Culture Shock: A Veteran’s Experience

As a Veteran of the military, I continue to go through individual and social changes in my life. Readjusting back into the everyday grind of civilian life, hasn’t been as kind as I thought it would be. It’s not the stereotypes that people place on the backs of men and women who serve their country, but the perception of the “outsider”. In this case, me. This isn’t a post to induce pity upon the reader, but one that may strike understanding between society and the outsider. I spent close to a decade in the military, deployed four times in the combat zone, and loss comes with the territory, I know. There are consequences to every action, but the one consequence that I didn’t account for, was the readjustment. There’s a term that is used when people bounce back and forth between cultures, one that has been sitting on my shoulders, as a reminder. It’s called “culture shock”. When I think of shock, I tend to define it in a way much like fear. The mind takes everything in at once, and the reaction is almost a freezing motion. Stuck, due to an overwhelming rush of information. Immigrants who pick up and move from their homeland, and move to a place with different social behavior, go through this initial shock all the time. No matter how much someone denies fear, it’s real in the moment, or we wouldn’t have so many discussions about it. Just ask an immigrant. How does one define a person who left a country, and returns to a place that they don’t even recognize? What about a man or woman whose been in prison for years, and released? Even though our pasts are different, we share common thoughts and emotions.

I joined the military in 2004, spent most of my time training and deploying, taking me away from the naturalness of being a civilian. When I look back, I was consumed within the military lifestyle. Lived and breathed a culture in which I fell dependent on. It was my life at the time, and it will be a part of my life until my last breath. When a person is thrusted back into a culture that is foreign, there isn’t a preparation kit that can help, until you’re knee deep, experiencing that culture. There are steps someone can take to ease the blow of Culture Shock;

1) Surrounding yourself with people who are going through the same experience is a plus, but I found that it also isolates what your trying to accomplish. We may not do this knowingly. We do it because it’s comfortable and it feels safe. These feelings are a great start to the journey, because there’s a feeling of oneness. Stress is beginning to loosen its grip, and you can feel yourself starting to breathe. If you’re starting a new journey, here’s a question for you; “When was the last time you acknowledged a breath?”

When you are out on your own, challenge yourself. Break away from that comfortable bubble that may be locking you into that culture shock mentality. Join a club outside of your social circle or ask a person in your social group to join one with you. Take small steps if you must. The goal is to adjust. Some people enter a pool slowly, others jump right in. You know yourself better than anyone.

Self-Awareness is everything, in the process of adapting to culture shock. I believe in the exercises to help relieve stress, and I use them. For instance, Mindfulness is a great way to ground yourself, focus on breathing, and help you slow your mind. With that being said, it doesn’t fix the issues of Culture Shock. You may say to yourself, I’ve been back for a couple years, or I’ve been here for a few years, and I’m still having a difficult time adjusting. From one person to another, it’s common. Fear is normal in this situation; however, we still need to face the fear that’s holding you back. We will face it together. Don’t forget, it’s not about the different places we find ourselves in, but the state of mind and emotion. Each day I will discuss a different symptom of Culture Shock, and ways we can combat it through identifying some internal obstacles, that Culture Shock imposes.

I appreciate you taking the time out and reading my post about Culture Shock, and I encourage you to comment on issues that you may be having as well. You never know how you can help others, if you don’t try. Thanks again for reading Free-Word.

 

Photo: http://www.phdynamic.com/online-education/cultural-diversity-in-e-learning/

Meeting Culture Shock Head-On

                            Concept of Shock

 

Hello, thank you for your interest in how to adjust to Culture Shock. The goal of this post is not to avoid Culture Shock, but to identify symptoms and meet it head on by taking different steps. Since each one of us deals with our emotions in different ways, I will show you what steps you can take to make the transition much smoother. We will find ourselves confronted with the rough edges of change, which will happen more in the beginning of our journey. The concept of shock is used in different contexts; medical is the most common, unless you’re a farmer of a cornfield. We’re going to break down the concept of shock and I’ll show you where it relates to the journey. Yesterday, I explained what happens when someone enters a new culture. There’s an overload of the senses, and the brain is trying to figure out what to do with all this information. Entering an unknown element, will knock you off balance. Which can lead to fear, anxiety, and doubt in your ability to deal with the situation in a rational way. You may have heard that emotions aren’t rational, and I tend to agree sometimes. But I can assure you, that the emotions that are involved with shock, are real. They need to be acknowledged. Ignoring your emotions will only dig you deeper into a feeding frenzy of those emotions I mentioned above. It can also lead to other sorts of issues, both physical and mental. That’s what I’m trying to help you avoid, the unnecessary ones.

 

                                       Issues

Since there are thousands of different cultures, not to mention thousands of different sub-cultures. Some of the coping mechanisms can be used in both scenarios. Today, I’m going to focus on moving from one country to another. Sometimes we may not have a choice when we move. We’re forced out under certain circumstances; job, loss of job, or natural disaster. This is not an exhausted list, but I can fill a page with hundreds of events that can trigger a move. How can we possibly prepare?

I said yesterday that there isn’t a kit for something like this, but there are ways in which you can prepare yourself to ease some of the shock your about to endure. I prepared myself, going over to a different country, but I failed to prepare myself to come back. Granted, my circumstance may be different, but the effects on the mind and body are similar. Understanding what your about to walk into, is a great way to prepare yourself for possible changes. It’s not only about the culture, it’s about how we adjust internally.

 

              Scenario with Helpful Information

Here is one scenario, which allows you to access information through books, internet, and any other resource that you can get your hands on. Learning about customs and traditions is a great way to start your research. If you’re a religious person, you may want to see if they have a Liaison, that can meet, and give a tour of the city or town. Ask them questions about others who are in the same situation. Some people may only research half of the question. What is it like where I’m going?

The other questions that’s a “must ask”; what internal changes I can expect, or ones that are possible. Most of us have an imagination, and it’s free. Playing scenarios of “what if”, can be used as a benefit. By placing yourself in situations that are possible, allows you to analyze and find the best actions to take. There should be multiple scenarios, with different actions. Back-up plans. This leads up to the question, how are you going to face it internally?

Experiences of others is a way in which you can grab some different ideas to specific events, but remember, what works for someone, may not work for others. That’s why the imagination is important. It wouldn’t be right, if I didn’t show you the downside to the imagination, and I won’t leave you without ways in keeping it in check.

I will start by saying, Pride Can Be A Double-Edged Sword. You will say that you got this, or you thought of everything. Now if you’re a proud person, this will sting. You didn’t and you don’t. Just to point out some of the different character traits that reinforce the pridefulness flaw; gender, that means men (know-it-alls), age, and narcissist. If you don’t know that you’re a narcissist, there are plenty of blogs out there that give descriptions. Ok, let me get back on track. Since pride can be a downfall, it may stop you from asking for other points-of-view. This is a mistake. Not swallowing your own pride, can set you up for a rough transition. It’s not about getting the best answer but changing the habit. Just from my own experience and gender, which I’m working on daily by the way. We can’t do this alone. One person didn’t build society, it was a collective action. Practice asking for help.

I’ve showed you some ways where you can prepare yourself for the shock you’re about to endure. I think it’s important to understand both sides of the fence. It’s much better to enter the situation with an arsenal of tools. If you’re someone whose imagination spins out of control with worry. Write it down. Take a break, because it will be stressful. Find something that takes your mind off that scenario. Then go back and read it with a clearer mind. Mindfulness is a great way to center yourself. And once you’re grounded, grab someone you feel comfortable with, and ask them what they would do.

I hope this post helped in some way, and tomorrow there will be other ways in which you can work through “Culture Shock”. And if you have any questions, comments, or scenarios you’d like to run by someone, don’t hesitate to contact Free-Word. Thank you.

 

Photo: http://www.destination360.com/africa/african-culture

Fourth Wall’s Back

Garbage pits recklessly burn,
Obstructing innocent wide eyes,
Bloodshot tears vanish, before reaching their end.
Billowing above, motionless clouds of black smoke, get darker.
Silently killing people slowly, and seconds tics… crackling.
The dusty road out, now gone, only known by the memory of bare feet,
That fuses to the mouth that gave life, now spits out a toxic breath

Bodies tired, forced down by the heavy hand of heat,
Kneeling, praying in the fiery pits of hell,
Contagious coughs, delivered by the messenger,
Through its silent rage, fueled by turning heads.
Sending upward hope, hitting the fourth walls back.
Downward, words fall, broken fragments of faith,
Raining, spreading its ashes of helplessness.

Dying Land

Blue hills cry with muddy waters, pouring down, pooling in the shallows. Of the valley of our broken dreams, filters out and births a stream. The water flows on for miles, from east to west, then hits a row of homes, that  stole true nature’s style. It leaves an eagle soaring, through a tower’s eye of steel, with pupils made of sonic waves.  Searching for his missing nest, flies aimlessly, across the ravage mess. Which we took from him in vain, without compromise and an ounce of pain, ending lives, with our distractions. Have we changed our Country’s satisfaction? To help the people soar, instead we’re strumming in the oil fields.

Advancement travels on, rolls just like those hills, which will soon be gone. Imaginary mountain sides, cutting, drilling, earthly suicide. In the fields of natures heart, we ripped it out. Planting veins of steel. And cables run along the plains, what used to be the heartland, of ear to ear of natural corn. Now, its just poisoning the minds of children, who live in desperate times, that search for some acceptance. Instead, the food is laced with herbicides. It’s eating at their axis, and yet, we still continue on, this time, we die in numbers, forged from a different sword. One made by power lies, as entities, turn one good eye. Into written laws, and find that loophole to save their sole. This money-go-round of hell, with Satan’s spawn sitting at the helm. They’re in every institution, and still our lives go on and on. As family’s get a boot, and still we’re fighting for some truth. It’s sitting in the wind, of the power of the mortal sin.

Grieving Sisters

Grieving sisters, both dressed in black,
Stand side by side, and three feet back.
Holding hands, staring down, and
through the veil, they bared a frown.

They take deep breaths, sigh with wonder,
Look up to heaven, and scream with thunder,
“Is our sister safe, and Can you hear?”
Our silence broken. we have no fear.

We miss her dearly, please show us light,
We’ll walk with you, into the night.
Please shed this skin of armor now!
We’re ready for that peaceful sound.

The grief will never end,
As long as you still love your friend
They come in other ways,
With memories of your happy days.

 

 

Double Face Muse

Double face muse,
Sadness lives on in the heart,
Of memories that’s seen in the dark.
The death in the night, that deserves equal rights
With the sin, that’s been carved by a knife

It is the artist who lives up above,
The one who has blessed me with love.
The voice I can’t see, screams out to me.
“It’s ok to fall down on your knees!”

The beauty’s all over the place,
It’s high in the sky.
Beneath the blue eyes,
Or the sun that gives life to the snake.

It’s the birth of a whale,
And the snail on the trail,
Who’s running away from the quail.

It’s the moon and the stars,
The walk to the car,
And the coyote who yelps from a far.

The face of the muse it is strong,
That carries the pain in a song
Who’s crying the tears with their blood.
To the grace of the woman, I love.

Unanswerable Questions?

Settled, nestled into a new home, surrounded by the faces of the past, and yet each one defined by a tiredness. Drawn down by the ground, leaving it long. Your foreheads fight the pull, cracking the skull, and exposing the questionable, but showing the unanswerable. But, in their eyes, especially yours, they look the same. Maybe I changed? Maybe, it’s my eyes that look different, from the two eyes of the group? I know the world has changed, leaving memories at the front steps of my mind, and I see them differently now. Ways in which I’ve never seen them before…Guess war does that to the soul. Do you ever think about the past?

Like the time you stood me up, without a phone call,
did you even blink? Was it easy for you to ignore?
I gave you the benefit of the doubt, but I should’ve been,
the one, the one doubting. It’s in the past, and I don’t hold a grudge.
But I wonder, what was it? It’s ok, because I learned to forgive.
Or, maybe it’s apathy? Is apathy apart of forgiveness?
We were young, and you still look the same.

Your brown eyes, don’t carry the pain? Do they still hold a piece of me? Or maybe I’m that sleep in the corner of your eyes when you wake up, and forcefully wipe it away? There’s a blankness to your gaze, one I’ve seen before, one that I held many years ago. When judgment was passed down upon my head, and coldness lingered through the streaming blood, that races to the heart of my thoughts. It’s ok that you had more important things to do that night. I like to think you changed your worldview, but, if you didn’t, that’s ok too. Life destroys and rebuilds every moment, and maybe you’re on the destructive side of life. And although, I still feel drawn to you, I can also feel the repel. Pushing me away, or maybe it’s the opposite. Who knows? I wanted to see you, and even though, my feet were frozen in place, keeping me from approaching. You still helped. Thank you.