost so much. We can learn to fear seasons of change, having built an enormous data set for moments of change that have brought us grief, change that we didn’t choose and that felt like a tidal wave of loss.
For so many of us growing up, Summer was the time of change – international moves aligned with school years and this transition season was marked by both endings and beginnings. It’s not unusual for a lot of Third Culture Kids to feel antsy this time of year, to feel the familiar itchy feet or ticking of that internal clock (whichever metaphor suits you best!)
I watched Gabor’s documentary on trauma, “The Wisdom of Trauma” (link below) last night. Late at night I found myself weeping at the combined relief and hope that his words and experience offer. Relief, because his approach validates my own approach to working with human pain, and hope because of the healing power of relationship that he demonstrates.
I marvel at how often self compassion (or the lack of it!) comes up in my work with Third Culture Kids. I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, my own therapists point it out in me too. But it does seem a strange kind of paradox that TCKs, who we all talk about as tending towards high levels of empathy and compassion towards OTHERS (like articles here and here) struggle so much in SELF compassion.
But if you are struggling in this lockdown transition, you aren’t alone. You are in the company of many others, tip-toeing tentatively towards a world that feels quite demanding and overwhelming. You are not alone. Together we can sniff the air, pause and pay attention to our own pounding hearts, and then carefully negotiate our own small steps outside. Together.
Language is one of our identity props, something I’ve written about before here, with Goffman as instigator of the concept. An identity prop is a “thing” – be that behavioural habit, physical object or personal characteristic, skill set or yes, language – that helps us communicate an identity more coherently. For example, if I am playing Hamlet on stage, at some point it’d help to have a skull to hand for the famous “Alas poor Yorick” scene that the play is known for. If I am trying to communicate that I’m “not from around here” and that I feel culturally French, it’d help if I had some identity props to hand to back up my claim. I need French books in my home, skills at French cuisine, some knowledge of France the country, and yes, some French language skills. After all, who grows up and spends part of their time in France and comes away without French?! Well, lots of us.