What’s Going on at Work?

Work. A place where you go five or more days a week. A place where you interact with other people. A place where, at the end of a specified period, you receive a paycheck. A place where you are unhappy. Now you are seriously asking yourself, “What’s going on at work?”

I applaud you for finding the courage to confront, or at the least explore, a situation you probably would rather not confront or explore because it causes you too much pain. I also applaud you for finding the courage to examine and explore what is happening to you at work but you have no name to describe it. You need to name this feeling because, without a name, you cannot begin to deal with it.

You know that you have been feeling uncomfortable, off kilter, confused and many other feelings which used to be ones you read about but have never felt in the past.

Perhaps you would describe the feeling by saying that you are being bullied because that word is familiar to you. Bullies are everywhere. In schoolyards, where you shop, on the Internet and in a variety of other places. Bullying is dangerous and can cripple the person who is being bullied. Perhaps that is what you are feeling.

How do you define “bullying?”

The current definition is of a person who is loud, overbearing, intimidating and routinely picks on another, weaker person. You may not think of yourself as weak but the bully finds your weak spot and bears down on you because that person knows that you will be intimidated by the behavior.

This is insidious, unacceptable behaviour in the workplace and I consider it a form of emotional abuse.

If you are like most people, you think and believe that abuse involves some kind of physical action against another person.

That is a myth and I am here to dispel it.

I am here to open your eyes to the realization, or to a new idea, that abuse involves far more than the narrow definition that is familiar to all of us.

Abuse can occur without a touch. How else would you describe the kind of behaviour directed at us that makes us cringe, makes us feel small, belittled, confused, powerless, stressed out, voiceless, teary eyed, fearful, have knots in our stomachs and our emotions in turmoil.

You get the picture.

What is all of that, if not abuse? And I am adding another word to it. I am talking to you about Emotional Abuse. Using these words to describe what you may be experiencing at work may seem foreign or even strange to you because we often do not think of work experiences in those terms.

I am talking about the kind of abuse that renders you speechless and not wanting to get out of bed in the morning, not wanting to walk through the door of a place where you spend most of our waking life, sometimes more than you spend with our own family, or hide out in the washroom when you do get there.

Perhaps the emotional abuser is your boss, maybe a co-worker. Either way, being subjected to their abuse can create a toxic working environment for you and can severely affect your health. There comes a time when you have to take a stand to declare, first to yourself, that you will not tolerate the behavior. You cannot carry on like this. You know that you need to deal with how you are feeling.

Something has led you to this website. Perhaps you have decided that you need to confront what is happening at work and have decided to do something about it. If you have, you have come to the right place.

On this page is a questionnaire which will help you determine if what you are feeling is emotional abuse. Perhaps you already know you are being emotionally abused and you are looking for some clarity about how to handle it. Again you are in the right place.

The questionnaire response will give you some tools to help you start the healing process.

If you do not confront the behaviour now, when will you do it?

LIVING A LIE

We all wear masks, hiding parts of us we do not want the world to see. What is make-up other than a mask to hide our facial flaws, camouflage to make us into something other than what they truly are? The types of clothes we wear are also masks hiding what is beneath, at least for some of us.
Sometimes we can discard these masks and show our faces and bodies with pleasure. However, to an abused woman, that mask is protection that seldom (if ever) comes off until something catastrophic pulls it from her face. Learning to let go of the shame and take off the mask, however difficult, is one of the most crucial steps towards a better life.

Masking the Shame
Why are we living this lie in the first place? Embarrassment is usually the main reason we hide who we really are and what is happening in our lives. We are too embarrassed to let anyone know that we are being emotionally abused. We feel we have no option than to present the façade to hide the real person and stave off questions.

Abuse Affects Everyone
Why are we so afraid to speak up, to tell the truth and stop living the lie? We often excuse the abuse of poor women by blaming it on poverty or their partners’ ignorance. However, women at all levels of society are abused. Middle class women are abused. Rich women are abused.

Abused women are often strong, vibrant, accomplished, smart women in our public lives, celebrated and applauded by others. Their partners are often upstanding pillars of society: church ministers, doctors, judges, lawyers, police officers, professors, all of whom are in trustworthy professions. However, in private, intimate relationships these women are completely different. They are emotionally abused.

Afraid of the Reaction
“I can’t tell anyone this is happening to me!” “No one will believe me!” These thoughts run through our minds. We are too embarrassed to tell anyone, because we expect people will judge us. Everyone loves our partner: his friends, colleagues, and especially our family members.

“She is a smart woman. How can she let him abuse her?” they think. “He comes across as a very nice guy, so he couldn’t possibly be abusing you,” they say. “You must be misinterpreting his behavior.” Anticipating these kinds of reactions, we let the embarrassment silence us.

Ripping Off the Mask
Removing the mask voluntarily does not usually feel like an option for abused women. We have long since forgotten who is behind the mask. We have become so used to pretending that all is well and living a lie that the lie has become reality. We are safe, protected, and comfortable in our discomfort.
The catalyst that forces the inevitable removal of the mask sometimes comes at a steep price, leaving us exposed and vulnerable. Maybe we are the catalyst ourselves, or maybe the catalyst is outside of our control. Whatever the reason, we are forced to face up to a new reality, an unfamiliar way of being.

The Aftermath

There is much at stake for emotionally abused women who speak up. Some of us could lose our place in society, our lifestyles, and even our children. Abusers are sometimes powerful enough to take us to court, brand us as liars, and win. We then become separated and isolated from everything and everyone we once knew.

Even if we leave, starting over from scratch and in unfamiliar territory can be more frightening than maintaining the status quo. So we stay in untenable situations until the abuse increases and eventually kills us.

Woman Unmasked

It doesn’t have to be that way. At some point you will discover that you are more resilient than you ever knew you were. You will realize that you deserve better and can no longer accept or tolerate the abuse. You will insist on forging a better life.

When this happens, you are ready to show your true face. This is when women find the courage to take the mask off, face their pain and fear, and unapologetically declare (as Howard Beale fittingly proclaimed in the movie Network), “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!”

The road to freedom might be difficult, but it will be worth it when you are finally comfortable showing who you truly are. When you take your mask off, you are no longer encumbered. You are free. You have committed, by any means necessary, to becoming a strong, vibrant woman. Joyful. Bold. Determined. Unashamed.

It’s time to rip off the mask!

A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON ABUSE

Abuse. The word conjures up horrific images of women battered and bruised, with broken bones, black eyes, and disfigured faces. These are only the outward signs, visible when society is ready to pay attention to the collateral damage.

But is that the only type of abuse? Or is there something else at play that merits consideration when defining abuse?

There absolutely is.

Currently, many people define abuse in terms of unwanted physical and sexual touches, but that definition needs to be broadened to include emotional abuse. Emotional abuse can happen long before abuse escalates to a physical level.

I believe emotional abuse, or what some may call psychological abuse, is far more widespread than we are led to believe. There are plenty of statistics that detail how many women have reported physical and sexual abuse, but do those statistics include women who are being emotionally abused?

If the answer is “no,” then why not?

Because we don’t talk about it.

Ever.

And again, why not?

Because we are too embarrassed.

‘Emotional Abuse is the mental control of another by the systematic undermining of that person’s self-confidence, self-esteem and sense of self.’

Only the woman experiencing this type of torture can fully understand the depth of the problem. And the sad part? Women who try to explain their situation are often told that the problem does not exist.

By now, you should see the larger picture, which depicts the hidden and insidious nature of emotional abuse. There are no outward signs such as scars, bruises, or broken bones–only a glazed look in the victim’s eyes when she thinks no one else is looking.

Do not fool yourself into thinking that this unfortunate behavior is reserved for those in one particular level of society. Nothing could be further from the truth! Emotional abuse occurs in all households, from the richest to the poorest. It spares no one.

It’s time to stop the carnage.

THE POWER OF WORDS

Many of us have heard the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” What an outrageous lie! Rudyard Kipling said, “Words are the most powerful drug known to humanity.” Your abuser knows that words are an extremely effective weapon.

Broken bones are visible and broken bones may land the victim in the hospital. Broken bones also heal.

On the other hand, emotional and psychological scars are not visible, and women are often dismissed when they try to reveal it. Sometimes they are even blamed for provoking the abusive behavior.

Many bystanders do not believe the victim unless they can see physical proof.

But emotional abuse poses a serious threat. Hurtful and demeaning words sear themselves into an abused woman’s brain and burrow deep into her subconscious, effectively reorganizing and damaging her thought process. Eventually, she will begin to believe everything her abuser tells her.

She is being manipulated by a very clever and devious person.

Abusers use words to embarrass, smother, and undermine their victim’s sense of self-worth. Sometimes the perpetrator—often, but not always, an adult male—does this to women in front of family and friends. Can you imagine anything worse than being embarrassed in front of the people you love?

You would want to cover your face and disappear.

As Jodi Picoult says, “Words are like eggs dropped from great heights; you can no more call them back than ignore the mess they leave when they fall.” Words leave a mark that can take a lifetime to fade.

Let the healing process begin.