Papers from Moving Beyond Mobility Conference, Berlin 2008
Moving with Emotional Resilience Between and within Cultures
Janice Abarbanel, Ph.D.
Family Therapist and Clinical Psychologist
Having an ‘emotional passport’ means acquiring skills to regulate intense emotional challenges experienced in cultural transitions. This paper addresses ways to help young travelers become more resilient problem solvers, better at tolerating ambiguity, and more competent with cultural difference. It points out how the intercultural field misses opportunities to prepare learners for the emotional highs and lows of cultural exchange, relying instead on language of catastrophe (“culture shock”) and crisis preparation. We can, instead, teach strategies to help regulate the normal stressors that come with crossing cultures. Crisis planning alone does not meet the psychological needs of most sojourners. I encourage a shift in language and practice from “culture shock” to “culture shift,” by outlining how our brains process and integrate new information, and I describe life stage issues facing young adults, demonstrating how these challenges interface with emotional competencies necessary for crossing cultures.