16 November 2010

Crime: a family business

CyberShrink gets asked serious questions beyond relationships and stress - he has to come up with answers about family fraud, paranoia, and how to avoid being used as a drug mule.


Besides dispensing daily advice on how to manage stress, relationships, children, work pressures and mental illness, CyberShrink has to answer some unusual questions. 

Q: New boyfriend wants me to carry a bag to Phuket 

I have this problem. I met this guy about a month ago and he is quite wealthy. He is in China at the moment and is then going to Phuket for a holiday. He has bought me a ticket to join him there. The problem is that he has asked me to bring 2 bags of his. With this drug thing in Thailand, I am petrified that there is something in these bags. Although there is nothing that I can see in them, people have clever ways of hiding it. What should I do? I do trust him and think that his request is innocent. but I need to be cautious. Is there somewhere I can take the bags to be checked out? Thanks.

A: You're absolutely right to have such doubts. Honest guys you just meet, however wealthy, take their own bags with them, and don't pay for people they've just met, to fly to Thailand.
It's hard to imagine that he would require any innocent bags brought so far to him when he could buy better ones and the same contents, anywhere else on his travels.
I would think an intelligent police station should be able to put you in contact with the drug squad to have the bags checked out. And if they do find something, they could advise you how to handle this situation.

Q:  My children have defrauded my company, what do I do? 

I have been very hurt by my adolescent boys i.r.o badmouthing me, continual disrespect for me, gross disobedience and non-co-operation in the house. The climax was when they defrauded my business for over R1 million. I've received no apologies up to now - just lies and cover-ups. This behaviour was and is still supported by my wife. I got fed-up, arguments followed and then a grand showdown ensued.  I dismissed them from the house. My wife joined them too. They and I are now seperated.
Should I forgive them without them admitting to the crime and having remorse for what they did? What must I do, as my wife is not telling them to admit their deeds and come apologise to their father?

A: This sounds very like another message I read here, very recently. If they defrauded you and/or your business of over R1 million, report them to the police and have them arrested and prosecuted - it does them harm to teach them that they can get away with crime, and you won't be their only victim, until they get into bigger trouble and come to even greater harm themselves.

The mischievous and dangerous message that is spreading around South Africa is that somehow all victims have a duty to "forgive" everyone who has harmed them, even if the perpetrators are triumphant, unapologetic and eager to continue doing wrong. This is something we should, as a community, very firmly stamp out.
Do NOT "forgive" them for major crime. Indiscriminate "forgiveness" is for suckers, and breeds criminality and cruelty.
Your wife obviously THINKS she is protecting them - yet she is only encouraging them to continue criminal conduct, and soon another victim may be very vicious indeed towards them. Persuade her to see a good and tough-love oriented counsellor to sort out her own confusion about crime and cruelty.
If these kids don't learn that criminal and wicked behaviour has negative consequences, you are both doing them a major disservice.
Forgive only in the sense of releasing yourself from the sadness and bitterness you feel, for your own benefit.

Q: Brother's strange behaviour

For as long as I can remember, my brother was different. When he was at school, he constantly complained to my parents that the teachers were against him, gave him bad marks, were jealous of him, etc. The pupils were jealous and always had it in for him. So my parents moved him from school to school. They strangely never saw that something is wrong with my brother and not the school, teachers and pupils. Can everyone always have something against him?

He is now 24 and this behaviour continues. He is lazy and hates hard work. He starts a job and then complains about the work, the boss, the other staff, etc. Someone is always jealous of him and treating him badly. So he can never keep a full time job. And as soon as he starts his nonsense, my parents feel sorry for him and tell him to leave work.

My brother came to stay with me for a while this year. Very soon he started complaining about me. I wasn't making him breakfast, lunch, supper and I made him do his own washing and ironing and insisted he clean his room. Very soon I started getting calls from my father telling me how disgusted he is with me for not taking care of the child! I have my own little one and I work too, so i have no time to mother an adult. Then suddenly I was treating him badly because I was jealous of him.

So my mum rented him a 3 bedroon townhouse - one bedroom was too small for him. My husband was also suddenly jealous of him. My brother sent him and sms, swearing at my hubby. We told my father and my father said there is no way his son would do such a thing. He must have sent the sms to the wrong person and anyway he heard that my hubby was jealous of his son and was mean to him.

He had issues at work- everyone was jealous of him and against him because he was such a good employee and they just hated him for that. Now I heard he is not working anymore - left that job too.

When he first moved to Jo'burg, he would call my gran and uncle and start crying and tell them he was earning so little and life is so difficult here. He was earning R15000, but told everyone he was earning R1500. He told them to ask my dad to open up a business for him and he won't have to work and suffer.

Sadly my parents can't see that something is wrong with him. He always believes people are out to get him and also wants to get revenge on people and, whilst he is very much a wimp, he always has all these violent ideas in his head of what he will do to get his revenge.

No one can reason with my parents and if you even try, you're automatically accused of being jealous of him and hating him. My parents even think that people are jealous of them. My dad bought a new Mercedes and didn't take it out of the garage for half a year because if people saw it they would be jealous.

I feel as if I have a family with serious problems. They're all paranoid, irrational and unrealistic and live in their own world. I have another 2 brothers who are becoming just like this. And all of them lie incessantly.

A: As it sounds as though he has failed at everything he has faintly attempted, one wonders what it is about him that he thinks others are jealous of? Presumably not his huge academic or commercial successes?

It's fair enough to hope not to suffer too much in life, but to expect not to have to work, is far more unrealistic. He apparently takes no personal responsibility for his contributions to his failures. And when he exaggerates, and indeed lies, about his financial situation, he seems to be seeking pity and donations he knows he doesn't really deserve (otherwise the truth would be sufficient).

This recurring theme of jealousy is curious, when he seems to have managed nothing worthy of anyone's jealousy. But your parents seem to have bought into this, and to share the same delusions about jealousy.

Would it be possible for your parents to be approached by you, your gran and uncle, to make it clear many people are having the same experience of this guy, and that they are overlooking something important and essential to recognise if anyone is to truly help him ?

I guess this is unlikely, as you seem to be describing a family habit and patterns which you, fortunately, have escaped from. And they would rather continue to believe this family myth than face reality and find a more productive and comfortable way of life.

If they see no problem, they will not allow you or anyone else to intervene, however much they may need and benefit from intervention.

Read more:

Effects of mental illness on the family

Write to CyberShrink with your difficult issues

(Joanne Hart, Health24, November 2010)


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