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Culture and the brain combine to determine expectations and beliefs around relationships. In the many dialogues that I have had with hundreds of other clinicians, I have come to recognize that I, along with other therapists, are immersed in the very confusing cultural messages as the people we are trying to help. We were raised with the same set of beliefs, expectations, and implications of the messages that we receive daily. Like fish in a lake, we are unable to separate ourselves from the social environment in which we live.
In the culture of my great grandmother who was born, married and raised ten children during mid 19th century, Europe, it was accepted that if one of her children had behavior problems, she had a problem child. By the 20th century, if one of my two children had behavior problems, my child had a problem mother. It cannot help but influence how I feel about my childrearing skills. The culture in which we live determines what we can expect.
If I had been raised in the England at the time when novelist Jane Austen (1775 – 1817)was writing her fictionalized books of love and marriage among the landed gentry, I would be likely to accept the belief that it is unseemly for a husband and wife to be demonstrative in showing signs of love. I would likely deem it perfectly normal that money rather love is the primary factor in choosing your mate, and that my family would have a big say in who I married. Living in the 19th century, based on then cultural beliefs about marriage and family, I would not be as indignant as I am now hearing of laws that that make it illegal for a husband to beat his wife with a stick “wider than his thumb”. Nor would I have the knowledge or recourse to change laws based on the supposed superiority of males over less physically or intellectually endowed females. As a woman I might have chafed at laws determining that any property I brought into marriage, belongs to my husband to use as he deems fit. Nor would I have had a say in laws that gave custody of children to their father if there we divorced. Moreover, if I felt strongly the unfairness of the relationships between males and females, I would know that if I showed open disagreement of the wrongness of diminished women’s status, it might make me unwelcome in the company of community citizens, a pariah, in the community. A majority of one is not socially welcome. And evolution has bred us to be a very social species.

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