Woe Is Me! “My Parents Violated My Privacy and Read My Messages. Will I Ever Forgive?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“Several years ago, I would be yelled at and called all sorts of hurtful things by my mother if I didn’t let her go through my phone. I was emotionally blackmailed and tortured into giving in with your average “tum hum se pyaar nahi karti.” They kept guilting me by alleging I’m not grateful for everything they’ve done for me — because if I was, I’d let them read my private conversations with my friends. I have remnants of those memories which haunt me to date. I broke into tears when I witnessed the same thing happening in the house opposite to mine. A father forcefully locked his daughter in the balcony and read her conversations while she begged and screamed for him to stop snooping through her phone. Is this what brown parents represent on the face of this Earth? Is their “bringing us up” reason enough to traumatize us for life? Are brown households without any sense of privacy and will this remain forever?“
— In search of a room of one’s own
QG: In most cases, brown households and the concept of privacy do not go hand in hand. Every violation of privacy by them invalidates the needs of their children, and they look at it as part of their attempts to inculcate “good values.” But all it really does is teach us exactly what we aren’t supposed to do. I’m so sorry that you had to go through something so traumatizing. It’s harsh, horrifying, and something that should never have happened. If you want to get through to your parents, you could attempt to break the toxic cycle by having a conversation with them about how their actions did not help inculcate any “good values” but adversely left you traumatized. You could also try out therapy, to process your trauma and attempt to move forward without the shadow of this violation hanging over your head. By recognizing this as an act of violation, you are already one step ahead in that process.
I’m rooting for you. You’ve got this.
RN: This was a horrible invasion of your privacy and I’m so sorry you went through this. I’m also really glad it seems to be in your past now — the hardest part is over. Healing from this is absolutely possible, though it may take some time. If you’re not already in therapy, do try seeking a mental health professional out. As for reliving the trauma of this when you witness it — I hope it gives you some comfort to know that things are slowly, but surely, changing. Young people are gaining more independence at earlier ages, parents are more used to their kids having devices and leading online lives, and if not today, someday we may be free of this cycle of emotional violence because people like you are already breaking it. You can be safe in the knowledge that you wouldn’t do this to anyone else, and will likely stop someone else from doing it too. And with countless others like you out there, things will get better for us as a society. Meanwhile, it’s important for you to take care of yourself.
PB: My heart goes out to you, your neighbor, and the countless others who have to go through this mind-numbing pattern of abuse. I can’t even begin to imagine the lasting trauma and how much this affects the way you think about trust. I’m sure life and society feel bleak and you can’t fathom it ever being different. I can understand that — all of us feel so once in a while. I’m sure the past haunts as the present stings and the future cowes. Yet, most of us keep going — some through apathy, some through antipathy, and most through regressing.
As far as advice goes, I’m afraid I merely have optimism to offer. Life always has the potential to get better, and if we see the cracks in society we must strive to make it better. At least that’s what I’ve always found progress and hope in — in my attempts to improve the conditions that once felt hopeless. I’ve seen so many people go through the same problems I did, and it galls me that the cycle continues. But I’ve also seen a few whose lives were improved, even marginally, by the people who sought to fix what had broken them. Our society is largely skeptical and uncaring for privacy, but I choose to believe it won’t remain so forever. There are people like you speaking up about it — bringing your argument into cultural discourse.
Hope comes from belief in the human enterprise — from even the smallest act of kindness. Maybe, you could lend your ear to the girl in the opposite house, and hopefully, some conversation can help her see a better future while helping you come to terms with your past, even if to a small extent. Have some chai (or Tang since it’s summer).
SM: You are not alone. Many of us have gone through some version of this. It is not okay, and it is difficult to overcome — but I promise you that you will recover from this violation. It’s important to recognize that you are not in the wrong, but that you have been wronged by your family. We’ve often been trained to confuse obedience with love, and that is the most difficult conditioning to overcome, but I am sure that with some distance from your parents, conversations with friends, and therapy (if you can afford it), you will heal from this.