We are the sum of our life experiences to date, and as we get older our experiences become redundant. Same you, perhaps different people, perhaps different places but the story remains the same. If you struggle to hold your ground when dealing with difficult or high conflict people, it’s because you were unintentionally conditioned to be someone who is easily pushed over.
How you address conflicts stems from your early life experiences, whether you were bullied by a parent, an older sibling, a classmate or classmates. If you were bullied during your formative years in the absence of intervention, forces around unintentionally shaped you to become docile towards conflicts.
This is difficult to see, because most conflicts we experience are usually us dealing with one particular person. So when revisiting the situation, we often fall for the fallacy of what one particular person did to us, rather than the role we played in inviting the person to bring suffering on ourselves.
There are a number of ways by which we adopt a timid mindset throughout our lives, and they are genetics, parenting and socio-economics.
Really this comes down to your personality. I have become a solid believer in the correlation between genetics and personality as a father of three children. After from the first day, the personality of this child starts to show and becomes more consistent after about a month. Now a personality by itself does not predispose you to being the target of bulling. However, your personality mixed with your interpretation of your experiences plays a huge role in how you address conflicts.
People with easy going personalities are more susceptible to being bullied, if they are raised by parents who bully them, or who assist in feeding them messages that they are not supposed to stand up for themselves.
Emotional and physical abuse coupled with neglect is a common reason people become timid during conflicts. The reason for this is because the child having no other options resorts to developing coping strategies for dealing with an abusive experience. The child becomes hypervigilant towards predicting the temperament of the abuser and often times the child ends up internalizing his experiences with the abuse and engaging in self-blaming. Children engage in solipsism when thinking about themselves in relation to the world around them. The child believes that he or she is the only true mind that exists and that the world evolves around him or her. This leads to children believing that they are responsible for everything that they experience and in error, blaming themselves for abuse inflicted upon them.
The neglectful parent is just as bad, in that he or she fails to advocate for his or her child when the situation calls for. It could be an incident with being bullied in school or being treated unfairly by another adult. The same phenomenon is observed when the child, adopts a passive persona and becomes increasingly conflict avoidant.
Socio-economic circumstances play a big role in certain types of children adopting an attitude of timidity, who grow up to be timid adults. Put simply, most people who are poor tend to feel inferior to people who are economically well off. A child who is raised by improvised parents, who have adopted a sense of low self-worth in relation to their wealthier peers, will likely adopt his or her parent’s attitudes. This plays out in quality of education received, certain circles the family can afford to be a part of and disputes regulated by the state institution. Even those raised at an economic disadvantage, who grow up to be wealthy, find themselves with strong lingering feelings of timidity when it comes to addressing conflicts with others. Particular others who they perceive as more well off and educated than they are.
In truth, learning to address conflicts with others is easier than most people realize. Perhaps the most difficult step is learning to become reactive to difficult feelings which arise when provoked or triggered. After that the next step is utilizing cognitive strategies to firmly convey your message of disagreement. Most people who struggle with issues of timidity, strongly believe that the difficult feelings they experience during times of conflicts with others are caused by those who seek conflict with them. In truth these feelings are simply natural and are experienced by everyone who experiences conflicts. The difference with people who are timid, is that they have been conditioned throughout their lives to become reactive and flee from these feelings.
Without proper treatment, people who never learn to be assertive during conflicts experience chronic relationship problems at work, with their spouses and with their children. They tend to develop a pessimistic attitude towards people and may struggle to connect with anyone.
With proper treatment, primarily through cognitive behavioral therapy, people in this position can discover just how competent they are at resolving recurring conflicts in their lives.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC
Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong and can go wrong in your life. So what do you have to lose? When it comes to practicing the change we need to practice in our life, there are people who become frozen with hesitation because their minds are filled with all kinds of possibilities of things that could go wrong and greatly inconvenience them.
Are you one of these people? Do you have reasonable ideas about changes you can make in your life, but are stuck with fear in regards to the prospects of proceeding? If you are stuck with fear in regards to the changes you need to make in your life here are two things to consider. The first thing to consider is what do you want to happen? The second thing to consider is what would happen if you did nothing to change your situation?
So lets say you have a job, and the recent hiring of a new supervisor has turned your work environment into an abusive atmosphere. You could file a complaint with human resources, but you fear this would make matters worse between you and your supervisor. You could talk to your supervisor, but you fear this would lead to you being targeted after the conversation. You could look for a new job, but you fear that your employer could find out and you could be terminated. To make matters worse, you are now working overtime for no overtime pay, because some of your co workers where fired by the new supervisor for making mistakes on the job. Yet, the excess time you are putting in, added to the stress you are currently experiencing, is leading you to make some mistakes on the job which you are already frightened about. So what do you do?
So the first question would be, “What do you want to happen?” Most people in this predicament would answer that they want to work in a peaceful and supportive environment, regardless of where that work environment maybe. This leads to the second question, “What would happen if you made no changes, and continued with things as is?” Looking at the scenario just prescribed the answer would be that it is a matter of time before you make a major mistake on the job and the new supervisor fires you. This most likely would be the case given that you have already agreed to the poor treatment you have received on the job to date and in the eyes of your supervisor you have agreed that the value of your contribution is very low, which leads to a lack of respect by others for your work.
Now some people would interpret this scenario as a “damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” However this is not true, because the consequences for doing nothing are detrimental and more likely to happen than the consequences for doing something. This is because with doing something there does lie a possibility that things would change for the better as opposed to doing nothing where things are almost guaranteed to get worse. Further more, the moment you start engaging in exercising the change you need to make, you inevitably through research, encounter information which increases the probability that change is going to happen. So it truth, when you find yourself in a bad situation, engaging in change means “blessed if you do and damned if you don’t.”
Our responses to fear in our lives are learned, and most commonly learned responses to fear that dictate that we should always play it safe, even when we are not safe come from the irrational core belief that nothing bad “should” happen to us.
In my practice, there are evidence based cognitive behavioral beliefs that I introduce clients to, which are effective in helping people become less fear based in their thinking and subsequently their action.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and professional life coach.
Last week, reports broke out that Vester Lee Flanagan shot and killed two of his former co workers during a live broadcast, then he later committed suicide after a brief police chase. It has been further revealed that Vester released a manifesto, accompanied by a series of tweets in which he stated that he had received poor treatment by way of discrimination at the hands of Alison Parker and Adam Ward.
Assuming everything about this story is true, then it stands to reason that Alison, Adam and Vester, were victims of Vester’s flawed expectations regarding how he should be treated by others.
Contrary to popular belief, no one is entitled to be liked or loved by anyone other than themselves. This also extends to privileges, as no one is entitled to a job or treatment of prestige from others.
The Vester Lee shooting is a believable story, because from a psychological perspective it makes sense. It makes sense that Vester would harbor deep feelings of resentment and hate towards his coworkers when he felt that he was wrongly denied from what he believed was rightfully his; a job and a good relationship with his co workers.
Some people have characterized Vester as a mentally troubled man, and I would agree. However, I do believe that what made Vester a mentally troubled man, where his irrational beliefs of how he should have been treated. Most mental health issues are derived from our difficulty in coming to terms with the incongruence between our beliefs and our experiences. If our experiences contradict our beliefs, it is us who must make changes to our beliefs and not the world around us.
I do not support discrimination of any kind to anyone, but it happens regardless. From experience, I have found it empowering to accept people for who they are and how they feel towards me, without making any attempts to control the situation.
This has allowed me to attract people who appreciate me for who I am and whom I equally appreciate.
Change your thinking, change your life.
This is a follow up post to my recent post about the costs of workplace bullying, more specifically the relationship between workplace bullying, depression and heart disease. Our thoughts influence our realities, change your thoughts and you will find your self engaging in different behaviors which influence different outcomes. However, sometimes our emotions stemming from irrational thoughts regarding our expectations not being met, can be so strong that the process of changing our thoughts can seem a daunting task.
In this post, I will introduce to you the reader to three primary strategies for creating emotional distance and bringing yourself to a place of calm in order to explore other options.
Keeping in mind that during times of extreme stress, people have difficulty maintaining calm in order to recognize and respond effectively to difficult situations, the first measure would be how to maintain calm during times of extreme stress.
The first strategy to learn is mediation, studies such as this one have shown meditation to be effective in coping with and overcoming emotional stress and pain. Another study demonstrated through mri scans that people who meditate have higher cortical gyrification ( a folding of the cerebral cortex believed to be associated with faster information processing). The key part of meditation which makes it effective in dealing with emotional stress is the process of developing mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the process of developing more consciousness towards your interpretations of events and your feelings without overreacting. In short, you train your mind towards being calm during periods of discomfort. Rather than embrace the mindset that you should always be comfortable, you transition into the mindset that episodes of discomfort are a learning experience. You should begin practicing meditation, once every day, beginning with five minutes and the goal to building yourself to sixty plus minutes a day. In this post, I discuss the specifics of this strategy.
#2 Doing Nothing
This strategy is a follow up to the meditation strategy. In this post I discuss a real life scenario where I have used the “doing nothing” strategy to my benefits, when I found myself on the receiving end of work place bullying.
The “doing nothing” strategy follows the cognitive behavioral principle of A+B =C. This means that an activating event plus a behavioral response equals a natural and logical consequence. So in response to passive aggressive bullying tactics, doing nothing is your best initial response as bullying tactics depend on the over reaction of the target in sustaining the bullying long term, until the desired goal is accomplished.
Doing nothing does not mean that you play the role of the passive scapegoat. Doing nothing means that you don’t respond to bullying with retaliating tactics of your own. It only makes the situation more unbearable and difficult for you. All bullying starts off with passive teasers, in which the perpetrator is gauging your triggers for overreaction. What works for me, is to pick my battles and do nothing until the instigators have crossed a line which warrants a measured, respectful and assertive response.
Think off it as self defense. If you were on the street, it would not be wise to respond to nasty glares and insults from a stranger, but in the event that stranger were to place hands on you, you should be prepared to protect yourself. It is also important to note that when I have initiated the “doing nothing” response, it took a lot of work. I documented my observations and when it came to my work I made certain that I was as thorough as I could have been, which it difficult for myself to get scapegoat-ed.
#3 Set Firm Boundaries
Not only have I been the recipient of work place bullying, but I have also witnessed other people experience work place bullying in real time. The biggest mistake most people on the receiving end of bullying make is to kiss up to their aggressors. This maladaptive tactic only speeds up the worsening of the process.
You see bullying is irrational behavior most people initiate out of perceived bias against the target. This means that the person on the receiving end, has done nothing to deserve such harassment. So pandering to the bully only enables the bullying. When I work with kids who are getting bullied, the first assignment I give to them is to stop associating with those who treat them badly. Time after time, children who have followed through with this tactic report that the bullying stopped. Why? Because they stopped placing themselves in situations where they made it easy for the bullies to harass them. This means that kids who were on a mission to bully the client, had to work a lot harder by going out of their way to seek out their target to bully.
In the workplace environment, you make it harder for your harassers to bully you by setting up and maintaining firm boundaries. If you need any help with them, simply look to your company’s standard of operating procedures. Then make sure you follow everything by the book, and hold anyone who works with you to standard in following the same rules. If a supervisor were to insist that you bend the rules for a favor, you request that they follow company protocol in getting the rule changed and then you document the interaction between you and the supervisor.
#Bonus: Find Your Tribe.
Business is about relationships, so if you are worried that employing these strategies wouldn’t make you any friends at work, you are probably right. Instead these strategies are designed to create enough emotional breathing room for you to access your working brain and explore other options. Such as a work cultural environment where you can thrive.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
Consider this scenario, you have been written up on the job for a miscellaneous issue. Furthermore you have been given an action plan to complete promising your due diligence in not making whatever error you made that earned you the write up. It sounds cut and dry right?
Well what if at the same this that this is going on, you have come to notice that your co workers are no longer speaking with you. Perhaps your office or cubicle has been moved to a different location farther from the main group of people you typically work with. Also, what if on more than one occasion you have been accused of incompetence and negligence and openly berated in front of others?
This scenario can be described as workplace bullying or put more appropriately workplace mobbing. Workplace bullying occurs when standards and procedures are used as a weapon in intimidating and or attempting to end the employment of an employee. Typically workplace bullying occurs on a one on one basis, think supervisor and employee. However on a more sophisticated scale, workplace bullying occurs when an individual is constantly on the receiving end of barrages of criticism from multiple individuals in a workplace environment with one or two people playing lead roles in the bullying.
The idea is to emotionally break down the individual, who is the target of the bullying to accomplish one of two goals. With one goal being to have that employee become more fearful and submissive and the other goal to end the employee’s employment. It is common knowledge that when people are worried about making mistakes, they make more mistakes than usual. So if as a supervisor, I write someone up, over a situation that could have been assertively and compassionately discussed, I am merely documenting my process to justify the person’s removal. Often times with bullying it looks really legitimate on paper, as most people develop maladaptive behaviors to cope with the manufactured stress being projected unto them.
In this report, titled “Offsetting the Pain from Workplace Bullying,” authored by the Workplace Bullying Institute, an online survey revealed that 24.5% of respondents engaged in positive behaviors in response to workplace bullying. An example for positive behaviors would be prayer, meditating, and daily exercising. Compared to 9.9% of respondents who engaged in displaced behaviors, such as going home to fight with loved ones, 32.3% of respondents who engaged in self destructive behaviors, such as overeating and drug use and 33.4% of respondents who responded to workplace bullying via social withdrawal.
The report concludes that the initial response to work place bullying is rarely a rational and conscious one. The reports further states that if it were a rational response, all the responses given would have been of positive behaviors.
This makes sense considering that research studies have shown that people who experience chronic stress become stuck in a pattern of reactivity due to our hard wiring for fight or flight in response to feeling threatened.
In another study, based on a sample of male and female hospital employees, researchers reported that incidences of bullying in the workplace were negatively correlated with mental health. More specifically, researchers reported that one in six people who experienced workplace bullying were likely to develop depression and cardiovascular disease. Although they did note that the likelihood of cardiovascular disease was linked to overweight issues in the participants of the study. However it is important to note that just like the last study, overeating was identified as a self destructive behavior, in which 32.3% of responders reportedly engaged in. It is also important to note that when people engage in self destructive behaviors, they usually do so in an effort to escape difficult issues, such as depression.
This year a psychiatrist, Dr. Angelos Halaris proposed that a new field be created and further proposed that it be named psychocardiology. His proposal came from a research study he spearheaded where he and his team discovered an inflammatory biomarker labeled interleukin-6, (associated with cardiovascular disease) in higher quantities in the blood stream of most of the depressed people they tested.
I am a big believer that our thoughts and feelings influence our physical health, and it could very well be that depressed people experience more stress which leads to the production of hormones that in the long term have negative side effects on the heart and overall well being of the depressed person.
We are social creatures, and besides the wounding of our egos when dealing with rejection, the situation becomes more alarming when we perceive that our “only” ability to get our basic needs met, is threatened due to perceived threats from reoccurring social conflicts in the workplace. This is the bad news, however the good news is that if you have ever been on the receiving end of workplace conflict, you can learn to bring it to an end.
Tomorrow, I will post on three cognitive strategies which people who are currently experiencing any perceived bullying or chronic social conflict in the workplace, can practice. The practicing of these strategies are designed to create emotional space and calm within the person so that through clarity, he or she can consider effective alternatives towards bringing the conflicts to an end.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.
I am pretty certain I have used this pac-man analogy on a previous post, but I will use it again. Once upon a time, I went on a pac-man binge, and achieved a ridiculously high score, (I would mention the score but I don’t remember). The only thing that led to my demise in the game was cognitive fatigue.
So how did I do it?
I came to the realization that I had memorized the patterns of the ghosts. As a matter of fact the few things that changed during the course of every game I played was the increased speed of the ghosts, the points and my proneness to making errors in the game.
So how does this work as an analogy?
The patterns of the ghosts where based on the programming instructions written by the programmers who created the game. If you were to go to the apple app store or Android market and purchase a pac-man game, the only way you would be able to change the patterns of the ghosts would be the hack the game and change specific instructions dedicated to the movement patterns of the ghosts.
People are remarkably similar, this is because our habitual behaviors are dictated by what we believe. Every belief we hold unto comes with specific sets of instructions of what to do in response to any circumstance. Whether these instructions help us solve our problems is a different story, but instructions as dedicated by our beliefs cause us to execute a predictable repertoire of behaviors which vary according to the circumstance.
Having this understanding about your fellow human beings is half the battle towards getting past resentments and putting a stop to passive aggressive behavior directed towards you. Half the battle because once you realize that the other person is motivated by a set of beliefs and guided by specific instructions, you cease to take the behavior personally and learn to respond accordingly to behaviors you come to predict.
Take for example, if you have a co worker who habitually presents with a passive aggressive attitude towards you and other co workers. Perhaps he makes inappropriate jokes, and becomes hostile and easily angered during disagreements with others. It’s easy to get sucked into the chaos if you find yourself engaged in a heated exchange with such a co worker. You may come to take his attitude towards you personally, and without realizing it, you do your best to help explain to this co worker your side of the story, but to no avail.
The best response to this scenario and other similar scenario is a two fold technique. First, you should come to understand and accept that this person is operating on a set of beliefs that dictate his behavior of passive hostility towards others during disagreements. (It is important to note that you are not required to figure out what his beliefs may be, change is the responsibility of the individual.) Secondly you should understand that it only becomes more and overtly hostile if you engage in kind. So do nothing.
It is important to note that doing nothing is only reserved for non life threatening situations. (I will write a post on how to respond to threats in the near future.) Doing nothing is an effective technique for back handed compliments, insults, nasty rumors, hostile glares etc.. The problem people have with doing nothing is that they have unrealistic expectations of what would happen in the event they practiced doing nothing and the harassment stopped. Some people have shared with me that they expect the harasser or passive bully to become apologetic and nicer towards them.
Do nothing doesn’t change a harasser’s attitude, it only confuses them and brings the undesirable behavior to a stop. The reason for this is because there is no corresponding hostile reaction from you to confirm their biased belief which justifies in their minds their decision to harass you. With confusion comes a lack of direction and with a lack of direction comes cessation of the unwanted behavior.
Please note that this technique is only reserved for passive-aggressive, non harm threatening behaviors. For bullyish behaviors that cross the boundaries of physical contact and or violation of personal property there exists a different set of techniques, which will be discussed in a different post.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.