Creatively expressing stress and adaptation
As we undergo varied adaptation processes , it is important to recognize our affective responses. Songs or poems can help us express and clarify the complex feelings encountered. A sample poem is provided.
When we’re stretched emotionally, we often discover new outlets for personal reflection and expression. In times of cognitive overload, we need places or approaches that give us space to sort out our thoughts and feelings and gain perspective.
For some, that means finding a quiet coffee or tea house to provide safe or familiar space for reflection or good talks. Others prefer listening to music alone or with others. Some like to go to bars to hang out with other sojourners, or enjoy their favorite food at a familiar restaurant. Though such places or activities provide easy access for relaxation and communication, making a habit of any one mode might end up providing more of an escape than an engaged process of dealing with the actual tension within.
It can be helpful to plan in breaks for exercise, a good jog, or a quiet walk in a park. Some feel the need to express their feelings in songs or by making long phone calls. Still others find that creative outlets help, like sketching or painting, taking photos, exchanging those pictures, observations, or thoughts by social media. Several of your educators enjoy keeping a journal, writing down the wide range of experiences, confused feelings or contending ideas, mulling over observations, or sometimes even writing a poem or some song lyrics.
Lyrical prose isn’t everyone’s language, but most likely, you DO have one or two ways that you could imagine might help you better go through cultural stress experiences. It is worth reflecting on those outlets you have previously found helpful, those you might want to try, and those from other learners which you think are good approaches. Here is an example.
this lonely weight of alienation
while wandering silently, soulfully,
observing all as an outsider
on a segregated sojourn
from somewhere, someone past
to something yet unclear and undefined,
confined by limits of perception-
the reception of new cues confused,
yet fusing what I was with what I will become -
transformed by this transition -
something growing on this journey;
a yearning to connect, respect
and be respected, affected by affection,
lives linked in this direction –
the discovery of a wandering soul
made whole by understanding
and by reaching toward relationships,
by contexts now crossed over
without overlooking the significance
of lives and lifestyles quite different-
no longer divisive or indifferent
to the “otherness” that distanced us before.
This location is a disconnect no more.
This was written by the Lead Educator in Taipei, May 23, 2004 during explorative evening walks after presentation sessions of the International Academy of Intercultural Research (IAIR). It was a response to the confused feelings of cultural isolation in a location where he began his career in Asia over 25 years before, but then felt quite distant from due to his long and varied journey and how those experiences continue to change his poly-contextual personhood.
© Steve J. Kulich, Shanghai International Studies University