Culture Effects The Way We Think
Cultures have an enormous effect on our psychology. Everything from the way we celebrate success, to the way we mourn our dead to the way we cope with illness is substantially influenced by cultural norms.
Beyond that, however, cultures can even impact the way we perceive the world around us and, indeed, the way we perceive ourselves as individuals.
The extent to which our cultural heritage plays into our own self image is often underestimated – it’s almost like the invisible elephant in our psyche.
People who have been raised in countries where the state operates through suppression and propaganda and shuns openness – such as the former Soviet bloc, for example – can develop a mechanism of emotional suppression that might carry through generations, even for years after the state has itself changed its modus operandi.
In countries blighted with poverty and fear, that same fear and insecurity about the world can continue to pass through family dynamics, even after the family has immigrated away from the region.
All of this is due to the fact that we formulate our ideas about ourselves and the world around us – who we are and how we fit in – from our relationships with our parents in our earliest years. If parents are suffering from the pain of traumas past, that can easily be passed onto the toddlers they nurse and, before they know it, the child will have developed whole ways of thinking and being in the world that has incorporated that pain.
For the first time now, some of this is actually going beyond hypothesis and being proven scientifically.
One example of culturally carried differences in self perception is the way in which people in the East see themselves as more closely a part of a wider family unit.Continued on the next page