Culture and Resilience

Reviewed Apr 7, 2017

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Summary

Everyone is part of a culture: the beliefs, values, and customs of a group. Knowing your culture helps you know yourself. It also may help you get through times of trouble.

No two people react quite the same way to a time of hardship. Some seem never to get better after an event like war, natural disaster, abuse, or poverty. Others seem to bounce back. They may even come back stronger.

The same goes for whole groups. Some, like the “boat people” who fled Vietnam in the 1970s and thrived in America, are success stories. In the language of social sciences, they show resilience.

This trait has many sources. Identity is important. Social support is key. Money makes things easier, as does access to health and social services. But culture also plays a major role. The beliefs, values, and customs that people share can be a source of strength. This works both for the group and for people associated with it.

How can it help you? The key is to know your own ties and make use of them.

Find your community

Everyone is part of a culture. Everyone is part of some group with certain customs and a way of looking at the world. You may be aware of yours. This is mostly likely if you’re part of a group that is distinct. It could be due to race, religion, the country you were born in or some other reason. You also have a culture even if you’re part of the majority. Does your whole family always gather for Thanksgiving? That’s part of your culture. So are the books you read and the movies you watch. It’s “what’s on your iPod,” as social scientist Michael Ungar of Canada’s Dalhousie University puts it.

Your own ancestry can give you further clues. Families pass down stories, knowledge, and values. Your own family may help by giving examples of how your ancestors dealt with hard times.

When you do all these things, you find not just a culture but a community as well. You learn about others who share your culture. They may know important things about you. It could help you in ways that other people cannot.

“Culture is communicated through community,” says Unger. And there is nothing like a group to give you a sense of identity and belonging. Even if you are alone, your culture can be a source of insight and knowledge. But it can do more for you if you’re sharing it with others.

Connecting to others puts you in touch with outside help of all kinds. If the group is religious or spiritual, it can give you sources of spiritual comfort you may have forgotten or never known. The same group may be a link to social services, jobs, or new friends. In this way, culture can link you to a whole way of social support. Unger notes, “most of our resilience is what the community gives us.”

One person, many cultures

Don’t think of yourself as being part of just one culture or group. “Throughout the day we all navigate multiple cultures,” says Kate Murray, a psychotherapist who works with refugees in and near San Diego. You could be part of cultures rooted in family, work, religion, and military service. All of these add to your identity. All of them are possible sources of strength and support.

“Culture is always an asset,” says Murray, but not every aspect of every culture is helpful. One that puts a high value on taking care of yourself can lead you to turn down offers of help. Some traditions, such as female circumcision, are at odds with basic human rights. A history of oppression can be a source more of anger than of comfort. It’s up to you to discern what aspects of it are helpful.

You also need to learn which culture does the most for you. Remember, you are likely part of many. One tip offered by Murray is to watch others who share your culture. In what ways does it make their life better? See what works and use it on your own life.

By Tom Gray
Source: Kate Murray, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, Comprehensive SDSU/UCSD Cancer Center Partnership, San Diego State University; Michael Ungar, PhD, Killam Professor of Social Work, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Summary

Everyone is part of a culture: the beliefs, values, and customs of a group. Knowing your culture helps you know yourself. It also may help you get through times of trouble.

No two people react quite the same way to a time of hardship. Some seem never to get better after an event like war, natural disaster, abuse, or poverty. Others seem to bounce back. They may even come back stronger.

The same goes for whole groups. Some, like the “boat people” who fled Vietnam in the 1970s and thrived in America, are success stories. In the language of social sciences, they show resilience.

This trait has many sources. Identity is important. Social support is key. Money makes things easier, as does access to health and social services. But culture also plays a major role. The beliefs, values, and customs that people share can be a source of strength. This works both for the group and for people associated with it.

How can it help you? The key is to know your own ties and make use of them.

Find your community

Everyone is part of a culture. Everyone is part of some group with certain customs and a way of looking at the world. You may be aware of yours. This is mostly likely if you’re part of a group that is distinct. It could be due to race, religion, the country you were born in or some other reason. You also have a culture even if you’re part of the majority. Does your whole family always gather for Thanksgiving? That’s part of your culture. So are the books you read and the movies you watch. It’s “what’s on your iPod,” as social scientist Michael Ungar of Canada’s Dalhousie University puts it.

Your own ancestry can give you further clues. Families pass down stories, knowledge, and values. Your own family may help by giving examples of how your ancestors dealt with hard times.

When you do all these things, you find not just a culture but a community as well. You learn about others who share your culture. They may know important things about you. It could help you in ways that other people cannot.

“Culture is communicated through community,” says Unger. And there is nothing like a group to give you a sense of identity and belonging. Even if you are alone, your culture can be a source of insight and knowledge. But it can do more for you if you’re sharing it with others.

Connecting to others puts you in touch with outside help of all kinds. If the group is religious or spiritual, it can give you sources of spiritual comfort you may have forgotten or never known. The same group may be a link to social services, jobs, or new friends. In this way, culture can link you to a whole way of social support. Unger notes, “most of our resilience is what the community gives us.”

One person, many cultures

Don’t think of yourself as being part of just one culture or group. “Throughout the day we all navigate multiple cultures,” says Kate Murray, a psychotherapist who works with refugees in and near San Diego. You could be part of cultures rooted in family, work, religion, and military service. All of these add to your identity. All of them are possible sources of strength and support.

“Culture is always an asset,” says Murray, but not every aspect of every culture is helpful. One that puts a high value on taking care of yourself can lead you to turn down offers of help. Some traditions, such as female circumcision, are at odds with basic human rights. A history of oppression can be a source more of anger than of comfort. It’s up to you to discern what aspects of it are helpful.

You also need to learn which culture does the most for you. Remember, you are likely part of many. One tip offered by Murray is to watch others who share your culture. In what ways does it make their life better? See what works and use it on your own life.

By Tom Gray
Source: Kate Murray, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, Comprehensive SDSU/UCSD Cancer Center Partnership, San Diego State University; Michael Ungar, PhD, Killam Professor of Social Work, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Summary

Everyone is part of a culture: the beliefs, values, and customs of a group. Knowing your culture helps you know yourself. It also may help you get through times of trouble.

No two people react quite the same way to a time of hardship. Some seem never to get better after an event like war, natural disaster, abuse, or poverty. Others seem to bounce back. They may even come back stronger.

The same goes for whole groups. Some, like the “boat people” who fled Vietnam in the 1970s and thrived in America, are success stories. In the language of social sciences, they show resilience.

This trait has many sources. Identity is important. Social support is key. Money makes things easier, as does access to health and social services. But culture also plays a major role. The beliefs, values, and customs that people share can be a source of strength. This works both for the group and for people associated with it.

How can it help you? The key is to know your own ties and make use of them.

Find your community

Everyone is part of a culture. Everyone is part of some group with certain customs and a way of looking at the world. You may be aware of yours. This is mostly likely if you’re part of a group that is distinct. It could be due to race, religion, the country you were born in or some other reason. You also have a culture even if you’re part of the majority. Does your whole family always gather for Thanksgiving? That’s part of your culture. So are the books you read and the movies you watch. It’s “what’s on your iPod,” as social scientist Michael Ungar of Canada’s Dalhousie University puts it.

Your own ancestry can give you further clues. Families pass down stories, knowledge, and values. Your own family may help by giving examples of how your ancestors dealt with hard times.

When you do all these things, you find not just a culture but a community as well. You learn about others who share your culture. They may know important things about you. It could help you in ways that other people cannot.

“Culture is communicated through community,” says Unger. And there is nothing like a group to give you a sense of identity and belonging. Even if you are alone, your culture can be a source of insight and knowledge. But it can do more for you if you’re sharing it with others.

Connecting to others puts you in touch with outside help of all kinds. If the group is religious or spiritual, it can give you sources of spiritual comfort you may have forgotten or never known. The same group may be a link to social services, jobs, or new friends. In this way, culture can link you to a whole way of social support. Unger notes, “most of our resilience is what the community gives us.”

One person, many cultures

Don’t think of yourself as being part of just one culture or group. “Throughout the day we all navigate multiple cultures,” says Kate Murray, a psychotherapist who works with refugees in and near San Diego. You could be part of cultures rooted in family, work, religion, and military service. All of these add to your identity. All of them are possible sources of strength and support.

“Culture is always an asset,” says Murray, but not every aspect of every culture is helpful. One that puts a high value on taking care of yourself can lead you to turn down offers of help. Some traditions, such as female circumcision, are at odds with basic human rights. A history of oppression can be a source more of anger than of comfort. It’s up to you to discern what aspects of it are helpful.

You also need to learn which culture does the most for you. Remember, you are likely part of many. One tip offered by Murray is to watch others who share your culture. In what ways does it make their life better? See what works and use it on your own life.

By Tom Gray
Source: Kate Murray, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, Comprehensive SDSU/UCSD Cancer Center Partnership, San Diego State University; Michael Ungar, PhD, Killam Professor of Social Work, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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