guilt, collectivism, and other thoughts

Guilt in East Asia is viewed as an important interpersonal emotion that promotes filial piety, achievement motivation, and relational closeness.

Gielen, Uwe P.; Stevens, Michael J. (2012-10-02). Toward a Global Psychology: Theory, Research, Intervention, and Pedagogy (Global and Cross-Cultural Psychology Series) (p. 159). Taylor & Francis. Kindle Edition.

Western thinking conveys that guilt is an emotion liked to wrong-doing.  It says, “I did something wrong.”  For this reason, it can become linked closely with shame and we seek to avoid feelings of guilt and shame.

In a collectivist society, where the goal is social harmony, guilt is a normal emotion.  The text I have been reading explains the importance of guilt in maintaining harmony and loyalty.  Children feel that parents, especially mothers, have provided well physically and emotionally, while sacrificing for their children.  The appropriate response to this is to feel guilt, meaning that the sacrifice is so appreciated that the child realizes it cannot ever be fully repaid.  This notion extends to teachers and remains life-long with parents.

It would have never occurred to me to label this feeling guilt.

I wondered, if this thinking is associated with close family units, wouldn’t it carry over to adult relationships?

That comes pretty damn close in some ways to how I think of Sir Raven.  She cares for my needs, physically and emotionally.  Like a parent in a collectivist society, she pushes me, makes demands, sees me as a reflection of herself.  Like a child in a collectivist society, i feel that there is no way i could fully repay her.  My work, my grades, my attention to what matters to her….these are all efforts to express my gratitude for her care. 

From the last few classes, I have become aware that my nuclear family supported the over-arching goals of a collectivist society.  I was singled out to consider the needs of the group first, in order of hierarchy.  The other members were individualistic and pretty vocal about what they wanted.  I was taught to not form individual wants that were not in alignment with the hierarchy.

I value the social harmony among members over my own wants, consistently.  I was not very invested in a larger society in many ways, since I wasn’t able to have friends or date or have an independent life.  I have never fully understood why people need such attention on themselves or feel that their wants are equal to the rest of the group members.  I understand it in my head, it just doesn’t resonate for me.

Sir Raven and i once wrote our own lists of values, including what we felt we should be giving and receiving from each other.  We did not discuss first, we wrote them alone, and then shared them.  She had created hers several years before.  What stood out strongly, to me, was how often we each pointed to a need for maintaining harmony and balance.  We each listed a part of our own job duties as working to create and maintain harmony, balance, and self-discipline.  We each said we felt we needed to rely on each other for these things as well.

Again, thinking on this makes me consider goals related to collectivism.  There is an inter-dependence among group members that we relate to. 

My adopted Auntie says i am a chameleon, changing to fit the circumstance, always making people look good, accepting often whatever seems comfortable to those around me. 

To do that does not imply that i’m a passive person.  i’m demure often, soft-spoken, maternal, and very gentle.  But i’m not passive.

What i do is consider everything, especially emotions, from the view point of everyone else.  Often, i can see multiple angles at the same time.  i give more weight to the needs of others over my own needs or wants.  i do this in just about every situation; it is second nature to me. 

Sometimes, this means that i may have two opposing thoughts or feelings inside of myself at the same times.  Sometimes, i may feel two opposing ways about a person.  That gets tricky.  Really tricky.  Especially if there isn’t enough outside information to tip the balance into one emotion/concept/response or another. 

When Sir called out of the blue, for example, and opened with, “I want to make sure you know that you can always come back home,” I felt two opposing things.  I had two opposing thoughts.  I felt conflicted. 

On one hand, I appreciate it.  As a woman, especially one who has been homeless and deserted by her biological family, I appreciate it.  I imagine she meant the comment in a loving way and regrets how some things were handled in the past. 

On the other hand, I feel like….maybe that isn’t the right thing to call a slave and say.  I depend on Sir Raven only.  I trust that she will keep me.  I also trust that if she decided to not keep me as her slave that she would make some kind of arrangements for me.  As a slave, I don’t think it is a healthy thing to have a kind of back-up plan or back-up offer in my head.  I need to depend on Sir Raven exclusively. 

i voiced neither concept because i could not decide how to do either without sounding ungreatful or defensive.  That social harmony need?  It can be confusing.  Especially if you have strong feelings both directions or strong feelings for the person.

So…no.  It’s not passive to be able to consider multiple perspectives and have the perspectives of others outweigh your own ideas or feelings.  It sounds passive, the social harmony thing, but my experience with it is that it takes work.  The easy thing for other people is to know what they want, think, or feel.  It seems that those are stand alone concepts, absolutes, for other people.  It is not always the easy thing to me to know what I want- everything is filtered through what I perceive to be the desires of everyone else first.  What is the best for everyone else involved is my first consideration.  Then, I figure out what I would like to see happen. 

Even when I know exactly what I want, there is a filter in place.

Even when I knew, without a doubt, that I wanted and needed to be with Sir Raven, my prayer was that whatever was best for her happen.  Even if it wasn’t me. 

Thank God, the universe created a way, and showed that we were the best thing for each other.  We are harmonious the overwhelming majority of the time.  I don’t know if her process is the same as mine.  I’d think not.  But we tend to arrive at a similar destination in thought, word, and deed. 


One thought on “guilt, collectivism, and other thoughts

  1. aisha says:

    Oh, and isn’t that a wonderful, miraculous thing!!!

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