The use of metaphors is highly prevalent in our Iranian culture. It is significant to recognize the diverse use of language should this be helpful for some service providers to understand how some cultural groups convey certain messages. For our younger generation, it is also sometimes tough to really understand what their parents are talking about. In the absence of freedom of speech and also the internalized sense of censorship, we learn to wrap our words in packages or metaphors, examples, and sayings in order to express our feelings.
In “telling the door that the wall would listen” we set up our boundaries indirectly, in the third person, and in a passive language. When we tell our child that “the neighbour’s child is such a well behaved child” we are trying to say that our child does not behave properly and that he/she needs to learn from the neighbour’s child. Another example would be when we say that some husbands help their wives a lot; we are trying to tell our husbands that we need help, yet we say this vaguely. If we look at all the wonderful movies that are produced Iran (some of them win international prizes), we find many examples of how people are trying to talk about social problems that are taboo, or simply issues that are forbidden to be discussed in Iran. In all those cases we “tell the door,” about the social problems that should indeed be addressed, hoping that “the wall (i.e. government or authorities or people in general) would listen.”
In defining boundaries (had va marz), we work on setting limits, defining roles, and giving responsibilities for each person in a family or work environment. We all need to set boundaries in order to protect ourselves, our families, and others. Sometimes we do not have a boundary; everyone in the family is involved with everyone else’s issues and no one respects the other person’s boundaries. In a home, parents are in charge of defining the boundaries about how much they can provide for their children and how much children should help out in the family. As parents we set limits such that siblings respect each other and be fair with each other. We may set boundaries such as only once a month we can go to a movie or shop for clothes etc. Some parents set rules for their children about when they should go to bed and some children sit in their front of computers all night long breaking those rules. Our children also set up the boundaries of how they would like to be treated or not. Now, whether we as parents respect these boundaries or not, that is another question. Some parents set the rule that they will not argue in front of their children, while some others do not have any boundaries and fight all the time with children present. The person who has healthy boundaries will respect others having those limits.
Sometimes we are unable to use direct language or to have a healthy, assertive, and positive communication–that is the when we go back to our old metaphors. We “tell the door that the wall would listen.” “The door” symbolizes an object that you can pass through; you can open and close it and you can keep it shut if you want. You do not have the same flexibility with “the wall” that is hard, steady, rigid, and fixed in one certain physical place. If you tell “the door” something that can be passed through or transferred to something else, then the next thing you hope is that you may (or may not) reach “the wall.” Let’s see why we need to tell “the door” something. Is it because we do not find “the wall” able to be a good listener to what we have to say? This metaphor, most probably, has a function especially when we are afraid, that the receiver of the message will react, get defensive, or become angry about our subject. Many times we speak in the third person, referring to someone unknown, making fuzzy comments, and leaving ourselves the option to say: “oh, I do not mean you.”
Adlerian Psychology believes that we always try to safeguard or protect ourselves. When we use indirect language and avoid using “I” messages, we are afraid that our opinion will be rejected, disrespected, or not accepted. Many times we fear retaliation, especially if the receiver of our message has no tolerance for another’s opinion. Many of us, we are mostly not afraid of giving our opinion anyways; many times we discuss something for a long time to prove that we are right and the others are wrong. Sometimes we act like our opinion is the only one and we try to make comments in the third person so that “the wall” will hear.
The metaphor of “the door and the wall” is also used in relationships that two people cannot have a healthy communication by telling each other what is going on. When we want to make a point and teach our children something, we use examples of “others” that have gone into various situations with an exaggerated outcome. We judge others in order to prove our real “truth.” We tell “the door” by using those examples that “the wall,” our children, our spouses, or our parents would listen! If we search, we will find numerous metaphors that tell us how we think, how we feel, and how we behave. With use of metaphors we give advice, we tell things that can not be told otherwise, and we communicate in many different ways. It is interesting to put these concepts into a context of cultural analysis to see how our thoughts create words and how our words reveal the significance of our behaviours. In every language we will find those hidden meanings behind certain words that may be passive and not assertive. How do we speak then? It is positive to look at our ways of communicating and bringing up issues! It gives us a framework in which to spend some quality time.
December 1, 2007