Chapter 4: Challenge

Naked Self

Translation by Ms. Haruka Osada (Simon Fraser University)

sketch Dr. MinamiFrom the moment I stepped on this foreign land, Rwanda, I became the naked self. In other words, here, I am just “a person called Masahiro Minami”.
This is exactly what I wanted.

In British Columbia, Canada, UBC (University of British Columbia) is very widely known and enjoys its fame. Thanks to its fame, if I tell people that “I’m doing my Ph. D. in counselling psychology at UBC”, essentially everyone finds me reliable and listens to what I say. In some way, things are easy there.

However, I had always felt strange about the people’s trust toward the brand “UBC Ph. D.”. In fact, I still feel that way.
Do people find me reliable truly because they find my academic idea worthwhile? Do people feel me trustworthy truly because they accept “the person, Masahiro Minami”? Do people listen to me truly because I excel in clinical techniques?

No they don’t. Of course, people would not trust just for the title “UBC Ph. D.”. I was told this by my clients when I was spending all my time on counselling in Canada; no, I learned this from my experiences with them.

As a therapist, a family arbitrator, and someone who is engaged in refugee assistance, even if you are UBC Ph. D., you are put “out”, like baseball, right away without the sufficient clinical skills to face clients, without the power to bring back laughter at the scene of collapse of the family, or without the skill to make the despaired refugees smile.

When you are put “out”, You are the one who feel most embarrassed. If you do not have the skills as well as deep and warm personality, the trust and the hope of the client, the family or the refugee disappear right away. I believe that witnessing the moment to lose your trust would be the most shameful thing for a clinical psychologist and a person.

It was very tough to be just a clinical psychologist. But, I could get a grasp of how people honestly think of me; the title “UBC Ph.D” has no power in this foreign land, Rwanda. It is a perfect place to challenge my naked self.

As expected, I am beaten up here! Rwandan people perceive me as a random Japanese or Chinese. People in developing countries cannot afford any leeway. Nobody has time to listens to me and take my words on trust.

By myself, I have to see the front-line staff of the organizations who deal with the survivors and the perpetrators of 1994 Genocide. By myself, I have to explain my idea from A to Z, gain their understanding and acceptance, and even obtain their help. I have to make them “want” to help me. There, nobody cares about the title “UBC Ph. D.”. “Who are you? Ph. D. from a university called UBC? So what?”

I have to start from scratch, from the very beginning. You cannot be successful here without being able to explain things very clearly and concisely, without a sense of humor that goes beyond the different cultures, and without a power to build a trust from nothing.

Away from the place where things were easier and comfortable, I am enjoying the opportunity to be a better self in Rwanda. It is true anytime, but “right now” “right here” is the most challenging and the most important time. Fear of grenade bombers, life without “ordinary” things, building the trust from scratch, and naked self. I am enjoying the feel that I am “living”.

Definition of “Living”

Strip myself and face the local people with my naked self. From this, we can see many truly universal things in the world.

For instance, the Action-Based Psychosocial Reconciliation approach that integrates Morita Therapy; without any academic evidence or verified data, we can get acceptance and agreement from the people in village by telling them a saying “Actions speak louder than words”. It is not my broken down, plain explanation that wins their hearts. It is because the saying portraits the “truth of the life” very well, and strikes the people who carry on their lives with the memory of the Genocide.

Rwandans, especially the survivors and the perpetrators value the “truth”. They say that it is harder for them to hide the sad truth than simply accept it. “Truth is the only reality”. In this foreign land, not only the universality of Morita Therapy principles, but the universality of the “truth of the life” that Mr. Morita must had felt, stand out very clearly and vividly. My job is to simply point them out.

As my teacher Mr. Isshu Ishiyama always says, “be honest”. By “being honest” and accepting the truth, I am able to obtain the people’s sympathy and understanding, and achieve many organizations’ acceptance and and cooperation. I am astonished and respectful to how universal Morita Therapy can be, and how I am able to catch a glimpse of the “truth of life” through studying the Therapy. I truly feel that living a life, including both happy and unhappy moments, is such a wonderful thing.

I thought of the two women in Rulindo who were working the soils all day in the scorching sun, and their carefree smiles. They are the victims of a gang raping happened during the Genocide; they have borne the enemy’s children, raised them, and been living their lives with a threat of HIV.

But they take a hoe, work on the land with passion, love their children, and are surviving today strongly. It is not because the wound of the gang raping has healed and the trauma has been gone. They are simply living their lives and growing tomatoes and cassava for tomorrow.

I also thought of Emmanuel, who lost his mother during the Genocide. I can feel his love toward his family from his smile while he talks to his wife on the phone, or hugs his children. It is not because he was born in a happy family and living in a happy life, but because “he did not enjoy the happiness in the past”, he is able to live a life seeking for happiness and filled with love. Here in Rwanda, people live “ordinary, happy lives” now because they all experienced pain and struggle in the past.

“Living” is not about enjoying happy moments, but surviving your day with a pain as well. The definition of “living” includes not only happiness or fun moments, but also sad or painful times; this is the “truth of the life”. I am accepting this truth that the people in Rwanda today are teaching me.

On the site of extreme struggle, the spirit of Morita Therapy, and the “universality of the truth of the life” really show through how people live. This means that Morita Therapy integrates the essence of the “universality of the truth of the life” or what “living” is. I am learning these from this raw experience that I am having here.

Morita Therapy really shines bright in the extreme situations. I really like it. For me, someone who is “surviving” my day in Rwanda, it is something I can believe in.