Category Archives: Emotional Health

Our health is intertwined with Emotion Regulation and Education.

Moderation is the solution

For many young Iranian who are born elsewhere than Iran, it is important to explore our own culture as a main key to our identity.

We Iranian live in an exaggerated world, with many extremes to handle at once. We are stuck in many ways and we are tired of being oppressed.  We know ourselves as peaceful people, yet we are in conflict with ourselves and others.  We have internalized oppression and we censure ourselves very well.  Despite all we are resilient, creative, and strong group of people.

Despite all that is going on, we have to prevent any stereotyping and exaggerating.  We have to clarify that we Iranian are diverse group of people; however we refer to a collective mind when we talk about Iranians in general.  We Iranian, despite all, share same ideas, believes, culture, hopes, desires, and one home country.  Our thousands of years old culture has a deep root in our collective psyche with layers of attitudes, believes, and values imposed on us.

The inherited Iranian culture is in change, it has been in change forever and we are unable to utilize its components for our way of living. The notion of change is out there whether we like it or not.  We have had to deal with a lot trivia why a lot of true values are hidden or eliminated from our daily lists.   We are constantly adding more items to the baggage, while some of those items have nothing to do with the purpose of our trip.

We Iranian are universally the same where ever we are, we follow same patterns and we mostly enjoy same things. This does not mean that we have a universal group of us, NO; we are individuals who repeat the same old pattern that we have been introduced to. We seek higher education, buying homes, cars, and pursue higher status, while we miss the real point. The real point is we all are in need of recognizing our unbearable trauma that we live with, the trauma of an enormous inconsistency imposed on all of us.

We all wait for a magic to happen, we need change, yet we fear change, as we are anxious about the unknown. We let our lives be controlled by the ambiguous style of life, with fundamental religious facade. Now we cannot risk again, we need to know what will happen, yet, we fear the most.
Now what can we do? We still can do a lot and we are doing it. People write, make movies, talk and raise their voice best they can. Yet, the real external change in our home country is also dependent on the Internal change of its individuals. We need to learn healthy habits to deal with and cope with the extremes of our lives. What has psychology to do with our Iranian Culture? We can talk more about this and we have to find out.

Poran Poregbal
March 18, 2008






Trust or Mistrust

Can we Trust or Do we Mistrust?

A Canadian friend asked me why Iranian men are suspicious of their wives? I said: “not all of them acting this way.” This woman being a psychologist added: “Most of those men come to my office; they are all concerned that their wives would cheat on them.” We discussed whether being suspicious is a psychological problem among these men. I thought of all these women who through the years have told me about their husbands acting this way. I also thought of all women who fear their husband would find a mistress, an act which is easy in our home country and also elsewhere. I thought of the level of fear that brings in negativity and fight.

After thinking more, I thought, this is really true, Iranian men in general are very much afraid that their women would cheat on them, while some of these men are the number one cheaters! Now thinking more, all the couples I have met as a counsellor also have had issues where the man is accusing the wife of “being loose” or “wanting to date others.”

I should now raise the question: Why Iranian men are suspicious of their wives? What is about the notion of trust and mistrust that our suspicious men and women are missing? While there is no real statistic is this area, we can only go with our experiences and observations. In addition, I would remind us of a common sense that when most men are suspicious then, there must be reason in the way of upbringing of these men. Development of trust in early childhood is a psychological argument that we (Iranian) have not heard of in a real scientific way. Erik Erikson and John Bowlby (both psychologists) emphasis the relationship between child and caregiver as the most important element for a child to develop trust and self-concept.

Now I would not make a psychological analysis of how these men may or may not have developed that sense of trust to the “self.” I just want to raise awareness about the big picture. We shall look at the cultural form of this (in my idea) “illness.”

We should realize that Iranian women have always throughout the history faced false accusations of adultery and infidelity. Every time a woman talks about own rights or own needs, she would be accused of thinking about other men! Even if a woman wants to leave her relationship she should have the freedom to do so. However in cases of divorce, Iranian men (most of them) always ridicule the woman for wanting to “find another husband.” Unfortunately some Iranian men in order to maintain their control over women do not hesitate of accusing, threatening, and harassing their women, special if these women complain about anything. If a woman asks for divorce some of these men would then try to hurt woman by accusing her of infidelity, dishonesty and affairs. Why do our men behave like this? Why do our men (some of them) need to be this much in control? I do want to acknowledge that women also can be quite jealous of their husbands and whoever interacts with them. We Iranian have many internal ways of suffering: not trusting anyone, acting suspicious, and jealousy is one of the most painful ones. Many individuals, families, and communities get hurt because of the complications of not having communication about what is right and wrong. When there is no trust in a family there is no hope for building. Being suspicious of our partner takes away the energy for living a healthy life. Now what is really going on with our men and women, who always fear the other one would cheat?

It is no rumor anymore that a number of men in Iran are having affairs with several women at the same time, while having a public family life to cover things up. We hear stories here and there while many of those women have started to talk. The question is who are these women and how they get involved with married men? These are usually women who seek financial support and also emotional connection which they can not find else where. These men use women as sex slaves, as an extra resource while they have quite harsh, rigid, and hard standards for their own daughters: “no dating boys.” So if a man cheats he would then be suspicious to all women. The issue of infidelity need also a big space to analyze, why we just point out that this is a social issue based on low morals and low family values. When thinking about the notion of distrust among some men and also women, I came to think about all those women who stay in their relationships despite many obstacles, struggles and hardship. Most of these women try to work things out, even though they know their marriage is an ill fated one.

Lies and deception are always signs of low moral, lack of respect for others, and anxiety. With lying to someone we just increase disappointments in our relationship. Lying is an unhealthy defence mechanism that we use to save ourselves in a situation. If our relationship is in trouble we better take care of it and solve the issue whether the outcome is not what we want.

Once we jump from one relationship to another in order to rescue our low self-esteem, then we are in danger of not emotionally invest in any relationship at all. If some men are more suspicious of their wives than others, it must be pertinent to the upbringing of these men and also the type of unhealthy relationship they have gotten into. In a man oriented and men controlled society as our home country, it is no strange thing that men are suspicious of their wives, these men know how other men like themselves behave and think! A client once said that her husband always reminds her: “I know how Iranian men think.”

In any case, having suspicious thoughts are unhealthy. These thoughts lead the person to unwanted anxiety, stress, anger, distraction, mental health issues and unhappy moments. What can these men and women do? They should seek help, talk about the issue, and deal with the thought in a healthy way.

If your wife/husband/ woman/man/boyfriend or girlfriend is dishonest, there is a reason for that. Either leave or stay while dealing with the issue in a healthy way. What do I mean with healthy way? I mean seek advice, discuss, talk, and think while controlling your emotions. Obviously trust is a huge building block for every relationship, if we do not trust the other person in our life, how could we live a life together?

Being suspicious to everything in life, that is a disease. If we constantly believe that other people would betray us, lie to us, or destroy us, then we are not living a very healthy life. If we do not trust others we can not have a normal interaction with others and we can not live a social life. If we always think that our partner will cheat on us, then we can not be self-confident and happy. I believe both men and women can suffer from this disease, the illness of being doubtful of everything and anything. If we want to learn more about the notion of trust vs. distrust, we have to check into many other areas of psychology such as personality development and developmental stages. The socio-economic and also socio-cultural factors are also important aspects of developing this illness in our men and women.

For now, we should say: Do not get involve in the cycle of suspicious thoughts and unhealthy behaviours.

Seek help!

January 4, 2008



Defining our Healthy Identity

Healthy Identity is something that we need more than ever. Why?

Counselling and psychotherapy is rarely utilized in the Iranian culture; however more and more individuals are finding interest to get to know their inner world and the self.

Iranian value education highly and they would pay for learning new skills and new professions. Education belongs to the notion of success that Iranian families moved to Canada for. As much as mental health issues are scary for Iranian people, yet many families face the reality that they need education about how are mind is working.

Psychology is becoming the topic of interest for many Iranian women and men out there in the world. The sound of the word “mental” has a negative message to our people, however, having “emotional wellbeing” and “healthy mind” is the reason for the creation of small support groups getting together more than ever. People try to break the cycle of isolation and depression as they always have done it by being in a group “like” them. Men are more resilient and also resistant to the idea of asking for counseling why some would discourage wives to seek help. There is a huge need for raising awareness around the benefits of “mental health” in our Iranian community.

Therapists and psychologists coming in contact with Iranian people should be aware of the individual and group based perception of mental health issues and the traditional negative connotation associated to that. A culturally sensitive approach would be most appreciated and welcomed by many people right now.

Iranian people are a diverse, multicultural and multi ethnic group. Our racial and cultural identity as a group and as individuals has to be defined by each one of us in order as we have lost a group identity.

We should proclaim our identity as who we are, if we are Fars, kurds, Turkes, Baloches, Khosestanies, and what other ethnical groups we belong to.

We should redefine who we are as Iranian Bahaies, Jews, Muslims, Assyrians, Christians, and what other religion we identify with. We come from various beliefs, values and practices. We have to appreciate the fact that we are this rich people with all the different style of life.

We need to prevent more harm, prejudice, racial biases and preconceived notion of who we “really are” by remarking our ethnical and individual identity.

Let’s remember that our experiences are subjective, embodied, and real for us, yet, we have to realize other people’s different version of same experience.

It is to be understood that the complex situation back home and the mass immigration of Iranian people are many times unbearable for many men and women leading to various sort of psychological disturbances.

We Iranian have been persuaded for decades and centuries to be something we are not. We have been disabled to know that we have the rights to claim our “rights”, a hard concept to grasp.

Sense of community and social identity has up to this point been rarely exceeding the cohort of family members, relatives and people from same community. Now the life in migration means that people have to find companionship in social occasions while rising above and beyond their well known cohort. Iranian women value education highly and they would pay for learning new skills and new professions. Education belongs to the notion of success that Iranian families moved to Canada for. Let’s make best of what we have and what we do not have!

July 24, 2007


Our Mothers Recycling Business

Our mothers knew about Recycling Business long before us.  How? Read this.
Culture is the sum of behaviours, thoughts, perceptions, ideas, life styles, events, habits, and knowledge that are shared among a group of people.
One of those shared ideas is the everyday life of people, the implicit and the explicit form of it, the unfolding and the connections, the type of existing relationships, and the members of the groups.   Our mothers had a huge role in the quality of our everyday life back then.
Back in Iran and in our childhood (the good old days), there were special people, only men, who visited our neighbourhood regularly.  These men had particular business offers for our mothers; they basically targeted women in general, since our fathers were out there working.  Women were enjoying that little unique trade, an exchange of goods and a right-at-the- door-business that was both fair and practical in its form.
Who were those men?
Indeed depending on the city you lived in and status of the citizens in that area, these services would be more or less appreciated.
You could tell that these men did their more than full time jobs.  They did this to make a living. However, the mystery is whether these types of trades would really pay enough for a living? How would these men support their families with this type of jobs? Who knows?

Story of Namaki
How many of us recall the voice of namaki early summer days when we still were laying down in our cool beds or were giggling around with our siblings.  Many of us have memories of the namaki who really added to the relaxed life back then.  Namaki was a multifunction man who was welcomed by our mothers and our women in every street.  He asked for noting but our old, uneatable, and mould bread.  However, some kind women like my mother would offer him a taste of the food that she had made for our lunch or simply give him a glass of cold water.
Our namaki who would come week after week and he would never forget yelling: Namaki-namaki!  He would arrive in different time of the day, some afternoons when the summer heat had made everyone withdraw for a nap in a cool place of the house.  In winter time, as we children were in school, we would not notice namaki and his existence.
Our namaki had an extra ordinary loud voice, which he used as a way to announce his arrivals to the neighbourhood.  His voice had a song, a tone, a pattern, a specific rhythm that was well-known for the women. His voice would somehow encourage women to come out of their houses and give him all the old bread that was indeed saved for him; bread from the day before or days before.
Namaki was usually an older man, hard working one, who visited our quarters with a horse carrying all his belonging, one sack of salt on one side and the sack of old bread on the other side.  I am not sure how long he would walk every day, if he had a type of agreement with other namaki and they had one or several street each?!  Most probably these men would know each other and had business amongst them.
Typical namaki was a man, usually illiterate man who had most likely moved to a large city such as Tehran and leaving a farmer life behind.  Namaki could also be a man who did not find any other job and he found the liberty of having his own business.
As a child I used to wonder what this man would do with all these bread.  Would he eat them all? Or would he make big dough and bake more bread?  Later on it was explained to me that he would go and sell all those bread to the local farmers who had cows, lambs, chickens, roosters, and other animals.
Namaki was anyhow a man who would be known in every neighbourhood and in cases of his absence our mothers would wonder what is making him for visiting our street.  Another characteristic of this namaki would be the fear that our mothers would instil in us children, saying that if we did not behave, namaki would take us away.
This was a bluff anyway and we children would notice soon, because no mother would give her child to a namaki, yet younger children would fear namaki.
Other days when namaki was not there, we would have kasse-boshgabi man and another day would other men come.  Our mothers would always be happy to see these men who were willing to take our old clothes and unfit shoes, or fathers’ shirts and suits, and instead give us some salt, plastic baskets, or household items.   The good thing was that a natural recycling business was happening and no one wasted any bread, any food, any clothes, or any household items. We used and re-used everything!
This phenomenon is still going on, however, namaki or other men in that business are much more organized, they come with their trucks and they visit neighbourhoods while using a speaker; to announce their daily business with housewives who would get rid of things they do not want! The question is whether these men still can provide for their families with this exchange business!
Our mothers were real business people in this whole circle. We do agree?!  They kept the peace and helped the environment by saving things for Namaki. Oh, our mothers!

July 22, 2007
This article was published in Goonagoon, August 17th 2007. See


Mental health issues and Depression

In our Iranian culture

In those old good days, our Iranian culture considered depression being a “luxury illness”, something just for the “rich people” who were tired of all the privileges in life and did not know what to do next!” a type of illness just for the upper middle class !
Now we know that it is not true, we know it well that depression today is an everyday problem around the world and it happens to anyone despite race, class, ethnicity, status, and gender.
I do not recall anyone talking about depression in our average type of families. People kept busy and searched for meaning in various ways. Those who had mental health issues were being kept away from others or send to institutions away from families and away from love.  We have just heard stories of the “crazy home” (how we call psychiatry clinics) places distanced from communities and with minimal social interactions.
Some people report having children or relatives who were sent to those homes and they never heard from again. There is no blame on those families; for sure we did neither have the knowledge or the resources to care of people with mental health issues. I do not know how it is now in our home country. Now let’s talk about our views on some aspect of mental health concerns today and here.
We many times use the word that someone died of a broken heart (degh kardan) meaning she or he carried excessive amount of sadness that made the person die. This is certainly one area that researchers have confirmed that you can die of a broken heart. All the studies of people with excessive amount of grief have helped research world to understand what happens physiologically and psychologically and why it result to dead.
Now the idea of depression:
In regular family life back in Iran you could hear that your parents or grandparents or someone was “eating ghosse” meaning that the person was depressed and sad because of something.
Now, I acknowledge the fact that we cannot generalize anything about our diverse group of people name: Iranian people! However, I give myself the liberty for using the metaphors in order to get to the base of the issue.
I also acknowledge that I might be biased, yet these are experiences that many of us share. This is just a cultural based view of depression as a problem! Just a play with the words that are deep rooted in our Iranian culture! Let’s see what is behind “eating ghosse”!
When someone dies, the survived ones have “ghosse” to how live the life without the person. Also in many other areas of life such as having financial problems, being in family conflict, divorcing husband, separations, and various disruptions to our regular life, we feel a sense of grief and sorrow meaning “eating ghosse.” the situation is the same when we have health problems, parenting issues or if we lose jobs or not able to find job, these are all circumstances that we “eat ghosse.”.
The idea of sometimes grieving too much and too long for the dead ones are and have always been depressing for many people. It has for the least taken our right to happiness away.
Sometimes we let go of our rights to be happy and cling into areas where makes us really angry, sad, upset, unhappy, and dissatisfied.
Maybe it is easier to be angry and upset than happy and energetic. Maybe we sometimes choose to have reasons for being depressed. Maybe we sometimes let go of taking care of ourselves because we do feel guilty or shameful for many reasons.
Now, let’s take a moment to think literally how it is to “eat ghosse”,
* it means that we swallow the grief,
* that we internalize sorrow,
* that we carry the loss with us to the most deepest and darkest places inside our soul,
* that we feel angry and hurt,
* that we see ourselves being helpless, isolated and fearful,
* that we are in shock and denial,
* that we have lost our sense of safety,
* that we have lost ourselves,
* that we do not have the support we need
* that we are violated: physically, emotionally, psychologically, or spiritually
* That we have many other issues that are not expressed in a healthy way……………..
This list goes on and on………………
When we “eat ghosse”, we physically take in the pain and emotional problems
* meaning that we hide it inside,
* meaning that we culturally are raised to take in issues to ourselves and hide it from others,
* meaning that we have to pretend being strong and happy in order to keep the face of “abero” or grace,
* meaning that we accept the pain without opposition and without fight,
* Meaning that we suppress our emotions and we internalize what is going on outside of our life,
What happens then? After we have eaten all these “ghosse” or pain, we feel overwhelmed, we have no energy to fight, we cannot focus on the everyday life tasks, and we cannot be the person we want to be!
What can we do? Definitely talking to mental health professionals is a great help. In addition we need to learn to how to keep positive.
Whatever has happened to us that make us sad, we can always talk about them. Talking about feelings and unexpressed emotions help us to find peace with ourselves. This is not the regular talk we have at parties; we need to do it with the support of professionals. This is why people in western cultures seek therapy.
This is why all the research shows that therapy is effective in dealing with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and fear that is common among us. We have to fight the culture of grief and substitute it with culture of happiness.
We need to focus on our strengths and build upon that. Our culture of grief is sometimes complicated and does not let us breathe a fresh air.
Seek help and find ways to keep happy! So now, do not eat any ghosse! If you have issues to talk about, find the proper help and do not let depression take you!
Be healthy

January 26, 2008




Salamati Roh va Ravan

Our mental health or salamti roh va ravan has a direct relationship to something that has been forced upon us and has been taken away from us: Our personal choice!

In our Iranian culture, usually we do not have many choices. We are constantly forced to do things that we do not like; we are forced to choose partnerships that we do not appreciate and to choose faulty ideas that are not always healthy.

When I was a child, we had a crazy man in our neighborhood in Tehran, in the Behbodi area, who lived on the streets. He was famous for being Ali Divaneh. This man, who was in his thirties at that time, had obviously “lost his mind” to use public language, by having a mental illness. I remember all the kids were afraid of him; yet, some of the boys would chase him and make fun of him by bullying him and calling him Divaneh. What choice did this man have but to defend himself and get these bullies off his back by scaring them more? His chances to find support or to get help was minimum.

One day around lunch time, this Ali Divaneh appeared at our door, as he had seen the entrance to the backyard being unlocked. My mom gently offered him food since he seemed hungry. He ate while looking at us with wondering eyes and then disappeared from that door. I am still wondering what he thought that day and think that what he probably missed the most was having a family and living with a family.

Now that I am becoming a therapist, I’ve come to think of how we treated this man and all our mentally ill people: with cruelty and bullying. To this man I would say today: I am sorry for all the suffering you had to go through, for the lack of understanding we had for you, and for the lack of support you had from your family and your community.

In our culture, we usually treat mentally ill people with rejection, avoidance, and disrespect. Why? Because we have no idea what mental illness is–we are still not sure about it. It is time to learn!

Mental illness is not the absence of health; it is the disturbance that happens in our minds, in our brains, in our lives, and in our whole personal being. Mental illness comes to surface when we are not able to express our fears, our shame, our guilty feelings, our hatred, our love, and even our discouragements about various aspects of life.

The reality of life in Iran, the emotional baggage that we carry, the amount of horrifying experiences that we have gone through, the pain and anxiety of separation, all and all can cause one healthy body to become numbed and to not function. We need help then and even long before that time.

Mental and physical health is connected to the presence of love, connection, belonging, affection, respect, and healthy interpersonal relationships. Many physical illnesses and somatic symptoms are due to our emotional and psychological burden. Becoming a new immigrant, shifting gears so many times in life, changing lifestyles if we have to, feeling the pressure to adjust to many things at the same time, and being in an emotional pressure to deal with the everyday anxiety of separation, all are reasons for psychological disturbances.

The problem intensifies when we have to pretend that “everything is all right,” we have families to support and we have to manage many things at the same time. We usually, (that is, we Iranians), do connect all the anxiety and emotional pain to the physical body, we see doctors to get medication to sleep, to lose weight, to walk, to talk, to think, to function, and to live. The most that we do is see a psychiatrist who can diagnose us and prescribe more medicine.

· We need to learn to find support groups for ourselves.

· We need to be more open and talk about what is bothering us

· We have to learn to express our feelings and thoughts.

· We need to let go of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that do not work.

· We need to let go of a past that is haunting us to death.

· We need to let go of being right all the time and instead, learn to listen.

What else can we do to stay healthy in all aspects: physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, and cultural?

Hope, prayers, connection to god, and the feeling of being loved and cared for–these are all aspects that positively affect our mental health.

Many families and individuals lose that hope for one or another reason and live a lonely, isolated, and alienated life. We can find them and help them find resources and bring their hope back!

July 15, 2007

For a Persian translation of above article please see:


Happier Iranian Life



How to Live a Happier Iranian Life

A few years ago, we went to see a rental apartment that was advertised in a Persian newspaper. Since we had made an appointment with the owner, we arrived at the door on time and rang the door bell. The door was opened by a middle aged Iranian man who did not waste any time in introducing himself. My first impression of him has been imprinted in my mind forever. Usually when you see someone for the first time either you say your first name or both your first name and last names together. This gentleman introduced himself with his full name along with all his the titles: “Mr. …X and Y, Professor in Brain and Neurology Surgery from University Z…”

Wow, it took us a short moment to catch our breaths and realize that we were not in a hospital and that we had not asked for any brain surgery. We ended up not renting his place, yet, I am still wondering why he introduced himself that way. I am wondering what it is that we are missing. Why is it that we are not able to let go of positions, status, labels, and masks? I am sure this man was a doctor or something, yet, he was lost here in my mind. He was suffering from “not being recognized,” in the notion of being a newcomer and an immigrant like the rest of us.

It is significant to realize the loss of identity when we first come to a new country, who knows who we were or what we did before? Nothing matters, unless and until we challenge our own resources and we take the baby steps that have to be taken. First taking courses, finding a lower status job, sending out résumés, until one day, after all the emotional crises and family conflicts from being unemployed or not having enough money, we may find the job we are dreaming of, and maybe not.

Another aspect of introducing ourselves with the “status” and “title” is that we have not developed enough to realize that behind those titles, we are all human beings, all equal, and all regular people who try to take care of the tasks of our lives. All of you who are working in the Canadian institutions and organizations, you notice how people use their first names while they have heaps of education and many titles. A family friend of ours, who is a physician, tells us how embarrassed he was when in the first day of his work as a doctor, he introduced himself as Dr. X and the person who was his supervisor and had two PhDs used his first name: “I am Joe!” I think we need to learn how to let go of our status as it causes problems sometimes.

Once I was in a court for a family dispute case (as a victim services worker) and the man called himself “professor” trying to take advantage over the beaten wife. This man worked hard to show that the woman was a “mental hospital ward” and she was the one who beat him! The judge realized this man’s belittling attitude and asked him to keep his “psychological diagnosis to himself.” It was an embarrassing moment to see that our respected professor from a known university had not learned how to deal with conflicts and used physical violence instead of arguments that could match more his status as a professor. Why do we do that? Why do we need status that badly? Although our multicultural grocery store in North Vancouver respects us by calling us Doctor and Mohandas (Engineer), we do know who we are behind our closed doors. We need to let go of names and instead improve our human skills, relationship skills, and professional skills for becoming a more relaxed group of people and thus happier of course.

In the discussion of human development, we have to dig deep within our own community to find a healthy discussion about how we live our lives and how we develop into who we are. How do we raise our children to grow and to be the best human beings they can be? I do not mean of course, how we produce more engineers and doctors, I am talking about how we encourage our children to grow into the people they want to be with the skills required for being good, honest, decent human beings, whether they attend university or not.

Here I would like to acknowledge all the hard working men and women, parents, and individuals who are real humans working for the benefit of others and the self. My example of Mr. X is a preface for a bigger discussion.

Looking back to our cultural heritage and how we were raised, we can think of a mixed pot of anecdotes, myths, values, facts, and metaphors defining how nature and nurture would be both important in development of a child. With nature, I mean the cultural and financial resources and with nurture, I mean the love and affection we were raised with and with which we need to raise our children.

If we were the lucky and healthy child to be born into a middle class or average rich family we would have the chances for learning a bit more about life compared with many disadvantaged children and families. Our parents would encourage us to attend university and get to the engineering and medical programs. If we talked about being interested in art, music, dance, theatre, film, books, poetry, and not talking about politics (because there was never any career there anyways), we would be in trouble and had to fight a huge battle. Although after 1979, those careers were not going anywhere anyways and you could not make a living by getting into those areas without being labelled for this and that “ist.”

Now being a newcomer in this country or elsewhere, we miss the love, connection, acknowledgment, validation, and affection that we might have had through our families and our communities. We may miss many things, yet, we have to be able to let go of things that are not working any longer. Long advice to our children about how we suffered as children and how spoiled they are today, does not help our children to find the real meaning of life. However, we know that we can find new communities here if we choose to. How many of us have been out of Canada and missing the lifestyle we have here? Myself included, we get attached to the community we come to, however, we need to let go of many masks we carry throughout our lives. Those masks do not help us at all and indeed prevent us from developing into our new skins. There are many of us who are doing well; however, we need to be more of a community! In our culture, we have thousands of masks that we need to let go of, yet, for one or another reason we are clinging fast to them and carry those with us everywhere we go. Doing charity work is much appreciated and encouraged in our culture, however, we sometimes do it for the wrong reasons and in the wrong places. We need to spread the power of love and respect for one another and help those in need, here and there.

We need to share our resources with newcomers and let them in. Without feeling of belonging, we are lost. Although we all belong to the community of human beings and the world, we need to find our own little communities! My hope is that we could help our younger generation to know about the positive values we have in our lives and let them use the positive values of being individuals in the Canadian Society.

In the discussion of adjustment, we can find a place of significance in this society if we join groups and work for the benefit of the less privileged. Canadians value volunteer work and this is the reason for the success in many areas of life here. We could do more if we let go of our status and live a more relaxed life!

July 12, 2007

This article was published in Goonagoon, July 20,2007. See




Health (Salamati)

What is Health ?

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as:

“The extent to which an individual or group is able to realize aspirations, to satisfy needs, and to cope with a changing environment, being healthy in all aspects of living as a necessary resource for every day life…”

Now I ask you: What is health?

Most people would say health is when we are not sick (a physical or bodily referral).

But what is health, really? Health should be defined as the WHO defines it: the summary of all the important aspects of our lives, the physical, mental, psychological (including self-esteem), and spiritual (be it a relationship with God or a higher power).

If one aspect is sick, the others are in pain as well. Research indicates that stress, anxiety, and depression cause all kinds of physical problems.

In that case, if we agree, we must find what is in our existence that is not working!

May 9, 2007


Healthy Relationship

How do we know that our relationship is healthy?

What do I mean by a healthy Relationship?

Now, we say, oh, we have healthy relationships, we love each other!

I say; love is an abstract concept, we have to define love based on many cultural and other factors.
Check points:

honesty and accountability
non threatening behavior
negotiation and fairness
shared responsibility
independence and autonomy
having affection or each other
trusting each other
communicating openly
listening to the other
considering the other person’s needs
letting the other be first sometimes
willing to lose sometimes
not trying to win all the conversations
it is okay to not get all attentions
taking care of self as well as the relationship
feeling comfortable
wanting to be with the other person
feeling valued by the other person
accepting and valuing the differences between each other
being able to disagree
sharing some common interests, activities or beliefs with the other person exchanging physical affection consistent with the relationship and commitment
supporting the other person in difficult times
remembering what is important to your partner
respecting and treating the other with dignity
With OTHER I mean our partner; husband or wife
do we have all these?

How does our relationship look like?

What does respect, love, affection, trust, honesty mean in our culture?
We have to explore them, for sure.


Resilient People

We are a resilient people. Yes, we do not give up! We are raised to not accept NO and we indeed can not say NO. Sometimes we let our negative experiences become learning opportunities and we move on! Not giving up is a positive attitude, however, sometimes, not letting go of old habits, thoughts, and behaviors become unhealthy!

Are we all resilient? Yes. Do we use our abilities in a healthy way? No, for sure not! We are different people, with various levels of resiliency or “mogavemant” in Persian language, because we come from various background with various support systems.

Our Iranian women are the real survivors; women around the world are real survivors. Men are also survivors—do not get me wrong! We all, women and men, want to survive; however, sometimes this strong drive lets us think we have permission to violate someone else rights.

An example from our community: A man, who does not want to accept divorce becoming a fact in his life, tries to survive by making the life of the woman who left him as bitter as possible. He tries to manipulate, uses all sorts of threats, calls her names, tries to portray her as a prostitute, and he puts her family under pressure. (This example is in fact an example of the testimony of hundreds of women that this writer has met.)

Why can’t this man let go of his failed marriage and why does he force his children to hate their mother?

It is because he will survive; because he is sick and he feels lonely. He is not used to being rejected, because his mother raised him to be in control and to have power. Now that a woman (not his mom) is rejecting him, saying no to him, he is most definitely hurt. He conveys this message all the time: “You’re either with me, or you’re no one without me.”

In Iran, men like this one can force women to remain in a marriage far longer than here in Western cultures. This is why many Iranian couples divorce soon after they arrive here!

In Stockholm University, Sweden, there was a PhD. level research project by Mehrdad Darvishpour (1996-98) about reasons for the high number of divorces among Iranian couples. There are numerous other studies about what divorce is about,yet this one was interesting since the researcher looked at migration along with challenges of adjustment in the new home country as some factors contributing to divorce among Iranian.

What could be the reasons? Here are some of my speculations without trying to be controversial:

· There was no real healthy foundation for the marriage in first place.

· Extended families forced the couple to marry and have babies, so that their ancestors’ name would be carried on.

· Marriage occurs in the first place, because allowing any relationships between sexes is taboo. In fact many men in Iran, though not all of them, see women as a sexual objects.

· Many other culturally enforced elements.

What is the solution?

· Don’t get married because your parents want you to.

· Do get married when you are ready to love someone and share your life with him/her.

· Do care for your partner’s emotional needs.

· Do get help if you feel stuck.

· Do learn how to calm down when discussions are heated.

· Do find support services to place around yourself.

· Do let go of your egos about who you are, and be humble enough to learn from others!

Is there anything wrong with thinking this way?

Resiliency is an innate ability a child is born with, yet, in the light of life situations this ability becomes a survival skill if we let it. The main goal is for us not to get hurt, not to hurt others, and to be safe.

May 4, 2007