I am Saumya, a 25-year-old modern Indian girl. My family is a very orthodox Indian family where the boy child is given preference over the girl child. As both of my parents attend to the shop, I am supposed to look after my brother Anuj, who is 16 years old. I have to fulfill the role of a parent to my brother inspite of him not appreciating it. Since childhood, I have been sacrificing a lot for my brother- not being able to go out often, not being able to call friends over, not being able to relax and be wild. Outside, I am very charming and spontaneous and have a very individualistic personality, which I like. I am very impressed by the western culture, education and work ethics. I want to go ahead and explore the whole world. Sometimes I am accused of being dominating and forceful, immature and irresponsible. Some people feel insecure in my presence as they feel I am too intimidating. This has lead to the absence of long lasting and committed relationships. However, at home, I am taken for granted. It hurts a lot when I do not matter as an individual. The lack of freedom, unfair attention on my brother by my parents and a restriction of my activities sometimes makes me hate them. I always remember how my parents have worked day and night and sacrificed all their pleasures to make a home. So I feel that I should love my parents unconditionally as they are and not oppose what they say or expect me to do. This conflict is growing in my mind and is reflected in my other relationships. I do not know what my preferences are – in career, in marital partner or friends, in any important issue. I feel lonely in a crowd and want to avoid human contact. My irritation turns inwards and I feel very angry and sad. I am beginning to be disinterested in marriage. My adventurous spirit has been dampened and I am forced to get settled in the conventional life of my family. I feel burdened by the parental love which appears obliged than real. Please show me a way in which I can live my life without hurting my parents.
Saumya’s position reflects the state of many young girls in our society. It is the case of a pathological attachment to the family system. One would have to understand the developmental requirement of a young adult like Saumya in order to understand how and why she has allowed herself to be in this position. Saumya has failed to shed the family dependencies to look at herself as a separate member of the society. She has failed to shift from a preadolescent idealized parental image to post adolescent idealized ethics and values, the gradual shift from the family of origin to the world at large. She has not been able to detach emotionally from her parents. She does have an image of herself being very competent and comfortable by herself but this has to be translated in her behavior. She has not been able to shift away from her parents in forming new relationships that replace the progenitors as the most important individuals in her life. Saumya suffers from too strong a conscience. It is very rigid and makes her feel guilty every moment. Generally, as a person grows up, the conscience becomes more flexible and allows the person to interact with the world. Saumya is etched in the exacting conscience, which forces her to follow the dictates of parental images and not her own drives. Whenever she is outside the influence of these images, the drives are allowed to have an expression in the real world, leading to the development of her capacities. However, because of the strong conscience, the drives are unable to win over the strict parental images and henceforth every fulfillment of wishes is followed by a strong guilt feeling and a sense of wretchedness. This has lead to a very pessimistic view of the outside world for Saumya who has resigned herself to the conventional way of her family. She needs to change a lot of her values to get out of the confusion that she is in. It is very clear that she has put the family values as expected by her parents as a priority compared to the fulfillment of her wishes and drives. She has a differential behaviour at home and outside home. (Behavioral interventions next week)