Culture and Counseling

When I am working with a client it is important for me to understand their family rules.  Not only do we have a culture from our families ethnicity and area of the country upon which we grew up. Each family has a culture or if it’s easier to understand the family rules. Some families are patriarchal. This means the father is the head of the household. He will be the one who hands out discipline upon the children. He will be the one that makes the decisions for the good of the family. Some families are matriarchal. In matriarchal families the mother is the head of the household. She is the one that is the decision maker. She will be the one that hands out the discipline upon the children.

In terms of culture the other information that I would need to know in working with a client is what are the rules for emotions. Some families are emotion absent, meaning that emotions are not allowed. If emotions are allowed, it is usually only positive emotions. Some families are emotionally reactive, meaning that emotions are exaggerated,  and explosive. In these types of families each person is busy reacting to another’s person’s emotions. Many families are on the spectrum between these types of families.

In understanding how we behave in groups whether it be at work or in relationships we need to understand our own family culture. We carry these unspoken rules into our workplaces, relationships with spouses, and friends. When conflict comes up in these relationships, the solution can often be found in our cultural family background.

The first step in understanding your family culture is asking yourself,  “Did I grow up in a matriarchal family or a patriarchal family?” You may have to dig a little deep into your history to determine this. This question is about power. Who had the power in the family to make decisions?

The second step in understanding your family culture is asking yourself, “Was my family emotionally absent or emotionally reactive?”  Once you have determined whether your family culture was emotionally absent or reactive, ask yourself, “What am I?” Do I under react or over react. It can be the same as your family culture. Most of times it is not the same.

Once you have determined whether your family was matriarchal or patriarchal, emotionally absent or reactive, you can determine how these cultural behaviors manifest in your own behaviors.  Understanding your own behaviors is critical if you want to understand other’s. People often react to other’s  based off their own beliefs about how they should behave. Do you want to learn not to react?  Study your own family culture, learn from it, and understand that because it was learned means it can be unlearned.

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