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We designed this exercise to help you become more aware of your own cultural and personal backgrounds and characteristics. Because this understanding is a first step toward understanding how you will interact with others, it is perhaps more important than anything else in this chapter. We encourage you to spend considerable time and effort on the exercise and, if you feel comfortable and safe doing so, to discuss it with your peers and instructor. The list that follows identifies certain personal and cultural characteristics that can have a profound influence on how people understand the world and interact with others. For each characteristic, begin by describing yourself. Next, take some time to consider seriously how each
aspect of yourself taken separately, and how all the aspects taken together, affect your understanding of yourself and others. Also, give some thought to how these characteristics shape the assumptions you bring to your training as an intern. One way to enhance this understanding is to imagine how things you may have taken for granted about yourself are due, at least in part, to your cultural background. For example, you might ask yourself, “Because I have [white/brown/ black/red/yellow] skin, I have experienced . . . ” Or, “Because my family’s social class was . . . , I have experienced . . . ” Another approach to enhance your understanding is to imagine how your life might be different if you had characteristics other than those you have. For example, you might consider of one of your privileged identities, “If I were of (a marginalized) culture, I might . . .” “If my parents were (wealthy/poor), I might . . .” “If I were a new immigrant, I might experience . . .” As a final response to this exercise, we encourage you to discuss your own responses with a peer or some other person. You may also find it helpful to discuss your answers with people who are very different from you in some of the key areas identified. On another note, for convenience, items in this exercise ask about characteristics of your father and mother. People from blended families or those raised by other caregivers may well wish to add people to this list, for example, stepmother or stepfather, grandparents, or other central figures congruent with your circumstances
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