Elisabeth Benn - Psychotherapeutische Beratung nach Viktor Frankl


Elisabeth Benn

Psychotherapeutic Counselling
according to Viktor Frankl

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Third Culture Kids
Third Culture Kids
'I like the person I have become.'
Alexander Saguez (a TCK)

Third Culture Kids - TCKs
In a world of globalisation and international cooperation increasingly more families live abroad for job-related reasons in cultures different from their own. These periods comprise a range of exciting and formative experiences for everyone involved.
Living abroad opens up new possibilities and at the same time it poses great challenges to all involved and especially to accompanying children. On the one hand, getting to know different cultures and languages meets their desire to explore and stimulates their development. On the other hand, they have to figure out how to adapt to new situations. This process results in the development of a new identity – the so-called Third Culture Kid identity which they share with all those who share such experiences.

Specific Attributes
Due to the formation of this Third Culture Kid identity most of these children have certain characteristics in common which their peers in their home countries don’t show to the same degree. Constant stimulation through new circumstances fosters their sensual perceptibility, their cultural sensitivity as well as their social competence. Frequently they acquire special knowledge in various areas of interest at a younger age than their contemporaries at home. Therefore they often appear rather mature and knowledgeable in conversations with adults. However, their knowledge about their home countries may be patchy and they may speak other languages better than their mother tongue. Their willingness to enter close relationships may be reduced through the experience of very frequent and painful farewells and a lack of feeling of belonging can hamper the development of a strong personality. Therefore they often prefer the company of those who have had similar experiences because of a mutual understanding that is lacking in relationships with those who do not share such experiences.

An example
TCKs frequently experience a feeling of unease at the beginning of a conversation with people who they do not know. For them the simple question ‘Where are you from?’ is not that easy to answer because a factually correct answer would require telling a whole life story which is often perceived as showing off or being arrogant. To deal with this, TCKs carry out a kind of inner scan to help them decide on what to tell this particular person. This example is representative for a whole range of everyday life situations which results in a feeling of being different or not being normal. These difficulties and ambivalent emotional experiences can result in a range of symptoms like chronic fatigue, depressive moods, difficulties in concentrating and sleeplessness as well as stress-related psychosomatic dysfunctions.

Consequences and possible solutions
Adult TCKs frequently develop professional competency easily. But many of them also have a tendency to repeatedly change their profession or work place. They have a strong desire for emotional bonds, for finding their roots and suffer from fear of parting and goodbyes. At the same time they are driven by restlessness which makes them always move on. Learning about the theory of Third Culture Kids as developed by Ruth Hill Useem and David Pollock often represents a life-changing revelation to TCKs. Finally they can make sense of their being different and they can deal much better with who they have become.

Possibilities for the Future

Whilst reading this, you might have identified yourself as a TCK or you have been reminded of a person who you know. Simply through this awareness, much is gained. Nevertheless, the simple awareness may not be enough to deal with current problems and conflicts. You may wish to look at certain past experiences more closely in order to come to terms with them. I would be happy to take this step with you. Call me or send me an email to make an appointment. I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Here you will find further information:

  • TCK world
  • International Family Transitions
  • Third Culture Kids, The experience of growing up among worlds  by David Pollock, Ruth Van Reken, Georg Pflüger
  • Unrooted childhoods  by Faith Eidse and Nina Sichel
  • Students abroad: Strangers at home: Education for a Global Society  by Norman L. Kauffmann, Judith N. Marint, Henry D. Weaver, Judy Weaver

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