Category Archives: Education

Children need to learn social skills in combination of education.

Education For Lawyers

Over and over, I am contacted by Iranian women who are in the process of divorce while complaining that their lawyers do not do anything for them.
After considering the number of times I have heard the same story over and over again, I started to question whether the lawyers in these cases do not get the point of a divorce case when it concerns Iranian women.

I guess most western lawyers disregard the layers of invisible pain, suffering, abuse, neglect, rejection, threats, intimidation and violent that impact most women to ask for divorce. These female clients I have met over the course of near to two decades, all see the lawyers as someone who can stand up for their rights.
Iranian women obviously seek out their rights after they leave Iran. Let’s acknowledge the fact that without a doubt there are Iranian men out there who feel having been abused and victimized by their female partners. While it is important to not take gender as a factor, still in case of Iranian woman, obviously their gender plays a significant role in how their rights have forever been violated.
To be clear, this article takes into the count those Iranian females who are seeking lawyers in the western world as the last rope for justice.
Of course over generalization is a mistake even in this brief article.
Therefore in these cases it is fair to say that a divorce case for most women who have suffered emotionally, does not necessary represent what lawyers have gone to school for.
Most female clients go to see a lawyer as someone representing a justice system that does not exist back home. Many of these women reports of horrendous emotional, physical, and sexual abuse in the hands of their husbands, however what lawyers hear or try to do is to treat these cases as the standard cases of divorce. Most female clients know that their partners will never show any assets since these men who abuse their wives; they are good at hiding their assets.
In many cases, male partners are able to manipulate the systems, specifically here in our Western cultures where documentation and evidence are the last words.
Most abused female clients I have seen, they are being punished twice, once by the liar husbands who succeed to play innocent and once by the courts who fail to hear women’s stories.
Many females are ready to let go of all assets, if any, just to hear a judge confirming their pain and suffering.
Most female victims of divorce talk about their need for being heard. Yet unfortunately, many lawyers really do not get the point of what is behind a divorce application.
Surely, it is understandable that a lawyer’s job is not offering clinical support, while a human view on the case would be appreciated.


This article was published originally in EzineArtciles November 9th, 2010. Now it is being republished in the author’s own website.


Parent Education

Parent education and Parenting are the concepts that most people do not take as seriously. Certainly most governments and authorities do not like to spend money or resources on this important task due to budget cuts or simply lack of knowledge.

In this world of technology, we attend courses and programs for every single job we want to take, however when it comes to the “hardest job on earth” ( as used phrase by Oprah Winfrey), we use excuses to attend those classes.

Parent education is a discourse that should be obligatory, should be considered almost as a per-requisite to have a child, and should be handled with care.

Indeed parent education should not end in the hospitals when new parents learn how to breastfeed or how to change the diapers.

Parent education should be ongoing, as much as the desire foe becoming a parent is alive.

Parent education has to be done by professionals and educators in the filed of mental health. Why? because the focus on building relationship between parents and children is a clinical work. Therapists and counsellors are the one who are offering these professional parent seminars and they should be considered more for educational program as such.

When you help parents to understand their children, then you are supporting a more secure and confident next generation.

Parent’s education should be a must specifically when it comes to immigrant communities.

Parents in those communities have a huge load to carry; the luggage of adjustments concerns and settlements issues.

In our Iranian community, we seldom put any value on this education, we do as we were taught to do or as we have been raised like. Now, we have to open up this discussion how is that our tools for parenting are not working anymore. As a therapist, i see more parents admitting that they have run out of tools and do not know what to do.

Hope we can raise more awareness around this topic. A healthy parenting helps healthy communities.

Poran Poregbal, MA, RSW, RCC


My Diverse Experiences in Graduate School; Challenges and Adjustments

 I enrolled in the master’s program in counselling psychology at the Adler School of Professional Psychology in the fall of 2006.  I did not give any thought about my age at that time, and do not consider this to be a hindering factor. However, age comes with life experiences and expectations of the self. On that level, I was confronted by my ideas of how I would manage my new life of being in graduate school. 

Being an Iranian female, living in Canada, being an immigrant, dealing with nostalgia, and trying to grow have never been easy tasks to handle. Now I was adding a new challenge to my list, believing that my resilient mind would help me in my movements and convictions. As I was working in the counselling field already, I was confident that attending graduate school would put things into perspective, and it did.   My challenges and need for adjustment were multilayered.  I was willing to work hard, yet I was not able to foresee how I would investigate my weaknesses on a more clinical platform.  At one point, like many other students, I was applying every single theory and intervention to myself.  In the early stages, I was passionate about the influence of my graduate work on myself and on my interpersonal relationships. I knew that I was going to apply all the clinical interventions to myself as a way of walking in other people’s shoes.

One concept that made complete sense from beginning was the need for giving and receiving feedback. However, I was unaware of my future struggle about feedback. During my adult life, I had participated in many training programs, courses, workshops, and conferences. However, attending graduate school blanketed my entire educational movements. My life in graduate school became a starting point for embracing years of contemplation about what I wanted to spend time on.  In the final chapters of my work in graduate school, I started to realize the significant meaning of my diverse experiences of being a student at the graduate level.  On one level, this topic may be too broad; however, I would like to point to my struggle as a multicultural student dealing with many issues at once.  My self-actualization was about both completing my graduate school and managing my own evaluation of my performance. On this path, I learned that self-reflection is a dynamic part of my journey, either in or out of graduate school.  Interestingly, I have always found myself to be an open book.  However, being constantly evaluated required a deeper level of self-reflection.  Once you are being judged and evaluated on your skills, you realize that you have to dig deep, an act that requires courage and insight.

Attending graduate school has helped me not only nurture myself but also learn to set healthy limits in all phases of my life.   The clinical skills that I have been practicing have created a perspective in my professional work.  Early on I had a vision. I had some implicit plans for my future and the type of work I wanted to be doing.  My enthusiasm and hope for personal and professional growth would, however, be defeated at times. The reason was not the work that had to be done; the challenge was the language by which I wanted to express myself. 

I could not believe that my sense of belonging in the world would be impacted because of my language skills. The issue is not that simple. I had to analyze my struggle from several angles. Firstly, how did I perceive myself and how did others perceive me? Secondly, how would I be emotionally impacted by how I was perceived by others? And finally, what could I do to overcome my sense of inferiority?

For me, although my work in graduate school was positive, inclusive, and insight-enabling, I still have had many moments of self-doubt and despair. The sense of frustration started when I started to receive feedback about my language skills.

My English Language

In graduate school, almost all of my papers would receive this comment: “This student would benefit from a …..”  It was suggested that I attend writing classes and use editing services.  The suggestion itself made sense.  However, these words were like a hammer on my head.  I was in transition due to several developmental stages. First of all, English was my second and third language, into which I was trying to integrate my personal and academic world all at once.  In addition, I was at a stage in my life where I have attended every single writing class I can.  I was sick and tired of attending any more classes.  Besides, I thought our graduate school was ignoring the multicultural student’s need for editing services that many other students in other institutions received. Finally, I was thinking that I was already pushing my limits and lacking support for the hard work I was doing.

In graduate school, I formed a close friendship with several students whose English was at my level, if not lower. We often discussed how we could be supported more by our grad school.  We all worked hard, and at times we hired editors for our papers. Still I would receive the same comments and the same suggestions. That was annoying, and it did not help my anxiety. What my professors did not know was that I had done all I could and I was working constantly on my writing skills. Writing has been a great part of my life, yet my challenge has been to master new languages all the time.  I have lived on three continents and have always tried to work and study in other languages. 

All the comments about my language and writing skills impacted my sense of belonging in the world.  For me, these comments had multiple meanings. I was mindful that the ability to write in a clear and comprehensive way was my greatest desire.  However, I was now frightened because my self-perception and reality did not match.  I was in a profession where clarity of language was both ethical and critical.

Besides, writing has always been a tool for me to embrace fact gathering, information processing, and interaction with the material.  Now looking back, I see how privileged I was as a child.  I was lucky to attend a private school where English was taught to us from grade one. For this reason, I had quite a background in comprehending basic English, while living in an English speaking country would help me to practice my knowledge.  

As a young child, I always liked to write, whether it was my school homework or taking notes about everything.  This habit was encouraged in my family because neat writing is a skill that the Iranian culture values highly.  I remember that for all my school work, right up to my high school years, I always received positive feedback and encouragement for my written work.  I could write essays in no time, when my peers always struggled to scribble one paragraph about the same subject.  In that social context, I came to believe that I was skilled and I was able to verbalize my thoughts. My interest in reading novels and history came to be an additional tool to feed my hunger for understanding the world outside.  A combination of multiple factors had made me believe that I could write. What I did not know then was that my apperception would be challenged later in life due to new circumstances beyond my control.
Moreover, writing for me has always been a visual way to learn, to comprehend, to process, to understand with my brain, my heart, and all my senses.   I take notes, write down concepts, work with them, rephrase them, paraphrase them, put them into meanings, and use them in my own terminology to make them omnipresent in my vocabulary.  Writing for me is a way to incorporate my learning into my everyday life, to nail the theories into my brain, and to organize them into various files, where I would forever have access to a large amount of quality information, reliable sources of theories, and useful concepts.
 For me, integrating with my environment relies on my ability to communicate with people. This is a human factor and I am not an exception.  However, receiving comments about my language skills and written work in graduate school was a bit challenging for me.  I had no chance to improve the situation due to the amount of work and the pressure on me to perform within a given time.  I was unable to say that I was working hard on my weaknesses, and I needed some understanding from the graduate school.  Part of the stressful situation I had found myself in was the notion of my neurotic responses. I was saying “yes….but.”  I was hurt because I had always thought of myself as a good writer. I had always been given positive feedback for my writing skills (In Farsi), and now my world was turning upside down. For me, the meaning of being able to communicate goes back to my childhood dream: to become a writer and an educator.

What my professors did not seem to appreciate was that it was hard to be non-English-speaking and working at this level.  I was aware that it was not my school’s fault that I was bilingual, nor was it their problem that I needed extra time and effort to do the same amount of work as someone else. I was already challenging myself to a level they could not imagine.  I could not disagree with the fact that I live in an English-speaking country and I was attending graduate school in that language.  I was aware of the need for transparency and comprehension of the material for the sake of the work we were about to do. However, the complexity of language and the need for editing my work were beyond a simple explanation. I was suffering and I had to find ways to alleviate my pain.  In part, I started to become angry at the comments and ignore them.  For me, the comment that I needed an English course was discouraging.  This comment made me feel inferior and weak. This remark, although valid, still reminded me of the layers of pain due to migration, dislocation, and loss of roots.  Although I could understand the comments logically, it brought back to me the fact that I wished I could live in my home country, speaking and writing the language I was raised with.

What my professors did not know was that the notion of adjustment had become part of my existence.  I had been committed for the past 20 years to being involved in scholarly work yet in two different languages.

Still I was aware of my own needs. Certainly, one’s work will always benefit from help with editing in any language.  My challenge was how and with what resources to find that service.  The reality that by this time I had tried to read and write in three languages did not begin to explain my hard work in overcoming the challenge.  It was not about having chosen to integrate the languages of Farsi, Swedish, and now English.  It was about living as an immigrant in a new social environment that required a huge amount of adjustment on many levels.  I was thinking that I was a champion for moving to new cultures and trying to become an academic in those languages.  For most people, coming to a new country and learning to speak the everyday language is hard enough. For me, it has never been about everyday conversations. I have valued communication on a higher level because I value scholarly work.

Before coming to Canada, I lived for 12 years in Sweden.  I had the chance to study and work in Swedish, and I had reached a point of fluency both verbally and professionally.  Once I was feeling stable and adjusted, another wave of migration shook my life. Somehow immigration has become part of my life, a concept that I try to comprehend. 

I moved to Vancouver in 1988.  With immigration comes modification, whether it is learning a new language, a culture, or a lifestyle.  My life in graduate school was not only dependent on managing my practice-based skills.  It was about reframing my own mindset. It was about personal growth. 

I appreciated the fact that I was receiving feedback about my language skills and need for improvement.  However, it was not the language that was my main concern.  Rather, it was the notion of finding my comfort zone and sense of safety that would come with time. I was rushing to do my graduate work in English, while it was my second and even third spoken language.   I did expect too much of myself, yet I was at a place in my life where I wanted to accomplish the most.  At age 46, you want to finish your life as a student, and I had reached the maximum level of tolerance for my struggles.  

Based upon the assessment of my hard work in graduate school, I sensed that my humble personality would help me survive the crisis. I understood and accepted the requirements. Still I was struggling to produce comprehensive work.  For some reason I was emotional, which resulted in my not being able to concentrate on details.  There was a gap between my reality and my need for improvement. Basically, I was not transparent in my writing because I was muddled at my own cognitive level. I had lived a life in which I was constantly threatened. My sense of safety and belonging had given way to a level of self pity and a sense of powerlessness. I was pressured mentally because I could not differentiate between the painful story of migration and all the factors leading up to it.  

Now I was learning to specify my need to focus on one task at the time.  I came to think of my mind as strong, yet it was crammed with too many ideas at once. I came to realize how incongruent I had been emotionally, cognitively, and behaviourally. For me, fluency in language was not the problem.  The struggle was fluency to master my own thoughts.  I came to realize that my reaction of feeling offended affected the awareness of my own needs.  I could now recognize that I needed to stay focused and to prioritize.  I had been willing to tell about the world’s problems in one essay, and every time we had a paper due, I could sit down and edit my writing with critical eyes.  However, I was not clear because I was unable to put my experiences into the context of my paper.

Cognitively I had always been aware of the concept of clarity in communication.  However, my emotional investment in areas significant to me caused me to react to events.  My reactions would create a sense of being misunderstood, which would lead to stagnation.  Somehow I was misrepresenting myself all the time.  Once I learned that I have to stay focused on one topic at a time, I could be transparent in my work.  Now I could let go of self-pity.  I was tired of being confused about something whose key was in my hands. I knew by experience that through training and practice my professional work would emerge.  At the same time, I started to adjust the lens through which I was seeing the world.  I could think of numerous instances of positive feedback which I have always had from my peers and coworkers.  I had forgotten about this feedback, which gave me courage to work and write in languages that were not native to me.   I had missed the whole point and stumbled upon my emotions for failing to be true to myself.   The point of clarity in my written work reappeared, as the sunshine would reappear after many foggy days.

At this point, I could see myself as the risk-taker and ambitious person that I am. I came to the realization that my strong sense of who I am has made it possible for me not to be ashamed of my weaknesses. On the contrary, my strong belief in myself was now helping me to realize my need to pay attention to details.  I came to think of my suffering as never having been about the language in which I wanted to communicate and integrate with the world outside. My struggle all along has been about the clarity of my own mind, about the peace of mind that I never had, about a sense of belonging to a world where I wanted to be counted and valued. Now I could see my confused writings in a wider perspective.  I have to focus on one topic at a time and be part of what I want to present. Attending graduate school in the study of professional psychology has come to be a reliable reference point whenever I think of my own personal growth and establishment as a professional.  I am glad this has become clear, at least for myself.

My Social Interest

With inspiration from the Adlerian theory of individual psychology, I managed to start working on my own social interests.  As long as I can remember, I have been keen on writing with the intention of putting into words my observations and personal experiences of social injustice.  I wanted to put into words a culture that I consider to be mute. One thing I consciously started to work on was to take some baby steps in integrating individual psychology with my native culture.  My initial thoughts were that my Iranian culture lacks a clear understanding of psychology as a science and as a practice.

I have always liked to break the cycle of indifference surrounding the turbulent life that we Iranians have been forced into.  Now, studying individual psychology, I realized that in order for myself to live a healthy life, I needed to act congruently with my private logic. I could no longer be confused about how to say all that had to be said. I was tired of being scared of what would happen if I started to talk, not that I was the most important person in the world. However, considering the prohibitions against Iranian woman, I am not supposed to have a voice. I am not supposed to talk, because I will be labelled with one or the other “ism.” This is how extremists in my home country silenced a big nation.  With this spirit and sense of encouragement derived from my widening horizons, I started to design a website. This was in 2007, a time when I had survived my first year of grad school. For some reason the time felt right, although a bright- minded person would not have taken on so many projects at the same time.  For me, doing one project without the other did not make sense.

Slowly but steadily I worked on this website. I enjoyed creating this forum, in which I could write about things that mattered to me and was confident would benefit others. My website soon came to be a place where I could elaborate on my ideas about interpersonal and personal relationships within the framework of my community.  

I remember finding a short comment in one of our texts where the writer suggested that multicultural communities should work on their own version of psychology.  I got excited about this and took that idea very seriously.  This was what I had always believed in, yet I had no framework for it.  Now, being in graduate school, I was not only learning new skills to deal with mental health issues, but also I could become an educator.   My original idea was confirmed now; I wanted to create a special forum in which I could present psychology within the context of my culture, our culture, and our perception of the world around us.

For me, the notion of health and dysfunction is culturally intertwined.   I started to write about our cultural belief that is inviting mental health issues on an unconscious level.  I was aware of the huge amount of work I had to do and I wanted to do it.   I could run a website with only a few articles and no one would expect me to do more.  This was on my own time and based on free choice, something that really mattered to me.  For all these reasons, being in graduate school became a double and triple workload.

I liked to take time to study and comprehend material, but at the same time I had many ideas about pieces of work for my website.  In both cases, I appreciated that I was working towards a social interest in helping others.  I was creating something to benefit others and myself further down the road. For me, helping had many meanings.  I liked to help people to help themselves, to encourage and to challenge our mindset about our lifestyle.

Now my website and graduate work were two areas I was investing in heavily. One without the other would not satisfy me.  With ideas from my graduate work, I could put my thoughts into words in the framework of a website.  Soon I started to receive feedback from the community about my website.  I was aware that many readers would forgive my imperfect use of a language that was new to me, at least new to the extent I had lived in Canada.  In an article, I mentioned that English was my second language when I was attending school in Iran. Soon I was receiving calls and being invited to various workshops and seminars in my community.  My website was being seen by people who were interested in the same line of work I was doing. Slowly but gradually I started to organize psycho-educational workshops for my community, and in this way I could build an alliance with individuals who had the same interests.

What had started out as a hobby to help me with graduate school work was now my website.  I was writing only about my own Iranian culture, but I liked to include others as well.  I believed that we Iranians have blended with many cultures across many borders.   For this reason, if I were exploring the Iranian understanding of the world, then I could help many other cultures to conceptualize us in a broader context.

I took my time to do research.  I could not find enough work that illustrated our daily life as immigrants, how we handle our daily challenges of adjustment and integration.  My website was becoming a place where I was covering a wide range of topics, although at this point I had no idea to what extent I wanted to spend time on it.    I could envision how my website would become something unique, a glimpse into our Iranian culture and of being Iranian.  

The most important aspect of my work was to promote and model an ethical, professional, and collaborative practice of psychology among Iranian mental health workers. In addition, I wanted to help increase public awareness and expectations of the professional practice of individual psychology. 

In the beginning stages, I had a list in my mind of what I wanted to write about: parenting, relationships, depression, anxiety, stress, marriage, cultural dualism, separation, loss, isolation, fear, jealousy, competition, work- and school-related issues. I do believe that our Iranian community needed to talk about many topics.  I wanted to contextualize mental health issues pertinent to the concept of victimization and trauma that in the past thirty years has become an undeniable part of the Iranian lifestyle.   Why victimization?  Iranian people have embodied the experience of humiliation on individual, community, and social levels.  The oppression, gender segregation, and discrimination in my home country have numbed people on many levels.  The mental health issues that make individuals, families, and communities suffer are all due to the perpetuated notion of victimization.  One thing the Iranian government has been successful in is to victimize its nation.  In each case, there are plenty of factors and circumstances present, and each one of us has dealt with it alone, without any social support or acknowledgment from the outside world.  For all of these reasons, I saw it as my duty to write as much as possible and put things into perspective, in a more culturally sensitive manner.

Moreover, victimization is a concept we do not know much about, although all of us have been victims of crime, trauma, sexism, oppression, gender apartheid, racism, and violence.  We have carried the whole burden of these crimes ourselves. Now after two years of hard work, on both my clinical understanding of the world and my multilayered community work, I am proud to say that I have achieved quite a lot. Yet, I have a long road ahead to connect and create further understanding of mental health issues.  Still, I believe I have gone beyond the limits of imagination as to what I can do for a community that has lost its vision.

My website is now a forum for everyone to talk about their ethnical identity as Iranian-Canadians or others.  This is a place to discuss race, gender, ethnicity, class, social problems, mental health issues, family relationship concerns, youth support programs, and much more.   The goal of this website is to create a place to talk and learn to educate ourselves and others about how it is to be Iranian and Canadian, how it is to belong where we are.   Do we really belong somewhere, or are we lost in the midst of all the trauma and tragedy that is a part of everyday life in Iran? What is going on with us?   Who are we?   What culture do we talk about when we brag about our 2500 culture? What is passed down to us and what do we pass on to our children? How would our next generations define their “being-in-the-world?”
These are all important questions that have never been spoken about before, at least not in the light of a healthy conversation.
I consider my website as a space for encouragement, hope, and change. I compare mental health with the notion of peace.  In a way, I believe we mental health practitioners are messengers of peace in a more subtle way.

With my website, I promote peacekeeping as a basic tool that we need in building stronger relationships within our communities.  As a counsellor, I tried to start with myself. I believe we can learn to leave our comfort zones and work for the benefit of others. This needs the effort of sacrifice, hard work, critical eyes, and multicultural work.  From the Adler school, to my website, to my clarity of mind, I have reached a milestone.

For all my hard work on this website, I received acknowledgment that meant the whole world to me.  Now I could see that my efforts in writing, although imperfect in terms of the use of English, were valued.  I had sent one article to the North American Society for Adlerian Psychology (NASAP) to introduce my website and tell them how I was inspired by Adlerian psychology (Poregbal, 2008).  To my surprise, the article was published on the front page of their newsletter.

In addition, I have started to send articles to Ezine-Articles.  To date, I have 36 live articles which have a readership of about 3500. I write about a variety of issues that are pertinent to my community. The latest article I wrote was about the Barack Obama phenomenon (Poregbal, 2009).  I am very excited, and realize that with time and through practice I am becoming clearer in my writings, and therefore in my desire to serve my community.

Note: This article was written for my MAQE (as part of my Master Qualification Examination work in Jan 2009).

Poran Poregbal, RSW, RCC

Feb 12, 2010


Poregbal, P. (2008). New Iranian Website. The NASAP Newsletter.  Volume 41, Number 3, May/June 2008 Retrieved from January 23,2009:

Poregbal, P. (2009, January 19). Inauguration Day and Barack Obama Phenomenon. Retrieved January 24, 2009.  Retrieved from


Racism and It’s kind

Community workshop about Racism and It’s kind
How much do we know about the silent racism among ourselves?

This workshop was initiated by Rooyesh Cultural Group, a community group who invite people to attend bi-weekly meeting to share and to discuss community issues. This workshop was presented in form of Power Point which can be viewed on:

After the presentation we had a group discussion and questions about how we can help our children to stay away from racial comments and racial conflicts.  Below is a brief summary of our presentation.

  • Racism and Culture of Race: Race is a social construct, Racial and ethnic differences should add to our human life instead of creating conflicts.
  • Definition of Culture:Culture is a sum of knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and other capability needed by man as a member of a society.  We define our race based culture as we have been accustomed to. How do we define culture in our “Iranian way of understanding the world?”
  • What is our race? (something to challenge ourselves with)
  • Formation of a Culture:  Anthropologies do not believe culture is an innate biological equipment of humans,  we get born into a culture, not necessary we do acquire those cultural traits.  Our culture is the knowledge about how race, age, gender, sex, ethnicity, and color define our being in the world.  Culture is rather an external, acquired, and transmissible to others
  • Our Iranian Culture: What does it mean that we have 2500 years of history/ culture?, How understanding of race has impacted that history?, How have we taken responsibility to transmit that sum of knowledge, morals, believes, arts, and customs?
  • Definition of Racism: Racism means attitudes, practices and other factors that disadvantage people because of their race, color or ethnicity. Racism can be directed against any race, color or ethnicity.
  • Examples of racism: Graffiti, intimidation or physical violence, Racial and ethnic slurs, comments, & jokes, Discrimination in hiring and apartment rentals, policies that disadvantage members of certain races whether intentionally or not, discrimination of women, etnical groups, people belonging to various religions,
  • Racism: three main levels: individual, institutional and cultural

Social Psychology: Study of how our thoughts, behaviors, and feelings are impacted by others.  How we get along with other races or ethnical groups?  Human being is born to create culture and to acquire knowledge about what is expected of him /her

  • Transmitting of cultures: Mother/ Father to child, Family to family, Family to group /community, Family to the world, Groups to groups.   How: By story telling, books, objective history, shared knowledge….
  • Ethnicity and culture: No connection to the human biological variations or race

Ethnicity = clusters of people with similar cultural traits that make them a group different than other groups.  Similar language, accent, common geographic place of origin, religion, sense of history, values, and beliefs about how life should be like for that specific group

Ethnicity not a fixed notion, We move into other countries. We Learn language, We Learn ethnical traditions.  We become participants in that ethnicity

  • Ethnocentrism = belief in the superiority of one culture and inferiority of other cultures, leading to conflicts

Various type of Racism: Individual racism based on individual attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviors. Racial prejudice: belittling and jealousy are examples of racist attitudes.

Examples of racist beliefs are racial stereotypes, the belief that some races are better than others and even the belief that people can be classified according to race in the first place. Violence, name-calling and discrimination in hiring are examples of racist behavior.

  • Institutional or systemic racism takes the form of the practices, customs, rules and standards of organizations, including governments that unnecessarily disadvantage people because of their race, color or ethnicity. They do not always involve differences in treatment. Educational requirements that are not related to actual job duties are an example.
  • Cultural racism is the cultural values and standards that disadvantage people because of their race, color or ethnicity. Examples are cultural expectations as to the race of a company president and the cultural standard for what a beautiful, trustworthy or competent person looks like.
  • Stereotyping:  What does a Stereotype mean.  It is about packing everyone under one identity! Forming a fixed picture of a group of people usually based on false or incomplete information. Making comments, generalizing, making other “less than.”
  • Prejudice & Discrimination: Prejudice literally means “prejudgment.” A prejudice is a preconceived negative opinion or attitude about a group of people.
  • Discrimination is anything that has the effect, intentional or not, of limiting the opportunities of certain individuals or groups because of personal characteristics such as race or color.

How about discriminating women because of their gender?

  • Diversity: Individual level; uniqueness, genes, non-shared experiences
  • Group level; similarities & differences; race, gender, social class….
  • Universal level; common life experiences as human beings, birth, death, biological and physical similarities, self-awareness

Respect for Diversity: Human being has differences in terms of: race & ethnicity, nationality, religion, social class, sexual orientation, age, physical-mental-cognitive ability and difference, sex, language, beliefs-values-customs.
How much do we respect those different than us?
What racism does?
1- Naming; a rejection of other’s ability to impose an identity.
2-aggregating; lumping together under one name or label; Latino or Hispanic; Asian;
3-dichotomization; only two categories; everyone fits into one; they are in position to one another; race; white and non-whites, the one drop rule in the us, male or female
4-stigmatization; the “other” becomes stigmatized. One group seen as “normal”, and other people as the “other”
5-oppression; systematic subjugation of a dis empowered social group by a group with access to social power

Social power + prejudice= oppression.
Racial Jokes: Our jokes are racialized, We tend to harm other ethnical groups, Being funny has limitation, Racial jokes dehumanize women, children, ethnical groups, certain occupation, disabled, weaker, and people with dialect.
Most painful jokes: Jokes about child molestation acts, Jokes about women, elders, handicaps, all those we assume as “less than”
What can we do? We need to decide, Stop saying all the Racial slurs, racial & sexist “jokes”, Discriminatory comments…

  • Raise awareness
  • Educate children
  • Talk to your family & other people
  • Create a language & culture of peace!

Say no to racism website:
Smedley, A., & Smedley, B.D. (2005). Race as Biology is Fiction, Racism as a Social Problem is Read. American Psychologists. Vol 60.

By: Poran Poregbal
October 20, 2007


The Role of Education in our Iranian Life

The Role of Education is deep in our Iranian Life.

Education has always been a great part of our Iranian life. From an early age we have heard our families talking about the importance of higher education. Our parents may or many not have completed university studies, yet they always encouraged us to work hard for a higher education. We appreciate education and the status connected to it however, sometimes our children do not see things the same way; they do not follow the path we want them to.

Why not? Why do they not seek the same path?

As parents, we sometimes have to push or force our children to study since they may or may not know the value of what we are presenting to them. At times our young children do not listen enough; we blame them for not being “good children” if they do not study; we withdraw our love and attention if our children fail. We associate our children with their grades and we condition education with reward. We tell our children that if they succeed, we’ll buy them some luxury item that they wish to have. Sometimes we buy them nice cars as they graduate. We let our children believe that as soon as they bring home an “A” grade, we’ll do everything for them and that it is their job to bring home an “A.”

Could this be a little bit unhealthy? How? Why do we think this is healthy? Do we do this because our parents raised us this way?

Without doubt many of us were raised to believe that higher education gives us entry to a world of benefits, which is true to a certain extent, yet we forget that the motivation we had or still have in Iran for higher education is different than it is here. We associate status with higher education, which it brings, but how about becoming more humble with more education?

We sometimes cause our children too much of anxiety, which they can not handle. We can get our children do their best performance by encouraging them to work on areas they are best at. We should give love and attention whether our children bring home an A, B, or C.

Our children fail when we fail to parent them.

Our Children succeed when we coach them.

We know that higher education is the key however, a healthy style of life is much more important.

What do I mean by that?

· To raise our children with enough self-esteem to know that they can deal with the daily tasks of life in a proper way.

· To increase our children’s strengths in dealing with conflicts arising in relationships with the outside world in a peaceful way (and we do that, I am sure).

· To help our children to focus on self-awareness, self-understanding, and self acceptance.

· To challenge our own beliefs and to be willing to learn new ideas from our children, our youth, and our young people, who may or may not follow the same path as we have done.

Education is much more than what has been presented to us so far. Our children and our young people need to be life-educated and life-skilled. Teach your son to cook and let your daughter repair cars!

Our children and our teenagers find more success once they can trust that they are accepted for who they are and they WILL BECOME WHO THEY REALLY ARE. The true self will then shine!

September 24, 2007


Relationship (Rabete)

Let’s see if we could evaluate our relationships?
In every relationship there are ways to fall into darkness of doubt and anger.  Evaluation or checking out our ways of behaving in a relationship is a good measure for ourselves, if we are interested to know what is going on.

We can also evaluate how our partner’s behavior, thoughts, and acts impact us.  If we honestly can answer these questions, then we should know what is right and wrong to do.

However if we believe we have concerns about our partner we may want to talk to some people and do not confront the person without having a plan for safety.  These are just some ideas in assisting us to get to know our relationships.
Good questions to ask ourselves:
What is a partner (wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend) relationship?
How my relationship working / not working are and what does it mean to me/us?
How much do I love/praise/encourage/ like/dislike/hate/resent/tolerate my partner?
How much respect do I really have for my partner?
How much choice do I have in this relationship?
How my behaviors, thoughts, expressions, and emotions impact this relationship?
How much do I enjoy this relationship?
How do I wish to be seen by my partner?
How do I see my partner?
What kind of daily life do we have together?
How much efforts do each one of us put into this relationship?
How much our bigger families (parents, siblings, relatives) impact the quality/shape of our relationship?
How much do I let others (parents, siblings, relatives) intervene in my relationship?
How do I keep boundaries in my relationship? Me-us?
How much commonality do I have with our partner?
Where do I differ from my partner?
How do the differences between us make the quality of our life better/worse?
How much migration issues, adjustment problems, and separation from our home land have impacted my relationship with my partner?
What kind of culture my partner has?
What is my self-understanding of my own culture and how it has shaped me?
How much do I fight/argue/disagree/or agree?
How much do I respect the individual needs of the other?
What is that bothering me when we argue or fight?
What is the role of my child / children in my daily relationship with my partner?
In case of “fights” between us how do I protect my children?
What do I want to achieve by getting involved in fights?
Do I use any violence in dealing with our partner? How?
How do I keep the peace inside my home?
How do we individually and collectively deal with the relationship problems that happen in every home?
How much do I care about the needs of my partner?
Am I self-interested or relationship oriented?
What do I need of this relationship?
If we can answer these questions and be honest with ourselves, then we can improve a lot in our daily relationship with our partners and with everyone else….
July 21, 2007



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


The Truth

How our communication with our children look like? Are we able to answer there weired and straight questions?

As children, many of us asked our parents: “How did I come to this world?”

The answer was always wrapped in a cloud of words that made no sense.  Most of us Iranian women learned how we were born when we ourselves gave birth to a child.  Our beloved Iranian culture makes our families ashamed of getting in touch with the topics of body and mind. Both areas are taboo and are explained within the notion of religion and mystical forces.

Now how many of us gave a better answer to the same question when our children asked us: “How did I come to this world?”

Again, we may find ourselves repeating our parents’ vague answers.

Many of us were told: “These talks are not good for children, go and play.” “You will learn when you are adult.” “These are bad questions, you are being impolite.” “These questions are not your business,” and other confusing responses that are well known in our culture.

What happened to us when we did not hear any rational, clear, educated responses to our childhood questions? Some may say: “Nothing, we survived.” Yes, we survived; yet, wouldn’t that information about our bodies and about how we came into existence have been helpful down the road?

How many of us started to learn how our bodies work in our adulthood? How many of us are wondering, “Who are we as individuals stuck in a collective that does not let us be who we can be?” Wouldn’t it have been helpful to know our bodies, our minds, and ourselves at a time when we were most confused about who we are and what we do in this world?

I guess answering our children is the main point here. It is also important to know how our children grow into healthy persons. What is our role? Are we only the breadwinners? Is that all?

Today it is known that human development is influenced by a combination of biological, psychological, socio-cultural, and environmental factors.

All the recent researches about brain development show that the right side of the brain is a center for emotions, feelings, connections, empathy, humor, coping mechanisms, and the representation of the self.  The child being born is not a blank paper but has already non-visible imprints that are being evolved in a personality and character growth process.

The truth here is that the level of communication and interaction with our children would help them to value the self more. The healthy evaluation of own body and mind would help children to move from a concrete way of thinking to an abstract way of thinking, which is the source of creation and art.

Some important aspects of healthy parenting are:

* Valuing the child for being an individual separate from us.
* Recognizing gender aspects; boys and girls have various needs, yet, they need to learn to respect certain boundaries.
* Gender sensitive care; both need equal care.
* Recognizing that babies have not only basic needs but also attachment/bonding needs.
* Recognizing that babies have their own connection with the caregivers; verbal and non verbal.
* As caregivers, providing healthy, positive, and caring attention as babies seek relationships with adults.
* Ensuring children don’t get mixed messages, which will make them only uncertain and confused.
* Paying attention to the cultural barrier/strength used in rising our children

… much more to think of….

May 11, 2007


Victim Services

Since year 2000, I have worked and volunteered as a victim service worker for both Police and Community based victim services. This is a position and a profession that is unknown for many in the Iranian community. I will introduce this work to my community in a broader term and I will try to present a domestic violence / crime story. The purpose of this article is to help to define some aspects of our culture and the need for a discussion about domestic violence.
I work for the B.C. Society for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse as a victim service worker since 2004. This is again a job and a place almost non-existing for many of my Iranian friends. This kind of services does not even come to the mind of an Iranian, because being victim and victimizing is part of our daily life back home. We also become victimized with the notion of migration, dislocation, accidents, and many sudden and unpredictable incidents. Trauma (Bohran) is somehow a part of our Iranian way of living. It is sad and unfortunate yet our lives have been changed in many ways due to sudden changes and lots of cruelty we have been through. Still we do not need to get stuck in that role of being a victim or being victimized.

I work for this agency BCSMSSA and  we provide victim services and counseling services to men only. This organization is under a larger community who are training people to provide support services to the victim of crime and trauma. Our agency provides victim services to men who have been sexually abused as a child, as well as counseling services. Of course, this is another mystery; we do not think or believe that men can become victims! Yes, they do! That is why they victimize others; women and children!

Anyhow, long story short, the Provincial and Federal prison system in British Columbia provides information workshops (Info-Fair) twice a year for men in prisons, because these men need to learn to have a smooth transfer to outside life, when they are released.

Twice a year, our agency as well as many other service providers are invited to this info-fair which is offered through the John Howard Society of Canada. The idea is that these men who are in jail for various crimes they have committed could find information to services out there so when they are out, they will not (hopefully) walk down the streets and do the same horrible things like they had done before.

This is a chance to know what kind of help is out there and how to access that help so the life in the society would be peaceful compare to before! This is a chance for these men, special for those who are on their way “out” to learn about how to plan for housing, work, education, counseling, and more once they are released from jail.   In this combination, I have been able to attend these info-fair workshops a couple of times. I have been able to meet murderers, rapist, and most vicious criminals in those short hours. God, what faces!

Usually April and October are the time of year these workshops are being offered to these men who have killed, raped, kidnapped, beaten, and abused others. Yet, still they get the chance to learn, they have the right to education, and they attend certain programs.

When you talk to these men, you will hear stories of how these men once being a child or teenager, they were all beaten, raped, sexually abused, neglected, rejected, ignored, forgotten, bullied, and hurt repeatedly. Their stories and the research are congruent about the fact that “hurt people will hurt”. These huge men whose faces are witnessing the crime they have done are all those children who were never loved or men who were never respected by anyone!

This time in April 2007, I met a man from the Iranian community. Why I write about him, first of all he is our home country, he migrated to Canada like all of us, and his story matched the cultural difficulties many of our men have in dealing with their wives! They can not let of the woman who wants out!
Still this man, he is different from the rest of us, because he acted upon his anger, hatred, and resentment issues. He killed his wife and other innocent people, his wife because the woman wanted out.

Why I am writing about him, just because I want to make a point.
This man killed his wife plus other innocent people a couple of years ago here in B.C. Now in this meeting he was talking about why he thinks he did that horrible crime. He said: I did not know how to resolve my anger issues.

This article is not about judging this man or glorifying him. This is not an attempt to even picture men as murderers! However, most crimes happen by men who are not able to control their anger.

His way of reasoning could be a lesson for many other men whose women want “out” and they would not let go of the woman.

This is what he told me, I have changed some details for not revealing anything about other people around him.
He was given the power to control others, although he was the youngest child! Mother gave him all the power, yet, he was big time dependent on the mother who had no ability to teach him better. He remembers his mom as always worried, always fearful for many things, mother passed down the culture of worry and hate toward those who bullied him and teased him.

Now the victim who is the wife is not here, to talk about her pain.
He says: “She was tired of the entire anger problem I had. I was an abuser and violent person toward my wife.”
He says: “I did not know how to talk to my wife. Families were fighting for noting and i did not know how to handle this cultural involvement of parents in our lives.”
He admits that he blamed the wife for different things and he would use his only technique; yelling, kicking, violating, name calling her, and blaming her for the entire problem in life.

He says now: “I thought she was trying to provoke me and working against me! She was tired and she wanted to leave”, but I would not let her go.
He says today, that he loved her too much for letting her go. He had learned to be dependent on his mother, now his wife, and at the same time, both women in his life were different. He could not be rejected as wife planed to leave this relationship, he could not tolerate being rejected.

He says now, he never had learned to talk about his fear, his feelings, and his mind before.
“If I knew how to talk about my feelings, I would not use anger and hatred toward my wife or anyone else.”
He says: “our parents were in different argument all the time and I was in between.”
Of course, because of his male pride he would not think one second that he was wrong. Now that his wife wanted to leave, he had to stop her and he did.
He killed her and other innocent people.

Now, he says; I am sorry that I have ruined so many lives. He feels for his children who are in pain and suffering due to loss of mother and also father (who is in jail for rest of his life).
For many years, I wanted to know what goes into a murderer’s mind and why these men act like they do?!
Another time, 2 years ago I met this man who killed a store manager because he tried to help his employee, or the murderer’s wife who were actually the real target.
This is another example of a man wh

o did not want to let go of his wife, who probably preferred to kill but not be rejected by wife! He killed since he also could not handle his loneliness after wife leaving.

Again we encounter the need for expressing our emotions.
Now, I think, I had my answer!
We are all born as good, caring, and loving human beings. What happens to later on and how we do is a mystery that we need to reflect more on it.

Other men in this prison talked about how they were abused and bullied as children. These men did the same: they learned to abuse, mishandle, kill, and rape. They taught who to become because they were left traumatized, depressed, and hurt.
I have met many families in stress and pressure, because of domestic violence in our Iranian community. We tend to not want to know, to ignore, and to not willing to admit having a social problem. Examples above are a few samples of what domestic violence can do to us…
I know there are many families who work hard to raise good sons to be this and that person when they are grown up.
But we have to remember, we need men who are men and men who are humans.

We should raise children who are caring and able to deal with challenges of life! We need to teach our kids how to express emotions.

Although, the cycle of abuse and violence has no borders, and the reasons behind aggression and resentment are universal, however, how various cultures raise their children is the key point.

We have to learn to talk, to share our minds, to express our feeling, to take our emotions seriously. Our Iranian culture has given men too much power.

Our women have to learn to protect themselves and be safe, if and when they want to leave such men.
Parenting in our culture has to be taught as a skill. We have to raise independent boys and girls, give them wings to fly, and give them self-confidence in being who they want to become.  We also need to teach our sons to have respect for our girls.
There is much we need to do and discuss, what do you think?

May 26, 2007