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Tag: courage

December 10, 2013

individuality within the team. be different.

 

 

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.

#1 Meditation

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.

In life there are always options.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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December 9, 2013

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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.

 bully chart

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.

If fear of not being able to provide for yourself or your family is what keeping you stuck in an employed situation you are not fond of, then you should read this post on fear.

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.

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November 25, 2013

A college student I worked with was experiencing difficulty in school, in regards to completing and turning in her class assignments. One day she mentioned to me that perhaps she suffered from attention deficit disorder . I responded by reminding her about how we had rescheduled our agreed upon appointment two weeks prior because she had to take an examination, which was three hours long. I further reminded her that during our most recent meeting, she had informed me that she had passed the examination.

“People with attention deficit disorder struggle to pull that off,” I added. As it turns out, her lack of motivation was caused by her not knowing what she wanted to study and that she was only pursuing the major of study she was enrolled in to impress her parents. This revelation came out after she came to realize that she was able to concentrate for hours at at time as evidenced by how well she had done on the three hour exam. The difference was that over the years she hadn’t been doing it on her own terms.

From time to time, I encounter people who become upset with me because I tell them they can get better, when they believe  they can not. There is another story of a client who used the analogy of a blind man, he informed me that telling him that he could get past his depression was like telling a blind man that he could see again. I then informed him that while blind people certainly couldn’t see, they could still get around  and function on par with their sighted fellow humans.

The human mind is neuroplastic, it has a remarkable ability of reorganizing itself to help us  address our everyday issues in life and thrive, regardless of the trauma experienced and survived. What remains is for us to believe in our ability to adapt and change.

Your Brain is “Neuro-Plastic”—It’s Moldable & Changeable from Josh Kastleman on Vimeo.

 

Consider this study, involving hospitalized depressed men for the effectiveness of fluoxetine in treating depression. The men were divided into two groups, one group which received the actual treatment and the second group which received a placebo treatment. Both groups showed dramatic and significant improvement in their depressive symptoms, as evidenced by self reports and scanned images of changes in their brains’ glucose metabolism using positron emission tomography (PET). This is one of many studies that shows that power of simply believing, through the effects of placebo.

PET scan 1   pet scan 2    pet scan 3

The truth is that we are able to accomplish any feat we set our minds unto. So if you are experiencing difficulty in consistently accomplishing a task, or following through with agreed upon expectations, perhaps it has nothing to do with your ability but your willingness, influenced by other factors.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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November 7, 2013

If negativity is to water, then positivity  is to the boat that keeps you afloat and takes you across.

The best way to explain this analogy is to substitute negativity as  challenges and positivity as the courage to practice change in overcoming certain challenges.

From addictions to maladaptive behaviors, the key to emancipation from habits that weigh us down is practicing the courage to take risks. Imagine if you can, the look of disbelief when  I tell a client who struggles with depression that he needs to go thirty days without using marijuana, or the look of horror registered on  the face of the shy young adult who is given an assignment to ask someone out on a  date.

These two examples have something in common and the commonality is people being asked to take the risk to practice change. For example, the client who uses marijuana, by quitting will be taking the risk of experiencing the inner turmoil and discomfort he has been using the drug to hide from. In his head, facing his fears is the worst thing that could ever happen to him even though it’s the best thing that could happen to him. The exact same thing could be said for the shy young man, afraid to approach females he finds attractive.

There are a number of research studies like this one on risk taking that seem to suggest that people are more willing to take risks when they feel happier or more optimistic. However, what if it works both ways?  What if it is true that while happier people take more risks, that miserable people who practice risk taking also experience more happiness? More specifically, what if it turns out that people who are unhappy can experience more optimism if they take risks even when the outcome of their risk taking doesn’t yield success?

For example, what if a young man who is shy finally exercises the courage to begin approaching and making small conversations with women he finds attractive. What if he finally asks someone out and she says no? In my practice what I have witnessed is  that even when turned down, young men who struggle with self confidence report feeling more optimistic, because being turned down wasn’t as horrible and as unbearable an ordeal as they had imagined.

Furthermore, risk is a term that’s often used to describe irrational decisions instead of everyday life in which it should be used. For example, driving your car is risky for obvious reasons, but gambling in a casino is irrational, as the odds are always in the favor of the house, which makes the probability of you winning any substantial amount of money slim to none.

People become adverse to the idea of risk taking when their definition of risk involves taking steps to improve their situation with a high likelihood of failure. This certainty of failure becomes so big in their minds that they become fearful of taking any steps to improve their situations. It is when I explain to clients how they take risks everyday in theirs lives that they become more willing to take the necessary steps to do things differently  to improve their situations. When people start doing things more differently to improve their circumstances, they become more optimistic regardless of the outcome.  They also begin taking about more opportunities that have come up for them as a result of practicing get the courage to change.

Happiness like any other feeling is feedback from the brain that tells you that you are either getting your needs met or in the process of getting your needs met. It is not something that occurs before the event or an action is initiated. For example, it would be equivalent to feeling wet outside on a dry day shortly before rain pours from the sky. We take risks everyday with no guarantees that things would go our way, and happiness is becoming more aware of this phenomenon and being at peace with it.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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October 29, 2013

Recently I was speaking with a client of mine who expressed feeling handicapped with her feelings of fear. She is in the process of leaving a corporate job she works for, with plans to open up a small retail business. She reported being terrified of failing at her small business, more specifically she was frightened about what others would think about her if she was not successful with her business. Then she asked for suggestions about what to do about her fear.

I responded by asking her why she was leaving her corporate job, and after a few minutes of pondering, she stated that she feared spending the best years of her life working for a company that she disliked, in a position she found utterly miserable. She further stated that she feared becoming an older woman like some of her coworkers, having given the best years of her life to a company with very little to show for her years of hard work.

I then asked her which of the two fears she had identified, she feared the most. The one where she fails at her business and gets looked down upon by her family and friends, or the other where she gives away her youthful energy to her employer and matures into an older woman with having accomplished very little in her career.

Without hesitation she stated that remaining stuck with her employer was her biggest fear. I then informed her to use this fear as her fuel for motivation. So every time she finds herself fearing possible failure in her business, she considers the alternative, which is to remain with her employer. The idea is that she would be so motivated to not find herself in that predicament, that coping with her fear of failing at her business would become relatively easier.

This was part one for how to deal with fear. The second part is to practice positive thinking. We attract what we think, so instead of worrying about how her business could fail, I asked her to focus on how her business could succeed. In doing so she would pay more attention to how people in her niche have succeeded with their businesses, and incorporate their strategies for success into hers. This would then increase the likelihood of her business succeeding, thus leading to a positive self fulfilling prophecy.

While on the topic of positive thinking, you should really get a copy of Pam Grout’s E-Squared. The title is a play on Einstein’s theory of relativity and features nine do it yourself experiments that prove  your thoughts really do create your reality.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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