Monthly Archives: June 2007

First Impression

First Impression makes us believe whether we can start a relationship with some one or whether we have to wait. Read this memory about a fist impression part of how we communicate with one another. Sometimes entering from back door. You know what it means!

Many years ago, I met with an elderly woman whom I had last seen in Iran 20 years earlier. She is the mother of a friend and we are some how related! She was visiting here in Vancouver, so I invited her for dinner. The first thing she said after coming to that door was: “Oh, how fat you have become!” She said this with a smile of course.

We Iranians know that she did not mean anything bad by this; it was just her style of communication. She meant that she remembered me from 20 years before and that I had “developed” meaning I had changed. She also felt close to me, and wanting my best, felt she had to be clear by telling me in what way I had changed over the years. She had not intended to offend me, nor was I offended, but another might have been. This is why I think our style of communication needs to improve!

We tend to use negative, judgmental words instead of positive, non-judgmental ones, a passive rather than active language.

What do we mean really?

We need to learn more about the first impressions we make!

Why?

More to come in the next article…

April 23, 2007

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Wants and Hopes

We all have many Wants and Hopes. Yes, at  times, we might not be aware of what do we really want and what do we really hope for.

Many years ago, as a newcomer to Sweden, I was trying to register for a language course.  The lady behind the desk asked me, “What courses would you like to register in?”  I was shocked and stunned: I had never before been asked what I wanted.

I had always been reminded of what I did not want.

Giving choices in our communication and having choices for being clear is my point. We can learn new skills and stop wasting time with this “back-door” policy.

We need to learn:

To express our wishes, hopes, and dreams in direct words, gently without offending or devaluing others.

To be able to say what happened, when it happened, and how it happened, and what are the concerns.

To use direct and clear language with our children.

To remember the fact that we model this language for our children; indirect language causes difficulties in problem solving for everyone.

To differentiate between our own needs and those of others: family, children, parents, relatives, and whomever else we are relating to: I want, I need…

To answer questions in positive terms but still be able to say no if we do not like something.

To say sorry if we have made a mistake, yet, not apologize for being the direct person we want to be.

We need to learn that:

Clarity in our communication prevents harm.

We are safer when we admit we are in pain or that we fear something.

We do not need to be superheroes.

We can be happy for who we are and how we are. We do not need to find excuses.

Sometimes we use too much sarcasm, put down others, and make trivial jokes in order to make a communication happen.

We can complain about everything if we want, yet, we have to be aware our way of communicating. In a conversation, do not transfer your negativity; instead be the positive energy that you expect to receive from others!

May 31, 2007

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Our Global Identity

Our Global Identity and Culture of Migration. What is that?

Some of us have moved around the globe, yet, we are missing something.  Some of us are always in move, from continent to continent, country to country, and city to city.  We have not found our global identity yet.  We Iranian live around the world now. Our lives are influenced by this Diaspora life style we have all been accustomed to.
This new style of life has changed our world views forever.  In the good old years, mothers and families made a big deal when their daughter or son would attend university in another city than the home town!  It was considered to be too far! If a girl was going to marry a man from another town, it was also a big deal. Mothers use to say; we do not give our daughters to strangers.
Life in “gorbat”or “a strange / unknown place was considered to be damaging and dangerous.  Mothers use to say “gorbat” is hard!
We called it going to a stranger city or which was the unknown type of life for us.  The Iranian literature uses this concept in many places, creates a structure for the concept of “gorbat” in relation to the pain and suffering it causes.
Rumi, Hafez, Saadi and our contemporary poets use this topic of “gorbat” which is an embodied experience and a hard reality for many families and individuals today.  Migration causes that “gorbat” to become an internal reality of many people’s life while having an external function and social structure.

It is interesting that everywhere we live in; we always refer to the host countries citizen as “strangers” or “foreigners.” These are the terms we kept from the time going to strange / foreign countries was very unknown and European or American people coming to our home country were coming from outside so they were “foreigners and unknown to us.”  Now we are the one who are foreigners in these countries we have chosen to live or we have been given chance to live in!
May be this is the reason for our ability to adjust very quickly in the societies we enter in.  We call ourselves as insiders and the others as the outsider/ foreigner/ strangers, referring to people from outside of our geographical space and also psychological borders.

We have a Diaspora life and culture. The positive aspects of this Diaspora are how we have learned about various cultures all over the world.

Diaspora is refereed to any group of people or ethnic groups who are forced to leave their home countries.  Middle East people are a good example here. People from those areas all have been forced to try the bitter taste of migration when no choices have been offered. Yet, many families choose to migrate because of the unstable socio-political situations in the home countries.
In every family (with the Midwestern definition) you will find members living in at least 4-5 different countries. A mother here in Canada, son in Denmark, parents here and children in the state, an aunt in Germany and an uncle in England, one cousin in Sweden, and another cousin in France.

It is interesting to see the family interactions when they live in different parts of the world, yet try to get together. Some people prefer a not teaching their children the mother language.  Some other parents work hard that children attend some Persian language courses. Children may have hard times to interact with cousins who live in other cultures, other countries, and speak other languages.  That is a show sometimes to see two cousins with Iranian parents, when children speak only the spoken language in the host country.

It is time to write and document the multifaceted experiences of this Diaspora.  Our next generations would have hard time to understand why this happened and how to resolve identity crisis!
What is your experience like?

May 31, 2007
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Iran: the Next Generation!


Iran and our Next Generation. We can just imagine a much better society with our next generation.

New Windows Society and the Simon Fraser University Iranian Club presented a workshop about Iran. I had the chance to listen to this report about the new trend with focus on our next generation in Iran. Deborah Campbell, who is a journalist and University of British Columbia adjunct professor, talked about her experiences of traveling though Iran for six months in the year 2005.

Deborah Campbell found that 70% of Iran’s population consists of people under age 30. This represents the generation that was born after the dramatic changes in our home country. This new generation is unique in its needs, and has its own agenda and its own ideas about how to live life. This generation of Iran loves education, technology, and communication.

Deborah noticed Internet cafés in every single town and village she visited. Women use technology to compensate for the hardship of not having personal freedom outside home. Inside their homes, people are living their lives as they wish, she said. And although one section of the government would once in a while distract the attention of serious problems to women’s hejabs, women are not scared or prohibited from doing what they are doing. Women are attending universities in Iran and occupy 63% of the total number of the university seats! Sex education is a requirement for young people, if they wish to marry and have children!

Young people love to go to malls, hang out with friends, or chat on their computers, the report said.

Deborah would not say that the Iranian regime is the huge totalitarian police state that many Iranians living in Western countries believe, yet the complexity of problems in Iran is what she observed. She talked to many people and describes average Iranians as concerned about their personal financial situation, their children’s education, and their own lives, without caring about politics or anything else. People just want to live their lives in peace; that is the main thing!

I was happy to hear about the changes that are happening in Iran.

Reminder: Above is a subjective and observation based description of life in Iran in year 2005. For no reason the current situation is being dealt with here.

June 6, 2007

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What is Psychology anyway?

What does Psychology mean for us?

How can we understand psychology through the lens of our Iranian culture?

Drew Westen (2001), an American psychologist and writer, explains Psychology as a scientific investigation of mental processes and behaviour.

What are mental processes then: Thinking, feeling, remembering, understanding, sensing, and perceiving.

Are you one of those people, whose parents told them, “Don’t think so much, you’ll get crazy.”?

Being born and raised in Iran, you never, at least not on a deep level, learn about psychology. This changes slightly when you get into some university course and learn some surface aspect of how we as humans act, think, and behave.

The science of psychology is neglected, ignored, abused, misinterpreted, and misused in our beloved home country. It is not abnormal then, that our fellow Iranians take a long time to reach the point of asking the “Who am I?” type of questions.

I do not mean to offend anyone. Something that we have in common is that we Iranians learn about “the self” in the cultural aspects of family and individual development in an environment merged in hundreds of ways. This is due to the notion of differences in class, cultures, races, and even families. Although we can say certain things about this and that town, we can rarely assume anything about any individual family from Iran or even a group of families, as life in Iran does not follow a certain harmonic pattern.

I have a friend whose 75 year-old mother loves to read simple psychology books. She keeps saying, “I should have known this information before. Since I know myself, I can relate more to my family and to my life!”

What is involved in the world of psychology anyway? Why it is not known by us Iranians?

Psychology looks at many areas of life such as:

* The view of human nature.
* Normal and abnormal behavior.
* The study of cognition, behavior, and emotions.
* The pattern of relationships and relationship in general.
* The stages of development and the study of human development.
* And a lot more of course…

Our Iranian way of thinking is a complex area that I will not touch on, yet I would raise the awareness of all the cultural impacts of the field of psychology, which makes it hard to be applied to many aspects of life.

Dr Daniel Siegel, neurologist and associate professor of Psychiatry from UCLA, had a one day workshop in the recent 55th Annual Conference of North American Society of Adlerian Psychology in Vancouver, BC, (May 2007). I appreciate the opportunity to have been in this workshop. He talked about his research and findings of how the brain and mind is being developed and how attachment is being built.

One thing that made clear sense to me was that he tries to define mind and well-being from the aspect of early attachment as a child. Our self, our true self, is developed through the interactions we have as a child with our caregivers (mothers) and the environment around us. In this aspect, it is very important that we learn about how we take care of a child and how the development of children is a big responsibility on our shoulders. Attachment or delbastegi in the Persian language occupy a huge space itself that involves all of us Iranians and human beings in general. This is a subject that our poems have pointed out a lot, yet it is a hard area to look at.

Psychology not only answers those big questions, but also can relate to each one of us as it talks about why we have become who we are and how our children become who they will be.

Adlerian Psychology (1956) looks beyond the scope of our behaviour and cognition, it studies the need for belonging to a group of people and the need for being part of a society as the main reason for human beings making any movement in life.

Where do we belong?

Do we belong to any group of people at all?

Resources:

Ansbacher H.L. & Ansbacher R.R, (1956). Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler. Harper Pernnial.
Drew, W. (2001). Psychology: Brain, Behavior and Culture. Wiley; 3rd edition.

June 4, 2007

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