Tag Archives: culture shock

Psych Out! Culture Shock

While reading an article by Catherine Ann Lombard titled “Coping with anxiety and rebuilding identity:  a psychosynthesis approach to culture shock” I came across a citation for the book The Psychology of Culture Shock by Colleen Ward, Stephen Bochner, and Adrian Furnham.  It is quite obvious that this was a strong resource for Lombard’s article.  The idea of the sojourner popped out at me directly.  The book is based strongly on discerning the ABCs of cross-cultural interactions.

Some chapters of interest include “Theoretical approaches to culture shock” and “Stress, coping, and adjustment.”  There’s also a really neat table on pg 72 pulled from J.H. Berry (1997) that depicts a stress and coping framework.  There’s also  a great bibliography in the back.

Culture Shock: It begins with Students

The Five Stages of Culture Shock: Critical Incidents Around the World by Paul Pedersen is a good reference for the early approaches to culture shock.  I particularly like the history of the U- and W- curves.  These visual aids are given to most students in their per-orientation programs before they travel abroad.  I know I received one before I attended a fieldschool in Portugal.  The book notes that one criticism of these curves are their linear depictions of assimilation.  I would be curious to see if, having been introduced to stage models such as these before traveling, students feel an increase in the magnitude of culture shock for not matching the model.

The Psychosythesis Approach to Culture Shock

Perhaps not as well known as his contemporaries Freud and Jung, Roberto Assagioli nevertheless left behind an impressive legacy in the form of psychosynthesis.  Lombard uses this approach in her 2014 article “Coping with Anxiety and Rebuilding Identity: A Psychosynthesis Approach to Culture Shock.”  There are a couple things I like about this article.  Firstly, Lombard begins with a pretty good literature review on culture shock.   Lombard sees student sojourners  as a rapidly increasing population that is willfully engaging in different cultural contexts.   Secondly, the self-identification exercise is a unique form of therapy that complements the subpersonality model by allowing distance from “ties that bind” in order to get at the true “I,” or what Lombard refers to as “the observer and director or all their subpersonalities” (10).

In my opinion, while I can see how these two interventions may affect the ABC’s of culture shock,  a psychosynthesis approach provides insight into what is going on biologically.   I believe a biocultural model of culture shock would provide a better avenue to understanding the phenomenon.  Identity is not merely psychologically based.

Culture Shock in the Olden Days

“How Culture Shock Affects Communication,” by LaRay Barna, was published in 1976 so I tried not to read too much into the theory behind his conceptualization of culture shock because it is embedded in the paradigm of the time, the psychology of activation which Lazarus disputed decades later.  Still, I found the list of different researchers’ definitions of culture shock to be enlightening.  The world is more globalized now than it was 50 years and people are traveling more frequently for education or work.  To me, these facts seem to inhibit the recognition of culture shock as a condition.  Traveling might have been demystified, but culture shock persists, albeit in a more muddled definition.

Using Theory in a Clinical Setting

In “Using Stress, Appraisal, and Coping Theories in Clinical Practice: Assessments of Coping Strategies After Disasters,” Matthieu and Ivanoff (2006) utilize the transactional framework proposed by Lazarus and Folkman (1984) among other theories to investigate the ways in which clinicians and researchers might understand individual stress and coping while also looking at the broader public health impact of a disaster.  The authors use the World Trade Center disaster of 9/11 to demonstrate the scales at which stress can manifest.  I found this article to be a good review of the coping processes, styles, and strategies people might employ to alleviate stress.

Polyvagal Theory and Psychiatric Disorders

I  was first introduced to Porges’ Polyvagal Theory by Leslie Heywood’s (2011) article “Affective Infrastructures: Toward a Cultural Neuropsychology of Sport.”  It’s really interesting to read Porges’ article “The Polyvagal Theory: phylogenetic contributions to social behavior” afterwards.  Heywood used this theory in her understanding of sport models but after reading the original article I now see the theory’s potential to explain social behavior on the whole.   In regards to culture shock, my specific interest at this moment, there are many quotable sections in the article that shed light on what might be happening neurophysiologically.  If you can overlook the absence of Oxford commas, then give this article a look.  It provides a workable framework for understanding psychiatric disorders and sociality in general.