How about some filter on culture?
Growing up in a Rwandan culture has taught me so many things, and I am grateful for the privilege of being born in that community. However, there are things in our culture that I always wish could change, things that we have been taught regarding our emotions and the way we express them; we have been taught to keep quiet, and be more discrete, as an example if you are sad don’t tell anyone, and if you are happy don’t be too happy, truly there is no room to be yourself; It is like you live in a shadow of someone and if you go against that you are considered as an outcast. These things deprive you of being yourself, and in my culture it’s considered normal, yet it has a huge negative impact on your mental health which is ignored and later on results in emotional trauma, and many more consequences that come with it. In my previous blog I wrote on how do we heal from the scars, yet they have become our lives. Writing on this topic has unfolded different kinds of emotions, and I loved the fact that people could relate to it according to the feedback that I got from my peers’ and this is why I decided to do a continuation of the first blog, and this is going to address how undealt trauma can affect people, how it is hard for kids to grow in a toxic family situation, and how we can normalize things in our culture that continue to affect many people.
Culture and undealt traumas
It is very easy to blame the older generation, according to the introduction that I gave. However, everyone is a victim of their culture. As in talking about the older generation, our parents, most of them have lived through different life traumas that they haven’t been able to deal with, because of the society they live in. According to Kristen R. Choi, PhD, a registered nurse who studies trauma, “Trauma often heals with the help of relationships, so feeling connected to others is really beneficial,” And, in our parent’s situation, they never had that relationship style, where they get to sit and share their emotions, and this comes back to the culture, and this affects their behavior and identity as well, so dealing with the next generation which is us causes them to pass on the same trauma through their parenting styles. These neglected emotions affect the whole existence of a person and this is how people start to suffer from mental illness, and when it is severe you are advised to seek therapy or another professional counselor. “If you feel like the trauma you experienced is making it hard for you to live your life — for example, do your job, experience pleasure, or have healthy relationships — it can be a good idea to seek professional help,” (Noe Pagan, 2018) It is important to seek for help, however, this is something that has been stigmatized in our culture which is another constraint. Therefore, our parents or people from the older generation are victims as we are, however, as young people we can do something to address this as a generation that has had a privilege of being educated and informed on mental health, and how the culture affects it so that the next generation won’t be victims too. As it is hard for a kid to be raised in an unhealthy environment.
“In the field of psychology, scholars have debated the issue of nature versus nature for decades, only arriving at one reasonable conclusion: Both genes and the environment are important in shaping a person’s behavior.” (Verial 2018) The environment someone gets to be born in, plays a big role in who they turn out to be, which is why it is important for parents to make sure that their children get to be born in a healthy environment. The point that I am trying to raise is that parents play a big role in the behavior development of their children, and this is why as a parent it is very crucial to be emotionally available for your children. As this impacts your children’s emotions and their behaviors. Also, a children’s character is somewhat a reflection of who their parents are, as we have seen because of the culture, sometimes parents are not emotionally available for their children,not saying that they don’t love them, they are just parenting similarly to their own parents. It is for this reason young people should start raising their children differently so that the next generation won’t suffer from this as this is showing how emotional needs can destroy your child’s mental health as well and the next generation gets to be victims as well creating a ripple effect.
According to HealthEngine, “The nature of physical surroundings (including their quality, e.g. the extent to which open spaces are clean and buildings maintained) can influence the quality of parenting and in turn affect the health and well being of children within that environment.” As I mentioned in the previous blog, the physical environment must be taken care of as well for the well being and mental health of people, and this is why I still emphasize this, that urban planners or everyone involved in designing cities, must include the green spaces as it influences the mental health of the people.
What can we do as future generation?
A better way to deal with a challenge is first finding out the root cause, and that is how you can deal with it more effectively. Africa is one of the continents that has collectivist culture, and this influences the interconnectedness of the people, and even their identity. Culture is important for a country as it is described as an identity for the people who belong to that country, and it’s what differentiates people from others. As I said in the beginning in our Rwandan culture there are some things that are unhealthy that we need to deal with in order to break the cycle for the next generation. For the older generation, it is hard to change their minds, as I said that most of them are battling with traumas that maybe they don’t know how to deal with, and it affects their whole being, they are the victims of the culture as well. We the younger generation are the ones that should change the status quo, to help the next generation be able to express themselves freely.
“There are still attitudes within most societies that view symptoms of psychopathology as threatening and uncomfortable, and these attitudes frequently foster stigma and discrimination towards people with mental health problems.” (C.L Davey 2013) As we have seen, in our culture, people are not yet open to mental health, and it is even worse when it gets to people with mental illness. It is important that we start normalizing that and remove the stigma, as when people are going through that it is hard for them to be open up, as they are considered as “abnormal”, and in the worst-case scenario, they are considered as people who have been bewitched.
Some of us had a privilege to be educated and informed about mental health, and the effects of being born in an unhealthy environment, and this is why we need to do something about this. We have to start normalizing things in our culture, which are not there, by creating a safe space where people get to express their emotions freely; If you are sad don’t be afraid to show it, there are people who care and who understand you, also, if you are going through tough times, don’t keep it to yourself there are people to give you a hand. Also, if you are happy, be as joyful as you want and let’s be people who celebrate each other’s success, it can even be a small thing. We have seen that undealt mental health can lead to many consequences, mental illness being one of them; It is important that we take care of our mental health to avoid that, also in case there are people in our community, we need to start normalizing them in our society just as like other who have different diseases, like malaria, etc. as this is one of the things that will help them heal, as this helps them to be open, as they are seen like “people”, not names that they are given.
I will again say this; if you are on a journey of healing, there’s no timeline for that it is messy and most of the times hard, but know that you are not alone in this journey reach out in case you need a friend there are people in your circle who understand you, and who won’t judge you.
C.L Davy, G. 2013. Mental Health & Stigma. Psychology Today.
Frances, A. (2010, April 8). Psychiatric diagnosis gone wild: The “epidemic” of Childhood bipolar disorder. Psychiatric Times, online. Retrieved December 8, 2018, from http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/articles/psychiatric-diagnosis-gone-wild-epidemic-childhood-bipolar-disorder
Noe Pagan, C. 2018. When You’re Emotionally Affected by Trauma. WebMD.
Verial, D. 2018. The Effects of Environment on a Child’s Behavior. Hello Motherhood.