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Inner Conflict & Third Culture Kids


In last week’s article entitled, how intrapsychic conflict causes depression, I wrote about three different types of conflict, one wherein two differing drives – or impulses – compete with each other, another is when a person’s drive does not fit with the cultural norms of the area that they are living in and the third being when drives and reality do not match.

For this week’s Third Culture Kid themed article, I thought we would apply the concept of intrapsychic conflict to the condition Third Culture Kids find themselves in.

For those of you who do not know, Third Culture Kids are people who have spent a considerable amount of their childhood years in a country or culture different to that of their parents.


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When Third Culture Kids grow up and become Adult Third Culture Kids a condition called “itchy feet” tends to kick in (although not for all of us) and that is where our story of inner conflict begins. The term “itchy feet syndrome” describes the feeling Adult Third Culture Kids get when they have lived in one place for too long.

Many Adult Third Culture Kids feel an urge to move in order to maintain their identity as the “foreigner” or the expat. The notion of being in one place for too long and becoming a part of the furniture so to speak, can be considered by a lot of Third Culture Kids as a threat to their very identity.



Remember, Third Culture Kids tend only to have a loose affiliation with the country of their birth parents and therefore utilize the role of the foreigner, the expat or the Third Culture Kid in its place. This drive of wanting to maintain their identity and hold onto what makes them unique is in direct conflict with another drive many Third Culture Kids have, namely the need for belonging.

An issue plaguing all Third Culture Kids is the need they have for a sense of belonging, to be anchored to one place and be recognized as a fully-fledged member of it. It is common for people to want what they don’t have.




As children, Third Culture Kids will have constantly been reminded that they did not belong to the place where they lived, either by the language spoken there, the culture norms, the ethnicity of the people or by the mere fact that they were expected to move by a certain date.

The life of an expat child makes the notion of “home” temporary. Many TCKs try to find their “home” in adulthood but find that their identity as the “foreigner” conflicts with this. Inner conflict can only be resolved by letting go and allowing one side to win over the other. In the case of Third Culture Kids either the urge to belong or the identity as the “foreigner” needs to win out in order for there to be peace within. If you are a Third Culture Kid and need help with solving issues like this, feel free to book a session with our life-coach.



Next Article: Third Culture Kids… Too Many Places To Live, Too Little Time!

The depression is solved when the adult TCK choses one urge over the other. After this, the adult Third Culture Kid enters a grieving process… READ MORE


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