The artist happens to be that person to her left, and she is in earshot. She's not happy. Maybe sales haven't been good, and now she has to hear what a bad artist she is. As a result of listening in, an interactional sequence, she suffers an ego slam. It hurts.
The irony is that my friend hurts now, too. She has hurt someone's feelings and feels horrible about it. She apologizes, tries to recover, but the deed is done. Safe to say, the artist hurts even more.
It's an interesting question:
Who hurts more?People do intentionally listen in on conversations. My grandson listens behind a door as I innocently talk on the telephone while whipping up a salad dressing. He thinks he's fooling me. He loves the power, the sense of control. It is hard to mentor him, to explain that this isn't good for his character. He's only seven.
But adults do it all of the time, snoop intentionally, and I would posit that this is terrible for their character, their sense of self, too. The act is probably worse for the snooper than for the snoopee.
Who is this person who reads someone else's mail, who opens closed files, who deliberately listens in on the conversations of others? Sociopathic, possibly. Insecure, more likely. Doesn't make it right. Get therapy. Don't lower yourself to this.
It is becoming an every day thing, hacking into electronic media, editing pictures so that they make other people laugh. A young man kills himself because his roommate hid in a closet, videotaped him having sex with another male student, then posted it. Videotaping has become something we think we can just do.
Privacy, certainly, isn't sacred anymore. Not a new issue, really.
So snooping is just one of the many ways of breaching privacy. No matter how we do it, the behavior reduces our stature, our very selves are diminished in the eyes of others, and our own, when we wake up, too. We become dangerous as snoopers. Saying that the means justify the end, merely denial. By snooping a person morphs into someone to suspect, to watch, to be careful around, untrustworthy. Not even less trustworthy. Untrustworthy. The deed is done, it can't be undone.
It's too hard for the victim to regroup, to say, Never mind. We can act as if it is okay, but with no sincere apology from the offender, it won't be. This is the rationale behind the apology in the 12-Step program. At least with an apology there is some hope that a person sincerely regrets having hurt another, a way back.
Sometimes a patient will whip out a cell phone and ask me to listen to voicemail from a spouse or someone else. I've been sucked in, but no more. It's not cool. Only one of the two invited me into the conversation.
As my son-in-law likes to say, No good can come of it. Whatever I hear from a recording can surely be communicated some other way. Most people memorize traumatic conversations, semblances, at least. We don't have to have it word for word.
I always believe only half of what I hear, anyway.
Therapists, especially, and doctors, researchers have to lock their files before they leave the office, shut down the programs. We don't afford the cleaning crew an opportunity to read notes on our patients. Patients trust us to protect their privacy, like we trust our families to do the same.
And yet. The same people who would never think to leave out a chart (me, for example) might justify, reading what is left open on someone else's computer screen. If this weren't public domain, then why was it left open to begin with? Why not at least minimize that window?
We might as well ask, Why don’t people remember to turn off the lights when they leave the room? They forget, is all.
As parents we rationalize listening into our kids' conversations, rifling through clothing, pockets, reading notes in backpacks. We have to protect them, especially our adolescents, we think. They are our charge, we need to be sure they are well. Somehow. We’ll deal with the information, the evidence, figure it out as we go along. But is it right? Can't we accomplish as much developing a truly trusting relationship with our children, one that is intimate and safe? No, it isn't easy, but it is possible.
Partners snoop, and of course therapists hear it all. One sniffs another's collar for perfume, another reads the texts messages on a phone. It is de riguere, a regular thing in couples therapy, the guy who has programming skills hacking in, reading email from his partner's friends, searching out pictures of her with a lover. Then, because there is evidence of an affair, he assumes, usually incorrectly, that their relationship is over, so he deliberately sets out to trap her, punish her. Things get ugly and complicated. The therapy gets dicey, too, if they are in couple's therapy, as they should be. Now not only is she guilty, but he is, too, for invading her privacy, her thoughts, her supposedly private conversations.
Women, when they hear about an affair, come to therapy or they talk to their friends, consult a lawyer, maybe confront. They don't go to the lengths of tapping phones. I'm sure it happens, just not something I hear about.
Which crime is worse? Breaking marital vows or breaching the privacy of a partner?
I discussed it once with a colleague. His patient had taped my patient's phone calls (the two were married and we had permission to speak about them.) I thought my colleague gave his patient (the snooper) too much credit. The psychologist excused the behavior much too readily, basically gave permission, told the his patient that it was okay, his snooping understandable under the circumstances. Man to man he could see why the guy felt driven to trap his spouse by taping her conversations. Busted. He really won that battle. Now she'll never really trust him, even if they kiss and make up. A perfect system.
I ask the therapist:
“So if the same client told you that he had been taping your visits, that he had recorded every word you ever said to him and locked the tape up somewhere, perhaps in a safe deposit box, how would you feel?”Note, I did not ask if he could find justification for the behavior. We can find justification for almost anything we do. I wanted to know how he would feel. Would that feel good, knowing that his words, his thoughts, could be shared with the world?
There are all kinds of ways to rape someone.
He had to think about it. A week later we talked and he answered honestly. He would probably feel violated, abused, horrible, sick. And the sickness wouldn't just end at dinner, it would absorb his thoughts for weeks, make him paranoid about other patients, too, make him worry that others are running tape recorders in their backpacks.
He certainly would never trust the patient again. Stolen moments and sin upon sin, stolen intellectual time, time wasted obsessing, time that could have been spent more productively. We don't think about this, the extent of the violation, what this really means, the invasion of privacy. The "rape."
The means don't justify the end, no matter what we think that end should be.
Expressing negativity is therapeutic, some think the curative ingredient in all of of psychotherapy and even friendship. We should be able to vent in peace to our doctors and to our friends. It is their integrity on the line if they tell over our secrets, and we learn who we can trust with secrets and who we can't in the process.
It can be upsetting, the triangle, being the one left out of the conversation. We've talked about that before, will get to it again.
But snoop? Snoop on anyone? Not becoming, not dignified, not cool. Breaching someone's privacy pierces the humanity of both, but casts a shadow upon the snooper, a partner who might otherwise be a thinking, self-assured, kind, attractive human being.
No good will come of it.