Looking for a bridge over troubled water? Krithvi Shyam, our young psychologist, addresses your worst anxieties.

I have a younger cousin (Std VI) and I have just finished my Std XII. He talked to me recently and asked me what 143 (I love you) was and how you put flames (where f-friend, l-love, a-associate ,m-marriage ,e-enemy and s-sex) and other related questions. Am I the right person to explain this to him? What and how do I say? He is a single child and his parents are slightly over-protective. I tried to remember who told me about all this but I guess I found it along as I grew up and didn’t ask anyone.

Why me?

As you rightly pointed out, people can learn about these things without actually asking anyone. However, your cousin has decided to ask you. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you explaining “143” to him. As for “flames”, since its meaning seems to change with every generation, maybe you could go with the relatively anodyne interpretation of “crush” and leave out the acronym for now. These days it’s getting harder to keep PG-13 (or for that matter, R-Rated) information away from kids, so it’s important that they at least get their information from reliable sources. In an ideal situation, it would be great if your cousin discovered “143” at the tender age of 22, preferably after finishing his B.E. and getting placed as an analyst. However, our world is far from ideal, and I’m sure his parents would much prefer their son be educated by a well-informed older sister, rather than by his fellow 10-year-olds. Just ensure that your explanations are age-appropriate. He doesn’t need to know everything you know, and if you’re really uncomfortable talking to him about something, feign ignorance and say “I have no idea”.

I am 18-years-old and I talk to myself when alone. I have been doing so for as long as I can remember and do not know why. I do not address myself but make up stories and act them out, playing the parts of all the people involved by myself. Also, before I am about to have a really important conversation with someone, I practise it. This helps me to imagine, vent, be optimistic, solve problems, get creative and I cannot think of how I would not do it. When I was younger, my family would tease me light-heartedly. They now think that I do not do so anymore. I am not spontaneous or confident, though I would like to be. I do not have a best friend that I share everything with. I have problems with trusting people and am not very talkative. I do enjoy the company of the people that I like, but am also quite comfortable in solitude. I have a great, supportive family and good friends but I don’t feel like I can share everything with them. I would like to know if this is possibly a symptom of some mental disorder that I must be concerned about. Please help.

Very concerned

I don’t think you’re alone in replaying scenarios in your head and re-imagining the way you would have liked them to go. Lots of people do this in certain situations — for instance, may be when they mess up an interview, meet a celebrity or talk to their crush. As long as you’re clearly aware of what is real and what is an imagined scenario, and what sort of behaviour would be inappropriate in reality (even if it plays out perfectly in your imagination), I don’t see any harm in acting situations out while you’re alone.

However, may be there are qualities that your character assumes when you’re acting scenes out — being more assertive or less quiet — that are not the same as how you are in real life. So perhaps you could learn a few things from your character that would allow your outcomes in reality to be positive too, not just in your imagination.

As for the last bit, there are no rules saying that you have to have a best friend, or you have to share everything with your friends. Lots of people prefer to be in their own company instead of that of others. The important thing is to make sure you show those others often enough that you care for them so that they will be there for you when you need them.