Is Someone Conditioning You to Feel Bad?

Watch out now!

Dana drives to work feeling cheerful after a great weekend with her children, but suddenly, as she crosses Main Street, her stomach knots up and her happiness seems to blow away on the wind.  She wonders what disturbing surprises await her at the office.  Will she find that her supervisor changed her schedule?  Will there be last minute changes to her 10 a.m. presentation?  She drags her feet through the parking lot and starts to feel a bit short of breath as she clocks in.

Take care, beware of thoughts that linger, winding up inside your head;

John is starting a business after losing his job with an automotive supplier. He’s doing well, considering, and feeling quite optimistic. His father calls and talks at length about the economy and business failures. John hangs up and finds he can’t work on his business for the rest of the day. What was he thinking of starting up a new venture in this economic climate anyway?

The hopelessness that lingers in the dead of night,

Irene has had a productive day and found a new client.  She hears her husband’s car coming up the driveway and her heart feels like lead in her chest.  She wonders why she should feel that way about someone she loves.  It just seems so hard to get anything done when he’s around, and she had hoped to get a lot done this evening.

One thing that the controlling people in your life do is subtly condition you to feel bad; to feel hopeless; or perhaps, to feel incompetent.  You don’t see it coming because it happens gradually.  Unless you have a particularly thick skin, the result of this conditioning is usually failure.

Dana’s boss often changes her presentations at the last minute, so Dana is always in a state of feeling unprepared.  She no longer enjoys presenting.

Irene’s husband interrupts her when she’s working.  He’ll want her to see something on TV, or ask where the ice cream scoop is, or where she put his boots, or if she took his screwdriver.

John’s father is afraid John is making a mistake and makes sure he knows how risky it is to start a new business venture.  He thinks he is helping John and hopes he comes to his senses soon.

All of these actions are manipulative.  All of them are an attempt to control others.  All of these people are being conditioned, over time, to feel that what they want to accomplish is difficult, risky or even impossible.

It is difficult to be motivated to pursue a goal if you feel bad every time you think of it.

Beware of sadness.

How do you avoid this conditioning?  The first thing to do is to become aware of it.  Then you can detach a bit.

Don’t bother trying to reason with manipulative people.  They will look at you with big innocent eyes and ask how you could think such a thing.  They may even think they are trying to help you.  Unconsciously they are doing anything but.   However, you won’t convince them.

The very best and easiest way to deal with these saboteurs is to avoid them.  John can excuse himself from the call whenever his father talks about the economy (and condition Dad to find another topic.)  Irene can plan to work when her husband is not around, or lock her office door, or feign deafness – at least in the short run.

Dana has less control because she is dealing with her boss.  She should be looking for another job before she loses all her enthusiasm.  Meanwhile, all she can do is anticipate her supervisor’s last minute crises.

If someone is conditioning you to feel bad, you need to seriously consider whether you want to maintain the relationship in the long run.  If you think you cannot leave the relationship, control the conversation or get a new job, that hopelessness may also have been subtly conditioned by the manipulative person.

Watch out now! 

Take care, beware of thoughts that linger,

Winding up inside your head

The hopelessness around you

In the dead of night

Beware of sadness.

           – George Harrison

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1 Response to “Is Someone Conditioning You to Feel Bad?”


  1. 1 kathy July 5, 2012 at 1:34 am

    Great article Ruth! I just unfriended a former coworker who has been trying to make me feel guilty about leaving Molina. She also has tried blaming me for everyone else’s misery there. I do not & will not be responsible for their feelings!


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