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Good and Bad Reasons for Finding Someone
Richard A. Lawhern, Ph.D.
Last Updated: October, 1997
Let's talk about the meaning of "finding people." We're not talking about celebrities. The person you want to locate probably isn't a corporate officer or an elected official. Such folks are easy to find. Likewise, this isn't about tracing your family genealogy, though the Internet Sleuth offers gateways to several resources in that area. Finally, the special needs of adoptees or parents whose children have been adopted by others will be treated only briefly here.
The person you want to find is probably a "normal" individual that you know from a past association or that you wish to locate for a specific reason. Lots of reasons come to mind. You may wish to:
People that we want to find tend to fall into two broad categories: (1) somebody in whom you have an emotional investment, or (2) somebody you want to make life difficult for (or protect yourself from) who has caused you harm. I offer two very different bits of advice for dealing with these categories.
If you're trying to locate someone who is significant in your emotional life -- either positively or negatively -- then first ask yourself if they really want to hear what you want to say. If you were them, would you want to be found? If you aren't clear on this question, then stop and think before you invade somebody's privacy to "help" them, or to seek their help. Intervention in the lives of other people is often counter-productive. Likewise, it does not always help our bad feelings to "tell off" another person to their face. Self righteous wrath or personal vindication are poor reasons to go looking for someone. Get over it.
Especially if your search has to do with "love," try to be very clear about why you "need" to contact this person you're seeking, or they "need" to contact you, but haven't. Is this search really about them, or is it about you? If it's about you, then please consider talking with a mental health professional for a few weeks before you charge in and create a royal mess. Invading the workplace of a former lover or spouse or forcing yourself upon them socially may get you arrested or sued.
On the other hand, if you're trying to find somebody who has damaged you, then ask yourself what might happen if they find out you're looking for them. Such situations can get sticky. In these circumstances, it may be smart to pay for the advice and assistance of an Investigation Agency. If any question of sexual harrassment or stalking is involved -- especially if you are the target -- assistance by a third party can keep you out of very deep Doo-Doo. If you're trying to locate a child, the last thing you want is to spook the people who have him or her into running away. You have little idea how your actions may alert somebody that they are being investigated. A PI should understand these things a lot better.
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