Youth in focus: After my parents divorced, my life fell apart. I’m not blaming my step-mother as I’m sure she thought that she was doing the right thing to protect her own children, but I was left out and felt crushed. I started roaming around. I used drugs, drunk heavily and slept all morning. Finally, I got fed up of my life and managed to get some training. Since then, I have done my best to work hard. However, my family refuses to forget my past. Even though I have job and contribute to the family, they call me a waster and look down on me because I did not get higher education. I am really sad. What can I do?

Sad boy, Thimphu

Hi Sad boy,

I’ll answer your question in two parts.

The first part is addressed to you. I know it is really tough when we are rejected by our family. However, I suggest that you do not focus too much on this issue, but instead silently and humbly try to help your family and work hard in your job. If you can do this, there is a high chance that your family will change their feelings towards you. Still, gaining your family’s approval should not be the motivation behind your desire to transform your life, but instead you should strive to change in order to regain your own self-respect and dignity.

In reality, people are very fickle and so relying on others for your sense of dignity and security is like leaning on a wobbly chair for stability. When it moves, you move. Of course, we should listen to other’s opinions and consider their advice, but we should not rely on them for our wellbeing.

Actually, searching for security and happiness in samsara is like building a tower on shifting sands. It will look impressive for a while but then it will collapse. You should bear this point in mind. It does not mean that you do not build towers but that you do so with right understanding. If you can do this, you will not get disturbed when people’s opinions change. Therefore, even if your family begins to trust you, I suggest that you do not be over dependent on their approval. Otherwise, you will constantly feel insecure and anxious. Basically, just do your very best in every situation without expectations.

Finally, I suggest that you do not dwell on your family’s negative words, but also think about the good times that you had together. Basically, when we feel annoyed with others, we see only their negative points. It is like wearing dark glasses and so everything appears as one colour – black. When this occurs, we feel irritated even before the other person opens their mouth. In this kind of situation, there is no openness or space for change. Recalling the kind acts that your family have done for you will crack the hardness in your relationship and allow for some positive change to occur.

This part is addressed to your parents: Think of a family like a human body – when each part functions well, the entire body is healthy. In contrast, if one part is sick, then the whole body suffers. Therefore, it is to everyone’s advantage for your son to move forward. Constantly bringing up his past and looking down on him will destroy his self-confidence, and if this occurs he is very likely to return to his old habits. And, as I said, if a family member is not functioning well, then the entire family will suffer.

Actually, a major reason for recovering addicts to relapse is rejection by the family. Instead of encouraging their son or daughter to rebuild their lives, many parents actively discourage them by constantly bringing up the past. As a result, they start reusing drugs and the family is once again thrown into turmoil.

Therefore, rather that dwell on the past, it would really benefit everyone if we can support and encourage a family member who is trying to change. In reality, a family cannot flourish unless its individual members are doing well. This is an obvious point, but sometimes our emotions cloud our judgment.

Finally, it is really unhelpful to demean anyone for doing a simple job, but instead we should feel proud of a family member who is contributing to the household and encourage them in their work. In reality, any job that does not harm others is a worthy and commendable profession.