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A BALANCED VIEW OF PRIVACY

He was a man who valued his privacy. Not that he was a recluse. He was exposed to crowds of people almost daily. Yet, at the same time, he managed carefully to have some time for himself.

He knew that to have inward depth and personal self sufficiency, one needed time for oneself – time to think and reflect, to search the inmost recesses of the mind, making it possible to maintain balance.

The right to privacy is not easily understood because it cannot be described with precision. Broadly, privacy is defined as the claim made by groups or individuals that they be allowed to determine for themselves when, how and to what extent information about them is communicated to others.

What one may consider to be a matter of privacy, another may not. Living in close proximity to relatives and friends can irritate privacy-oriented persons. Being class conscious, each social group tries to live within the protection of privacy.

Concern for people can be kept within limits. A friendly visit once in a while can be like soothing ripples on a shore, but to overdo it may cause others to build up a psychological breakwater to keep out the waves of incessant visitations on which the seeds of gossip grow.

What about us? Do we appreciate having some time for ourselves? When upset, do we seek privacy? A young man who went through family crisis withdrew from friends for a time. They felt hurt at his attitude.

Was it wrong for this man to be a ‘private person’ who needed time to sort things out? Not unless, he used his time alone to brood or nurse resentful feelings or to withdraw in prolonged isolation to the point of becoming an ingrown personality. But if privacy causes one’s thoughts to be guided by principles, it can prove to be a healthful process from which clear thinking emerges.

Too much or too little privacy can create imbalances that jeopardize one’s well being. Some questions to introspect can be – ‘Do I enjoy my own company? Do I reflect on new things learned and broaden my understanding of matters? Do I like to contemplate over constructive questions and problems?’

Some persons cannot enjoy their own company. They seem impelled to be around others. It would appear that if they cannot talk to someone, they cannot think for themselves. Indiscriminately, they pour out everything that crosses their mind.

Many persons feel that if they search long and deep within themselves, they will eventually uncover some depository of profound truth and meaning. It might be true that deep and persistent soul searching will help us better understand our views, tendencies, attitudes, feelings, ambitions, longings and likes.

But much of what we find within ourselves needs to be corrected, even discarded and replaced with the makings of a new self. We are inwardly more like a vessel – receptive but to a great extent empty. We can receive and absorb knowledge that results in inner development.

Personal privacy can be a time to read, to meditate and develop thinking abilities. The ability to think develops only to the extent one feeds upon information, experience and training.

Ability to think is not easy. It is real mental work. For example, if one needs to evaluate different types of persons to a reliable degree, we need to picture one particular person whom we know. That person can be seen, heard, touched and discerned with the physical senses. But does such discernment involve thinking? No.

As one begins to think about the person, does not one’s emotional reactions toward that person start interfering? Before one is really thinking, have we not started feeling about the person – registering likes, dislikes, respect, disrespect, trust, distrust – reacting emotionally before beginning an intellectual appraisal?

Thinking involves taking note of the person’s views, attitudes, behaviour, abilities, accomplishments etc. Can we make logical predictions as to how the person might react under given circumstances? Appraising mental and emotional qualities in a person requires making sure, that feelings do not slip in under the guise of thoughts to throw our mental processes off track.

The heart, or seat of emotions tend to overrule the head, the seat of intellect. Resolving the conflict between the heart and the head is vital.

Absolute privacy is only a mirage. There is an old saying, “heaven knows, earth knows, I know, and you know.” We will benefit much by making room in our lives for a reasonable degree of personal privacy.

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL

Rekha Kumar The writer is a work-life balance and leadership skills facilitator [email protected]

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