The Power of Connection and Community

By Haibo Ma

Human Family

— by Maya Angelo

I note the obvious differences

in the human family.

some of us are serious,

some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives

are lived as true profundity,

and others claim they really

live the real reality.

The variety of our skin tones can

confuse, bemuse, delight,

brown and pink and beige and purple,

tan and blue and white.

I’ve sailed upon the seven seas

and stopped in every land,

I’ve seen the wonders of the world

not yet one common man.

I known ten thousand women

called Jane and Mary Jane,

but I’ve not seen any two

who really were the same.

Mirror twins are different

although their feature jibe,

and lovers think quite different thoughts

while lying side by side

We love and lose in China,

we weep on England’s moors,

and laugh and moan in Guinea,

and thrive on Spanish shores.

We seek success in Finland,

and born and die in Maine.

in minor ways we differ,

in major we’re the same.

I note the obvious differences

between each sort and type,

but we are more alike, my friends,

than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,

than we are unlike.

The importance of establishing a supportive system and benefiting from the power of community cannot be overemphasized, especially for those who live far away from home. I studied and lived in Minneapolis for two years, receiving my Master’s Degree there as an international student. This experience provided me with the first-hand opportunity to experience the challenging vortex of culture shock and I know how easily we can feel overwhelmed when immersed in a multitude of people who come from another culture and who speak a different language. It was during this time that my belief in the significance of relationships was also reinforced and I would like to share some of my thoughts about this in this article.

Relationships are powerful. In mental health counseling, relationships based on a non-judgmental, supportive structure are tremendously therapeutic. These relationships include complex interactions between people – interpersonal relationships – but also one’s relationship with self and even the connection between familiar everyday objects like cheese, cars, and even the air of one’s home country. We often are so accustomed to these basic things that we take them for-granted and don’t even realize the strong psychological bond we have with them. When we leave our comfort zone and settle down in a new land, these old connections unconsciously fade to some extent and the process of establishing new relationships begins. In a new environment, surrounded by the tsunami of unfamiliar, basic daily routines can be overwhelming because building new relationships with people and our environment consumes vast psychological energy.

Fortunately, we can find positive support and meaningful connections to help counteract this. Our supportive system may be as simple as colleagues who speak the same language as we do, decorating our living spaces with our own style, or spending leisure time spending with friends who share our favorite food. No matter whether with a small intimate group or bigger community, it is often a relief to share our stories and listen to others with similar experience. Sometimes it is also helpful to start our new journey with a combination of some activities we are familiar with as well as new ones. Such activities, connections, and community are offered and encouraged at Community Center Shanghai. In addition to the classes, tours, charities, and events CCS offers, we also have counselors who offer both individual counseling sessions as well as counseling support groups. Through abundant resources and valuable support networks, CCS can help you thrive in Shanghai.

About Haibo Ma

Haibo Ma is a Chinese counseling practitioner who grew up in Sichuan Province and who earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Psychology in Shanxi province. He then spent two years learning counseling skills and approaches through Counseling and Student Personnel Psychology (CSPP) at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in the U.S. and returned to Shanghai with his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. Haibo is familiar with the experiences of both culture shock and reverse culture shock. Haibo specializes in working with adults who suffer from mood disorders including depression and anxiety and also those with borderline personality disorder (BPD).

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