My Family, My Self: The Latino Guide to Emotional Well-Being, (Mi Familia y yo: Guía de Bienestar Emocional)

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9781616495329: My Family, My Self: The Latino Guide to Emotional Well-Being, (Mi Familia y yo: Guía de Bienestar Emocional)

A culturally sensitive guide specific to the emotional health of Latinos, with a focus on family, in navigating the psychological, social, and cultural challenges faced after immigrating to America.

Latinos immigrating into the United States bring with them their rich, unique cultural values and practices, with one constant being the celebration of and reliance on family. Family members find strength and support in the well defined roles and expectations passed down over many generations. This can provide a safe haven for individuals finding their way in the fast paced, competitive American culture where, in addition to the language barriers, different attitudes toward personal issues like dating and relationships, alcohol and drug use, parenting, and the role of elders can cause conflict and confusion and threaten the stability of family life.For over thirty years, the professionals at CLUES have worked with Latinos and their families to provide support and guidance in navigating the many psychological, social, and cultural challenges they face in adapting to their new environment. In this book, experts from different disciplines across this nationally recognized organization, share their practical wisdom--a combination of cultural sensitivity and knowledge and current behavioral health expertise--to produce a friendly, accessible guide to emotional health for Latinos. With a focus on family throughout, including success stories from a variety of Latino families, readers will find useful and inspiring information on: Understanding the importance of emotions, intimacy and communication in personal relationshipsFinding strength in cultural and family traditions as roles and expectations changeKey stages of life issues such as parenting, gender identity, and agingAvoiding alcohol and drug abuse and getting help should this become a problemContributing to family and society through work and career, education, and developing financial stabilityThe importance of spirituality and moral values in maintaining a sense of personal and family well-being.Selected key passages are bilingual.

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About the Author:

Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio (CLUES) has been serving in Minnesota for over thirty years and is the leader in providing behavioral health and human services to the Latino community. Its chemical health, mental health, employment, language, financial, and other human services under its family-coordinated care model have set national standards for working with multicultural populations.Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio has offices in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter 1: ¿Quien Soy Yo? Who Am I?

When you are traveling, it helps to have a destination and a map. In the journey of life, most of us have a vague sense of where we want to go: we want happiness and health for the people we care about--our families, our friends, our community--and for ourselves. But our life journey is complicated, and a map would certainly ease our path. The map to health and happiness begins with an understanding of who we are. We call this our identity.

Getting our hands on that map helps us when we run into obstacles. We all need that map from time to time.

Of course, every person is different, and every person has a different map. But all maps share some common feature: mountains, valleys, lakes, deserts, plains, rivers, and oceans, for example. People maps” also share some features. This chapter will help you understand some of those features. To help you understand some of those features, we’ll start by learning about Oliverio. (Like the other characters in this book, Oliverio is not a real person, but is representative of some of the people we see in our mental health agency.)

Oliverio was energetic, handsome, a weight lifter and exercise fanatic, and a very hard worker. He took a variety of jobs, most them involving hard physical labor, which he enjoyed, and because of his strength and endurance he made good money. In his mid-thirties, he was unmarried and often helped his mother, grandparents, and younger siblings out by sending money home to the family.

Oliverio had become a hard worker at an early age. When he was fourteen, his father passed away. As the oldest of six children, he found work to help feed the family. His natural athletic talents helped him do well, and he left school to get a better job and be the man of the house. As his younger siblings got older, they began to help some, too. Finally, when he was twenty, he heard about a good job in the U.S. and left his home in Mexico. He made good money and sent a lot of it home. He loved calling his family and was especially proud when his younger brothers and sisters asked him for advice and told him about their lives and dreams.

Oliverio had been in the U.S. more than ten years and had just decided it was time to settle down when he suffered a devastating physical injury. He could no longer lift the weights that had made him so valuable to employers. Uninsured, he needed surgery and dedicated himself to saving enough money to cover the expensive procedure. During the surgery, he experienced nerve damage that made it impossible to do heavy physical labor. He got a job as a dishwasher.

Soon Oliverio began to lose pride in himself. With lower wages and medical bills, he could not send as much money to his mother, although he usually found a way to send something. He could not contribute to savings for his younger siblings. He could not give money to his church. He could not buy his friends drinks at the cantina.

Oliverio went from feeling confident asking women out and being ready to start his own family to feeling bashful. He felt he was less of a man. He felt he did not look good. He did not want to hang out with his friends. Their stories about dates with women left him feeling sad, and he couldn’t buy the first round of beer. Even when he wanted to ask a lady out, he felt he could no longer afford to show what a good partner he was.

His picture of who he was and what he was good at had changed. He became sad and depressed. That is when he came to see us at CLUES.

Oliverio’s story raises some interesting questions about identity:

Was Oliverio a different person after his injury and surgery?
How much of our personal identity is tied to the things we do, and how much comes from something else inside us?
How is our self-respect related to how we think other people see us?
How could Oliverio’s sense of identity be used to overcome his current challenges?

This chapter is about identity. Identity is important because it shapes our mental health and well-being. As Latinos in the United States, we are perhaps more deeply aware of the idea of identity” because we have had a variety of labels forced on us. People here may describe us as Latino, Hispanic, Chicano, Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, and many other labels. Latino is an identity that someone else applies to us. But it is only one part of identity.

We may think of ourselves as one” person who is always the same. But Oliverio’s story shows that Oliverio’s identity was a land with many features on it. Before his accident, Oliverio was

A male
An economic and social contributor to his family, siblings, and church
An athlete and a hard worker who was sought after by employers
A person who always paid his debts and somehow found extra to share with his friends
A man who was attractive to women and who was looking forward to starting his own family

In daily life, we all have many identities. We use them as we relate to different people and to different groups. They are fluid and they can change over time.

An identity that has been very advantageous in one setting can become a disadvantage in another. For example, part of Oliverio’s identity was as a physically strong provider, a leader who always did a little better than the others and could help them out. After his injury, that identity included expectations that he could not fulfill using the same methods he once had.

Our identity affects how we feel about ourselves, especially when something happens that challenges or changes our picture of who we are. You could say that losing his physical strength was like losing a close friend, and Oliverio was in grief over that loss.

It is helpful to think of identity as many parts rather than one thing. Some people describe this as having many T-shirts, each with a different picture and slogan on it. You wear them all at once, but only show one or two at a time. Or we may think of ourselves as like a mosaic made of many tiles, which we reveal as we need to. We have described identity as being like a map with many features on it. Regardless of which mental model works for you, clarifying your personal identity can help you manage your life journey.

Because we all have many features to our identity and show them selectively, we are usually unaware that we are doing it. Take a moment and think about how you behave with your family, with your close friends, with new people you meet, when you are at church, or when you are with someone to whom you are romantically attracted. Most of us reveal ourselves as a slightly different person in each of these settings.

Just as maps of the land share certain features, maps of the identity share some features. Many social scientist say that for most people, the basic features in the map include:

Sex: Whether you have the physical equipment to be female or male.
Gender: Whether you identify more with characteristically male or female behaviors as defined by your culture. (Some people may be physically male but identify with female role expectations, for example or be physically female but identify with male behaviors.)
Sexual orientation: The sex of the people to whom you are most romantically or sexually attracted.
Race: A category defined mostly by physical traits that relate to the geographic region your ancestors came from. It is important to note that these categories are usually socially defined and do not have a biological basis--scientists do not recognize different races” of human being. But the social reality does affect how we are identified. In the US, officially recognized races include White, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, and Two or more races.
Ethnic and national identity: This refers to the cultural heritage with which you identify. Many factors make up a shared culture, including ancestry, history, homeland, language, religion, cuisine, style of dress, and even physical appearance.
Ability/disability: The skills and challenges that affect your life in the community. These include physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, and developmental abilities or disabilities. We are born with some of these and others can be acquired over time.
Religious affiliation or spirituality: How or whether you were raised in a religion, and whether you identify with a religion now. This category also includes the sense of transcendence”which may be described as a belief that there is more to the universe than what we can perceive with our senses and through rational exploration.
Class: Your social status (and the social status of your peers) relative to other groups.

There are many ways to talk about these parts of the identity map, and some people would include more or fewer, but we have found these eight categories useful. Different cultures define them differently. For example, in the U.S., class” usually refers to an economic status: how much money your household earns indicates your status as upper class, middle class, or lower class. But in much of Latin America, class is more related to a person’s ancestry (the social class of their parents), their degree of education, their occupation, and in some countries, their skin color.

Some of the features on the identity map are more permanent than others. Whether we are male or female is something we are born with. Height and skin color are something we are born with. Where we were raised and who are ancestors were is something we are born with.

Some features on the map change over time. For example, Oliverio’s identity changed in regards to ability/disability as a result of his injury. In the U.S., his economic class changed, as his reduced income meant he was no longer middle class.

Being Latino”
Ethnicity is a very important aspect of identity for people who come to the United States from Latin America or who are descended from those who did (or who are from parts of the U.S. that once were colonized by Spain). The term Latino” is an inclusive one that refers to our geographic roots in Latin America.

Latino” only makes sense if you are not from Latin America and need some label to put on people who come from there. Latin America is HUGE, and the reality is that we are quite diverse. Some of us descend directly from the indigenous people that were here before Europeans settled. Some come from Asia, some from Africa, some from northern Europe, and many are mixed. Some of us speak only Spanish, some Portuguese, some an indigenous tongue. It is odd to arrive in the United States seeing ourselves as one thing and be termed another.

We may identify as Columbian or Honduran, but the dominant culture in the U.S. puts a label on us. Usually we are referred to as Latino” or Hispanic.” We at CLUES prefer the term Latino as it is more inclusive, referring to our shared geographic history ( Latin America”). Hispanic tends to exclude those of us who are not Spanish speakers.

The first point all readers of this book--Latino or other--must understand is that every individual must be understood on his or her own terms. Country of origin, family of origin, ancestry, history, economic conditions, political status, social status, and other facts shape the particular identity of any individual, but can change.

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