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Culture and Archetypal Wounding: A Biocognitive Perspective

Part 1: Understanding Shaming Across Cultures through Hofstede Dimensions

Lately I have been spending some time reading and learning about biocognitive psychology and its relation to cultures.  All the information comes from Dr. Mario Martinez and the Biocognitive Science Institute.  I have some sources at the bottom of this article. 

The aim of this series of three blog posts is to first summarize some core teaching from Dr. Martinez and then to apply the Hofstede framework of cultural dimensions to connect how socialization, as determined by cultural norms, can both explain behaviors that are sourced in “archetypal wounds” and perhaps give us ways to deal with these patterns in our work. 

 I want to point out something that lies that the heart of why this is an evolution in my understanding of cultural anthropology.  When I studied cross-cultural communication back in the late 1980s, we learned communication theory as a linear model.  One sending party encoded and the receiving party decoded.  The misperceptions in this back and forth encoding and decoding were referred to as “communication breakdown” or “miscommunication.”  When working with the Hofstede dimensions at ITAP, colleagues would remind me that the dimensions “never work in glorious isolation.” Still, the way I interpreted that was that combinations of cultural values bunched up in complex knots in a brain-centered encoding and decoding. 

From the biocognitive perspective, we humans are a combination of three major systems; biological, intellectual, and psychological.  Each has limits and they never operate apart from each other.  Basic enough.  It is also not a stretch to add that add that these systems function in a cultural context.  However, when you add coauthorship, things get a little more interesting.  Coauthorship is defined as:

 Mutual contribution and participation with an event or a person. Communication is always a coauthored engagement, and it is never a one-way process void of coupling.”

From a cross-cultural perspective, this means that different value systems trigger behaviors.  We collaborate in creating outcomes on a deeper level.  From a more traditional psychological perspective it means we attract characters and behaviors into our lives unconsciously, often as a defense mechanism to on the wounds explained below.

Dr. Martinez speaks from a perspective of helping people identify and heal archetypal wounds.  He strongly emphasizes the need to not intellectualize an understanding of the wound, however.  There are powerful healing methods through meditation and breathing with awareness of five biocognitive portals in the body. For example, if meditating on your archetypal wound causes a sensation in the abdomen, the wound affects you sense of safety.  However, healing is not derived from analyzing this further.  Healing comes from attention and breathing.  I agree. There is no further healing to be had from intellectual understanding of a wound. We all have archetypal wounds, by the way.  I do think a cross-cultural discussion of how wounding happens helps us identify wounds more accurately.  And, identifying the wound (there could be more than one) is the first step toward healing. 

After identifying the wound, our attention turns to its associated healing emotion.  Another way to think of the healing emotion is that we learn a lesson from our wound.  You can think of this as a psychological learning.  I find it more helpful to think of it as a gift.  We make it through events in life, and as a reward for making it we are given a gift.  The gift is precious and we must care for it.  For example, if a person’s main archetypal wound is betrayal, the healing emotion to betrayal is loyalty.  When the connection between the wounding and the healing emotion is understood, it can be honored and leveraged in a more productive way.

Dr. Martinez says is that there are three archetypal wounds that we find in any culture; shaming, abandonment, and betrayal.  The format of this series of blog posts is to take one archetypal wound at a time and look at it from the perspective of the Hofstede cultural dimensions. The hypothesis is that behavioral patterns based in cultural values and norms inflict wounds as part of the socialization process or other culture-specific behaviors.  Understanding how this happens will help us identify the wound and thus begin the healing process.

Shaming and Hofstede Dimensions

In this post we take a look at shaming.  Shame is a hot feeling and the “antidote,” or healing emotion to shaming is honoring.  If you need to refresh your understanding of Hofstede dimensions, look here.

Shame and Individualism (Individualism – Group)

Shaming stemming from this dimension happens differently in different cultures.  There is a difference in shame rooted in extended group norms versus individual guilt from not living up to parental expectations.  What are some good examples?  I think of the child in a Lutheran country not being able to memorize the Catechism.  My parents excused me from that trauma growing up in Sweden, but I felt it indirectly from friends. Please share your example by responding.

Shame and Power Distance (Hierarchical – Participative)

Shaming rooted in Power Distance is different.  It seems any behavior that goes counter to the cultural norm can cause shame.  Strong, direct instructions in a low power distance culture could be perceived as a shaming.  Also, low power distance team members ignoring instructions from a manager from a hierarchical culture can cause embarrassment, or shame.  In the socialization process, this dynamic would play out on the family or community/school level. Please share your examples below.  

Shame and Certainty (Need for Certainty – Tolerance for Ambiguity)

Fear of shaming is a strong motivator in cultures with high Need for Certainty.  We can probably say that one reason low divorce rates in Greece is the fear of being shamed by family and community for violating a norm. But, how was that fear of shame taught to the child? Does there need to be a childhood shaming experience to create the understanding that “I never want to feel that again?”  Please share your thoughts.

Shame and Quality of Life Orientation (Masculinity/Femininity)

Any correction of a child as not fitting into a cultural norm of achiever or caretaker would be examples here. For example, if a child’s personality is one of thoughtfulness and contemplation rather than the cultural norm of assertive expressions of achievement, a parent might shame that child to conform.  It can work the exact opposite way, where an extroverted and articulate child is taught to tone it down in a culture where drawing attention to self is frowned upon.  These examples bleed into other dimensions, but, as stated, that is something we have to accept.  Please share your examples.

In the next post, we take a look at the archetypal wound abandonment through the lens of Hofstede dimensions.  In the next two posts, I also want to look at two related topics:  1) wounds that cannot be explained by cultural dimensions, and 2) archetypal wounds inflicted on a culture at large, also known as a cultural complex.    



Dr. Mario Martinez books and audio references here and YouTube videos here.


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