Could My 2 Year Old Be Scared Of The Dark Our Iranian Definition of Anxiety

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Our Iranian Definition of Anxiety

I would like to explore my understanding of how we Iranians deal with mental health issues as a multicultural group. I will not refer to the multicultural groups as a group by themselves, because it is not fair to the diversity in each group alone. To be specific I like to examine our Iranian culture as a group while this group is divided into unknown subgroups and subcategories. To make a long story short, it is important for every culture to examine its own beliefs in order to broaden the knowledge of people with mental health problems.

I believe this is a long debate, so I will raise my voice based on the ability of my experiences as a counselor, social worker and mental health worker.

We should recognize that mainstream psychology works best for mainstream society, why multicultural psychology would help many aspects of mental health for people who for some reason sidestep this mainstream. In my profession I see men and women who are distressed, show symptoms of anxiety and depression, yet they have difficulty seeking appropriate help or attending any psychotherapy at all.

It is useful for therapists, psychologists and mental health workers to examine the ways in which each multicultural group relates to body/mind related issues. Ideally, it would be useful to understand the language of customers, because the words reveal a lot about the life of each customer.

This writing is a basic attempt to assess the need for culturally based psychological evaluations of our Iranian group because we have a different understanding of mental health problems compared to the Western population.

Again the point is not to universalize our Iranian group because we (Iranians) come from multi-layered communities and cultural background. Nor is the point to portray us Iranians as isolated groups of people who hide behind the darkness.

The point is to open up a discussion to see how we can help more families and individuals who suffer from mental health issues.

The thing is, we Iranians, in general, have a hard time recognizing mental health as a problem. We tend to somatize, meaning we define any illness as related to our physical body.

I question whether a Western cultural therapist would be able to work with the diverse group members as an Iranian. Let’s remember that no counselor comes from a social vacuum and everything a therapist and psychologist say is culturally relevant. How would this aspect be helpful or harmful to our people?

In Adlerian terms, a mental health problem is all about one aspect; loss of hope and loss of encouragement in life (Adler, 1957). Our life in migration is difficult enough, not adding the reality of our families spread among many countries and we are distressed about adjustments. We long for the real notion of family we once knew.

Let’s focus on a general issue that we all deal with from time to time. Remember when we say: delam shor mizaneh!

It would be helpful to dig into this notion and extract the cultural meanings behind this word. We have all heard stories about how our Iranian men and women go to doctors complaining of “the pain in the chest” or the “bad feeling in the stomach”.

Sometimes it is difficult for many of us to say exactly what we want to say. with all the faith and trust we Iranians have in the medical world, we ask for drugs and try to “cure” our problems even though they are related to mental health.

If our family doctors recommend that we see a psychologist, we go back home and say that doctor was no good.

Sometimes our younger generations seek psychiatrists and psychologists because they have communication problems at home with their parents. Some suffer from parents who will forever control their lives. Some women suffering from an abusive husband or other domestic issues, they go to doctors asking for medicine. The examples are many. The main point is that we do not know how to deal with mental health problems and we will not recognize having any mental health problems. Any bad feelings, any harsh thoughts, or any compulsive behavior we have could be related to mental health. Now see how we define one small aspect of mental health problems: Anxiety.

Anxiety or Delshoreh

What is anxiety or delshoreh in our Iranian culture?

The word delshoreh in Persian has an attractive meaning in itself; the word explains what happens when you have delshoreh.

Simply your Del or stomach is excited, upset or stimulated (the verb Shoridan means to have too many emotions about something or in some situations). So having delshoreh means that your stomach is attacked by a feeling that almost washes away your calmness.

During those moments of feeling the pain of anxiety or delshoreh, a person does not have any sense of what is happening. In Persian we say: I have delshoreh, which means I am suffering from something obscure. This is the similar explanation in English, to have anxiety is because of a vague feeling about something that is not right.

Delshoreh is culturally known as a sign for something bad happening, a vague idea of ​​a threat to one’s integrity. This feeling could be confused with the burden of shame and guilt. Because we Iranians have never been encouraged to understand our own feelings, we mix and mingle feelings because we are used to internalizing oppression forced upon us. At this personal level we begin to blame ourselves for having done something wrong, for being bad or sinful, or for not doing good deeds. The body’s response to this deep level of pain caused by Delshoreh is usually not explained in words. What do I mean by this vague definition of vague feeling? It is our cultural understanding that delshoreh is the same as fear, while psychology says something else.

Anxiety and fear are two constant problems in a huge number of mental health problems everywhere and also in our Iranian culture. Of course, there is no research supporting the causes of anxiety in various populations, however, we have all experienced dire situations that do cause anxiety.

Because of the whole level of insecurity that we Iranians face every day in our lives, having delshoreh or fear is an understandable response to our difficult reality. This is a normal response to what is undeniably not normal.

It is important to identify how to deal with our feelings, as they are always with us. Anxiety is a warning signal; it warns us of imminent danger and enables a person to take measures to deal with a threat.

However, the definition of anxiety for people who live in constant terror may or may not be a changing signal. In dire living conditions that many people struggle with in Iran and the Middle East, all these warning signs are confused with many physical conditions.

Sometimes these external circumstances create a reason to have anxiety and fear. What are those circumstances?

Each time we endured the pain of being forced to live a certain lifestyle; we know that anxiety was there to tell us what we don’t like.

All those years, when bombs fell on the heads of our people, we dealt with the anxiety and fear of not knowing what would happen to us in the next hour.

All those people whose children, whose family members have been killed, disappeared, tortured, left for exile, and are victimized in one way or another, they know how painful and devastating the anguish is.

Many of our Iranian citizens have been victimized in one way or another due to the level of instability at home.

We have all experienced the severe pain of anxiety as a warning signal that something is about to happen or is happening now.

The anxiety of having lost a girlfriend or not being able to return to the homeland could be devastating and it was for many of our fellow Iranians.

What is the definition of Anxiety and Fear?

Fear is a response to a known, external, definite and real threat, while anxiety is a response to an unknown, internal, unclear and conflicting threat.

So, we may have anxiety about our child leaving home to go out with his friends, yet we may be afraid of a thief or a snake.

The feeling of anxiety is unknown; when our child leaves, that door gives us other signals. We all have feelings, we feel because we are human, and we act on our feelings when we find them directive.

We fear the potential dangers out there, yet we can never know for sure what may happen in our future.

If that’s the case, we might do some anxiety reducing response to help the situation. However, we need to know how to deal with and how to manage our life situations to deal with anxiety and fear. Without a doubt emotion, thoughts and behaviors go together.

now the question is how did we deal with anxiety or delshoreh before? Remember our mothers would say: “give the person some salt if he/she was scared or shocked”!

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