Where did I come from
and where am I today?
An identity problem: born in Iraq (Babylon) and grew up
in a new country
By Ilana Avissar
A profile of an identity problem
Many of the people who were born in Iraq and raised in another
country, suffer from an identity problem. The question which
bothers them is: "Who are we?" The lives of these
people in a foreign society are mostly influenced by stereotypes
and stigmas in that society. During the process of forming
an identity between "east" and "west"
an identity crisis occurs, followed by an attempt to create
harmony between both sides.
Those who identify with their earlier traditions, show much
interest in the family, the tradition and the past. Those
who adopt the non-traditional perception, tend to come closer
to their external environment and deny, to a certain extent,
to their culture of origin.
In the 30s, researcher Henry Moore developed a test for
personality research: TAT (Thematic Apperception Test).
With the help of that test it is possible to explore ones
personality, especially thoughts and dreams, as well as
needs and emotions, conflicts and ability to deal with problems.
With the aid of the TAT test, researcher Mcclland found
that the difference between people in performing different
tasks originates in the differences in people’s sense
It is therefore clear that the need to achieve and to be
accepted in the new society may create a conflict in a person
who has left the country of his birth for another country.
This conflict may express itself in putting extreme efforts
into trying to merge within the new environment, as a part
of the achievement.
Consequently, he will deny aspects of his past, assuming
that his life will be happier that way. But the new culture
does not have the power to supply him with the longed- for
happiness, and that is where the conflict begins.
At the elementary school age, boys and girls form their
personality. The pressure being put on them is immense and
so they tend to rebel against "system" as well
as their mother tongue, heritage and customs. Later they
look for the benefits of the foreign culture, and forget,
in time, the benefits of their original culture and the
treasure of their legacy and religion.
His past becomes a burden, as it were a hump upon his back,
and his sense of self becomes incomplete. And all of that
because of his country of birth. Instead of understanding
the past, merging with the present and controlling the future
- he is drown to the new culture. The result: a conflict.
Instead of his soul being divided into two different complementary
halves. It is divided into two opposite parts, which do
not go hand in hand with each other.
Later on, he carries the conflict with him, trying to stand
out in fields that are important to his surroundings and
unconsciously mists his past. This process is based on the
"Learning – Encouraging" mechanism. When
a person receives encouragement – and becomes accepted
by his surroundings, he wants even more to adopt its behaviour
and distance himself from his past (language and culture).
But, the past that is denied constantly reminds himself
of its existence, for it is embedded in his ID.
The fact is that while people come and go and friends change,
he always remains with himself and his family, who remains
there always and support him in times of need- spiritual
and physical. This notion, that his family is ever true
to him, and gives him love and warmth at all times, triggers
a conflict within him: for the very family he denied - are
the ones who help him when he is in real need.
Solutions to the problem
How then can it be possible to create harmony and solve
the identity conflict?
Man tends to be deceived by the new environment, and forgets
that it changes, dies out and is replaced, while he himself
and his family will always remain. But, as always, the solution
is to respect everything and try to understand and study
it thoroughly. That is why man must first be at peace with
himself. He must study all the aspects of his being: the
past the present and the future. Instead of a conflict these
aspects will become the strings of his life. Like the strings
of a musical instrument, each different from the other,
but yet together creating a harmony, they will form a piece
of a wonderful music. He must learn to appreciate each string
in itself, because together the melody they make is his
true image, his melody.
This can be the bridge of love for ourselves and for others,
appreciation of the culture, which we came from, and appreciation
of the culture in which we live in today. And so the solution
is appreciation, respect and love: of the past, the present
and the future.
If a person will not appreciate himself and his past, how
can he expect others to appreciate him?
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