A reader asked:
I want to learn more about other cultures. I started bc i am a writer and realized my writing was inexcusably non-diverse, but found I wanted to keep on because I find it really interesting. There’s a problem though. I grew up in an abusive family. Seems like many of the cultures I’m learning about place more emphasis than mine on loyalty to family and respect for elders – something that, when I read about it, I find REALLY triggering. How can i learn when i keep getting panic attacks?
I think the problem might be that you are reading the perspectives of people who aren’t talking about abuse, particularly if what you’re reading is apologetic narratives aimed at presenting a culture to those outside it. Those kinds of narratives don’t have a lot of space to acknowledge that abuse is common, wrong, and needs to be addressed. I suspect that you would find similar writing about your own culture equally triggering.
Maybe what’s triggering you is the feeling like there is no voice for survivors and no way to respond to abuse?
If that’s the problem, I think the solution is to seek out the voices of survivors within the culture you are trying to learn about. What do they say about their culture? How are they addressing abuse? How do their culture’s concepts of family play into that?
Whatever culture you are learning about, there will be people within it who are seeking responses to abuse within their own culture on the terms of their culture. I think that, for you, learning about other cultures probably needs to involve listening to those survivors.