Archive for the 'emotional abuse help' Category

Through the Portal from Avoidance to Attraction

DSC00860Those of us who have experienced power plays, bullying, narcissistic abuse and just plain awful relationships find we are much better off when we learn to identify and avoid toxic people.  Being consciously aware and cautious of the red flags which signal unhealthy interactions is critical for anyone who has been entangled with a wolf in a sheep suit.  Developing discernment is the first step to freedom.

Getting too focused on problem behaviors and red flags, however, has a downside.  It is not enough to avoid difficult people.  At some point, we want to actively attract healthy, supportive people and have easy, loving relationships.  Avoidance is not attractive.

The metaphysical minded tell us that what we focus on expands; that we attract what we think of the most according to habitual feelings.  This makes avoidance a bad strategy for finding new and better relationships.  And, indeed, avoidance is only a part of the process.

When avoiding problem people, it’s a good idea to ask, “What do I want instead?”  In this way, we move away from the competitive and move toward the collaborative.  Rather than moving randomly away from the problem, and perhaps toward another problem, we can set a course away from the problem and directly toward the solution.  The solution is the relationship we wanted in the first place, or maybe even better than that.  This is to be found in a different territory altogether.

Simple steps through this portal;

  • Believe that there exist wonderful relationships with delightful people.  Find an example of a wonderful relationship, to prove to yourself it exists.
  • Know you are worthy of great relationships.  If you have been targeted by a low-empathy type, chances are very good that you value relationships, have a great deal of empathy, and are a socially savvy person.  Your matches, personally and professionally, are others who empathize and collaborate.
  • List the behaviors and traits you avoid as red flags.
  • For each red flag, define what you want instead.  For example:  My last manager made me feel criticized.  I want a manager with whom I feel accepted and supported.
  • Seek out people with whom you feel consistently good.

Set aside any cynicism.  (It doesn’t really protect you.)  See what happens after a couple of weeks of redirecting your attention in this way.

Are You Involved with a Dangerous Person?

wolf in sheeps clothing cartoon

You have had some painful experiences.  You suffered narcissistic abuse from a partner or you were targeted by a bully at work.   You didn’t see the warnings.   As is so often the case, this person treated you especially well at the start, and turned up the heat so slowly you barely noticed it.

Added to that, there’s a better than average chance that you grew up being taught to ignore bad behavior, tolerate boundary violations, and maybe coached to ignore your fears and worries.  There may have been conflicts explained away as,  “nothing to be afraid of.”   Perhaps obvious violations were denied, with, “your cousin would never do that!”     Your feelings could have been minimized with arguments like, “you don’t really hate your sister!”

However badly others tried to bend your reality and no matter how well meant they were, the good news is this:  your perceptions are still intact and probably very highly refined.

I’ve never met a target of abuse or bullying who didn’t have a very well tuned sensitivity to others, ranging to acute intuitive abilities.  You have exactly the skills you need to identify potentially dangerous relationships.

You just need to apply those perceptual skills and trust them!

Much of the time, it is really quite simple to identify a person who is dangerous to be around.  Good relationships feel good.  Bad relationships do not feel good.  If you frequently feel bad around a person, that is probably not a good relationship for you.

If you frequently feel bad around many people, it’s probably due to your own “stuff.”  The rule is still quite simple.  If you feel bad around someone, more than usual, or more than you do around anyone else, question why you would spend any more time with this person.

In personal interactions this is quite easy.  If you feel bad about the interactions, or confused by the behavior, shake the dust from your feet.  Move on.  It will not get better.

In professional interactions, this is not not always so easy.  You may find you are able to work quite well with someone you do not especially like, if the interaction is respectful.  On the other hand, you may, at least in the short run, have to work with someone who is very toxic.  Still, if a particular person causes you pain, start looking for ways to get out of the situation.

Those of us who have found most relationships painful, may argue that this is not realistic, but here is another bit of good news:  Good relationships are not particularly painful.

Good relationships are available, but you may not have held out for them if you don’t think they are possible.  If you wonder about this, watch for my next post which will give you reassurance that safe and rewarding relationships exist.

What is Power Over Behavior?

babsPower over behavior is hostile behavior which is considered acceptable in most parts of our society. It is one-up-manship that assumes that in an interaction one person must be superior and the other inferior. It considers sensitivity a weakness.
This mentality is so prevalent on sitcoms, in schools, locker rooms and conference rooms that we hardly even notice it. We may wonder why we feel so tattered and torn after interactions with so many others.

Power over is a mentality in which I win and you lose and sharing power is a poor second to scoring power. I can insult or disrespect you and hurt you. If you complain, that shows you can’t take it. You are too sensitive. To a bully sensitivity is not strength but a weakness.

This model of power is typical among many middle school students, insurance company offices, and tribes of baboons. This mode of behavior is widely accepted, though to a discerning eye, bullies seem no more than knuckle-dragging Neanderthals.
The various forms of power over behavior listed below (and more) constitute verbal abuse. Oh, and by the way, the effects of verbal abuse are widely known to be more severe than the effects of physical battering; causing intrusive thoughts and interfering with the freedom to express one’s self.

So if you are dealing with power over at work, at home or at school, don’t be surprised if you have symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and reactions that seem like they are out of proportion. Your reactions are not out of proportion. This form of abuse is subtle and insidious. It creeps into the cracks of your self esteem and can highjack your ability to see your own flaws, making you consider yourself at fault when you are not.

Cut yourself a lot of slack. Consider trauma therapy.

Here are forms of power over behavior.
• Not listening
• Failing to make eye contact
• Forgetting your name
• Interrupting you
• Using you statements to blame, shame or define.
• Acting superior with eye rolling, sighs, repeating things slowly as if you were incapable of understanding.
• Withholding – not speaking or failing to greet you.
• Not allowing you into a casual conversation by ignoring you or physically closing you out of the circle.
• Contradicting
• Diminishing or dismissing your feelings or your opinions
• Finding minute fault with what you have said and derailing your message.
• Chronic criticism
• Blame and often shame
• Defining you, for example, “You always have to be right,” or “You think you know everything.”

If you hear these, do not be deceived, you are dealing with controlling, one-up behavior.  I am not trying to be flippant, but the best thing to do is find another playground if you can.  Take it from me.  There are better ones where others play nice.

Toxic People Play by Different Rules

Toxic people don’t play by your rules of give and take. You can make sense of their behavior when you recognize it is competitive not collaborative. Its purpose is to get the upper hand.

Here are some clues that you are dealing with a toxic person.

• You feel confused after your interactions with this person.
• Conflicts are never resolved. The toxic often declare a discussion closed while you are still struggling with it. No compromise is reached, or worse; you find yourself apologizing after their outburst.
• You feel depressed or depleted after spending time with this person.
• When you are feeling good, or enjoying success, the toxic may attempt to deflate you with a subtle put down or an argument.
• If you are feeling bad, the toxic person is likely to have a crisis that is more urgent than your problem and demands your attention.
• Difficult people demand your attention; interrupting your wedding or your mother’s funeral with their routine problems.
• They become inappropriately angry. A toxic coworker may turn red and look daggers at you as you express an inoffensive opinion.

Toxic people live in a different reality than you do. If you assume they are being rational, you will try and try to understand them or explain yourself so they’ll understand you. But the toxic person doesn’t want to come to any understanding except that you are at fault when they feel bad.

Once you know who is toxic you protect yourself from their poison. If you are involved with a toxic, difficult person, check out my upcoming class: Emotional Freedom from Difficult People. Learn easy, safe techniques for feeling better fast and being less susceptible.

New Class in November: Emotional Freedom from Difficult People

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I consulted with my PR and Marketing coach last week and told her of my dream to offer a class each week, teaching people to use intuitive tools and techniques to deal with the difficult people in their lives.  She asked a question that I think all great innovators ask:  “Why not just do it right now?”

Why indeed?  There’s a bit of prep time to outline curriculum, but I know the material I want to offer.  There’s a bit of infrastructure needed to offer classes.  I need the software to meet online or by phone.  What I need most, is you, and others like you who want to know how to find Emotional Freedom from Difficult People.

I will offer this weekly workshop, beginning November 7, from 7-8:30 p.m. ET, for six weeks (not counting 11/28.)  It will be held online so you can join in from anywhere you like (you can wear your pajamas.)  If you are interested you can take the whole six sessions.  If you are busy, you can pick one or a few.

This is an experiential class.  You will practice the mental and emotional tools and techniques to manage how you think and feel.  That means you will build skills and not just information.  It also means that you will probably feel terrific after class.

  • November 7  Dynamics of Difficult Relationships – Understanding what you are up against, why being rational won’t work, learn about helpful resources.  
  • November 14  Why Your Problems aren’t What You Think – Most of the problem with difficult people has an unconscious source.  How to find it, drag it into the light of day, and work with it.
  • November 21  Benefitting from Bullies – Don’t let the difficult deplete your energy.  You can be energized by difficult interactions if you master one physical state.
  • December 5 Maintaining Your Space and Your Balance – You can wash that controlling person right out of your hair with simple mental tools.
  • December 12 Serenity – your power lies in being centered, serene and unruffled.  But how do you do that? Come find out.
  • December 19 Communicating with the Unconscious – Difficult people are often not so much bad as unconscious.  Learn how to reach them on that level and create freedom from their control.

$27 per individual session $150 for all six.  Email me at ruth@ruth-wilson.com and I will send an invoice for the classes you wish to attend.  You will receive an invitation prior to each class which will enable you to access the session.

Can you reason with a predator?

If you want someone to comply with your wishes you can ask them and perhaps negotiate a compromise with them.  In an enlightened interaction, this can work beautifully.  But if you have tried it in a less-than-enlightened relationship with, say a teenager or a domineering coworker, then you are probably still seething about their failure to respond to reason.

Amy Sutherland has written a wisdom-packed book called What Shamu Taught Me About Life Love and Marriage. Sutherland applied what she learned from animal trainers at SeaWorld and other places to her close relationships.  She found their conditioning methods effective in influencing others without nagging or arguing.

Conditioning is considered manipulative in human relationships, but humans are animals, after all.  We assume that language is the most straightforward way to communicate with others, but it is my experience (and Sutherland’s) that people are far more responsive to physical cues.

The lessons Sutherland learned are worth considering in any relationship, and can be very powerfully applied to relationships with difficult, dominating or controlling people.

Animal trainers working with elephants or giant killer whales cannot simply dominate the animals without serious danger of paybacks.  This is similar to relationships with people who have power over you.  The intelligent person does not beat an elephant; neither does she push the company CEO aside to get on the elevator first.  Influence is achieved by positive reinforcement only.

Not surprisingly, this sort of enlightened approach to training has been found to work with all animals, even those we could easily dominate.  All respond best when not dominated but influenced with positive reinforcement.  The enlightened animal trainer neither dominates nor allows himself to be dominated.

A critical rule for safety in influencing animal behavior is: do not act like prey around predators.  Certain behaviors register in a big cat’s mind as prey behavior; such as falling or stooping.  An animal trainer learns never to engage in these behaviors in close proximity to a big cat.

This is the direction my coaching often takes and is also a strategy of martial arts and self defense training.  Do not act weak or vulnerable around those who are waiting to take advantage of the weak and vulnerable.  Develop a strong state of being that makes you appear to be a lot of work for anyone who would attack you.

Unfortunately, it is not always obvious which humans are predatory.  Be watchful of anyone whose interactions with you leave you confused or give you a stomach ache.  And you can avoid dating people with violent criminal histories or protection orders filed against them.   But most people you meet don’t share their criminal histories or regale you with stories about how they manipulated their friends and coworkers.

The human animal can also dissemble and follow attacks with disclaimers, like the husband who follows violence with flowers.  We often give this behavior the benefit of the doubt for a while.  Many of us naively believe in, and appeal to, the predator’s better nature for awhile before we discover that she doesn’t have one.

Rather than identifying predators, my lion tamer advice would be to avoid acting like prey in all situations.  Develop and maintain strong posture. Stay centered and grounded and aware of your physical body.  Confide only in people who have proven trustworthy.

photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ryantaylorphotography/6782702649/”>RyanTaylor1986 via http://photopin.com”>photopin</a http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Deal with Difficult People Without Being One – Interview on Body Mind Spirit Radio, August 21 at 7 p.m.

Learn about enlightened interaction.  How to deal with office bullies, controlling spouses, manipulative family in ways that are respectful and invite respect.  Even when you feel you must interact with difficult people, you can do so while staying in your power and without being difficult yourself . When you change the way you think, people around you behave differently.  Interview with Ruth Wilson on Body Mind Spirit Radio   (Blogtalk Radio) Tuesday, 8/21/12, 7 p.m.

Are You Really too Sensitive?

Your sensitivity may just be appropriate.Why is it that those of us who are on the receiving end of rude, unkind, dishonest or manipulative behavior are so often accused of being too sensitive?

When most of our minds are shaped by the verbal one-upmanship of television, the ideal behavior is to be tough and unaffected by the hurtful behavior of others.  To the TV shaped mentality, there is only power over another; a zero sum game.

This is a rather primitive, unenlightened mentality for the 21st century.  Sensitivity is seen as weakness.  We give credence to the knuckle-dragging Neanderthal who can dish out the most insults and anger.   In light of this, it is hardly a wonder that half of marriages result in divorce and our children bully each other.

“You’re too sensitive,” is a standard line from the verbally or emotionally abusive.  If one complains about manipulative behavior, the complaint is dismissed and the complainer is defined as being “too sensitive.”  Of course, this criticism is abusive too.  Who is to say that who and how you are is wrong?

There is, of course, a kernel of truth to the “too sensitive” criticism, otherwise we would never accept it.  Those of us who are sensitive do need to learn not to internalize the judgments of others too easily.

It is common for those on the receiving end of verbal and emotional abuse to begin to buy into the criticisms of the abuser – whether at work or at home.  They begin to wonder:  Am I really performing so badly?  Did I really cause him to be angry?  Should I truly have known that answer?  Could I really be mentally ill?  Unfortunately, the abusive live in a reality in which a criticism is merely a ploy to get relative power in any situation.  On the other hand, the sensitive person lives in a reality in which a criticism should be considered as an honest opinion and taken at face value.

For those who survive abusive relationships, this sensitivity is the gift that keeps on giving, making them second guess themselves far more and far longer than they should.  But this is the polar opposite of the healthy sensitivity that discerns that rude, manipulative, hurtful behavior is unacceptable.

And, I wonder, how sensitive is too sensitive?  A woman I know complained that her boss greets her with “What is it now?”  A co worker said the problem was that she was too sensitive.  As a manager, I would say the problem is that the boss is too rude…and inefficient.  A neutral greeting would actually be easier and quicker.  But a polite response would not leave the employee feeling insecure and off balance.

And, I suspect that in this supervisor’s sitcom mentality, he needs to create insecurity to have a sense of power.

A client whose husband regularly yelled and swore at her, reports that a marriage counselor suggested she develop a thicker skin about his anger.  She was too sensitive.  I can see no reason for yelling at a spouse unless she’s in the path of a truck or the house is on fire, but somehow the anger was not addressed.  This woman was criticized for not being able to take it.

It often seems that the rude and unkind people who lack empathy are not the problem in our relationships.   We who have empathy enough to be sensitive to the behavior of others should learn to care less about others; be less empathetic.

We should develop thicker skins, be insensitive and unaffected by how others treat us.  What a wonderful world that will create!

Sins of Omission

Survivors of abusive relationships are often accused of choosing to be in that relationship. Yet, I have never met anyone who became involved in an emotionally abusive relationship on purpose or felt they had even an inkling of the abusive nature of their relationship until they were well and truly involved.

Abuse generally doesn’t occur on the first date or even during the first weeks or months of a relationship. People put up with control tactics in the workplace to keep their jobs. When control tactics sneak into a relationship, it is almost always after a commitment is made, and some of these tactics are very subtle.

The accurate hindsight of survivors of verbal abuse can be used as intelligent foresight.  There are some important social behaviors which seem to be lacking or inconsistent in people who are emotionally abusive and controlling.

Covert emotional abuse is very hard to detect by anyone who hasn’t already experienced it! The most insidious emotional abuse involves sins of omission rather than overtly controlling behavior. The abusive behavior is often interspersed with loving behavior, which confuses the situation. The inconsistent loving behavior provides aperiodic conditioning, which is the most powerful kind of conditioning.

Here are some sins of omission that are emotionally abusive and are often precursors to more overt behavior. When you encounter these behaviors in a relationship on a consistent basis, I suggest you stop giving the benefit of the doubt and run like hell in the opposite direction.

Failure to Respond. In the absence of a severe hearing impairment, anyone who does not respond to your greetings, comments or questions is controlling the communication in an anti social way. Relationships in which power is shared involve two way communication. Refusing to respond could be hostile or it could be an indication of a personality problem. You cannot have an equal relationship with anyone who gives you the silent treatment.

Withholding. Whether it is information, affection, approval or resources, withholding is the sign of a competitive relationship. A competitive relationship is not an equal relationship. When you meet someone who fails to make eye contact or say “hello,” I’d recommend you leave skid marks rather than stick around and invite more of this behavior.

Countering.  It may be disguised as a simple difference of opinion, but whenever someone immediately dismisses your point of view without consideration, you are not being treated as an equal.  Argument and discussion involve listening to each others opinions and this should go both ways. 

Forgetting. Some forgetting is simply a failure to remember, and is really a form of withholding if it happens all the time. There simply is not any good excuse for not remembering a spouse’s or partner’s birthday. Subtle forgetting is forgiven more often than it should be. A person who has been a close friend or partner for many months or years, should know who you are, remember important details about you and your life and remember the details of plans you have made together.

In a potentially romantic relationship, forgetting can include forgetting earlier encounters and this can get very confusing. The man (or woman) who looked deeply into your eyes last week and told you that you were significant, but barely remembers who you are when you next meet, is either severely impaired or abusive. This on again off again behavior also has a lot of power to condition you to hang in for the next reward.  In the long run, it won’t be worth it.

When you detect any of these sins of omission repeatedly, stop hanging around. Get out of Dodge! If sins of omission are interspersed with attentive or loving behavior, this is an even worse sign! This is not the behavior pattern exhibited by anyone who can engage in an equal relationship.
These sins of omission don’t just occur in romantic relationships, they are quite common in business and voluntary organizations. If you always volunteer but don’t get recognition, your boss takes credit for your work, or your team leader fails to greet you, you are experiencing control tactics. Start looking for a new organization to join.

Stick with people who give you positive and consistent social cues that they recognize your existence and respect it. Anything less is not good enough.

What is enlightened interaction like in a group?

Most of us hate going to gatherings when we don’t know anyone there. The typical experience is to be ignored by group members who don’t know me – which makes me want to hide behind a curtain. Sometimes, though, a well meaning group leader kindly makes a big deal of me and my attendance – which makes me want to hide under a chair!

These extremes do not apply to all groups, only about 98% of them. Enlightened group interaction is uncommon. I used to think it would occur in enlightened groups, but I’m not sure those are common either.

Up until a month ago, I would have told you that enlightened interaction is not possible in a group setting. But, I spent a day with a group that interacted in an enlightened way – at least they did the day I joined them.

What made their interaction different? It seemed that everyone in the group shared power with all the others. But what does that mean?

Here are the ways power was shared:

Everyone was treated as equally important. I was new to the group and had never met any of them before, yet I felt welcomed – not smothered or made much of, but welcomed and included as if I were a longstanding member of the group. The group was led by experts and everyone showed them respect, but no more than the experts showed respect for the rest of the group.

Everyone got the same airtime. Group discussion followed a protocol to give everyone an equal and uninterrupted time to contribute. But such protocols often result in big talkers taking the floor for long periods. This group had a more balanced discussion that seemed to arise from the mutual respect.

Everyone was open to interact with everyone else. Although a number of these people had known each other for a long time, there were no cliques to deal with. I could join their conversations. People approached me and engaged me in conversation. When I approached others and opened a conversation, they responded. Some were quiet but no one was aloof. Some were talkative but no one monopolized the conversation.

Everyone was honored with attention. When I spoke people listened and responded reasonably. No one interrupted me when I spoke, or let their attention wander as if they couldn’t wait for me to finish my sentence. I attribute this kind of attention to being present and aware. Real listening is truly the honor of another’s presence.

It may be that this enlightened interaction occurred because I was in a group of enlightened people; people practicing being present in the moment; people who know where their personal boundaries are. People who are present in the moment can enjoy a state of flow.
The resulting interaction had an elegance that reminded me of a school of fish or a flock of starlings, in which the individuals are in the flow, moving in synchrony; never colliding, never going separate directions.

How can you have more enlightened interactions? It helps to have enlightened friends. How do you know if your friends are enlightened? Don’t go by what they tell you. Watch how they behave.