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Forums / Multicultural experiences / How childhood beliefs from other cultures influence your life in Australia

Topic: How childhood beliefs from other cultures influence your life in Australia

12 posts, 0 answered
  1. Donte'
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    28 January 2018
    I grew up in a culture where the beliefs that 'whatever happens in the home stays in the home' and 'the world is evil and no one wants you to succeed' have impacted on the way people relate and deal with issues within the family, often excluding others and rejecting external supports. This affects directly not only the person struggling to understand their mental illness but also the family, friends and relatives and everyone that surrounds them.

    Many people who have migrated in Australia continue operating under the same belief systems they embraced in the society where they grew up. Those first impressions and knowledge of the world around us, coloured by the familial, cultural and religious spectrum is at the core of our thinking and acting and influences who we are, no matter how many times we migrated and how many languages we learnt or qualifications we achieved.

    If you carry in your core value a belief that says 'the world is evil and everyone is out there to get you' it makes sense that you will try to protect yourself and loved ones from the 'world'. It makes sense that you won't open up and talk about your issues or whatever troubles your family. You won't easily reach out. You won't want to be ridiculed, judged, criticised, marginalized, discriminated, disadvantaged etc.

    How have notions from early childhood and growing up in a different culture, tradition, beliefs etc have influenced the way you live today here in Australia? How have these affected your ability to reach out? To include others in your struggle? To seek professional help?
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  2. Peppermintbach
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    4 February 2018 in reply to Donte'

    Hi Donte’,

    As always, great insight and post :)

    In my Asian heritage, there’s a similar mentality to yours; one of not discussing personal or family matters outside the family home. It’s considered “airing your dirty laundry” and frowned upon because it’s “shameful” to admit to mental health struggles. The preferred approach is one of denial and avoidance.

    So it discourages people to seek professional help and if anyone does do it, it’s not something that you’re encouraged to admit or discuss. The mentality around seeking professional help is if you “have to” seek help, please do it privately and don’t go around around “broadcasting” that you’re seeing, for example, a social worker.

    I think the anonymity of online forums and helplines can be particularly helpful in cultures where mental illness is still greatly stigmatised and not understood very well. There is often a fear of the “unknown.”

    But I suppose one key challenge is still language. This includes awareness of, the availability and accessibility of services in multiple languages for people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD) backgrounds.

    I also think how wellbeing and health is defined in any given culture can increase or decrease the likelihood of help seeking behaviour. For example, some cultures may view health/wellbeing simply as an absence of physical illness (and therefore mental health issues are swept under the rug) whereas other cultures may have a more holistic approach to wellbeing, which perhaps translates to a greater likelihood of help seeking for mental health issues.

    Anyway, great thread. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts :)

    kind thoughts,

    Pepper

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  3. Donte'
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    4 February 2018 in reply to Peppermintbach

    Thank you Pepper,

    Luckily we can choose to ignore aspects of our cultures and traditional notions and leave behind us anything that keeps us stuck in the mud so we can overcome and progress towards the recovery process. we live in an era of information and have so much access to knowledge that no other culture ever had in the history of mankind. We are also fortunate to be in Australia where one size never fits all and everything is accepted and included. I am thankful to have this opportunity to make breakthroughs in my life that my parents for example never dreamt of. Exciting times, exciting place. Glad to be here. :)

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  4. Peppermintbach
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    5 February 2018 in reply to Donte'

    Thank you, Donte’ :)

    I appreciate your perspective on this and your point on the power of choice and access to resources and information.

    Kind thoughts,

    Pepper

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  5. Donte'
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    5 February 2018 in reply to Peppermintbach

    You too Pepper!

    As migrants people don’t stop growing, evolving, changing. (Like everyone else).

    Even if it’s true that some people who have migrated in a certain era carry with them the culture and notions that existed in their lives at the time of their migration depending on the setting where they lived in their country of origin; it is also true that we all integrate and assimilate with the environment we are in. That may take long time but it is a reality and a normal process of growth and development.

    Culture is not static, just like language and beliefs, it keeps evolving with the people who are a part of it. My culture today is not the culture of my grandma 80 years ago, even though we are both from the same country.

    Sometimes it feels as if we talk about culture or language or religion as something frozen in time, unchangeable, impenetrable by any new influence.

    The reality is we all ‘cheery-pick’ and choose from all the available choices presented to us. People change and so does their culture - in their homeland and abroad.

    It may not be in one’s culture for example to seek support by an external professional or to see a psychiatrist, however, at a time of need and when all the other choices have not been proven beneficial, one may reconsider. At that point, a breakthrough takes place and a new ‘culture’ is born, and this later spreads to others and eventually becomes the dominant thing - the new culture.

    If one person finds some aspect of their culture, or religion oppressive and unhelpful to their situation, then the logical thing would be to dismiss this aspect and do something differently - go outside their cultural or religious norms and break the mould. It’s the only way people progress and new ideas and beliefs are born.

    No matter where we come from, no matter our cultural or linguistic or religious background, we have multitudes of choices in this country and in this era of information, technology, scientific breakthrough and knowledge to help us deal with whatever we are presented in our lives. I am of the belief that people can only be ignorant (in such a setting) by their own choices. And I choose to be well-informed, educated in regards to my options and make intelligent, informed choices that can enhance my quality of life despite what my co-patriots were believing about this long time ago in a far far away place. Ultimately, it is about the individual, not the group, and the responsibility to act falls upon me. :)

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  6. Peppermintbach
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    6 February 2018 in reply to Donte'

    Hi Donte’,

    Beautifully expressed :)

    There is really little that I could add to your powerful and moving post.

    I particularly like your point about culture not being static and the power of choice. Like you, I also have a lot of power to exercise and act on choice as an adult in Australia. But I wonder about other people in Australia who perhaps lack access to resources and support systems (or who may be largely controlled by family members , etc) who may not have the relative freedom that you and I possess. Just sharing a stray thought that came into my head....

    Anyway, I appreciate your insight and perspective. Enlightening as always.

    Pepper

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  7. Donte'
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    6 February 2018 in reply to Peppermintbach

    Thank you Pepper. :)

    That is a very valid thought. Perhaps not everyone is on the same page as experiences vary.

    I sometimes think that maybe the fact that my parents only stayed ten years in Australia and then decided to return to Greece where they live the last thirty years, has in some way being a good thing for me (who chose to stay here), as it freed me from their influence and forced me to find my own way and develop my own coping strategies without having them around for support.

    My experience taught me that unless I do it myself, no one else will do it for me. And that there’s no right or wrong way, just different ways!

    I also think that despite our cultural background, everyone in life has to face their family at some point and make their own decisions. It’s part of growing up, breaking ties, (cutting the umbilical cord), and build your own identity and life based on your own values and not on the values of our family/parents etc. Sure, we all may choose to keep some aspects that may be still relevant and important to us, but every generation moves forward in that constant dance between tradition and change!

    Often though, because of the migration process, some aspects of the developmental stages could get interrupted or delayed due to the shock or trauma of sudden change. So families may get closer together and develop ties that perhaps wouldn’t be necessary if they remained in their country of origin. Language, culture, religion tend to become more important for many, once they are removed from their primary context, and serve as identity indicators.

    This makes absolute sense and it’s normal survival instinct. We stick together to protect ourselves from the ‘different’, the ‘alien’, and endeavor to preserve whatever aspect may seem as part of our identity.

    This leads to some migrant families never breaking away and others controlling each other’s affairs as they still operate under a ‘collectivist’ approach versus the ‘individualist’.

    There are advantages to this but also disadvantages. So, some people may find it more difficult to ‘find their own feet’ when they still dancing in other people's shoes!

    Luckily, it’s not a competition, and no one is keeping notes!

    Hopefully, with discussions like this one, more people would self-evaluate and develop awareness or become more mindful of where they’re at and how perhaps family, traditions, religion, culture (even though having many positives) could also hold back people’s recovery process.

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  8. Peppermintbach
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    9 February 2018 in reply to Donte'

    Hi Donte’,

    Thank you, as always, for your response and insight :)

    It does sound like the physical distance from your parents gave you more of a push to direct your own life path as you saw fit. Perhaps their return to Greece was liberating for you or to some extent at least. I’m glad things seemed to work out for you.

    Yes, I agree that everyone is different as we all have our own unique circumstances that can influence our life path. I think when it comes to culture, it can often be easier in theory than in practice to “break the ties that bind” in many cases.

    For example, breaking with tradition, especially if a person’s family is still very attached to those traditions, can cause a lot of conflict and pain within families. Also if language is an issue and a person’s main support system is with other people who share the same cultural background who are set on keeping certain traditions, it can be particularly difficult to try challenge it (without losing that support or fracturing relationships).

    I’m not saying it’s impossible to pick and choose traditions, etc but I feel it’s often more challenging than it may seem. Sometimes people can break the “ties that bind” while for others, the “ties that bind” really do “bind.”

    Just my thoughts...

    Thanks for reading :)

    kind thoughts,

    Pepper

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  9. Donte'
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    9 February 2018 in reply to Peppermintbach

    Thank you Peppermintbach for your contribution to this thread. 

    You are right, sometimes people can break the “ties that bind” while for others, the “ties that bind” really do “bind.”

    Looking back now with my adult eyes, I can see that since childhood my role modelling from my parents has always been as such that it taught me it's ok to be different and that I do not need to fit in or belong to anything I do not like. I'm aloud.

    Growing up in a Seventh-day Adventist family in the 70's in Greece was quiet radical! At the time there were less than a hundred people in the whole country who had embraced that faith! So in my family of origin we had various traditions that nobody else had around us, in my neighborhood, my school, my relatives and friends etc. Being born gay and part of that family was even more extreme! It went against the family religious order and the mainstream culture outside, down the street etc. A minority within a minority.

    Later on, I followed my parents' example and broke the ties with the church and their traditions and left that faith. I also, never really embraced the Greek state religion. It is so liberating to know that you are aloud to make your own choices. You don't have to follow the religion of your parents (as they didn't follow the religion of their parents but broke away from the 'norm'), or your ethnic group's traditions if you don't identify with these. And that doesn't make you less of a Greek (in my case). 

    Migrating to Australia has given me the chance like many others to start afresh and chose to not pass on the language or the religion of my parents or the state religion of Greece (orthodoxy) to my child. I believe in developing our own meaningful rituals and create traditions that represent us and this is how I have chosen to live. I know this is not for everyone. Ultimately, it should be about choice though. And luckily, we get plenty of that in this beautiful country of ours we all call home. 

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  10. Peppermintbach
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    13 February 2018 in reply to Donte'

    Hi Donte’,

    What a beautiful and inspiring post :)

    As you described, you were (are?) a “minority within a minority.” I think life must have been pretty tough for you in the 70s. I wonder if you felt very lonely at the time...

    I admire your courage to break from tradition and to choose your own life path. You have taken self “ownership” of your life in a way that works for you. That’s pretty incredible :)

    kind thoughts,

    Pepper

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  11. Donte'
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    13 February 2018 in reply to Peppermintbach

    Thank you Pepper,

    Life is pretty tough for everyone in different ways, especially growing up no matter what era you are born, and trying to separate yourself from your parent’s identities and develop as a unique individual within your cultural context.

    Of course sexual orientation, gender, migration, family experiences, abuse, illness, poverty, relationship breakdown, isolation from peers and relatives and harassment/ridicule due to differences in religion etc may impact someone in ways that could be traumatic and shape their identity further embedding stigma, shame and fragmentation that could lead to mental health issues later on in life.

    Despite this though, there are also positives. There’s immense strength and resilience that one can develop even out of stubbornness and anger and determination to not give in into the bulling.

    In my case, most certainly it seems that these hardships have pushed me to become a strong, independent, resilient individual who always bounces back and has survived severe traumas and still smiles and often laughs at the face of challenge and adversity.

    Looking back, I’m very thankful for my wounds. Without this trauma I wouldn’t be who I am today: The courageous, bold, honest, authentic individual that I am and perhaps I wouldn’t be here chatting with everyone else in these forums.

    Breaking from tradition and religion wasn’t really a conscious option I guess but rather the only possibility if I was to become me. Otherwise, I would have to remain married, continue living a lie and a life less than fulfilling and would have never reached my maximum potential in life out of fear of breaking the mould.

    Its good to dare. Dare to be different. And anything we have ever learnt it means we can unlearn it. And relearn it. Mine is a life of unlearning!

    All those honoring traditions and following the well-known paths that others have created before them (there’s nothing wrong with that), could benefit by reminding themselves that the person who first initiated that very same tradition they honor and hold so sacredly, was the one who broke all the pre existing traditions of his/her time in order to develop this path. It was a rebel. An outsider. Someone who didn’t fit in. Every leader of every religion or philosophy or any ideology that people follow as an absolute truth, has at some point broken traditions and moulds. There’s no other way shaping a new path. To build a road you need to chop down trees and clear the path. :)

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  12. Peppermintbach
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    15 February 2018 in reply to Donte'

    Hi Donte’,

    You’re most welcome :)

    Life has certainly been a big learning curve for you. Another beautiful post.

    I really enjoyed reading your point about how breaking tradition and defying expectations was more of a necessity (i.e. to live a life feeling true to yourself) than a conscious decision. That makes a lot of sense. I feel a lot of people who break traditions have a similar mentality whether it’s to be true to themselves, believe certain traditions are oppressive, feel they are at odds with basic human rights, etc.

    I must admit it confuses me a little when some people follow tradition purely because it’s the “done thing.” I understand if they have thought it through and have decided that they genuinely see value in certain traditions. But I find it mind boggling when some people honour traditions and their main rationale is “because it’s what we’ve always done.” Um, okay...

    Thanks again for sharing. Always a pleasure to hear from you.

    Kind thoughts,

    Pepper

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