Even if, like most others, you are not aware of the existence of your Internal Culture, it still works to drive who you become tomorrow. Let us think through what this means and why you need to be aware of its existence to reap immense benefits.
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Two to Infinity
1234Purpose of Culture
Focus on Numero Uno – Internal Culture
1234Why be Aware of Internal Culture
1234Internal Culture vs Individual Culture
1234The Relevance of the Internal-External Divide
Internal Culture and Health
The Need to Understand Other Cultures
1234Self-Reliance in Building Bridges
After presenting the first article in my series on Internal Culture (and Voluntary Hormetic Shocks) a few conversations ago, as I wrote the second article on a component of Internal Culture (will share soon), it struck me that there was an urgent need to prelude these articles with one on the very existence of Internal Culture first.
Two to Infinity [top]
The typical use of the term “culture” commences from the minimum unit of two individuals and then expands out to billions.
Two humans? think of “family culture”, and where a single parent is bringing up their only child.
Billions of humans? think of “national culture” or even culture that spans nations e.g., “Arab culture” or “European culture” or “Chinese culture”.
In between family and national culture, you have, based on geographical boundaries, the culture in your neighbourhood, in your village, town or city, in your district, prefecture, or state.
Spanning across humans globally there is the culture associated with religion.
With getting humans to work together towards a common goal we have what might broadly be called group or team culture. It starts in school, to keep children under control with the culture that is specific to each school! For adults, there is corporate culture or organizational culture. We see, based on the segments within a productive society, work-based examples like “army culture”, “Hollywood culture”, “investment banking culture”. Within socio-economic groups, independent of ethnic mixing, we see cultures that vary between groups based on wealth and social status.
Considering my favourite intangible, time, based on age and generation, and exposure to big events we think of cultural traits carried over from e.g., war-time (deprivation) or economic boom periods. Layered on top, all else being equal, simply “growing older” leads to a change in how we experience and perceive culture.
Purpose of Culture [top]
The primary reason that a specific culture is driven into us is that humans have always been stronger in groups than individually. Whether against wild animals or against other humans who are competing against our tribe, prehistorically, creating a collective has led to greater odds of long-term survival for the group and the passing on of its genes to successive generations. When not in danger, promulgating culture through more enjoyable means such as art, music or culinary delights has been very common.
Overlap Across [top]
There is overlap across different cultures that you might be a member of. For instance, your family cultural protocols may overlap with your religious protocols and that of your neighbourhood or even your nation.
Tension Between [top]
There is always competition and tension between cultural blocks. As a schoolchild, you will have experienced tension between the culture being imposed at your home and the attractiveness of what your friends espouse. And when moving spatially, be it changing school, jobs or even country there is often tension that you will experience between the culture you have come from to that you have arrived in.
In more traditional societies, if you are marrying someone with the same religious and ethnic background, small differences between the cultures of your parents’ family home and that of your new spouse will become apparent to you as each day passes.
Focus on Numero Uno – Internal Culture [top]
Having seen that you are immersed in many types of cultures based on your geographical location, your family tree, your educational establishment or place of work, your following of a specific religious faith or school of philosophy, your membership of sports and social clubs, your socioeconomic status, the question that might spring to mind is “what am I really then?”.
When I spoke to you about the Internal-External Divide, I outlined how that boundary between Internal and External is not just the physical boundary, but an intangible one too. I called this the Interface.
Since a significant part of our conscious focus tends to be on the External, we typically live sub-optimal lives in the long run because we forget what is truly important – that which is happening inside of us. And this is similar to that intangible, what I call “Internal Culture”.
Why be Aware of Internal Culture? [top]
Like any other constrained resource, your focus on any given day has a limited volume or capacity. The less you are aware of your Internal Culture, the more you are likely to allow the external culture exposure to influence and define what you will do. It is only much later, during deep reflection, that you will realize and appreciate that what truly mattered to your future should have been driven by a well-nurtured Internal Culture. Squeezing out Internal Culture from your focus typically benefits the proponents of the external cultures you are exposed to.
Internal Culture vs Individual Culture [top]
In academia and pedagogy when collapsing down from billions to a single individual, it is “individual” culture that is discussed. I like to make a conscious distinction between “individual” and “internal”. Individual culture is something that is typically described as being something passive, that describes how your preferences are connected to your personal experiences – experiences that include the influence of all the external cultural forces I have mentioned above. There is no conscious and specific reference to a boundary, border or interface that ought to be guarded or controlled with filters, nor a conscious attempt to define how one might consciously mould what is happening inside that individual.
Internal Culture is something you should view as being active, highly under your control if you wish it to be, and something that you can use as an intangible tool for self-reliant personal and feedback-driven thriving.
The Relevance of the Internal-External Divide [top]
The fact that your Internal Culture exists comes along with it the fact that an Interface also exists between your Internal Culture and all the external influences. This is no different from the Interface I described in the Internal-External Divide. By being conscious of this Interface and the fact that you can control what passes through this Interface, you become more conscious of your ability to control how your Internal Culture is shaped.
Tension and conflict between your Internal Culture and the external culture you are exposed to will arise. It is natural for this to occur. It is not something to be feared – but something to be conscious of and managed! The lifelong practice of managing this tension will allow you to benefit in the long run without harming anyone else. You will absorb what you consciously wish to absorb into your Internal Culture and consciously pushback against that which you calculate is detrimental to your long-term joy.
Internal Culture and Your Health [top]
Your future health will be defined by your Internal Culture. Not just your physical health, but your mental, emotional and spiritual health too. Why your Internal Culture is relevant is easy to see by simply reviewing many of the previous messages I’ve conveyed in articles from Discipline to Fatigue. From Alcohol to Paneer. From appropriate ways to deal with Competing and Comparing to the pointlessness of our Podium Finishes. The fact that You Need Not Run if you understand what your Fitness is really about, be it for Health or Skills. The fact that extremes such as Ultras or “wars against a virus” are misplaced and yet sneaky messages about Moderation can be Malicious can hurt you. If you want to get past Limiting Labels and your Weakness Bottleneck, to not be a victim of social pressure to have the right skin colour and not avoid the sun – you must become more and more aware of the existence of your Internal Culture and to get it to propel you towards a Better Life – Today and Tomorrow.
The Need to Understand Other Cultures [top]
A clash of cultures has often led to disasters in the past for humans. When we are not driven by our primal instinct of fear, not succumbing to divisive politics, we work well together with other humans from cultures different from our own once we are wise and patient enough to listen to, and learn from, the perspective of the other person.
Self-Reliance in Building Bridges [top]
If you are to not wait for, nor rely on, power-hungry leaders to bridge the real and imaginary gaps that they try to show exist between you and the so-called “enemy” whom they want you to fear and fight, then it is your duty to build up your own Internal Culture to be always open to learn about and understand other cultures.
When you are conscious of your Internal Culture and actively nurture it, you are no longer insecure or fearful of what external forces will do to you or those closest to you. Understanding the details of another culture does not imply that you are accepting it as your own. And, you always have the choice (and duty?) of accepting only those parts of the other culture that will be good for you!
Moving Countries [top]
Even in the absence of fascist leaders, the simple act of moving across the world to live to study or work in another culture, will not make you fearful or paranoid if you are aware of the existence of your Internal Culture. You will be better armed with intellect, not guns.
Parting Message [top]
The simplest takeaway for you from today should be, to be able to say, “I am more aware that I have an Internal Culture. I will now be careful to nurture my Internal Culture and guard it against that which would affect me negatively in the future. I refuse to live in fear.”
Forewarned is forearmed!
Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.