***Handle invasion of privacy, let go of the desire to control and overcome grief.
I am a loving mother and a busy professional with two grown-up children who are successful professionals, too. I have a peculiar problem of invasion of privacy. My daughter, who is 38, reads all the letters, emails and phone messages, diary jottings and any other communication I have with my friends. Both my children are single and live with me and my husband. I have no dark secrets, but I find this terribly annoying. Despite repeatedly telling her that this does not behoove a lady, she continues this disgusting habit. Do you think she is insecure about something? How do I deal with this? My husband cannot help in this as he, too, does the same — reads all communication I have with my friends! Please help.
— Mahalakshmi, Tamil Nadu
This is strange behavior, but the root isn’t insecurity — it’s hostility. Your daughter is showing aggression against you. In so doing, she is siding with her father, so the problem is a tangled family matter.
Families often end up doing strange things behind the walls of their house, because when no one from the outside is there for a reality check, all kinds of unsocial and antisocial behaviors flourish. To end this intrusion into your private life requires several things: Stand up for yourself and stop being the victim. Examine why you feel a need to let two people walk all over you.
Stop making excuses. Your privacy is a right, not a suggestion that others can reject at will. Confront the power struggle that is going on inside your house. Your husband and daughter have seized all the power, making you the outsider. In a psychologically healthy household, your husband would recognize that you are his primary relationship, not his daughter.
Put a time limit on change. If your daughter doesn’t stop within a week, tell her she must find a new place to live. Seek an outside ally to help you if you feel too weak or insecure to carry out the above-mentioned steps. Find someone with a strong, reliable moral sense. Stand back and see if you can find resources to bring normality back to three troubled relationships.
My 30-year-old son is dating a girl with a poor reputation. She is known to have ‘flings’ with rich boys. I am shocked to learn that he is doing so just to have a ‘good time’. He said so himself. My pleadings to him to stop seeing her are falling on deaf ears. I am distraught. How can I ignore something that I know is not doing my son any good?
—Mary Patrick, Kolkata
Two psychological factors are at work here, and I’m sorry to say that neither works on your behalf. The first factor is that people are goaded to do things when someone else tells them not to, especially a parent. The second factor is over-mothering.
Your son is 30. If he wants to take up jet skiing, attend burlesque shows, and collect poisonous snails, it’s entirely his business, not yours. Try to find a more appropriate outlet for your motherly concerns. Helping a poor child or working at a social charity would be a good step. Your good intentions are misplaced right now.
I am a happy person and love my family and friends. I have not harmed anyone as far as I know. Yet I have experienced great tragedies in life including losing a teenaged child to illness and another to the tsunami. Why is God being so unkind? I know you will say it is previous karma but I don’t buy that.
—Vimala Sengupta, Pune
If a divine messenger told you that it was past karma (not the answer I would give) or that God simply wanted to show disfavor, would you actually feel better? Your sense of being cursed is real. It’s a way of holding on to grief rather than moving on. You will be healed when the questioning stops, not when you get an answer.
Let me express my deep sympathy for your loss. I’m sure every reader feels the same. The grieving process isn’t simple or short. It does you no good to hear words like ‘move on.’ When grief is present, it dominates the mind and emotions. But it would help you to engage in the process if you are able to. Otherwise, grief gets stuck in the heart and becomes a wound. I would hate to see this happen to you.
Get in touch with others who have lost family in the tsunami. Find a trusted confidante who has been through grief and knows that it can be healed. I realize that you feel isolated. This is not the road to healing. Only by letting other people in and confronting your pain can you find a way out. I hope these words have helped, or will help in the near future.