We’ve often heard talk of TCK superpowers – our Third Culture Kid adaptive abilities lend themselves to chameleon-like behaviours, useful when entering different cultural or social situations, and for helping other people feel comfortable with us. Maybe we have other superpowers – we are expert tree-climbers, super-packers, linguists… These can come in especially handy around the Christmas holidays – keeping the peace amongst relatives, navigating multiple time zones, integrating different Christmas traditions from all around the world. Though maybe not the tree-climbing…
Vulnerable or Powerful?
Despite these superpowers, however, I hear a lot from Third Culture Kids about the sheer overwhelm they experience in their daily lives. And perhaps you find this even more at Christmastime, when the different parts of your story are more likely to collide – in visits from family and friends from different chapters of your story, the challenge of balancing different traditions and cultural expectation. Not sure which power to employ where, or alternatively the various adaptive ‘powers’ shoot out, activated by numerous triggers, making us feel vulnerable rather than powerful.
My daughter was mad for Frozen a few years ago, and it’s all being rekindled by the hype around Frozen 2 now. The song ‘Let it Go’ from the first film was played so often that I almost stopped registering the lyrics, but as I was playing with ideas for this post, I came across this line from the song:
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back
The past is in the past!
How often do we feel like all the parts of us are spiraling in frozen fractals!
Mild spoiler alert here (mild because if you haven’t seen it by now, there is a limit!) – Elsa’s powers over snow and ice start off as fun in childhood, and yet become dangerous as she and her sister fail to understand the extent and potential of them – worse still, they become even less controllable when she is under stress.
One of the great privileges of my work is to provide the space (emotional and temporal) for Third Culture Kids to sit with me and really explore, experience and examine their superpowers. We take time to look at why they developed, how they helped in the past, whether they continue to empower in the present… We seek after the self-knowledge, compassion and acceptance that gives us space and choices over which powers to employ and when. We step into our power as we step into a future story that we are in charge of authoring.
The past never stays in the past.
What are you building?
This Christmas-time, what frozen fractals are you shooting out around you in stress, or in delight? Are you finding yourself throwing out fortresses of ice to protect yourself, frantically trying to pull together the fragments into something coherent and defensible?
Or are you building yourself a palace? A strong place, an expression of self and story, a welcoming place that embraces others and their stories too? A connecting place.
I have been in that place of fear. It’s suffocating and chest-crushingly isolating. The extent of our own powers has the capacity to frighten us into paralysis.
But you are not alone. There are a lot of us out here, walking a similar path. Reach for us. To borrow another lyric from ‘Frozen’, the cold never bothered us anyway 😉 For those of us who have been there, your powers will not frighten, alarm or appal.
Your Christmas may be complicated.
May it also be beautiful.