Inner Turmoil Experienced by Young Africans

Young Africans live in an ever changing world that certainly tests their cultural beliefs and upbringing. I have the privilege of having young African clients. As a result I have gained some insight into the cultural dilemmas they face. So the purpose of this post is purely to share some of the issues they raise.

Supporting elders and extended family

Ayanda, a young African, is the eldest of three daughters. She is well qualified in her field and earning a reasonable salary. She is unmarried and sharing a rented flat. In her late twenties, she has dreams of her own. She would love to own her own property and start her own business.

Recently she has become quite despondent as a result of the expectations of her family. Her mother and several aunts, treat her as a bank. They borrow money from her and say they will pay her back. However, payment comes in small amounts and over months. As a result Ayanda is feeling resentful and frustrated. She feels she stands little chance of progressing if she is carrying the financial burden for her family.

We spent several sessions working through her emotions and underlying issues. We also explored how to raise the matter with her family. It is difficult for her. She feels she is selfish or will be disappointing others if she steps away from supporting them. At the same time she wants to carve out a successful future for herself. Ayanda wants financial independence. She also wants to be free from being responsible for taking care of her parents or extended family.

Joe is a young African father of three, whose wife sells products. His mother is sixty-five years and works her own piece of land. When his mother was unable to work due to ill health he sent her money. This year he decided to assert himself and say he is unable to continue to support her as well. He had great schooling and dreams of studying further. To achieve his dream he needs to find financing for his studies. He wants to save to study further.

Temba is a young African and the middle child of three. His mother worked overseas to earn more so that she could provide better education for her children. Temba’s older sibling earns a very good salary but sends none of it home to her parents. By nature Temba is highly responsible. As a result he initially sent money home regularly to his mother. She is over sixty now and feels she wants to retire.

In the past year he has come to realise his own dreams and aspirations are suffering. He is a young African entering the normal phase where youngsters want to establish a career for themselves. When he told his sister he will no longer lend her money, their father got involved. It took some time for Temba to realise that he did not have to lend his sibling money at all. And also that he did not need to feel pressurised by his father to do so either.

Then he told his mother that he had his own responsibilities and was unable to support her. He suggested that she start some small income generating project in her community. It took several sessions for Temba to work through his feelings of guilt. He slowly began to realise he was caught in a dependency pattern with his parents and sibling.

Fortunately he feels so strongly about his own aspirations that he was able to break this dependency pattern.

Some thoughts

It is easy for me as an outsider to say perhaps each of these young Africans is caught in dependency patterns at home. Or perhaps that a part of their life lesson is to learn to assert themselves. In each case they are highly responsible individuals. So this makes it hard for them step away from the reality of parents or family who may need help. Does this make them rescuers?

The African culture is about Ubuntu. So it is about the collective. In the West our focus is largely on us as individuals.

So have these young Africans been influenced by our western culture? What is our responsibility as Whites toward our parents and extended family? When are we locked in a dependency pattern and when do we show normal love and care? How much of this is personality versus culture?

I guess if money is abundant it is less of an issue. But in the current economic realities young Africans often find it hard to balance their needs with those of their extended family.

If you would like to discuss some cultural issues you are facing coaching would be helpful.

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Posted in Relationships, Self mastery.