Culturally Unfit | Column 3.
Do you ever look at someone who says, 'I know how you feel', with complete disdain because you know they really have no idea how you feel? In this edition of Culturally Unfit, we explore the Poppi method of dealing with our journey. While unusual, we find it realistic, and flexible as each person’s journey is their own.
I'm having a breakdown... HELP!
What is your reaction when a friend calls you and says, “I’m falling apart”? Most people have a gut reaction to try to help stop the meltdown. Most of us have this desire to stop others from falling apart because we view losing control as something negative. We think falling apart means something bad is about to happen.
On the flip side, there are some who might not be as driven in trying to help and prevent the meltdown, and almost appear disengaged. We find those people are generally in the same boat and often in denial. We experienced a situation when we found the courage to discuss something personal about our relationships amongst friends, where one person responded with the advice that it is not appropriate to share private relationship information. On the spot, that told us a few things about that friendship: it wasn’t the type we needed, and they too were pending a breakdown.
When we do completely fall apart, it’s generally driven from a feeling of being overwhelmed by a charade we are living, and fighting to keep it together in front of others for the sake of appearances - but also for our sake.
What will our life be like once this gets out or once we face it?
We fight to keep it together because we are afraid of what that means for us once it happens. We had been practicing for so long how to deal with ‘keeping it together’, that the thought of how we will live once it’s out in the open, is terrifying. Everything will change and it will be uncomfortable.
We are conditioned to be in a mode of survival, and we become really good at it. Distractions help us from boiling over, so we’ve never reached a point of having to make a change, just maintain the temperature from time to time.
We are good at being in a state of despair, sadness, confusion, and anger because those feelings have been nourished by our ability to contain them. We aren’t hopeless… yet, and we’ve mastered several short-term solutions.
It becomes harder and harder to be around the same friends and people you once spent time with. They know, accept, and like that charade. That persona has a role in your friends circle, at work amongst colleagues, and within your family. Everyone is comfortable with the persona and the role it plays.
Why disrupt equilibrium without a guarantee that it will help even one person? You.
So why not progress slowly like others are able to?
For the Culturally unfit, our issue with recovery is the clashing of cultures. Most far Eastern cultures encourage dealing with issues privately and silently. Many of our families do not understand this clash as they were raised in a different environment with its own set of challenges. The environment a culture is cultivated in matters. It is not the same because it is the same culture, the environment has a huge impact. When we are trying to get better, our way is to just move on - yes something happened, it sucked, it’s awful, but it’s done. Society being aware of our personal struggles is unnecessary, and we would never even flirt with the idea of doing anything that could bring shame to our family name. Pick yourself up and accomplish things. Proud Indian things. Great college, respectable and profitable career, marry the right resume and start a family.
It’s a two lane road heading in the same direction. On one side is the damage, the adversarial experience and the bad decisions that follow, and on the other side it is the culture lane with mile markers of expectations. When we start making progress on both paths at the same time, and by progress we simply mean inching further down a lane, one of those lanes takes a hit in speed and one accelerates. In our experience it’s the culture lane that starts to slow down. We feel like we are at the very least crawling the culture path, fueled by increased pressures to speed up, yet in reality we are stuck in a stationary hamster wheel. The unhealthy path starts to take hold of us and we are speeding. Eventually it isn’t a slow progression in speed, it is fast acceleration and before we know it we can’t see straight, and we crash and burn.
When you have two competing lanes, heading in the same direction, you simply combust. Your mind is too distracted and cannot fully give to any one side. The lanes are frequently in conflict with one another and they overlap and impact each other. The bad side takes down the culture side and you have no option, faking it becomes too much and you just can’t handle it anymore.
Slow progression of improvement is executed successfully with some awareness and active evaluation of breaking down the problem, asking for help and seeking a solution. It takes a level of awareness and honesty we don’t have while navigating these lanes at high speed, because we have an issue with being truthful with ourselves. The very idea that there is a solution seems so far-fetched and we start to unravel in the worst way.
It's so exhausting
A person only has so much energy everyday. The amount of energy we spend in a day to uphold a persona that isn’t us, a personality and behavior that doesn’t come naturally to us, is exhausting. We often operate like a wound up battery attached to a ticking time bomb. We don’t truly thrive at any one thing and are always on the brink of a meltdown. We aren’t living the life that is meant for us. We continue to hide, and that hiding stops us from discovering what will make us happy, because we don’t even know what that looks like or where to begin. This is a result of being raised with a predefined position on 'happy' and 'success' based on heritage, culture, and generational history. It’s that pressure of expectations that holds us back. We all have it and we perpetuate it by trying to ‘move on’, and get the life we thought we should have back before we experienced anything adversarial.
Not only does this pertain to those of us who suffer cultural clashes, but for most people there is a ‘perfection’ we all try to achieve. We brand it a disappointment when we don’t reach it, and we shame ourselves privately because we fall short. That shame is then projected on others who might fall apart and openly try to ask for help. We need to break these unrealistic expectations of cultural and societal pressures. We owe it to ourselves and to each other to normalize having a difficult time, feeling conflicted and confused, and falling apart because of it. Through normalizing difficulty, we might not need to have meltdowns as often. But in the meantime, how does the crash help us?
Welcome the Crash & Burn
Like the outcome of any situation, they vary depending on the individual and the experience. We had many discussions with our Culturally Unfit community to fully understand the many scenarios that led to their crash and the series of events that followed. While the stories were diverse, the overlapping of similarities in concept was unbelievable. We worked with others through our method to help them drop the charade, and find where the lanes merged.
STEP 1: Find safe people.
Don’t fight what feels natural, that’s what caused this problem to begin with. Having the right people around you to make recovering remotely possible is the most important piece of the puzzle. Some of your friends and family might not make the cut. Eliminating those people who blindly encouraged the charade is critical for surviving the crash. The building pressure you felt is fueled from everything and anything associated with what contributed to the charade. If there are people who made you feel you had to be a certain way that didn’t feel natural or added to the pressure, leave them for now. It might not be anything they have explicitly done, but there is something about the environment that is created when you are around them that is hurtful for you at this time. When you look up at who you’ve kept around you for this fragile time, you should feel at ease.
STEP 2: Lose control
Whatever your ‘falling apart’ looks like, do it, but do it safely. Whether it is screaming, crying, singing, binge watching sad material that promotes crying and anger, find YOUR thing and do it BIG. Say things out loud that you are too embarrassed to say ordinarily. UNLEASH it. Don’t hold back, and if you’ve done step one, you won’t feel like you have to.
STEP 3: You might not recognize them, but let them in anyway
The unleashing opens doors to conversations with many who have experienced similar pains and challenges. You will discover new connections, learn from people and most importantly help others. The last one makes all the difference and helps the most. When you are with the right people at this stage you will be able to hear ‘I know’, and say ‘I know' and it will be true and real. It will take some trial and error, but trust your instincts on the way up when you encounter people you might not have connected with pre-crash & burn. You’ll also find at this stage after steps one and two, that you judge less. That judgement we used to have, came in hot when trying to maintain that persona we were. Whenever we saw something in someone we perceived as a weakness in ourselves, we shunned them and judged hard. If we gave in, we would be looking in the mirror and we weren’t ready for that.
STEP 4: Pay attention
Now that you’ve come through something difficult and released some of that weight, you’ll notice so much about people you might have spent time with pre-crash. The very idea that some people seem like they have no problems, makes you uncomfortable because you know that’s not real and you know they have a charade too. Some people have been holding it together for so long they don’t know any different. Their suffering has lipstick on it and so it’s easy to miss and become jealous of the blissful state they always seem to be in. But now you’ve been through it, and realize you were once them. If you re-engage with those from before the crash, you’ll notice things in them and perhaps you’ll be in their safe inner circle when they break down. These friendships will have evolved because you are a new person now. You’ll have the ability to recognize when things aren’t right and are being faked, you’ll judge less and have a lower tolerance for being judged for how you really feel and what you really need.
STEP 5: I’m new here, nice to meet you!
This person standing before you in the mirror has heavily evolved. With everything you have learned about yourself and others, you’ll notice new desires, new career options, and all sorts of new adventures ahead of you. The world will seem bigger, and the possibilities endless now that you have allowed yourself to open all the doors and windows. All that was holding you back might not be completely unloaded, however you know how to deal with it going forward. You know what signs to look out for. You’re less likely to give into the fear of facing your problems in the future.
STEP 6: The new pressure will build up a little bit every day… but this time it will be different.
What is critical to remember is that we get to reinvent ourselves many times. For some of us, one crash & burn is enough to learn what we had to learn, and for others we go hard again and again, and may fall victim to the pressure when we try to navigate a new path. But that’s okay, because we now know what to do when it happens again.
At our House falling apart is like a rebirth. It’s shedding something holding us back from advancing as a person, in our careers, in our friendships, families, and relationships. For us it is critical to succeed in being happy.
It is this process that got us to a place where we can face what may come our way quicker than we ever have before. Each time we come out caring less and less what others think of us, and that is a level of freedom we hope everyone gets the chance to experience.
If we are 100% honest, we’ve crashed and burned many times and we aren’t done yet. Something exciting always seems to follow after each crash - we almost look forward to the next one coming.
It sounds counterintuitive, but trust us… let go of the wheel.