Culture provides guidelines for emotion expression. Cultural understanding shifts and flows as an individual experiences life. [Sometimes understanding gets stuck.] Culture is composed of family experiences; societal situations; and a view of humanity’s place in existence. It influences the words we select; the manner in which we voice; and whether we speak. As an individual develops across a lifespan, s/he determines which aspect(s) of life to encourage. My current choice is to encourage open, honest, and supportive communication. This is proving to be a bunch of work! I’m learning that “open and honest” means name-calling and labels to some people. Others consider it ignorant or an opportunity to take advantage. It takes visualization, deep breaths, and a focus on purpose to express myself to people who verbalize these opinions of my actions.
Right now it’s challenging for me to talk through hurt with one of my siblings. My brain wants to resort to name-calling and other angry-time speech options. We didn't develop conflict resolution skills between us in childhood, so now we're learning them as adults. We have a lot of unexpressed pain in my family. This pain is typically expressed through angry outbursts and/or withdrawal from communication. I want to be in a place where we allow ourselves to feel anger, directly express and discuss it in a healthy way, and fluidly continue with other topics. My sibling and I relate to each other around anger and hurt. We didn't talk much until the family moved overseas and our parents divorced. There was so much going on outside of our relationship’s world that we didn't focus much on our bond's needs. As a result, we related and yet did not relate. We talked about the chaos and related around the anger and hurt that surrounded us. Now, we want to talk with each other and neither one of us does it well. There isn't any chaos around which to relate. So, we either continue to create arguments so we can relate to that kind of pain, or we choose to build a new framework within which to relate. This one’s a lot of effort because some of the anger-argument creation is not completely conscious. It’s automatic sometimes.
I came across an interesting dissertation on culture and how it affects emotion expression, Cultural Orientation and Parent Emotion in the Chinese American Immigrant Family: Concurrent and Prospective Relations by Stephen Hanen Chen, https://escholarship.org/uc/item/1n43s5tf. [Total disclosure: I skimmed parts of it and read other sections in depth. I imagine it’s a document I’ll read here and there at various times over time. I didn’t know that there’s a whole section of psychological research that focuses on immigrant family experiences and emotion expression. That wowed me. I wonder if there’s a section of psychology that focuses on bicultural individuals’ experiences of culture.] The author brings up some interesting points that I hadn’t considered. He writes,
“It is an active process that transforms the biological being into a social individual …with a set of context-contingent identities” (Markus & Hamedani, 2007, p. 5). Applied to the present study of immigrant parents, this conceptualization of culture and psychology suggests that individuals exposed to a new culture both shape, and are shaped by their patterns of engagement with their host and heritage cultures. Engagement in external cultural domains – e.g., the languages they acquire or maintain, or the social circles in which they engage - may shape the construction and expression of their internal, biologically-based processes.”
The author’s reference to “internal, biologically-based processes” describes emotions. He’s saying that an immigrant parent’s socializing choices may affect his/her emotion expression. This, in turn, may affect emotion expression in their children.
Talking through differences involves both conscious and unconscious [automatic] responses to other humans. Discussions in general, and disagreements in particular, set the stage for involved parties to feel a variety of emotions and then choose to (not) display or (not) discuss them. Earlier, I mentioned a disagreement with my sibling. I also recently experienced a disagreement with one of my friends. In both cases, culture and emotions come into play. Each of us sees the world in a particular way. We think certain patterns make sense. Oh, she said this and then did that, then she means this. Oh, he did that and then said this, that must mean this other thing. We respond with actions that illustrate our internal state. In times of conflict, it can feel easy to name-call [She is so ignorant! You are such a jerk!]; blame [She chose to make this happen. You make me furious.]; and deny [You always make such a big deal out of things. He chose for me.] These types of choices source in pain. In order to help a conversation toward an amicable resolution or dissolution, both parties must practice fair fighting standards. (Lynne Namka, a Tuscon therapist, discusses fair fighting on her website at http://www.angriesout.com/fairfigh.htm.)
Our responses to conflict are based in experiences of our cultures. We understand each other from our individual perspectives. Each of us understands the other in a way that's consistent with our definitions of life. Many concepts influence our definitions for life.
Part of the challenge to disagreements with my sibling and my friend is that each of us is clever, witty, and confident. This can be a lot of fun when we feel supported by the other person. If one of us feels disrespected or hurt, then it's not fun because that clever, witty, and confident can turn into verbal acid lickety-split. We have different experiences of culture and family dynamics. I spent a lot of time with my mom individually and spent three years in another country during grade school. My cultural and family experiences influence how I communicate with my sibling and my friend. They also influence that which I perceive the other person to be doing in each conversation. My sibling and my friend have their own experiences of life that influence how they communicate with me and that which they perceive me to do in each conversation. I see any relationship (re)development taking a lot of patience; consistent focus on healthy and fair; and kindness via justice, aka compassion. A choice to continue in friendship will require that all of us face our fears and respect each other.
I like this March 29, 2015 Rabbi Neil Blumofe [paraphrased] recommendation (as heard on a jazz music radio spot that relates jazz musicians and their music with human emotion, Liner Notes): How do we talk ourselves away from fear? How do we remove ourselves from situations that are too convenient; away from friends who do not allow us to grow; and allow ourselves the power of diversity? Realize that precariousness [risk] is who we are and what we carry at all times.
Removed duplicate text. Hyperlinked the Namka URL.
Well hello there.