Culture is a unique experience defined by similarities. Our expectations for life and that which we choose to tolerate are concepts rooted in culture.
Culture Quiz, Questions 1 and 2
I experienced my mother as my first female symbol of possibility, relevance, and self-love. She taught me about myself through the ways in which she displayed confidence and processed pain. At 11 years old, I went to my mom after a man violated my boundaries. She chortled and asked, “What do you want me to do about it?” Immediately, humiliation and irrelevance filtered through my bloodstream. I stared at her, silent.
Instead of comfort or acknowledgment, I received pain as my emotion response to that experience of vulnerability with my caretaker. In that exchange, vulnerability associated itself with humiliation and irrelevance. I learned to hide my vulnerability and accept responsibility. From that interaction, I interpreted that I should care for myself. [I wouldn’t have phrased it that way at the time. I didn’t understand it then as her role to comfort me.] I started to believe that I needed to anticipate my own needs, to be my own parent. A few years later, at 14, I asked for a personal subscription to a parenting magazine. In those moments on that bed in the house my mom shared with her childhood, my first symbol showed me how to embody authority; a capacity for pain; and a way in which to work with emotions. I learned from her response how a woman may act in the face of pain and anxiety: I learned to dismiss those emotions, to mentally laugh at them.
Culture Quiz, Question 3
My friend’s parents are from a different country of origin than my mom. She said she thinks “that the experience of existing as an immigrant family in the U.S. has a lot of stuff in common for people regardless of nation of origin.” I agree with her. I also believe that each culture experiences its own emotion dynamic and, as such, experiences a different set of internal guidelines for life in the United States. It’s up to each individual to identify and address or disregard emotion dynamic roots.
Culture Quiz, Questions 4 and 5
Asian culture encourages obedience through shame. Sam Louie discusses shame in his book, Asian Honor: Overcoming the Culture of Silence, “Asian societies base their identities and traditions on shame. Shame is what sets limits to our behavior and keeps us ‘in check.’ By being obedient and trying our best to put family first, we try not to disgrace our families and heritage. Our individuality is often suppressed, to the point that many Asians lack an individual sense of self because of their need for parental and cultural approval.” In her way, my mom taught me obedience through shame. Humiliation and irrelevance is shame. My experience with her shame method taught me to keep silent about my pain. I learned to tolerate shame as a control mechanism.
Culture Quiz, Questions 6 and 7
A series of events led me to recognize that shame as a control mechanism sucks life blood from veins. At one point, I read Warrior Lessons: An Asian-American Woman’s Journey into Power by Phoebe Eng. She talks about the Asian-American stereotype and how racism against Asian-American women, in particular, is very covert. As an example, she discusses a boss who spends more time offering “constructive criticism” to her than other non-Asian coworkers (Pocket Books: 1999).
I could totally relate to her description. I’ve thought that people treat me differently because they perceive me as a weak symbol. Like the two people at work who gave me strongly worded advice to phrase myself differently. One (a Caucasian male, mid- to late- 40s, manager in a different department) said something about my “well-meaning forthrightness” and wanting to make sure “no one took it the wrong way.” Another (African-American female, mid- to late-30s, staff member in the manager’s department) said something along the lines of, “this is what I tell my daughter.” I felt insulted in the situation, and I didn’t know how to respond. So, I paraphrased their words to me; and focused on and visualized deep breaths. In this manner, I declined the shame that I felt push to creep into my bloodstream. The next step is to speak in the moment. That’ll take time and practice. Eng describes the confidence process that releases “old-world” expectations and encourages self-acceptance (p. 343),
“There is comfort in knowing that people have gazed at the night skies as I do since the beginning of time and will continue long after I am gone… We can overcome … fear only by reaching out to one another, and in our shared courage we [may] …come to understand that real power comes when we can turn rage into empathy. Or that it takes bravery to listen and act. We may finally understand that it is no longer necessary to be perfect, and that in fact, it never was. Our most gripping fears of betrayal, failure, and loneliness may loosen their hold so that we can learn to be vulnerable without being afraid.”
Culture Quiz, Questions 8 and 9
Confidence accepts vulnerability and acts through it. It respects roots and values. Our cultural concepts may unite or separate discussion. We can choose when and whether to assign meaning to comments, looks, ideas, and emotion. A confident person comprehends and respects emotion expression while simultaneously understanding that emotion is separate from that which connects all living things.
Culture Quiz, Question 10
Well hello there.