Skip to main content

Self-imposed pressure to be strong:

Many personality traits or personal viewpoints of the role interact with and are shaped by cultural and societal expectations. For example, in New Zealand and Australia the culture of self-reliance and mental toughness are revered. In Japan the virtue of diligence and tatemae (or 'firewall'—the hiding of the inner core, honne, behind a presentable impenetrable exterior) influence the ability to admit challenges, ask for support and acknowledge the need for self-care. In the U.S., as well as elsewhere, the adrenalin-fuelled, tough-minded emergency management stereotype created expectations of invulnerability. Nearly all interviewed discussed these cultural or societal beliefs, which in turn played a large part in shaping their own individual reluctance to consider their own needs.
There is therefore this huge pressure to be strong; self-imposed, culturally imposed, and, with community need evident, situationally-imposed. As most working in recovery have not done so before, there is also a tendency to feel the need to prove yourself. There is an underlying anxiety, "Am I up for the task?" Jodie Bowker, who was not alone in feeling this way amongst participants, articulates this well (right).

It is like the John Wayne complex where you can only show strength or the feeling that you are Atlas with the responsibility of holding the whole world on your shoulders. Jill Hofmann – American Red Cross

It is a matter of pride, you don't admit if you have problems... There is the idea of Samurai silence, Samurai are not meant to complain or show their emotions. Anon – Japan

There are real stress issues. People are so enthusiastic and seriously committed. The Japanese culture carries the virtue of diligence. The effect of the disaster is so huge you feel there is no time to take a break and it is discouraged. Corporate society pressures you to work hard. It is in this culture that we've been trying to educate about the importance of self-care. Ryo Goto – Plan Japan

I didn't have a background in counselling or in emergency management but was surrounded by people who did. For others it was second nature and there was the expectation that you get it and understand it. I always felt a little bit on the outside, without a qualification or background experience. I felt I had to fight to prove myself to myself as well as to everyone else. Most of us go through life feeling like we are bluffing it. If I start talking and open up is that what I'll end up admitting? Jodie Bowker – formerly of EACH, Victoria