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  • Author or Editor: Don Kuiken x
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In this study, multicultural literature served as a site for Chinese Canadians to explore the interplay between their dual cultural backgrounds. After reading a story written by a Chinese Canadian author, participants were invited to imagine a dialogue between two characters with whom they identified, allowing the exploration of different aspects of their bicultural selves. Systematic examination of their dialogues, using cluster analysis of recurrently expressed dialogical themes, revealed four distinct expressive styles (Rhetorical Conflict, Imperative Conflict, Active Narration, and Embodied Reconciliation), each revealing a different bicultural stance. Both the rhetorically probing and explicitly imperative styles of expression reflected a fusion of Chinese and Canadian expectations regarding confrontation, although in different ways each also facilitated the maintenance of a conflictual cultural hierarchy. Active, but distanced, narrative description reflected the preservation of a collective sense of self that is characteristic of traditional Chinese culture. Finally, dialogic enactment of conflicting “voices” allowed reconciliatory, embodied, and generative fusions of Chinese and Canadian cultural expectations.

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Biculturally competent individuals may adopt flexible forms of emotional expression that help them address not only acculturation stress but also the forms of distress that affect bicultural and monocultural individuals alike. In a sample of 174 bicultural undergraduates, level of bicultural competence moderated the effects of an “existential” aspect of depression (i.e., the sense of a foreshortened future) in predicting both expressive flexibility during wakefulness and emotional flux within the content of impactful dreams. Among individuals high in bicultural competence, those who sensed a foreshortened future following loss or trauma were more likely to report: (1) feeling exploration through direct self-reflection; (2) feeling exploration through aesthetic response; and (3) spontaneous emotional flux within impactful dreams. These findings suggest that expressive flexibility among biculturally competent individuals becomes evident in their manner of identifying, understanding, and expressing emotions during a stressful life event.

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