The Need for Independence & Control


I was reading Atul Gawande’s ‘Being Mortal’ when this hit me.

The author discusses how old people became depressed being in old age homes as there was loss of independence and privacy. They were being treated like kids – the home tells you when to get up and when to eat and what to eat. This is why assisted living in the original sense (the author talks about how assisted living as a concept changed over years) became popular because people could live in their own home by their own rules. The medical system and the oldies families were concerned with safety while the old peoples were more concerned about living the way they pleased with nobody dictating their lives.

If human nature strives for independence and control which is evidenced by research and old people are so unhappy about being told what to do, what about the countless daughter-in-laws (DILs) and sons in traditional societies who never get to be independent?

The moment the DIL comes into the family, everyone from her husband’s mother to father to other relatives take it upon themselves to show the DIL her place. They tell her what to cook, what to wear, when she can go out and even, if and when she can talk to her own parents. For the sons, unless they have studied/worked in another city, many of them never get the opportunity to explore their own tastes or desires. For the couple, they often do not get to explore setting up their own house or creating a home with their own rules. Often, it is about assimilating into somebody else’s home. 

On top of it, the in-laws and the husband are surprised when the DIL is upset about ‘trivial things’ like the colour of the curtains and wonder why she can’t ‘just adjust and give in’. That is because nobody likes being made to live their entire life according to another person’s whim and fancy. Yes, one could argue that one has to follow laws but everyone likes to have a semblance of control over their own lives to the largest extent possible as an adult.

Also, we (I sometimes do) often tend to go into parent mode with our parents as they grow older. Something we need to work on avoiding. 

Food for though for older people who wish to control their kids and their spouses lives. They may obey but they are not happy and this is why. If you are a DIL who feels irritated but can’t find anything wrong, this is why. Our societal norms are so ingrained in us that it is difficult to articulate what feels wrong. If you are a husband whose spouse complains about your mom/dad/sis/relative picking on her and you can’t get why she is so upset, this is why.

Give space and freedom to adults because that is how we are meant to be. How can one truly lead a fulfilled life if they do not get to live an independent life?

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