Only when we are clear about how – and if – we are relating to people can we be happy in our relationships.
On a show that I recently hosted, my guest talked candidly about how his father and he could not see eye to eye over Life choices that the guest had made. Subsequently the guest narrated how he was thrown out of his house by his father. It was a painful memory and the guest perhaps made it sound light by calling his father “dumb”. Some members in the audience clapped and many laughed. But a few of them reached out to me and said that they found the guest’s statements about his dad questionable. At least one of them pointed out that his open remarks, and the audience’s reaction, may send a signal to children watching the show that it was cool to criticize your parents in public.
As a show host I am all for socially responsible comments in public. So, yes, both the guest and I may have liked to qualify the guest’s remarks as intensely personal, adding that these sentiments are not to be generalized. But, I believe, I let it be because a. I could relate to what the guest was sharing and b. such qualification might have been redundant as the guest was only sharing his personal story, of what he had experienced.
And that brings me to the moot question – is it okay to share how you feel about your dysfunctional relationship with your parent in public?
Those who know me and who have read Fall Like A Rose Petal or have heard my Fall Like A Rose Petal Talk are aware of my dysfunctional relationship with my mother. In sharing my story I only tell people what – and how – I feel about my mother. I don’t quite see it as criticism, I see it as the truth. Trying to make sense of why we have this apparently abnormal, unique, relationship, where there is no chemistry between us, is a lived experience for me. It is not imaginary or aspirational. It is what I have lived through. It is an integral part of how my Life has shaped and evolved. I have chosen not to hide it. I am not baring it all in public forums to malign my mother. I am however sharing in relevant contexts only to tell people that such things happen in Life – that even in a close, blood, relationship, dysfunctionality can prevail. And that when you can’t resolve the issues between you and the other person, it is perfectly fine to maintain a distance. I can’t get along with anyone with whom my value systems don’t match. That one such person is my own mother is just incidental.
The problem with society is that it expects everyone and everything to be stereotypical. And in reality there are no stereotypes – each one’s story, and each one’s lived experience, is unique. No one can understand the pain of a child not being trusted by his parent – my pain! No one can understand – not even me – the pain of a child being asked to leave his home just because he had a secular outlook – my guest’s pain! Indeed, we may have similar journeys but the experiences we go through are unique. So, just because our movies generalize the mother as sacrosanct, I can’t force myself to relate to my mother. Or just because our tradition and culture say, “Matha Pitha Guru Deivam” – advocating that the parents occupy an exalted position, even ahead of the teacher and God – it need not be true that everyone on the planet either feels that way or relates to that line of thought.
Just as I have stated in my Book, and as I say here again, I have nothing against my mother. I respect her for giving birth to me, raising me and teaching me the alphabet. That’s a debt I may never be able to repay to her. Never. By sharing how I feel about her, I have never intended to belittle her. Also, there are so many areas where I disagree with her choices in her Life. But I never will comment on those. That’s her Life. I only have a right to choose what works – or refuse what doesn’t work – for me in the context of my relationship with her. And in that context, I consider my relationship with her a dysfunctional one. To be sure, this can happen in any relationship, to anyone. It is my experience and learning that only when we are clear about how – and if – we are relating to people can we be happy in our relationships.
So, my two penny worth perspective is this. It is never a great idea to criticize anybody, least of all your parents. But that shouldn’t stop you from sharing how you feel about people and your relationship with them, even if they are your parents. Being socially responsible is important, especially on public forums. But you have a big responsibility, primarily to yourself first – to be truthful about your Life. If that means sharing how you feel about – and in – a relationship, so be it. Saying it, and sharing it, as it is always acts as therapy; it heals and contributes greatly to your inner peace.