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Thread: Coming to terms with internalized cultural conflict - opinions welcomed!

  1. #1
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    Question Coming to terms with internalized cultural conflict - opinions welcomed!

    Forgive my verbosity; I'll attempt to be concise.

    I was raised by older Japanese parents who were unconventional enough in some ways and quite traditional in others, but was educated in North America. I was ingrained with concepts of 親孝行、義理人情 and other Japanese sentiments (and only think/speak in Japanese with them).

    I'm sure that I'm not alone in this either, but my personality has fundamentally been incompatible with my parents (the way I react to/deal with/feel about issues, rather than habits). I love them out of duty, but have removed myself from their influence over the years because of their issues (which obviously existed long before I came to be) and mainly their sheer negativity. Being with them has always stressed me out, but due to my conditioning, I've found it very difficult to balance my attempts at self-preservation with the obligation I feel to be closer to them (if only emotionally) and the guilt of being an 親不孝もの. Especially as they have increasing medical issues and as they grow older.

    I consider myself to be a rational and pragmatic individual with a different set of issues to work on than my parents (who served as negative as well as positive role models for me as I grew up). I believe the decisions I've made for myself are the best for me under the circumstances and given the options, but my parents (over whose behaviour and feelings I have no control) continue to be a source of stress, due to the fact that I feel I need to outright (and completely) reject my Japanese nature before I can truly ignore what they write to me.

    So my question to you is: how do you work through the conflict of childhood conditioning and decisions you've made as an independent person? How have you seen others work through it?

    All insights will be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    カメハメ波! Glenn's Avatar
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    The best thing that I can say would be to detach yourself from your emotions as much as possible, and try to analyze why you feel certain things, and then make an assessment on whether you can live with them the way they are or not. Of course, this is fine in theory...

    Perhaps the key lies in this line:

    Quote Originally Posted by nekosasori
    ...I feel I need to outright (and completely) reject my Japanese nature before I can truly ignore what they write to me.
    Perhaps restructuring your thoughts on your Japanese heritage would work? That's the best that I can do for you right now.

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    Thanks for your response Glenn. I agree, it's all about interpreting what it means to hold Japanese values.

    It's occurred to me that the choices I've made for the most part allow me to logically be oyakoukou - but in reality, my parents have been very displeased with those same choices.

    But what's also a fact is that I cannot change how my parents choose to feel about anything. Well, I think that's a universal truth about people, really. However, I think I've done all I reasonably can to communicate my point of view to them, so in that regard my conscience is clear.

    My mother may continue to resent or feel remorse for how "westernized" I am, but it was her choice to immigrate, give birth to and raise a child in a western society. I had no say in any aspect of what I did or where I went during childhood. I suppose the control issue rankles in me too, since I've always been independently oriented and my mother insisted on having a stranglehold over me in every respect, for as long as she could manage.

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    Regular Member den4's Avatar
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    I've noticed J-parents tended to have a smothering hold on their kids. First generation Japanese folks living in the US, at least, are usually pretty cool. The obsessive types, however, can create problems because of their personal hangups. The older generation also have different values (not only just the Japanese expats), so you need to take that into consideration....realizing that you can't change others, but you can change your own outlook is probably for the best.....

    but then, what do I know?
    I know nothing...except the answer is 42. You know more than I do.

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    Where I'm Supposed to Be kirei_na_me's Avatar
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    I find it strange that even though my husband can be really conservative/old fashioned when it comes to a lot of things, he acts as if he has no real responsibility for his parents(he's chonan). He says he never wants to return to Japan to live, but sometimes I wonder if he's just saying that for my benefit or if he's thinking of bringing them here or I wonder if he has, in fact, just shrugged off his 'duty' competely?

    Maybe my husband feels the same way you do, nekosasori. I think his parents are a little more accepting, but I still think he feels some pressure, obligation, sense of duty, etc.

    I'm glad you're willing to talk about it. I'm sorry I can't really offer insight, but I think it helps someone like me to hear your side of things. I've tried to get my husband to talk about it, but he usually reveals nothing, getting me nowhere.
    You have bewitched me, body and soul...

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    Regular Member den4's Avatar
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    Kirei: If you husband came from a big city area, then I can understand his sentiment of not wanting to live there

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    Where I'm Supposed to Be kirei_na_me's Avatar
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    Well, he didn't come from what you would call a big city, but still very crowded. I think the main reason he doesn't want to go back is because of social pressure.

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    @Den - yes, my parents are of an older generation (and aside from those values, taught me lots of "shigo" - words that have been phased out of regular use in Japan). :)

    @Kirei - I'd need to read a lot more of your posts before I could really try to help you with your husband's situation - how long he's been abroad, what era he grew up in Japan, how his relationship is with his siblings (I'm an only), his basic temperament... But sure, I'd be happy if I'm of any assistance to you. You can PM or email me if you want.

    As for shrugging off my duty - well, my cop-out is that my mother's always told me that she doesn't expect me to drop my life to help her or my father out. That said, she's also prone to passive-aggression, and probably didn't anticipate that I'd move trans-Atlantic when she'd said that. As well, I may be happy to face the pressure and responsibility, but actually don't have the financial means to be of any use to my parents. The only way I can perform my duty is to be physically near them, and since I've chosen my mental health over their icing on the proverbial cake in life (so far while their medical problems aren't hindering their daily lives), I've just not done it.

    As I said, my home life was a microcosm of Japanese society as interpreted through my parents and their issues - but I was raised in the greater world of Canadian culture - and since writing about my issues has always helped me, I'm doing so here too...

    By the way, I don't use many graemlins because I haven't memorized the shortcuts yet and I tend to use the Quick Reply feature here for some reason.

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    Regular Member den4's Avatar
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    ochugen, new year's postcards, questions about when to have children, etc. ?
    yeah, I remember those.....

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    カメハメ波! Glenn's Avatar
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    This is going to sound really bad, but screw your parents if they're making you insane. You have to do what's best for you, you know?

    If your mom said that she doesn't expect you to drop your life to help her or your father, then don't do it. If she has a problem with it then she should say so. It's not your job to read her mind.

    If you have done everything that you can to communicate to your parents how you feel and they still don't understand, then there is nothing more that you can do. You put the ball in their court, and they seem to have dropped it.

    Overall it sounds like you know exactly what's going on, you just need to assure yourself of that. Sorry if any of this has offended you; it's just how I see the situation.

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    Hi hi Nekosasori :

    Welcome to the Joy Luck Club! Have you seen that movie?

    From what I致e read, your parents indeed did a very good job raising you as a Canadian-Japanese, and YOU坦E ONE FILIAL DAUGHTER. At least your parents have successfully programmed that in your brain. Look at how guilty you are right now because you think you aren稚 being 孝順 enough.

    Like you have said, you are not the only one. I have a lot of female friends experiencing the same feelings. (Interestingly, none of the guys I know has felt this way. Maybe they池e just born to be more selfish )

    Anyway, most oriental folks have extremely high standards for their descendants because

    (1) Orientals in general tend to be more collective and competitive. E.g. a daughter attending a state university is suddenly no longer good enough when one of her cousins is accepted by Harvard. A son who痴 working as an engineer at a small company is considered to be second best if neighbor痴 son works at a prestigious corporation for the same post (look, being second in a competition is still a loser). Etc & etc which can be very annoying.

    (2) For first-generation immigrants, many have faced a lot of injustices in society and thus try to prepare their children for the worst by arming them with the best - a good education, a strong character, and proper values (usually the last one is the cause of the problem since the values parents believe in are derived from motherland).
    And since the standards are so high and no matter how hard the kids try it seems that they池e still not good enough (because a lot of oriental parents think that compliments will lead to complacence and criticism can result in excellence), many kids choose avoidance as a resolution.

    For your situation, I don稚 have any intelligent advice to offer but I have one dirty trick Lip Service. Practically speaking, your parents are getting old and it痴 not likely that they池e going/ able to change their points of view.

    Just tell them whatever they like to hear. It is not even a matter of who痴 right or who痴 wrong. I致e noticed a lot of oriental mothers like to nag. Many of these women were married at a young age and devoted the rest of their lives to husbands and children. At middle age, when children have grown up and husbands have achieved some sort of success, there is a sudden sense of emptiness and insecurity the fear of being 吐utile. The need of being needed is growing stronger than ever, and most of them aren稚 even aware of that. The right to nag is a compensation for their lost youth, I guess. (^_^)

    After all, it all started from love. Nobody is at fault. Nobody. But if you want to feel better, you can tell them something like you池e working 14 hours a day right now because you and your hubby plan to move to Vancouver, buy a big house and live with your parents. And you plan to have four kids, two of them will bear your father痴 last name blah blah blah Just give them something to look forward to and give the sick person a will to live. (You have to be good at bullshit and make them believe it though).

    And when the cash comes in, buy two plane tickets to Japan from SNA, bring your mom to the Printemps department store and shop til she drops. Treat her to a great meal from L粗crin where she will be surrounded by a fleet of good-looking male servers. Show her the life style of a modern Japanese woman!
    Well, it doesn稚 hurt to try

    I致e tried my best, and I have no regret. William Hung

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    @Den: See response to Jean-Francois...

    @Glenn - thanks again - no, I'm not offended by your point of view, mainly because I share it. It's that facing this realization fully and letting it sink in has been a long and painful process.

    @Jean-Francois:

    You're about half-right (points 1 and 2 were dead on). However, my mother is quite strange when compared to the remainder of your thoughts.

    1) The biggest oyafukoumono mistake I made was to leave undergrad before I graduated. Compared to all my peers (and I don't have enough cousins to have competed with - a male one 10 years older still in Japan, and 2 female cousins neither of whom were allowed to go to college), I am even now by far the most successful, despite dropping out - mainly since I arguably went to the best engineering school in the world (guess which one? :-P ).

    2) My mother has been begging me since I was 14 to never have kids (or to get married). Getting married (to anyone) was the second mistake in her view, since she assumes that this means I'm deferring my career and success in order to support my husband's. Ironically, the reverse is true - my HB has been mainly unemployed lately (he's too qualified and in the unstable IT realm of training, which was the first part of the budget to be cut when the dot com bubble burst), so I've been fulfilling the traditional breadwinner role. Which annoys my parents no end, of course, although they've raised me to be the best career-minded and independent person they wanted.

    3) Regarding "lip service" - what they want me to do (they place value on actions, not words) is divorce my husband, get a transfer to the Markham (I'm Torontonian) office of the US-owned large multinational where I work, buy a condo about 15 minutes' drive from their place, and spend every weekend golfing with them. I wouldn't date or do anything else but work, since my career and my parents would be the only acceptable priorities in my life. Oh, they would of course want me to work on first completing my SB, then go on to earn an MSc. and a PhD part-time. My mother reminds me that she never wants to be a grandmother, has always hated shopping, and thinks large houses take too much in renovating and maintenance costs.

    So as you can see, my situation isn't quite as pigeon-holed as stereotypes may imply. Oh, and I never changed my last name, and I've never been interested in having my own children, though if I lived in a civilized country (e.g. not in Eire or the UK) I'd consider adoption, someday.

    One last thing - I've never read or watched anything associated with Amy Tan because I figured it would annoy the heck out of me. LOL

    And yet another thing - my mother married late (34), only because she felt she had to have one daughter (me). She wasn't exactly traditionally minded herself, although she seems to only assume things are still traditional for other people.

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    カメハメ波! Glenn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nekosasori
    @Glenn - thanks again - no, I'm not offended by your point of view, mainly because I share it. It's that facing this realization fully and letting it sink in has been a long and painful process.
    Believe me, I understand that 100%. I guess that's why we share the same opinion.

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    THE CRAZY OLD GUY !! Frank D. White's Avatar
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    The Truth Hurts !!!!

    I know it will sound terible to say this, but, since my parents have passed away, that great weight on my shoulders has been lifted!! My family was so dysfunctional
    we only got togeather at Xmas, and it was hard to survive that! Now if only my 2 sisters would move to the other end of the earth, life would be fine!!

    Frank

    TAKE WHAT I SAY WITH A GRAIN OF SUGAR !!

    I USED TO BE FUNNY, BUT MY WIFE HAD ME NEUTERED!

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    You're about half-right (points 1 and 2 were dead on). However, my mother is quite strange when compared to the remainder of your thoughts.

    1) The biggest oyafukoumono mistake I made was to leave undergrad before I graduated. Compared to all my peers (and I don't have enough cousins to have competed with - a male one 10 years older still in Japan, and 2 female cousins neither of whom were allowed to go to college), I am even now by far the most successful, despite dropping out - mainly since I arguably went to the best engineering school in the world (guess which one? :-P ).

    2) My mother has been begging me since I was 14 to never have kids (or to get married). Getting married (to anyone) was the second mistake in her view, since she assumes that this means I'm deferring my career and success in order to support my husband's. Ironically, the reverse is true - my HB has been mainly unemployed lately (he's too qualified and in the unstable IT realm of training, which was the first part of the budget to be cut when the dot com bubble burst), so I've been fulfilling the traditional breadwinner role. Which annoys my parents no end, of course, although they've raised me to be the best career-minded and independent person they wanted.

    3) Regarding "lip service" - what they want me to do (they place value on actions, not words) is divorce my husband, get a transfer to the Markham (I'm Torontonian) office of the US-owned large multinational where I work, buy a condo about 15 minutes' drive from their place, and spend every weekend golfing with them. I wouldn't date or do anything else but work, since my career and my parents would be the only acceptable priorities in my life. Oh, they would of course want me to work on first completing my SB, then go on to earn an MSc. and a PhD part-time. My mother reminds me that she never wants to be a grandmother, has always hated shopping, and thinks large houses take too much in renovating and maintenance costs.

    So as you can see, my situation isn't quite as pigeon-holed as stereotypes may imply. Oh, and I never changed my last name, and I've never been interested in having my own children, though if I lived in a civilized country (e.g. not in Eire or the UK) I'd consider adoption, someday.

    One last thing - I've never read or watched anything associated with Amy Tan because I figured it would annoy the heck out of me. LOL

    And yet another thing - my mother married late (34), only because she felt she had to have one daughter (me). She wasn't exactly traditionally minded herself, although she seems to only assume things are still traditional for other people.
    Well, it sounds like your folks are very practical. Then you have the legitimate reason to do whatever you're doing right now. Actually, I have an American-born Korean friend who was in a similar situation. Her divorced mother didn't want her to get married because she thought marriage was a bad deal. My friend ended up moving to L.A. with her caucasian boyfriend before she graduated from Juilliard School of Music. Now she has her own baby and she talks to her mother on the phone two or three times a week. Actually, their relationship seems to be closer when they are living apart.

    And no, I don't know which is the best engineering school in the world. Oxford? Cambridge? Havard or Yale? ( I only know all the prestigeous English-speaking universities and a few French ones, but maybe German universities are famous too. I really don't know).

    And I don't know who is Amy Tan ( the screen writer ?) but I like most of the actresses in Joy Luck Club.

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    I just finished talking to a friend on the phone and she told me the best engineering school in the world was MIT ( but she is American-Chinese, so she might be biased although she said she was not ). But she doesn't know who is Amy Tan either.

    Back on the topic, I am a 1.5 generation immigrant so I don't have the same issues as my Canadian-born asian (Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese) friends who (unfortunately?) fall into the Joy Luck Club stereotypes.

    At the age of 15, I chose to go to a boarding school in the U.S. beacuse I got an F in CONDUCT from a Hong Kong high school. Hmm ... I was getting top marks (ranked third in my class) and I think I was a very nice person. I still don't know why they gave me an F ?????

    Anyway, my parents had emmigranted to Canada when I was 13. I didn't follow them at that time because I wanted to be as free as a Monkey King. And since my parents were afraid of me who was grand-parents' spoiled brat, they could not make me move.

    Unlike my friends who were goody-goody when they were little kids but became more rebellious as they grew older, I did the opposite. By purposely acting psychotic, I manipulated my parents to let me do whatever I liked. I even jokingly told them the reason I preferred an American education to a Canadian one because I wanted to be an American psycho. No,actually they were given two choices: American education or no education. Well, as I had predicted, they chose the former and let me go to Connecticut.

    Now my parents genuinely feel very relieved that "I turn out to be normal." My relationship with them are alright. Most of the time I live in their house at Richmond Hill, but I also rent an apartment in downtown Toronto because half of the week I work really late.

    Probably due to the fact that I am one egoistic person, I think my life so far went pretty smooth. *touch wood* And since I love myself so much, I am the first to forgive myself whenever I mess up.

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    @Frank: I think I understand why you feel that way, and I'm sorry that your family has been such a stressful aspect of your life. Is it possible for you to move far away from your sisters? I don't know first-hand what it's like to have incompatible siblings, but since my husband does, I can sympathise.

    @Jean-Francois:

    Yes, I attended MIT. Majored in neuroscience, actually, and some technical communication instead of computer science or engineering, but there I was.

    Amy Tan: see her bio here:

    http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/tan0bio-1

    She was the author of many books, including Joy Luck Club. Since I tend to prefer reading books to seeing movies if the books come first (and vice versa), I'd rather read it than watch the film, if I ever get around to it.

    You're right that the my parents are pragmatic (as am I, mainly thanks to how they raised me) - but I think they're crossing the line by refusing to meet their son in law and repeatedly asking me to divorce him (although that's not racially motivated - they never wanted me to marry anyone at all and had no preference about culture).

    As for boys not feeling as much guilt - I think that culturally prevalent phallocentrism has a lot to do with that - I've noticed that boys are automatically given more liberty, privileges and respect by many parents. The autonomy that they have by default is rarely given to girls in the same position. My CBC male friends have attested to this, at least.

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