Dear Positive Way, I feel really offended the way I m treated at my house. My real mother doesn’t like me and has not spoken to me for years. Though we live under the same roof, I have to cook food for myself and do all my work. My brother and sisters don’t bother about me and my father does whatever my mother commands him to do. My mother is dominating and does not love me. I was forced to leave my education while my younger brother is provided with all the comforts. If I go for any argument they drive me out of the house. I am completely dependent on my parents with not much education. I’m entrusted with the responsibility of my father’s business. My home is a hell for me. What should I do to get rid of all this? I feel very depressed. I’m living in New Delhi, India. I am 23 years old and belong to a conservative family. They sometimes insist me to marry someone but I manage to keep them away since there is someone whom I am committed to. I want to live a comfortable life. My father doesn’t let me work anywhere else apart from looking after his business. I also want to be happy but can’t make my own living as they don’t let me do that. Signed anzmine, male age 23.
Dear anzmine, it is easy to understand why you are uncomfortable. You are caught in a very difficult position of strong cultural practices and beliefs, a dysfunctional family, and a dependence on that family for your support. Rejection by parents and family is especially painful. It is no wonder that you feel depressed and not loved. You are not being treated with the respect and love that you deserve.
Please understand that we are writing from the United States and do not have a full understanding of your culture and society. It is up to you to evaluate carefully what we say. Use only those ideas that you think are appropriate. Remember that you have free will. It is obvious that you want to change the way you are living and that change may be difficult. Consider the following:
- Consider the good. Your formal education may have been limited but it is obvious that you are motivated and intelligent. You also have business skills that you have developed being responsible for your father’s business. You also speak of commitment that you are keeping even in spite of family pressure. You are hard working. You speak more than one language. You are also young. Take some time alone and write out a list of these and other good characteristics that you have as an individual. You can use this list for several things. First, give yourself credit for being a good person. Use the list to remind yourself of your value to yourself and others. Work hard on your self esteem (see the self esteem material on this site). Second, use this list as a starting point for the next suggestion on creating a better future.
- Create a better future. The second list you should write is a list of goals. Consider the following questions: What do you want out of life? What do you mean exactly when you say “I want to live a comfortable life?” What would your life look like if you had free choice? Who would be in your life? What would your relationships look like? What do you want in the short term? What do you want in the medium term? And what do you want for the long term? Take your time in creating this list and think about it over time and revise it as appropriate.
- Now you have two important lists. One is an inventory of what good you have and the other is a set of goals. Your challenge now is to see what adjustments you can make in your life to build more of the good and to achieve your goals. Ask yourself questions such as, “What can I do differently today to achieve my goals? In what ways can I gain more education and skills? How can I act to gain more respectful treatment?”
- People do not like to change. You and your entire family are accustomed to your being treated in a specific way and you reacting in a specific way. You can only rely on changing yourself. Rapid change is almost guaranteed to be met with rapid resistance. Slow change is more likely to allow for some movement with less intense resistance. It will be up to you to test and adjust how you change. You can judge how much of what type of resistance you are willing to accept. People treat you the way you teach them to treat you.
- It is totally up to you to judge how much of your future life will stay within the current boundaries of your family and how much you might seek to create outside those boundaries. We cannot advise here because in Western culture the usual approach is for adult children to separate from their parents and create independent lives. We understand that this is not always as easy economically or socially in your country.
- Your family obviously depends on you greatly to run the business. They would be unwise to drive you out of the house and the business. Perhaps this gives you some leverage to change.
- Sometimes it is easier to do something and then ask for forgiveness rather than to seek permission. You should not need permission to improve who you are as a person.
- Comfort lies primarily within the mind. Work on your self esteem and your self development. It is a lifelong journey and we can take many lessons from those who have gone before us such as Mohandas K. Gandhi in his search for truth.
We wish you well.
Please understand you have free will. This advice is given only in the realm of personal growth and self-help. This is not to be considered a substitute for therapy or professional counseling. We wish you well.