Four years ago my mother died at the honourable age of 93. She died in California, USA, the state and country of my birth, where I lived up to the age of 21.I came to and settled in Holland which established my long-distance relationship of 35 years with my mother.

 

 

The story I wish to tell here is the experience of losing my mother and how that experience threw me into an internal field of tension, filled with uncertainty and representing a tremendous clash between my American and Dutch voices. In other words, how I dealt with my dialogical (cultural) self in a crisis of renewed ‘homelessness’.

The unintended immigration to Holland

I ended up living in the Netherlands after originally planning a short –term research project in Holland under the auspices of my university in California.

I met a Dutchman, a fellow hippie, and, throwing research-projects to the wind, we travelled, got married, had a child and there I was: married, a mother and living in a small upstairs apartment in a small city in the west of Holland! My marriage eventually failed, but in the meantime I got my Masters degree from a Dutch university and established my own business. I met a wonderful Dutch woman and we have been together now for almost 20 years.

Becoming bi-cultural

I became attached to my place in Holland after some years of struggle to integrate my American voice with my Dutch voice. {qutes}I gradually discovered that ‘in-between’ position between the two cultural voices and realized how enriching this is to my life as a bicultural person.{/quotes}

My relationship to my mother was one of telephone calls, occasional visits to her home to see the whole family and thePacific Ocean and experiencing and sharing the life events of my family from a distance.

The inner clash between my cultural I-positions

It wasn’t until the actual death of my mother that I was overcome by the feeling that a great part of my American-self died as well. I felt even more distanced from California. I began questioning my relationship to my two brothers. Questions plagued me: where do I fit in to their lives without our mother, do I have a place in California, where do I belong, where is my home, what does Holland mean to me now?

I am reminded of Hermans’ and Dimaggio’s article “Self, Identity and Globalization in Times of uncertainty: a Dialogical Analysis’ in the Review of General Psychology (2007). How they wrote about homesteading and homelessness:

“…for particularly immigrants…homes have to be actively created.…the phenomenon of ‘homesteading’ as a strategy for coping with homelessness. “

I created by home in Holland, built on a foundation of good friends, a son and a solid profession. But, unexpectedly at her death this ‘home’ started rumbling, like the homes in California during an earthquake. I had a glimpse of myself as a homeless orphan.

 

I, of course, went immediately to California to deal with all the issues surrounding the death of a family kasinomember. And there I experienced yet another clash between my internal cultural positions, creating still more tension and confusion.

Let me describe this event in the light of Herman’s above mentioned article. Each culture has its own ‘emotion rules’.

“Emotion rules about love, anger or grief are typically limited to a particular group, community or culture but they can be very different in different cultures….one and the same individual is increasingly confronted with emotion rules from different communities in which the individual participates as a member of a globalizing society.” (39)

The American cultural position regarding death aussie pokie and grieving is ‘we don’t talk about it and we don’t show grief’. The Clarke cultural position regarding pain and suffering was one of “be strong, go forward and don’t cry”.

The Dutch cultural position regarding death, as I experience it, is to acknowledge the death of the other, to talk about it and express compassion. My years in Holland have also taught me to experience and express pain and suffering as a part of life. I no longer tried to hide this from myself or others. Yes, I learned to cry and to share my vulnerability with others. This Dutch side of me has enriched my sensitivity to casino online holland suffering and with dealing with things which cannot be changed.

 

So, here I am in California with my brothers in their environment wanting to talk with them about the death of our mother. Somehow it just didn’t work. There were few openings but little response.

I was in need of ‘multivoiced emotion work’:

“Each of these positions represents a different of even conflicting cultural voice that requires multivoiced emotion work, with one voice speaking in ways that are different from and even opposed to how the other voice speaks. “ (40)

And ‘emotion work’ is according to Hermans and Dimaggio:

“A concept that links emotions to social positions is the notion of ‘emotion work’….depending on the positions in which people find themselves, particular emotions are expected to emerge in a particular situation whereas other emotions are expected to be absent or suppressed. “

The cultural stories and positions within me were at odds. I found myself choosing ‘sides’. I was for my Dutch side there in California. I was going to talk about her death. I was going to cry if I wanted to and I was trying to get others to talk with me and express their emotions.

The actual confrontation, not only between my two cultural voices, but also with my family and ‘family-in-laws’, occurred at a Mother’s day dinner, a week after the death of my mother. I met the family-in-law members, whom I had never met before. They all knew that our mother had just passed away, yet no one said anything to me about this! This, of course, only confirmed my judgment of the American way of handling death. My Dutch voice was gathering steam! My American voice was silenced.

To put this process in ‘dialogical self’ terms, my repertoire of voices was becoming seriously restricted and reduced:

“People are motivated to construct narratives centered on themes that help them deal with fundamental life issues while sharing these narratives with others…A significant implication of this view is that some positions or voices in the self become exclusively important and, particularly in situations of anxiety and threat, they receive priority above other voices on emotional grounds moving the self in a monological direction.” (29)

As we sat down to dinner, wine was poured into our glasses, I could no longer keep quiet about my mother. I stood up and made a (tearful) toast to her. All the glasses were held up and even a few people started crying (!). My Dutch voice broke down a barrier for me and for some others. The next day my sister-in-law thanked me for taking this dinner-party to a deeper level of meaning!

 

I have never regretted doing this. {quotes}I listened and trusted my Dutch voice.{/quotes} And in doing this I built yet another bridge between my two cultural voices. Except this time the bridge was built from Holland to California. The direction had changed.

So, there is never really a dull moment in a dialogical self! I still sense a bit of homelessness in me and visitingCalifornia still has a strangeness surrounding it. But, what also happened after the death of my mother was an intense curiosity about my distant Irish roots and the theme of migration in my life. So, it seems some new voice has been born.

 

 

 

Hermans , H. J. M. , and Dimaggio ( 2007 ). Self, identity, and globalization in times of uncertainty: A dialogical analysis.Review of General Psychology, 11: 31–61.