Part 2 of Episode 9 with Julian, the only Chinese-speaking psychiatrist in a large Canadian city will cover:
- A psychiatric perspective on the trauma of immigration
- The role of extended history on the Asian continent in shaping the mindsets of present-day immigrants
- The shortcomings of both Eastern and Western frameworks in specifying the conditions for human flourishing
- A helpful perspective on the role of shame in relation to the familyExtending a hand to anyone struggling with mental health, and especially at the brink of suicidality
9b. Chinese-Canadian Psychiatrist On the Asian Human Condition (Part 2 of 2)
Speakers: Julian, Sen
[00:00:04] dear listeners. My apologies for making you wait so long for our next installment. Since the last episode I've gone through some pretty major life changes. For one, I've joined the hub. A new, intentional community here in Berlin,
[00:00:19]Which means I'm intersecting with the lifelines of several other people on a pretty constant basis. As well as during multiple pots of community engagement projects, not to mention settling into a new neighborhood. And of course, processing change on many fronts.
[00:00:33] = This means that my bandwidth has been maxed out for the last several weeks, but I'm now back on the production track with new energy and a new community behind me.
[00:00:41] Before we get started, uh, shout out to our second round of Patrion. Patrons are Yuto Merriam William Danya street, Fanny. And.
[00:00:51]Your belief in this show warms my heart and gives me motivation to keep things moving forward i'm so grateful for your support and i'm excited to provide you with your membership perks. Visit patrion.com/beyond Asian. To become a patron for as little as $4 a month. You'll get access to exclusive member only content, and you'll be helping to keep our lights on with tears, from mochi to Boba, to hotpot.
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Narration: [00:01:24] A recap from where we left off in part one. Julian talked about how the tenement square massacres of 1989 was the inflection point that caused a wave of immigrants to leave China, including his and my family. And the hardships his family went through as they tried to establish their new lives in Canada.
[00:01:50]He told me about the huge gamble he made and catapulting himself into medical school and eventually into psychiatry without prior experience or any idea that he would enjoy being a doctor. And we reflected on if and how Western psychiatry can be applied to Asian culture.
[00:02:07]Part two of this episode will cover a psychiatric perspective on the trauma of immigration. The role of extended history on the Asian continent in shaping the mindsets of present day immigrants. The shortcomings of both Eastern and Western frameworks and specifying the conditions for human flourishing.
[00:02:24]Helpful perspective on the role of shame in relation to family and extending a hand to anyone struggling with mental health, especially at the brink of suicidality.
[00:02:34]Julian talking about his work made me think about the years when I was an occupational therapist working in psychiatry. I would occasionally be asked to give my opinion on cases with Asian patients. In these situations, I felt woefully under-qualified to do what was asked of me. The knowledge I had about Asian culture was all experiential from my own childhood and family.
[00:02:59] I had opinions. Of course. But I didn't have any formal education on Asian culture and I never wanted my own background to color what I perceived in clinic. Moreover, whenever there was a Chinese speaking patient. I was the token Chinese person who would be asked to translate. But my Chinese was definitely not enough to clarify complex situations and emotions and relationships.
[00:03:23] So I didn't feel particularly useful to anyone. Julian. However is now one of the few Chinese speaking psychiatrists in the city, which meant that it was a sure thing that Chinese speaking patients would be referred to him. I wanted to know more about just how things worked in his practice
[00:03:42]Sen: [00:03:42] tell me a little bit about what kinds of people you see in your practice, namely the, the Asian patients that you see.
[00:03:47]Julian: [00:03:47] so only about a third, a quarter to a third of my practice is Chinese. So I have to say, and they're all heavier than my other cases.
[00:03:54] This is in terms of numbers there, quarter third of my practice, but they feel much heavier than that. Right. They don't come to me until they're quite sick and they rarely come to me unless somebody else has pulled them. You really need to see a psychiatrist. And so, so there's no. Clear cut. Answer to that.
[00:04:12] A lot of depression, a lot of anxiety, the main thing I see people for his family discord, as I said, the Chinese people, the family is a more of a basic unit. So psychological difficulties come out as tremendous family, this court. And they come to me as a unit, you know,
[00:04:26] Sen: [00:04:26] You know, You know, in some ways it, it actually reassures me that you see families in therapy because in my experience, um, I, I've tried very hard to push my family in that direction and it's been very minimally successful and I understand that it has to get to a certain level of severity before they come to see her.
[00:04:45] But it, it heartens me that you do see families. When you talk about family discord, what are the kinds of things that bring them to you?
[00:04:53] Julian: [00:04:53] There's no sharp and fast rule. I can't think of any one particular thing. Usually it has to do with, you know, the usual thing he wants to be, to be a certain way. And then I tell a cat really forced that, but so let's see, let's talk about a pattern that happens.
[00:05:10] You do thing one. She does things too. Then you do thing three and then it's just escalates from there. Right? So there's a dynamic, there's a pattern where each of you is making things worse in that moment. So both of you can have a possible role in tackling it now and the teacher, them different models.
[00:05:27] Why don't we try this to say this other thing in response next time, maybe it'll work. Hey man. Well, when we try something else, it can't be worse than what's going on right now. And then I do that on both sides. you know,
[00:05:39] Sen: [00:05:39] when it comes to the kinds of things that you see in terms of family dynamics in.
[00:05:44] Asian families, what can help to understand why we are the way that we are, you know, so you were talking a bit about how, you know, we know that it's a unit, you know, the consciousness is shared by multiple bodies, multiple people, there's of course a lesson sense of. Individuality and ability to make your own decisions. And of course, that's been a source of conflict in my life, a source of conflict for many people's lives. But what in particular about Asian family culture makes it particularly difficult for the younger generation who might have been born in the country or might've immigrated at an early age.
[00:06:19] Julian: [00:06:19] So tell me the collision with the West is hard. So there's two things over here. uh, one is the tremendous historical trauma that Chinese families have gone through. We haven't always been this, this paranoid. I read the literature from the top dynasties, from the sewn dynasties when Chinese people had much more confidence in themselves.
[00:06:38] And honestly, that, that changes shit. You know, that'd be like, Oh, I am them. Awesome earth. I am the center of the world, the empire, you know, that there's something to the collective consciousness of our people and makes mental health a little bit more easy to manage. Then China went through it the last 150 years, you know, uh, uh, three revolutions, two civil Wars, two world Wars, economic opening up like Holy shit, that takes people for a swing, you know?
[00:07:03] And so that kind of crazy generational trauma comes down, like all of our. Sure. It's a paranoid and want a little bit paranoid. So, so, so for Chinese parents, for their kids to succeed, it's not a matter of merely pride. It's a matter of there's a sensitive, we don't succeed. It's the gutters for you. You know, I don't think the, the welfare system has implanted into their minds.
[00:07:24] It's something that actually exists. So for example, in this COVID death pandemic, my Chinese friends. Definitely much more paranoid than my white friends, certainly masks, uh, you know, the, the social dismissing and it's because Chinese people have a very living memory of what epidemic and what a, uh, famine, uh, looks like.
[00:07:39] Ah, the great time is three years. Not for disaster, not naturally entirely manmade, but Gillian people starve to death. We don't know how many that's living memory for Chinese people, right?
[00:07:48] Narration: [00:07:48] The great famine from 1959 to 1961. Widely regarded as the deadliest famine and one of the greatest manmade disasters in human history with an estimated 15 to 55 million deaths from starvation. For scale. Canada's population is 37 million people. Imagine if the entire population of Canada starved to death, and that would be still below the upper range of estimated deaths.
[00:08:17] How did a disaster of this scale come about? The great leap forward was a five-year plan designed by Mao to reconstruct China from an agrarian economy to a communist society. Mao introduced drastic changes in farming policy, which prohibited private farm ownership, and which sent millions of peasants away from agricultural work to join the iron and steel production workforce.
[00:08:40] The Chinese communist party also decreed changes in agricultural techniques, borrowed from Russian agronomy, which were unproven. And which ultimately ended in disaster.
[00:08:49] Additionally, another campaign called upon citizens to shortsightedly destroy sparrows and other wild bird life because they ate crop seeds. What was not foreseen was that the removal of this part of the ecosystem that predated on insects resulted in crop speed, even further depleted because of an unmitigated explosion of crop devouring, Berman.
[00:09:11] This in combination with natural disasters, like the flooding of the yellow river in 1958. Reported as the most severe flood of the century in China. Followed by drought in 1959 and 1960, as well as unforeseen consequences from large scale and poorly planned damming and irrigation projects further compounded the effects of harvest failure.
[00:09:33] Because the government was encouraged to report only successes and hide failures, even Mao was kept unaware of the level of disaster rolling across the country under an illusion of super abundance. What do people do in the face of starvation with no food insight and the dead piling up around them? They resort to the only thing they have left.
[00:09:55] Due to the scale of the great famine, the resulting cannibalism has been described as on a scale unprecedented in the history of the 20th century.
[00:10:05]Some aftercare for this very intense piece of history. Listeners. I have to tell you that this part of the episode took me six weeks to be able to narrate. Even though the great famine wasn't news to me, this was the first time I had slowed down enough to examine the event in greater detail. And imagine what it must have been like to live through that period of time.
[00:10:30] Most of us have never had to truly go hungry in our lives. And certainly most of us have never had to watch entire populations of people die, a slow disappearing death from starvation.
[00:10:43] Imagining myself going back in time and watching these events unfold, like a slow train wreck over three excruciating years made me nauseous. I thought about my parents who would have been just toddlers when the famine began. I thought about their parents, my grandparents. Who would have been even younger than I am now.
[00:11:01] Charged with a task of simply keeping their families alive in the face of this catastrophic wave, which at the time had no predictable end. I thought about how my grandmother, who even to this day, refuses to throw even a grain of rice away and who insists on eating leftovers, even if they've already spoiled.
[00:11:19] When I was younger. These behaviors seemed unfathomable. With an event like the great famine in mind. I now have some idea of the scarcity and impoverished frame of mind that everyone from that time must've needed to internalize in order to make it through alive. I also thought about how it must've been to endure not only the greatest famine in history.
[00:11:41] But to also have the government be covering it up and telling everyone that things are better than they've ever been. What kind of utter distrust and loading for the government, there must have been simultaneously with the need to show your undying support for the party. And how the way some countries today are managing the pandemic closely parallels, the sequence of events of the great famine.
[00:12:03] Julian: [00:12:03] Intergenerational trauma comes in and makes, uh, the older generation particularly paranoid stressed. The culture of illusional is awful.
[00:12:10] It turned Chinese people against Chinese people. So there's so much rage and betrayal and hatred in that generation of people. And this is betrayal by your own people and hatred. Of your own people. These things are hard to digest, so that trauma comes down. So, so you see it over there,
[00:12:28] Sen: [00:12:28] you see that, that trauma that comes from all the civil Wars, you know, we're talking about, um, about Chinese history, but would that also extend to other places in Asia?
[00:12:37] Julian: [00:12:37] Oh, absolutely. There's no spot in Asia. That's. Free of this crazy stuff. It's been a bad hundred 50 years, the most of the world. I mean, you lifted the bajillion people out of poverty. That's fantastic, but that's really the last 30 years, you know, you know, Vietnam, you know, we don't even need to talk about it now.
[00:12:51] And that's like the worst status hell or Korea did not have it easy. Uh, especially in the fifties, uh, Japan in the aftermath or two there's no nice place. Modernization is a, is a bone jerking experience being thrown into capitalism like that. It's a bone jerking experience. Uh, so, so I don't think so. Uh, it's been very, very hard for most places in the world, I would say.
[00:13:11] But, you know, you asked another question, you know, there was a second part of that question besides historical trauma, as well as the collective nature itself. Makes it hard for Chinese kids or immigrant kids, you and me these days. So I would say yes and no simply yes, the collective nature of it, I would say, no, it doesn't necessarily make things worse.
[00:13:31] So in Western culture, for example, we asked everybody to flourish as a individual human beings. So the conflicts come out as conflict in ourselves. We're ambivalent about something. So we cannot succeed. You know, there's a war in the side of ourselves. And so, but that's because no one walks around alone.
[00:13:47] We have many, many, yeah. Voices inside our heads and they're squabbling with each other that, you know, all that stuff. And so, so when they go it's war inside ourselves, our lives are stuck. That's what happens in the West. That's how people get messed up in collective nature. The conflict is out there. It's it's between people to people it's not in my head.
[00:14:04] Awesome. These voices each has a body to them in ordinary. So in Westerners, wasn't the most common thing I see as some great battle between the ID and the super ego. The superego is like, you are awful. You suck at your lines and, uh, you have not achieved in a pathetic and it goes. Fr it goes, I'm going to go play video games now and eat a bucket of ice cream.
[00:14:27] Let's see what you're going to do about it. And then the prison spec and then a personal spec. Um, and then you got, there's a lot to untangle there. Right? And, and in the Chinese family, the superego would be a person would be like the cranky old grandmother. Right. But it'd be like, you guys, they're my ears.
[00:14:44] Read that things, blah, blah, blah, a certain way. Right. And if the grandmother was purely the superego, the grandma would be dead. Like, does she tend to, you can't take it, but then there's somebody else in the family who plays the role of the, uh, who plays like, Hey, let's just go out for drinks tonight. Hey, let's do this crazy thing.
[00:15:00] And so the is carried out in one side inside the person, you know, and the other side inside the larger. And so these people are. Crazy completely crazy individually. Right? If you put them all out and you're like, wow, you're nuts. What happened over here? But in that unit, they're working, uh, they work with each other.
[00:15:18] So they flourish as a unit, as a family together.
[00:15:21]Sen: [00:15:21] This, this is like snow white and the seven dwarves and how each dwarf is a personality. I'm in a family and collectively they can do their work together, but individually, everyone is insane.
[00:15:32] Julian: [00:15:32] That's exactly, exactly. But while on the other hand you have this, there was this movie recently, there was the five emotions playing out in the girl's head, anger sadness
[00:15:41] Sen: [00:15:41] inside
[00:15:41] Julian: [00:15:41] out.
[00:15:42] Yes. I know. So, so that's, that's on the flip side, that's you either have a community inside you all whom are crazy right. Individually, but working together, post it together. We also have seven people outside, all crazy working together, you know, so the Chinese families are a lot more like the seven doors.
[00:15:58] Sen: [00:15:58] The question is there needs to be someone who holds it all together. Doesn't there. So in the individual, there's the, you don't think so well in the individual, some part of your brain is making the decision.
[00:16:10] Julian: [00:16:10] It's not as simple as that. There's no, you know, the superego can make decisions. It can make decisions.
[00:16:15] Decisions are outcome of negotiation between all the different parts of ourselves, you know? So the, the West loves the concept of the will. The inside that only that is truly me, but the more we examine what the will is, the more, it sort of shrinks and disappears. That's why the West loves this concept of freewill Chinese philosophy never comes up.
[00:16:31] There's not, not some special thing inside me that has more me than all other things inside me. So, so I see my patients, you know, it really is this tremendous negotiating process between all that fragmented side of themselves, you know? And so, so in Chinese families, these. The big discussions, maybe one person has a lot more power than the other one, for sure.
[00:16:51] But that can cause a problem of itself, obviously, but it's very much of a negotiated process that I strongly, strongly believes. And so that creates problems when you have immigration, cause you pour a sub unit of that much larger unit house. And that's stuff. That unit is crazy. Yeah. Well that's all right.
[00:17:09] I'm afraid. But grandpa grandma used to do well, grandpa, my grandma's not around anymore and it can easily find a substitute either because you're isolated from the rest of the society. In fact in China, there's this big family unit, but it's poor. It's people come in a neighbor Wong started to play a certain role that drama used to play, you know, and then neighbor Wong goes, grandpa Lee downstairs does a different thing.
[00:17:32]You know, West would look at it as being a meshed. I would consider that a bath. I don't consider a meshed a bath in of itself. Only when it goes badly, then becomes diminished because honestly there's no pair of people more in mesh than two voices inside my head. You know, can't get more images than so, so, so like I said, there are all these people in mesh, but it just voices inside each other's heads.
[00:17:53] That's fine. But the immigration experience takes a sub portion of this and pose it outside. So then they're crazy, then they are crazy because they're their birth fit of all the supportive structures that they used to have, you know? And then you do something worse. You given them a different cultural, ideal of the, you know, what the United States used to call it a Uman farmer, totally individualistic flourishing in a forest alone.
[00:18:19] And it's so weird, right? Because the DSM has a dependent personality disorder, but does not have an independent personality disorder, but honestly crazy people living off in the woods with zero, as far as I'm testing, that is a personality disorder. Human beings are not meant to live alone. We're not, we're not tigers, but we're deeply, profoundly social animals.
[00:18:39] So as far as I'm concerned, that person living off in the woods meeting no other human being something strange happened in that I developed. Ah, worse, something worse happened. There's something deeply enmeshed in some group of people, you know, but, but the West went off in that trajectory. Totally. And so, so that does make things much harder for immigrants.
[00:18:56]Sen: [00:18:56] I guess we would only call that a problem if it is dysfunctional for that individual, who's living off in the woods by themselves. And if they're happy and they're not, they're not affecting anybody,
[00:19:05] Julian: [00:19:05] but you, you construct a society around certain types of characters and making sure that certain types of characters are problematic or not problematic, you know, in our society, you know, Western society, if you live off in the woods, off the grid and you're feeling okay about it, that's fine.
[00:19:19]Right because you have nothing to do with anyone and ordinary Chinese society. People will come looking for, you know, your parents will come looking for you. Kids will come looking for you and you don't want them. They're going to cause a ruckus. The state will come looking for you,
[00:19:31] Sen: [00:19:31] you know? Gotcha. So, so in Western culture, the fact that you can be functional as an individual, not having any contact with anyone is understandable, but in Chinese culture, if you can be functional in that setting, there's something.
[00:19:44] So there's something not right.
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[00:21:45] Sen: [00:21:45] So how would, um, we're Chinese families, uh, let's, you know, use the context of them having already immigrated. How do they view one of their own members who has distanced themselves, you know, would they see that in like a pathological light?
[00:21:58] Julian: [00:21:58] So the, so where's he say pathological light when these are too mature, these are, you've already given them words.
[00:22:04]Right? So, so usually feelings are not so mature. You it's very hard to put words to them. Once you put words to them, you you've won half the battle. Yeah. You got something to hand. These definitely become extremely at the stress. Well, how they view it, the words they end up putting to, to this feeling of distress, uh, that would depend on who they come into contact with.
[00:22:20] The worldviews are more acceptable, is just a theology on their part. And the kids by that is a long, complex negotiating process among this family unit, but certainly tremendous distress. It's not what the vision, it's not what they had with their parents. It's not how they think it should go. Now that's something I run into with my parents, with my wife, with her.
[00:22:40] Her mom, you know, they want to be a lot closer to us than we want them to be Cosmin back and forth.
[00:22:45] Sen: [00:22:45] Well, I think that's, that's, that's something that's pretty common across all cultures
[00:22:50] Julian: [00:22:50] that is profoundly common, but in the West, I mean, when a kid leaves, the parent cannot pursue. Right. Then you talk about helicopter parents, whatever it is.
[00:22:57] And because they come from the same culture where individuality, where individuation and independence is so incredibly priced, you brought up a very good point though, Sam, you know, the definition of a DSM disorder, like when is human beings have a, have a disorder? So DSM it's obviously based on a function.
[00:23:16] So yeah, they're the guy in the middle of the woods. He's not bothering anyone. He's not bothered. There's no, there's no disorder to them. That's fine. I attract these people. Classically would very much disagree with that, right? Because they really very much like the Greek virtue, ethicists have a human developmental version of what is illness and what is not the oldest, you know?
[00:23:34] Uh, so they have a vision of humor, uh, what it means to flourish as a human being. Now in the Chinese version of very different version of flourishing and the Greek version, the Greek version is flourishing with reason. So what showed rationality? The Chinese version is flourishing. With humaness, but the best it's, it's a kind of a love, but that is granted than normally what the love, but it would be like being very, very good with your parents and your parents be very, very happy with you.
[00:23:58] And then that would be human flourishing. Uh, so very different versions of the flourishing in China and ancient Greece, but very much the same idea. What is pathology? Pathology is when a human be failed to thrive. And is not able to enter into that community of people. So somebody who has growth is stunted and certainly the Chinese people would classically what's the, the fully independent person, the person who needs nothing.
[00:24:23] So something went wrong there. You know, now China has been a lot of people, what we call ego shit. So those are hidden. So people who have tremendous knowledge, tremendous progress, uh, but, uh, but secluded, you know, uh, Austin, the mountains being a ballast or being a monk, uh, there, there is that version of human flourishing, but even then they participate in a community of the mind.
[00:24:43] But certainly, uh, so at pathology considered in the virtually ethics point of view is a certain sort of stunting that you did not, uh, reach the potential with your nature. Oh, asks you to reach. And if there's one thing that is true about human nature is that we're profoundly social human beings. And if you cut that part off, uh, some things a little bit missing so that it will be a very, very different view from the functional point of view of the
[00:25:08] Sen: [00:25:08] DSM.
[00:25:09] Yeah, very interesting on the topic of human flourishing, in Chinese culture, there is a specific way for humans to flourish and, um, and there is a guideline, you know, there's a right way for humans to flourish. Whereas in, in Western
[00:25:24] Julian: [00:25:24] it's extremely specific.
[00:25:26] It's not a little bit.
[00:25:27] Sen: [00:25:27] It's an extremist, whereas in Western psychology, um, it's kind of like, you know, be yourself, you know, and you're like, what, what does that mean? And so I want to understand this concept of what are the specific ways of humanity flourishing.
[00:25:38] Julian: [00:25:38] So then I give you the Chinese version of it and then we'll poke holes at it.
[00:25:42] It sounds good. Fortunately, anyway, so the Chinese version of it is be yourself. So looking into yourself is precisely the way to begin. This path of cultivation, even in Chinese, you know, now the idea is that you will look in and find out, first of all, you love your parents. You know, everybody loves their parents.
[00:26:01] Everybody wants the parents to be happy. So by piety, you help that flush, but that is on the side. The main thing is that it's really, really hard as Western people, as the found out any individual, looking into themselves, going, who am I, what do I really want? That's effing hard job, you know, and, and to ask a person to succeed in it, everyone to succeed, it is to be asked everyone to be a hero basic, ask everyone to be profound philosopher.
[00:26:25] A deep psychologist, uh, to, to win at the battle of life's big black lady. You know, everybody has to make bad. That's a little bit of heart. So Chinese people was like, this is really hard. Now, do we know of people who's done a better job of this than the rest of us were Chinese. It was like, Oh yeah, Confucius did a much better job.
[00:26:43] This and the rest of us, he examined himself. And he under had understanding of human nature is that this is where the two worlds splinter off. The Chinese profoundly believes in a common humanity. You and I are much, much more alike than we are. And if, if most of human nature is the common humanity, then we can say, who knows the common human you're better than everybody else.
[00:27:04] And then the Chinese people will be like, huh? The stages, there's only four of them, so there's not many, right? And so then they're like, okay, so they can teach us what it means to flourish in our common humanity. And then you go off and read all their books.
[00:27:17] You memorize their books, which kind of sucks. Very hard for me. And, uh, and then you do what they say and hopefully it works out. And then, especially in the men's juicy, when he wrote up his books, he literally gave a recipe. I mean, he was a great scholar. He was the Aquinas of the Chinese tradition. Right.
[00:27:34]He literally wrote. Do a, B, C, D. And if you do this, you can actually view it flourish.
[00:27:40] Sen: [00:27:40] Yeah. And I mean, is there, is there something that is parallel to know, a prophetic status, something akin to religion, where instead of having to ask yourself all of these deep spiritual questions, you simply go to the priest and get the priest to tell you what to do.
[00:27:55] Julian: [00:27:55] So this is the funny part, right? So, so it's conclusion of is a, is a religion, but it is a, it is an atheistic religion, right? Uh, so, so some religions pray, some religions meditate, some religions sacrificing tempo, so Confucius to offer it, but their main religious activity in professionalism and study is reading.
[00:28:14] This is why Asian cultures are honestly so good at school. We, we participate in school as a religious activity. Some people go to church, Chinese people go to school.
[00:28:23] Sen: [00:28:23] This explains everything. This explains everything studying is the Asian religion. And I don't know how, if it's controversial is Avis, but that's the way that it felt for me.
[00:28:32] Julian: [00:28:32] Absolutely. And so, so you opened the first dentist in AnnaLeigh, you opened up the first, the first contact. Anybody has a Chinese culture through like annex first page. Oh, the pleasure that is viewing something you've already learned. That is the first line that Confucius tells the students. That's where it begins studying is, is the BI and Chinese not true.
[00:28:51] So you have to do it just activity. So what do you do? You're going to ask a teacher. Somebody who studied the stages through and won. And obviously they start a huge school. but these are not schools in the ordinary sense. These are churches. So Wong's revolution in Chinese. Confucianism is very similar to the protestent revolution.
[00:29:09] So that is the religious activity. You find these great teachers of the sages and you ask where the hell did I screw up in my flourishing and what do I do next? And they're probably going to tell you read versus so and so in this book and try to figure it out. That's probably what's going to happen.
[00:29:24] Sen: [00:29:24] Troubleshoot your own flourishing
[00:29:25] Julian: [00:29:25] troubleshoot. Yeah, exactly. So that's it. Right? So there's no guardedness, but there is a vision of human flourishing. There is a transcendental element and there is a church aspect to it, for sure.
[00:29:35] Sen: [00:29:35] Yeah. I want to ask you now because the topic of human flourishing in the way that you and I have discussed it before is somehow inherently linked to what it means to be a human being.
[00:29:47] And yeah, it's not taken for granted that in Asian culture that you are automatically granted the status of human being.
[00:29:55] Julian: [00:29:55] Yeah. So you can screw that one up in Chinese. When we say a person is good, we say they know how to store it. He knows how to be a human being. A person is a bit of a jerk because he, he doesn't know.
[00:30:06] Yeah. So human rights don't come automatically with birth. You know, you gotta, you gotta do some things in the community of the human, right. And you can be rusted out from the human community. If you, if you commit murder, if you do Kenya sense in the classical Chinese vision, uh, you, you, you don't belong.
[00:30:22] To humanity anymore. And that's why, you know, punished by can be so severe. So that is very, very
[00:30:27] Sen: [00:30:27] different. Yeah. And I'm curious about this. Um, does it also apply to children? Are our children also not considered full human beings and that's why they need to learn to be human beings. Does that have anything to do with the parenting styles?
[00:30:40]Julian: [00:30:40] That's that's a very, very deep question. The most profound part of being human is the capacity to alert. So the capacity to change the capacity to alert as we sit and the Chinese worldview, the religious activities to learn. It's okay. Even if you kill somebody, you know, but if you, if you can learn, if you can change, that is profoundly important.
[00:30:57]If you, if you're encouraged. That thrusts you out of the community of the human, uh, you know, there can be arguments on the other yeah. Aside, but I think that's broadly accurate, but in, in traditional China, in the villages, kids do not have human status until they are named usually sometimes at seven, sometimes at three, sometimes that you love it.
[00:31:16] For the boys, their hair goes up, they can carry in a bundle, they get a formal name. And, but that would probably has to do with very, very high child mortality, anything in the culture. So many kids die that you don't get attached very quick. You know, you wait until they're through the first wave of disease.
[00:31:30] You're pretty sure then you give them status of human being. Then you become very, very attached to them. But I think these two, I think, are very different sort of things.
[00:31:38] Sen: [00:31:38] Does this, you know, not having human being status, have anything to do with the strict parenting styles that we see so often in our culture, you know that because I don't consider you, you're only 12 years old.
[00:31:49] You haven't learned how to be a human being yet. And therefore I'm going to discipline you in a way that, um, is almost somehow dehumanizing or almost animalistic.
[00:31:58] Julian: [00:31:58] That part is very, very hard to ask. So obviously, If you don't make human status in China's culture, that's awful. Right? I mean, but most people do.
[00:32:06] You gotta be pretty bad to be thrust out of their community. So I don't think it's quite that certainly the, how would I put it? Because Chinese families are, are enmeshed from the Western point of view. Uh, we walk into the world. We really are reflections of our parents much more than in the Western culture.
[00:32:24]You know, now this can be done a little bit more healthily, uh, but because we're reflections of our parents, uh, if we do poorly also, it brings shame, tremendous amount of shame to them, you know, and they don't see us as necessarily the audit separate. And also because of. Was historical trauma. I think they're also paranoid.
[00:32:41] They're also totally paranoid that we fail. I think that extraordinarily angry XY to you about our performance, uh, certain leads to a parenting style. There is a cultural norm that especially are very harsh with their children. There is certainly a cultural norm. They're much harsher than the West. This is not to say that Chinese authors classically even did not recognize the harms of this.
[00:33:08] This is very destructive, right? Access, harsh parenting. Any culture is not, is not helpful, but I think the fact that they're immigrants and the rest of society clearly disagrees. In a very, very obvious, uh, forceful way where the style of parenting makes it even harder. So, so I haven't, I've not figured that one out I, anything over theoretical level.
[00:33:28] So something I have to have to think about a great deal,
[00:33:30] Sen: [00:33:30] more. I want to turn the topic to, you know, cause we were mentioning shame and shame is something that's so pervasive in our culture and uh, and we carry it all, you know, whether it has to do with our parents parenting styles or. The process of immigration and being different.
[00:33:46] What can you offer to listeners who might be going through that kind of shame themselves to try to help them understand, you know, what the source of that is and how to address it?
[00:33:57] Julian: [00:33:57] It's a deep one. It's hard to address universally, but I will say this almost all negative feelings spring from positive ones.
[00:34:05]So, so I ha I have a lot of faith in human nature, right? So a person will come to me with tremendous shame. They feel their parents, blah, blah, blah. And I would tell them something to the effect of, you know, the shame, what it tells me is that you love your parents very, very much. And if you didn't love them so much, what would you be solution?
[00:34:21] And then we talk about, you know, you know, what the parents have done for them, what they've done for their parents. And so I would usually find it enough to stay. I don't know, there was a lot of problems for sure. But there was, there was love a lot of loss going back and forth between the two of you. And I would say, you know, with this love that you have for your parents, at least that part is very, very good.
[00:34:42] It depends on the person. Sometimes it's the parents, sometimes their grandparents, sometimes it depends on who's judging them. You know, who, who, who that in a judgment voice. It's okay. And we can hit that place of love. Then it's, it's easy, even if the shame is there, because once you can feel your love for someone, you can also feel their love back at you.
[00:35:00] So once you can really feel your love for your parents, you can also feel their love at you. And once you can feel their love at you, you're less ashamed because you know that they love you and they are judgemental of you. But that's not, that's not a fiction, but that's not the only thing that judgment is balanced by a very, very deep love.
[00:35:17] And just like once shame is rooted in one's love of one's parents, you could see that the parents' judgment of you is also rooted in their love of view. Very painful, still very, very difficult, but that judgment is not, becomes not surely nastiness and becomes not. The only thing that's there, it's balanced, like all things in this world.
[00:35:37] And so I move it from a shade of black in assumption of a grid. And that's usually good enough for the job. Except in some extraordinarily pathological cases, the vast majority of the kids are born and parents love them and try to do their best, however, painful and awful it was, you know, and same thing with kids, how were painful and awful.
[00:35:56] It was that the kid tries to offer the best of that. They've got back to their parents. Usually there's more than enough there to make that a convincing case to the minds of my patients and that, uh, soffits. It never quite goes away, but you can't turn black into white, but you can't turn black into assumption of gray.
[00:36:14] Sen: [00:36:14] Yeah. Yeah. Well, as we were saying, you know, we manage the paradox. We might not be able to solve that's the problem.
[00:36:19] Julian: [00:36:19] In fact, shame and intense shame. Sure. Black is an attempt to solve the problem, right. Yeah, you it's attempt to terminate the problem. I'm awful. I'm bad or rage is the other way to terminate.
[00:36:31] I have parents were also, my parents are back that that's also a solution to the problem, but what you end up moving is that it's, it's this human mess with everybody was trying to flourish and express their love, their best attack often, badly, but sometimes, well, so when I see shame, I know there's attachment.
[00:36:48] You can't be hashing without attachment. And if there's attachment, then there's no way out.
[00:36:52]Sen: [00:36:52] Hmm. Wow. This is very profound. Um, because it's about feeling everything that you're feeling and not trying to get rid of anything, but almost allowing all of the other things to come through. Even if one or two emotions might be more at the front, much more prominent.
[00:37:08]Um, it's kind of a about, you know, just, just holding those emotions and allowing. Then I'll remembering that you can feel other things too
[00:37:14] Julian: [00:37:14] precisely. That's right. And not only that, I mean, people have trouble. Why interpret their aggression or their rage. You must be very angry underneath. Yeah. That's a problematic statement, you know, problematic unites it's painful.
[00:37:26] So it takes some effort. What is much, much more painful is to hold the positive emotions to light, pull it the love to light the. Affection hold the disappointment because that love comes with such profound sadness, such profound pain. That part is hidden. There's a reason it's hidden. It's not a physiological blindness, it's an intentional blindness, but to bring that about creates the sadness, but also creates the hearing.
[00:37:52]Sen: [00:37:52] I mean, I know this, these are very, um, specific cases. Um, is there anything generally that can help people pull those more positive emotions out?
[00:38:01] Julian: [00:38:01] Sadness is a very valuable emotion, grief mourning that these things are, are the emotions I found. There will be days mother's, day father's day, a birthday date of deceased when anger will come into one's heart, but also sadness.
[00:38:16] And we follow the tracks of the sadness. Where does that come from? It will open up a sense of what we're missing and then usually that grit can lead us somewhere. It's it's unclear sometimes. At least the bad places, but for that's the thread, I, I pawned a little bit and usually that'll get, get us to the affection, to, to the things you also had.
[00:38:35]You know, there's missing things, but there's also also nice things. It was not entirely missing, but I would tell people to pay attention to their sadness and to not thrust it away.
[00:38:45]Sen: [00:38:45] that sounds like a very good suggestion, a good place to start with. Um, also coincides with the plot line of inside out.
[00:38:51] Cause sadness is a very important emotion
[00:38:53] Julian: [00:38:53] in that way. That's it? Cause the entire Western world went into like this independence point of view and then, then you can't miss other people. Uh, and then it's hard to be sad, you know? And so, so that, that is a
[00:39:02] Sen: [00:39:02] problem. So Julian, I want to turn the topic now to something quite sensitive.
[00:39:09]Um, and this is also a trigger warning for any listeners. So I wanted to ask you about the topic of suicide, because that's something that is not very talked about, um, in general, but especially in, uh, in terms of mental health in Asian communities, um, something that does affect a lot of people, whether it's.
[00:39:25] Suicidal ideation or attempted suicide, whether serious attempts or performative attempts or actual suicide, what would you have to say on that topic that could be helpful for our listeners?
[00:39:39] Julian: [00:39:39] For both of the suicide question, as well as the know what to talk to about third other cultures, but it's the reach out.
[00:39:47]I mean, that's a generic message, but I will add one thing to that as to not give up, reaching out, you know, whether you get suicidal or whether you get very, very sad or very, very upset or angry where you see your family breaking apart, you gotta reach out for help. Now, why didn't get that help and often is not very helpful.
[00:40:05] And we will be blunt about, um, people don't understand, they have trouble. Sometimes it makes things a little bit worse. You can't be like, Oh, this helps suck. I am no longer looking for help. I'm going to stay in my corner and experts that doesn't work, uh, in the end, one has a responsibility to my future, to one's own dreams and hopes and to the dreams and hopes of people who care about what you know, to flourish do well to develop further.
[00:40:31] The first time you looked for help, it doesn't work. Look for it again, look for it again. Keep going at it. And every helper has their own style, has their own life experience has their own sort of things. So how many times does it take for a smoker on average to quit cigarettes? Seven times six, seven times each time they attempt to quit cigarettes.
[00:40:52] They know a little bit more about themselves than their habits and what it takes for them to quit. And by the seventh time they're expert on themselves, they are very, very good at questioning. That's become a skill and each time they do a little bit better. And by the seventh time, on average, they're matched to finish the cigarette or certain same way goes through, asking for help, asking for help is a skill.
[00:41:10] Knowing what you need is a skill knowing what is helpful to you, what is not helpful to you? That knowledge does not come by magic. Some people need psychotherapy. Some people need social assistance. Some people need friends, some people need a hobby, some people need a mentor. And so when you reach out for help, reach out for help in many different ways.
[00:41:29] And if it feels once asked yourself, why did I not work out? That that person was a jerk? Okay. That's a good explanation, but let's not stop there. In what ways was that guy being a jerk that may really affected me? You know, that made me not tolerate. Okay. So I don't tolerate this sort of certain thing in people.
[00:41:45] Next time I looked for help. I know that I'm going to do a better job of it. And the next time and the next amount of next time. you're, you look until you find cause in the end of the day, and I really do believe this. We are a community and we're all in this together and I, nobody ever does this shit alone.
[00:42:00] So lots of hands have pulled me up. I'm trying to post some people up and we're all gonna do this. If we do it together, the hardest part about immigration is the isolation, the lack of links. Inherited from previous generations to the rest of the society. So it's very hard to look for help, but you can't give that up.
[00:42:17] And once that help established you also started establishing your roots in a society that you're in. It's going to help a lot with the flourishing going on in the future, you know? So, so, so those are my thoughts.
[00:42:27]Sen: [00:42:27] Thank you. I'm really thinking about that. What a few things that came to mind was your suggestion of.
[00:42:34] Being almost like analytical about the way that you ask for help and the circumstances around, you know, whether that helped working out or not is very scientific. let's get a large sample size and let's collect a lot of data and, and let's analyze the data, but I didn't even think about that because, um, when someone is suffering. And, uh, and they're feeling shame and they also have low energy. They have, anxiety. they may already be feeling like they've lost some relationships. The act of asking for help can feel so vulnerable that if it's not successful, you feel like, wow, I don't deserve help.
[00:43:06] But if we can adopt this mindset of asking for help is a product.
[00:43:10] Julian: [00:43:10] Yeah, exactly. The project. And not only that, you know, we suffer, we suffer, we suffer, but the always is. Is it a hundred percent suffering or is it 95% and 95? Is that extra 5%? That's where the mindfulness comes in, you know, 95% of me suffers, but there's a little bit left.
[00:43:28] We just need that one little bit of thread left at 5%. Watch the other 90% I'd be like WTF. How'd I get out of it. And so there should be little space of one's mind that is carved out and be able to observe a little bit of that suffering and what feeds that 5%, you know, that's what feeds that 45% at the end of the day.
[00:43:47] All last time, dreams and hopes. Uh, so that's something, I talked a lot with my patients about not only dreams or hopes for ambition, but dreams and hopes for relationships for certain way to relate with our parents, with our children with off, these are profound, deep things, and they can, they can bring out, uh, intense, emotional energy that that'll allow us.
[00:44:06] To maintain a little bit of space to persevere in this admittedly very, very difficult project.
[00:44:12] Sen: [00:44:12] And this all also this idea of just gaining a little bit extra, um, and having, you know, 5% less suffering, I mean is also reminiscent of the first noble truth of Buddhism, which is life is suffering. And so we'll, we'll never be able to turn the suffering down to zero, but if we can reduce.
[00:44:27] The suffering even momentarily, um, that can help us take the next step. And it's it's it's such a Testament to, you know, you know, the, the life force that we have, you know, even if you, I have a little thread of it, it's still pushing forward and still wants to continue.
[00:44:40] Julian: [00:44:40] That's absolutely right. If there is a single mystical entity in Confucianism as well, or the overarching vision, but there there's one mystical component, the generativity of the universe, you know, things just give birth.
[00:44:54] One after the next thing, it doesn't seem to break that part is the universe being nice to us made us. so, you're absolutely right that generativity that's the life force that, that, that we carry in ourselves. Why else would you be, do any of that or any of flourishing?
[00:45:09]Sen: [00:45:09] Um, Julia, my last question for you, do you consider yourself Chinese still?
[00:45:14] Julian: [00:45:14] It's a very, very deep question. So that's one that I've thought endlessly about. I'm not sure. So that becomes a big question. When the world splits into nations, you know, uh, and then we have to give ourselves a label because we have to attach ourselves to a nation state, uh, China Canadian. So politically I'm clearly Canadian.
[00:45:31] I am the outcome of a certain lineage. I am my parents kid. Uh, and if you pull that linear job, they have parents, they have parents before that, and that lineage has a certain discourse through time. My grandparents or certain people in China have their grandparents have a certain role in the state. So the believe in certain things wrote certain books influenced.
[00:45:49] And that is a very Confucian way of doing things, seeing things, right. I'm not the outcome of a certain state or even necessarily that have a certain civilization. I am the outcome of a certain lineage that has gone through a certain set of experiences. That's culminated in myself. Uh, and that part, I believe, you know, if you're right or I'm Chinese, I would be a bit uncomfortable with that threat.
[00:46:08] I'm Canadian. I'm a bit uncomfortable with that, but on a family tree, you write my name below my parents. Now I am very comfortable with that. The identity, the sense of what is more important has very much shifted in me. Certainly the Chinese civilization has given me extraordinary cultural wealth that I have profoundly benefited from.
[00:46:28] Sen: [00:46:28] And what do you think your daughter will be?
[00:46:30] Julian: [00:46:30] Okay. Almost certainly not all of this knowledge will pass on to her. I know less than my dad already. Uh, but she, she will be my child. She will be me and your daughter, you know, and what we value should at least know such a thing exists. And that will be up to her.
[00:46:44] Uh, That is a very Western point of view. So I've asked back and forth. It'll be up to her to see how much she pursues it further. I open the door, I'll invite her. You know what I've literally thought by this conversation station, what my kid is going to grow up, asking me if there's magic in the world, I'll be like, there's totally magic in this world.
[00:47:01] There's magic in these books, read them, figure it out or help your understand that human flourishing or help your internal world. Some people walk into this room and everything seems a success. Other people have a harder time. What's the difference. The differences is very much magical. You can find it in these books.
[00:47:16] Remember the first activity of Chinese religion is to study. Go ahead. So my daughter would be like, whatever that is, you know, it's that point of view. And so I opened the door will be up to her if she walks through.
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[00:49:49]Sen: [00:49:49] Our next episode on beyond Asian as a bonus for you all on another topic, close to my heart psychedelics. As some of you may know, I've done my fair share of explorations in the psychedelic space. And I was invited to guest on no stone unturned, a podcast hosted by Frank and cynic based in Berlin and Miami. Here's what you can expect from this bonus episode next week:
[00:50:11] what psychedelics do is they act as a general amplifier of your internal state, which means that any emotions that you're experiencing, whether they're positive or challenging, you get more aware of them and you notice them more in others.
[00:50:29] awareness is so important in this whole process, as it is with everything, no. What you're going through, like like be able to identify, um, to the best of your ability, what state you're in. Before you engage in something that will alter your consciousness.
[00:50:44]Frank: [00:50:44] If you want to see the most out of this journey in a positive light, right? Sometimes we can't control the journey that we go on.
[00:50:51]Cynic: [00:50:51] how much energy must we be expanding on our day to day. In trying to deal with things like regarding our environment, regarding the people we're with regarding our own emotions. Like, cause when you're on the trip, those things just come out, The filter is gone
[00:51:06] Sen: [00:51:07] the classic psychedelics that I've, uh, experienced are mushrooms, LSD, and, Iowasca, um,
[00:51:13]I look at plants and they often feel like the leaves are breathing. it just feels like everything is alive with its own energy.
[00:51:21]and there's actually another much deeper layer of experience that's happening within you. Um, which has to do with perception of yourself and perception of the world around you
[00:51:33]it's just like a different level of awareness of yourself.
[00:51:36]You start to notice patterns and things that you normally don't notice. It's like you perceive yourself, um, from another perspective