Cultural and Racial Identity:
The impact on our psychological well-being and personal identity
“Personal identity influences your life choices, hopes, and dreams, position in the social order, your rights and responsibilities, your well-being.”
In working therapeutically with children, young people and adults it has been important to understand the impact on the individual’s personality as a consequence of living between multiple cultural influences, such as the dominant societal culture and their own familial cultural grouping, and the significance of the relationship between identity formation and psychological functioning.
Individuals are bombarded with influences from the outside world as well as inputs from within, confusion and misunderstanding occur. Cross-cultural issues are complex and a significant motivating force for conflict and distress within families, work and social environments, as a result of differing cultural value bases. This clash of identities impacts greatly on their self-esteem and emotional self-regulation and many do not feel safe amongst their peer group or within society to talk freely about their religious values and their ethnic identity. They may feel a need to separate themselves out from their families and communities to fit in with the dominant majority. It is important to be mindful of children and adults’ daily struggles to find a balance between cultures, neither of which, they feel, they fully belong. Often many have felt silenced or have felt that their own intrinsic sense of self becomes lost just so they can feel accepted within these individual environments and society. Often they would have to sit with feelings of shock, discomfort, bewilderment and shame. The resulting sense of vulnerability and isolation can be profound. It is imperative, therefore, to encourage detachment from the negative identities others impose which seeks to thwart resilience, personal growth and self-actualisation.
A growing body of evidence from both the biological and social sciences identifies chronic stress response systems remain activated at high levels across a life span as a direct result of coping with adversity. Indeed, research suggests that constant coping with systemic racism and every day discrimination is a potent activator of the stress response; emotions such as sadness, grief, anger, and anxiety are common responses to trauma. This can have lifelong effects on learning, behaviour, and both physical and mental health (Centre for the Developing Child, Harvard University 2020). It is important to express emotions, to increase our exploratory capacities, to reinforce beliefs around identity, to generate positive experiences around culture so as to enable the pursuit of long term goals.
I seek to offer a safe and equalising therapeutic relationship where we can strive to build inner resilience to cope with feelings of sadness, anger, powerlessness and isolation as a result of the lived experience of prejudice, racism, intolerance and apathy. I help to support exploration of both unconscious and conscious experiences of prejudice, oppression, racism, bias, inequality, discrimination, social injustice and offer the opportunity to explore race and diversity and how it directly affects your unique lived experience. By embracing exploration that will encourage an openness in recognising all the parts of ‘you’, it is hoped you will be better able to be proactive in the present, to react to interactions and events in the service of your chosen identity, values and beliefs and developing your own unique sense of belonging and inner safety.