Going Low Contact & No Contact Is Much More Difficult in a Culture Emphasizing Filial Piety

sad factGiven the cultural gap, it’s difficult for westerners to understand filial piety. Urgh….this is when I feel I was born to the wrong culture, & obviously the wrong parents.  I’m a westernized person trapped in a traditional Asian society that emphasizes filial piety to parents.

Yea, (unfortunately), filial piety is a HUGE part of Taiwanese culture, since we’re deeply influenced by traditional Chinese culture. We learn this — more like, are brainwashed by this– very early on in school– respect & abide by your parents no matter what, re-pay what they do for you by taking care of them when they grow elderly & frail, filial piety is the biggest virtue everyone must strive to achieve … Blah, blah, blah… Dang, it’s all from the thousands of years of influence from Confucianism. In my high school, we even had to memorize the whole book Confucius wrote & took test on it. What a waste of time!

Anyway, even in a democratic country, like Taiwan, the whole society has this tendency to blame adult children for not abiding by filial piety, i.e., it’s like a big moral code maintaining the stability of the society & there are laws supporting this idea, too. It’s like you must immediately forget whatever abuse they did, & perform the duty of a filial son/daughter during parents’ senior years.  In Chinese & Taiwanese, there are even many negative words to criticize adult children who do not perform filial duties.  That might show how deep this traditional idea runs in our culture, even linguistically.  

On a more realistic level, it’s not common for seniors to live in nursing homes bc the social welfare system is much underdeveloped than those in western developed countries. So, most seniors, if they are ill & cannot live independently for whatever reason, tend to move to live with their adult children, & hence creating more conflicts & torments on the children’s side, if they were/have been abused by their parents. In my grandparents’ & parents’ generations, it’s perfectly normal for elderly parents to move in their “chosen” child’s house, be they healthy or not. Most of the elder generation have no such concept as boundaries– they feel they can interfere with your life no matter how old you are!! And you should gladly accept their interference bc you should follow filial piety!!
Which child is the chosen one varies from family to family. My father was chosen bc his income was probably higher than my uncles’. If I don’t break contact with them, they might very likely ask me to be their caretaker if they become ill in the future, since A) they had made me a caretaker & maid for them since I was little & B) the old excuse– you’re single. If you don’t take care of us, who will? C) They’re masters in playing victims & guilt trips to make me conform to filial piety, in their version, sacrificing my life for them …….

In my humble opinion, filial piety offers the free pass to parents who abuse & an invisible shield to hide their abusive behaviors. Personally, I feel so lucky that my parents have 2 free passes/ invisible shields — one from the traditional culture supporting filial piety, another from their belief in Catholicism– “Honor thy father & mother”. They use these free passes so well that probably outsiders, including extended family members, will never find out their abusive nature….

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8 Comments

  1. I like this article and hearing about this from a different cultural perspective. I also like your graphic above – the next door neighbor who is so nice! Yep, that translates from one cultural group to the next. I keep thinking about this age factor as well. I talked to a woman who had to care for her NPD mother in the end. Sounds like it was life changing though. Sometimes they can soften a little when they get older – but not always.

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    1. Thank you for your comment. I hope the woman you talked to gained something positive spiritually or emotionally from taking care of her NPD mother. It’s fortunate for her if her mother indeed softened a little due to old age. From talking to Facebook friends from various cultural backgrounds, I found most narc traits are very similar across different cultures, except that communal narcs are more common in Asia, a trend Dr. Craig Malkin mentioned in his book. In Asia, narc abuse is seldom talked about, & unfortunately, there’s virtually no relevant resource, support groups, & even mental health professionals who specialize in helping narc abuse victims to recover. Awareness is much needed!

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  2. I am in the middle of this experience and have begun writing about it. I see this societal shame as so toxic. First, the individual struggles to develop self worth and later set boundaries and then he or she is judged by people who have no clue what they have experienced. So frustrating. Thank you for taking the time to write about this.

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    1. You’re welcome! And you’re so right that it’s really frustrating that narc abuse victims/survivors are judged by people who have no clue about the hell we went through. Interestingly, recently I’m pondering how toxic the tradition pf filial piety is. It’s really an outdated tradition. Abusive parents use it as a free pass to control & manipulate their children. Honestly, normal parents who love & support their children unconditionally would not need to rely on this tradition or value system to demand love in return. Only narc parents fool their children since they are very young (in my case, since I was a toddler, since my earliest memory) that love is a trade-off. We can’t win their love unless we keep doing things for them & giving pieces of ourselves. It took me almost 40 years to realize that I was gaslighted by my biological family into believing I was not lovable. Now I’m 6 months no contact, & finally inner peace began to emerge. It’s sad to realize that your original family don’t love you, but it’s not the victims’ fault. I wish you the best in your recovery journey & hope you find inner peace ❤

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