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Posts Tagged ‘humiliation

Surprised by your dislike

Have you ever had a situation where someone heard the exact opposite of what you said?  And accused you of lack of faith?

It’s wildly disconcerting.  Your mind races as you try to understand what is happening and your heart sinks when you release how much the other person dislikes you.

Sometimes the situation is less clear cut.  You are distressed by a situation and think someone should be making an effort.  They think you should have acted in some way to sidestep the distress and that your lack of action has brought threat to them.  What a slap in the face with a wet fish!

Do we ever see the facts in the same way?

Where am I going on this?  Simply, it is astounding how different two people’s views can be of the same situation.

And it follows to me that there is not much point in worrying about other people think. They will think what they will and sometimes what they think seems to be a fabrication, utterly devoid of any factual accuracy.

What other people think is so distracting

The trouble is that most of us do worry what other people think.  And quite often we aren’t released from the hurt of someone expressing their dislike and their distrust until our side of the story is confirmed.

It is a dreadful waste of time and effort, but ‘there we go’.  We hate being excluded.  We hate being rejected.  That is why so many people put a  lot of effort into being rich and powerful.  To have “f+++ off” houses and cars as one of my former students put it rather pithily. They don’t want ever to be bothered by other people’s power to put them down.

We feel awful until our status is restored

The emotional release comes when our status is restored, at least in our eyes.  And of course, it is in our eyes.  The other party probably does care . . . or is plotting revenge!

But release there is. Silly isn’t it?  It is like going up a ladder in ‘snakes n ladders’ and feeling important because the roll of the dice was in your favor.

But ‘there we are’.  It is the human condition to be silly. It comes with the ‘box’ in which we were delivered.

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I think I get unreasonably distressed when big companies treat me badly. I take it badly. And I take it personally. Which has to be unreasonable. After all they don’t give a jot about me!

Double-bind

Being bullied by people in power is called a double-bind. It’s basic structure goes like this.

  • You treat me badly.
  • But I can’t walk away.

So I have to absorb three bad things about myself.

  • You treat me badly.
  • I can’t walk away.
  • I am in a position where I cannot resolve this dilemma or even talk about it someone else. You certainly won’t listen. You will just deny that you are treating me badly.

Side-stepping a double-bind

I understand all this stuff. I am a psychologist after all.

So why do I take bad treatment like a kick in the solar plexus and spit in my face?

I pondered this a few days ago and had this ‘eureka’ moment.

Because suffering humiliation suggests I am investing in the wrong things. Because the petty humiliations hint that I have been horribly mistaken about what is true and good in this world.

If I catch the fleeting hint and look at it squarely, I can ask myself why I continue to pursue this life.

If this life is what I want, then maybe I can find a way to remove the irritant, compensate for the irritant (or pay it back), or simply put it in the irritant box.

The key question is not what to do about the irritant.

The key question is in the fleeting hint : is this the life I want? What have I assumed about what is true and good?

Do I still believe I have chosen the right direction in life knowing what I know now?

I am 99% persuaded by positive psychology, largely because I thought like a positive psychologist long before it was invented.  I never took to clinical psychology so I had nothing to discard, so to speak.

But it is the darker side of life where I think positive psychology has its limits.  Maybe the typical positive psychologist does not feel that because they have the skills to deal with people who are deeply unhappy.

My reservations come at many levels.   As a practitioner, though, I want to know what to do when we are in a dark place.

What does it mean to be resilient when times are terrible?  What are the critical processes that we are trying to leverage?

If I succeed at exercising leadership when times are miserable, if I show resilience and help others to be resilient, what might these processes be?

Here are 5 processes underlying resilience

I would be interested in your thoughts.

Active listening

The key to listening to angry people, among which I include people who are deeply insulted, humiliated, frightened, defeated and generally gibbering wrecks, is to acknowledge their emotion.  We don’t have to agree with their emotion.  We don’t have to copy their emotion.  We don’t have to make any comment about the circumstances.

We simply have to acknowledge the emotion, and show, through our acknowledgement, that we still respect the person, in spite their emotional display, and in spite the circumstances that led to these humiliating circumstances.

Generally, that leads to slight embarrassment on their part but that is a much more comfortable emotion than the anger and hurt.

Developing a group

We are often angry and humiliated when we have lost status and losing status usually means losing status in a group or being ejected from a group. Referring to a group to which we are both a part helps restore status.

Additionally, when people have been humiliated in front of their nearest and dearest, particularly the partners, children and parents, we should restore their status in their eyes too.

Identify small actions

Anger comes from loss of status and be implication, loss of control. When we look for small things we can do now, and we do them, we feel better.

Be grateful ourselves for having the opportunity to help

While we are doing all three above, we are active. We take the initiative. We are in control. We belong.

Be grateful, and allow our gratitude to show to the other person.  They will be grateful in turn.

Gratitude is a great mood-lifter.

Enjoy the results

As the other person lifts from utter dejection to a willingness to try, enjoy.  And be grateful again.  That way we share the ‘positive feedback’ with the other.   Let them share the way our mood has improved.

And watch the entire group become more buoyant

If we have done our job well, collective efficacy and trust should have risen.  And we all know that collective efficacy – our belief that our colleagues are competent – is the most powerful factor in raising school quality.  It is bound to have the same impact in other circumstances.

Trust also creates upward positive feedback spirals.  Though, we may need a lot when we start from a dark place.

What do you think?

  • Are these the effective mechanisms for regaining resilience in desperate places?
  • Are these effective mechanisms for encouraging people who really have few ways forward and little to push off from?
  • Would these questions even help you in the day-to-day dispiriting trials of the western world – like getting stranded in an overcrowded airport?
  • Are you able to try them out in the less-than-terrible conditions so that one day you can use them when life is truly terrible?

To recap:

L – Listen

G – Group

A – Act

G – Gratitude

E – Enjoy


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