Anyone who knows me knows how multicultural empathy is a critical aspect of my work and my everyday existence. Part of the reason for this is my own upbringing not only having been born in Costa Rica and later adopted at age 8 but then living in the northern D.C area for 7 years of my life. It was during those significant formative years that I was engaged with classmates and friends of all cultures and backgrounds. These early experiences inspired me later in my early adult life to investigate my cultural background and find ways to honor my origins. One way I did this was to go back to Costa Rica in 2007 after I finished my Master’s degree and learn more about my early life and try to find family to fill in the gaps. Since 2007, I have been back at least 8 times to Costa Rica each time learning a little bit more of myself. With each trip I find myself feeling more and more complete with less existential anxiety than before. This is just one way I honor my cultural roots but I find it is the best way because I am immersing myself in my culture and adding to my purpose and meaning in my life. There are many ways to honor your roots and the following are some suggestions:
- Compose a genogram (google this if you are not sure what this is)
- Interview grandparents, uncles, aunts, and anyone else in your family who may also express interest in researching your familial and cultural roots.
- Learn about the typical cuisine that people in your culture most commonly eat and begin making these dishes a regular part of your gastronomic repertoire.
- Learn the language of your cultural roots and practice it daily (e.g. we speak Spanish in my household because both my wife and I have roots in Central and South America).
- Go to Ancestry.com and begin to learn more about your family tree from generations ago.
- Listen to music that is associated with your cultural roots because I promise you somewhere deep down you will feel a familiar embrace that starts in your ears and goes throughout your body.
- Decorate office and home with cultural artifacts that remind you of your cultural roots.
- Teach your child about your cultural roots and instill that pride from an early age.
- Journal about your experiences and reflect on how acknowledging your roots makes you think and feel about you.
- Reflect on a multi-sensory way to honor your roots on your birthday. For example listen to music associated with your culture, have a meal that is rooted in your culture, smell the culture in your food and or dessert, look at pictures, landscapes, and landmarks of your ancestral lands, feel the typical dress or traditional garb worn by people in your culture. Do all 5 things simultaneously to really obtain a sense of the cultural awareness in the moment. (My example would look like this: Wearing sandals that my brother gifted me, eating Gallo Pinto (the national dish of Costa Rica), listening to Ruben Blades, smelling the aromatic cilantro wafting in the air, and looking at photos from my most recent trip to Costa Rica.
Feel free to incorporate these suggestions for your journey into your roots. I hope these suggestions bring you closer to you and inspire your loved ones to do the same…
If you would like to learn more about me or my practice Inner Compass Counseling, Coaching, and Consulting, PLLC and have questions feel free to visit my website www.iccounseling.net as well as read my Inner Compass Blog.
Dr. Gerald Brown (Doc Brown) is owner of Inner Compass Counseling, Coaching, and Consulting PLLC in Cornelius, NC and Statesville, NC. He is passionate about fatherhood issues, immigrant concerns, and specializes in trauma work. Doc Brown has presented at various conferences and has a multitude of experience training organizations and corporations in diversity and multicultural resilience. He believes in helping individuals, couples, and families find meaning and integrate that meaning with various resiliencies in order to live purposefully and vibrantly. He is married with two daughters ages 14 and 5.