Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Emotional Firewalls

It's too bad people don't come with natural virus protection to detect infected files trying to invade our system, because a lot of us seem to muddle through our lives as vulnerable as a computer without a firewall.

Our tendency is to believe the innocent-looking message that comes through Facebook or via e-mail until, by clicking onto it, we discover ourselves in a world of hurt. Like our computer's hard drive, our lives can be twisted by a betraying lover or insincere friend, or a deceptive salesperson,  if we don't learn until after we've allowed them entry that they mean to do us harm.

Often, in my job, that's what I feel like - the computer repair person trying to set things right again after the system has been corrupted by a virus.

The hacker may be a hit and run girlfriend who gains your love and has your baby, then leaves you high and dry owing at least 18 years of support on a child with whom you are denied a relationship.

Or a smiling buy-here-pay-here salesman who swears the POS car he just sold you at twice the going rate is in perfect condition. When it falls to pieces 30 days later, too bad so sad, you still owe the balance and don't think you can get out of it. Their specialty is writing contracts in such a way that you don't stand a chance.

Or the friend that says, "oh, these are temporary guardianship papers, just 'til you get back on your feet."  You're so grateful until you discover temporary isn't all that temporary unless your hire a lawyer and go back to court and even then, proving you should get your kids back once you've signed them over to someone else may not be that easy to do.

Maybe your nice new landlord assures you that he'll repair the furnace and fix the leaky toilet and replace the dirty carpet, just go ahead and write him the rent check and move in. Don't think you can withhold payment when he doesn't follow through. Rent is due no matter what, just like support is due whether your ever get visitation with your kids or not.

I see so many clients who would have been saved if only they'd had an inner "ALERT!" to protect themselves. So many problems in life are due to blind trust given and betrayed.

Um, doesn't she have other kids on whom she collects a weekly check while withholding visitation from the fathers? What makes you think she won't do the same to you? Conversely, doesn't he have other kids that he's never paid a nickel to support? Why do you think yours will be any different? Oh, s/he loves you. Uh huh, I see.

Did you even read your rental agreement/sales contract/guardianship documents? Did it state in black and white that the landlord would make certain repairs? Did it lay out in writing what happens if the car blows up after a month? Was there an end date written into the guardianship agreement?

No? Well, then, you're probably screwed.

Do you think I'm too cynical? You don't want to believe the world is that predatory? Computers are a lot like life. The majority of messages you receive and websites you visit are just what they seem to be, but let your virus protection expire and see what happens.

It is a matter of balance. You don't want to set your firewall so high that you deny even loyal lovers and faithful friends and responsible salespeople in. On the other hand, you don't want it so low that you make it simple for the hackers to invade your life either.