I went to an interesting lecture this week on dealing with cultural issues in therapy. It was extremely interesting to me, considering that I’ve been exploring a few new cultures myself in the past month. I would like to pass on one of the exercises to you all.
“Take a quiet moment with me,” said Dr. Hernandez, “and think about your biases.”
Now, I consider myself a fairly self-aware, self-actualized person (although there is always room for improvement), but I know for a fact that although I am aware of my biases, I don’t really like to think about them. In today’s world of “politically-correct-trumps-all” attitudes and even legislation, it is difficult to admit – even to yourself – that you might hold a bias.
Then she got even more personal. “I want you to think about who you would not have over for dinner, and why.”
Having someone over for dinner is very personal. You are inviting that person into your home, and into your family ritual, even if it is only for one evening. The amazing thing (to me), is what happened next. During the course of the discussion, people began to reveal some of their “un-invitable” people to the room, and more than one of them included me in that group.
That’s right, I am un-invitable. According to a few people, they would not invite me over for dinner, although they sat and had casual conversation with me not five minutes before. Generally, the reasons for that were social or political. They would never invite someone over for dinner who believed _____, or voted _____, or agreed with _____. The funny part is that while they spoke up, they never seemed to consider that some of “those people” were sitting in the same room. Or even next to them.
The issue with individual culture is that we are often so wrapped up in our own, that unless we are forced (by meeting new people, going to a new place, etc) to think about it, we just assume that everyone in our social group agrees with us.
A developmental psychologist by the name of Piaget coined a term known as “egocentrism”. It is the inability (of a child) to see any viewpoint other than their own. This term is supposed to apply to Piaget’s pre-operational stage of development, which ranges from ages 2-7.
So in other words: when we fail, or refuse, to see and consider others’ points of view, we are behaving like seven yr. olds.
The bottom line is, it all comes down to trust – or distrust as the case may be.
If I am biased against you, it is not because I simply do not like you, it’s because I do not trust you. That distrust almost always stems from ignorance.
If we would just put a little time and effort into understanding the cultures of others, maybe we would be able to stop behaving like children, and move past our biases.
I’m not saying we will agree on everything,
but I am saying that I won’t kick you out of my house after I find out who you voted for.