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Third Culture Kids & Inner Conflict

For this week’s Third Culture Kids related article I am going to apply the psychodynamic principle of inner-conflict to Thirds Culture Kids.

What Are Third Culture Kids?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, Third Culture Kids, Third Culture Kids are people who have grown up in a country different to that of their birth parents. The difference between Third Culture Kids and migrants are that Third Culture Kids move to a country expecting to eventually move back whereas migrants see their move as permanent. Migrants and TCKs share a lot of the same issues, such as feelings of displacement and non-belonging, with minor differences in what motivates their anxiety in relation to these issues but that’s for another video so subscribe to our channel.

Competing Drives & Third Culture Kids

A key principle of psychodynamic therapy is drives, essentially what motivates us. One source of inner conflict can be that our drive does not fit in with the cultural norm of the country that we live in, for example if you are homosexual in a country that does not allow this. Another source of inner conflict can be that our drive does not match with reality. A disabled person would have the drive to walk, an incel would have the drive to be successful with women, a poor person has the drive to be financially stable. The last source of inner conflict comes from when we have two drives competing with each other. In the case of the Adult Third Culture Kid, this would be the drive for belonging and the drive of having itchy feet.

Third Culture Kid Drive 1) Itchy Feet

As we all know, ATCKs tend to move around every few years to satiate a drive for renewal or for maintaining their identity as a TCK, as a foreigner, as a contrasting element to society. This drive comes from the fact that Third Culture Kids have been brought up this way. They have shaped their way of interacting with other people based on the fact that they are the contrasting element to the society that they are in. The drive to move to a different country is quite understandable when one realizes that one is beginning to integrate and will no longer be seen as the foreigner. This accompanied by the fact that the country itself is getting less and less unique to the individual as time goes on, spurs on the “itchy feet” syndrome. 

Third Culture Kid Drive 2) Wanting To Belong

The “itchy feet” syndrome stands in stark contrast to another drive most TCKs have, namely the urge to belong. The majority of Third Culture Kids feel a need for attachment and belonging. This is a primal human urge. Attachment to other people and belonging to a larger group is essential to our survival. Adult Third Culture Kids find it hard to satiate this urge because they lack the foundation that allows for attachment and belonging to be created. They have moved around a lot as children and have had friends come and go at a higher frequency than usual. As adults, their family members may live in different countries and their competing urge for renewal (itchy feet) makes it hard for them to build solid relationships in their new home countries.   

Inner conflict can be resolved either by examining the competing drives through therapy sessions and hopefully gain a better understanding of how they affect you, or by allowing one urge to win over the other. If you wish to discuss in a therapy session with us, click on the book a session tab and schedule a therapy or life-coaching session at a time of your convenience. Our sessions are conducted online via video.

Philip Andersson

Life Coach

Cross Culture Therapy


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Philip Andersson – Life Coach

Philip Andersson is a life-coach who is currently studying to become a psychotherapist. He treats people suffering from depression, phobias and anxiety. Having been raised in Hong Kong and having lived in England and Japan as an adult, Philip also treats people who are overcome with feelings of displacement and rudderlessness associated with a global-nomad lifestyle such as Third Culture Kids, Cross Culture Kids, Migrants and Asylum Seekers.

What We Do!

Cross Culture Therapy offers 1-on-1 online therapy sessions to people suffering from depression, phobia, anxiety as well as to people who suffer from displacement issues associated with a globally nomadic lifestyle (i.e.Third Culture Kids – people who have grown up in a culture different to their parent’s passport culture – and Cross Culture Kids) Our sessions are conducted via Skype for a duration of 50-minutes and can be purchased in packs of 1-session, 3-sessions or 5-sessions. If you are interested in purchasing a session, click on the Book A Session tab on our menu or click here.

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