Single Blog

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 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, but there are minor differences in what causes their anxiety in relation to these issues.


Amazon Echo
Book An Online Therapy Session
For Third Culture Kids & Expats!
Consultation (15 min) = 25 USD
Session (50 min) = 70 USD

Book Appointment

Safe and Secure. SSL Encrypted.


Inner-Conflict & Third Culture Kids

A key principle of psychodynamic therapy is inner-conflict.

Inner-conflict is created when a motivating factor (drive) is opposed by a cultural norm. For example, if one is homosexual in a country where homosexuality is not accepted.

Another cause of inner-conflict is when a motivating factor is opposed by reality. For example, a person who wants to walk but is unable to walk due to a car accident.

The final cause of inner-conflict is when a motivating factor is opposed by another motivating factor. For Adult Third Culture Kids, this would be the urge to belonging versus the urge to maintain their identity as a TCK



The Urge To Maintain The TCK Identity

As we all know, ATCKs tend to move around every few years as a way of maintaining their identity as a Third Culture Kid. 

This motivating factor 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. They are the foreigner in contrast to the local people.

The motivation to move to a different country increases when the person realizes that they are integrating into society 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, motivates the TCK to move country (itchy feet syndrome).




The Urge To Belong

The “itchy feet” syndrome stands in stark contrast to another motivating factor 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 other urge (to maintain their identity as a TCK) makes it hard for them to build solid relationships in their new home countries.   



How Do I Fix This?

Inner-conflict can be resolved by studying how the competing motivating factors affect you. This can be done through therapy session.

Another way of resolving this inner-conflict is simply by allowing one motivating factor to win over the other. 

If you are interested 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.



Next Article: A Bird Must Settle on a Branch, If It Wants To Build A Nest – Advice to All Third Culture Kids

A common problem for most Adult Third Culture Kids is the feeling of having itchy feet. Every however many years or so, the Adult Third Culture Kid wants to up and leave. And so they pack all of their belongings into a bag, leave their perfectly good jobs and friends behind… READ MORE


About The Author

Was this article helpful?
Invalid email address

Comments (0)

© Copyright 2023 - Wherapy