Saturday, 2 January 2016

Empowerment and emancipation from bullying.


YES, IT IS HELL.

So by now it is clear that the bully has got the upper-hand. You are exhausted, demoralised and living in turmoil. Going to work is a living hell. So, you might think, how dare I talk of empowerment, you are too knackered to be empowered!

The hell of work-place bullying is that it completely deflates the target. The only way to survive is to disconnect or take sick days to recover or leave with no job, no prospects and no real way out of the catch 22 situation you find yourself in. For some it is the ultimate depression, misery and loss. (for which see my quick links such as the Samaritans)

FINDING THE THIRD WAY!

Fortunately, there is a third way. The way of empowerment. You are half way there already if you are even reading this blog. I did it, I am living proof that whilst you are angry, sick, frightened and suffering, you can still be empowered or perhaps I should say emancipated. How, you say, can you empower yourself when you are at your weakest.

I have my dark days, days when I am so angry at the unfairness of it all that I question myself, but then I go to my hobbies and music to lift me.(see below)

I can only tell you what I did. I had had cancer and I can recall looking the bully in the eye when she told me she was going to have me disciplined for what were proved to be groundless reasons, and always were groundless reasons. I told her I had had cancer and nothing on earth could be worse than that. Actually bullying came a close second, but though I was vulnerable having had cancer, I also was strong because I had lived through chemo and radiotherapy. However, notwithstanding, her threat put me in a spiral of shock and I mean physically and mentally. 

My first step toward empowerment was to study bullying, to become a little expert in the subject. I googled it, read about it and talked about it to trusted friends. Firstly, I quite rapidly found that my experience of shock was similar to others who had been bullied. I found bullyonline.org invaluable for information and it was my go to source for understanding what bullying is. The site does give a completely unvarnished view but you might as we'll know what you are likely to be up against. For most this will be not being believed, apathy from the work place and a grievance procedure that is exhausting. However, once armed with knowledge, as they say, knowledge is power. 

If, I were in the same situation again I would also join on-line communities and twitter groups and read case studies. It is good to know you are not alone. Facebook has an excellent US site called https://www.facebook.com/workplacebullies/?fref=nf. where lots of survivors talk and share experiences. One note of caution, join anonymously and do not defame your workplace or any person. 

I have no idea where I found the strength to empower myself but I did. I will say that being bullied is a bit like the kidnap scene of the girl in the film Taken. The bully will get to you, they will make you feel sick, and you probably will not get out unscathed, but there are things you can do to minimise the ultimate damage. Your battery of techniques is your weaponry, a sort of special agent hunting down and eventually eliminating those dreadful feelings so you can survive and helping you to get some control. After all the bully is aiming to rob you of control.

Don't get me wrong I am still suffering from trauma and having treatment for it, but the important thing is I am getting help. I am supported on my worst days and I am not alone. I know, therefore, that I have some control. In comes my usual comments about involving your health professional and also I would really really recommend getting counselling. The talking therapies are invaluable. If you are a sceptic I would seriously recommend at least giving it a go. Your GP can recommend a free one or you can go to BACP or pay privately, though it doesn't come cheap.

I recommend getting a hobby. During seven months of hell, I tried carving, and encaustic (wax art) to great success. I learned new things and doing something productive put me in flow. The hobby need not be expensive. With carving I started with a whittling knife, googled ideas for whittling and used wood from my garden or forest/beach. (Just make sure that you apply the safety tips for any woodworking project). It was something I had never tried and learning something new gave me pleasure even at my worst and put me in 'flow', so I could switch off for an hour or two.

I also listened to my CALM radio app which has very useful sleeping therapy music. I found this invaluable to rest and often play it when I get intrusive thoughts. The version with ads is also free.
I had used the app when I had had cancer and also to assist with chronic pain during chemo and for a back issue.

I made a concerted effort to put my finances in order. I also force myself to do on line courses to brush up my skills and got a knowledgable friend to brush up my C.V (see below blogs on this)

Finally coming out of the other end of the bullying, in so far as it was ended by an organisational move,  I decided to do something for others. This was something recommended on Bullyonline.org. They have resources for setting up a group for people who have been bullied and also recovery tips which are invaluable. Although,  I felt that the recovery item on the site was a little too preachy for me, it did have some important points. I also felt it put some responsibility on the victim/target which if I were to review the piece, I would have said was not my cup of tea.

I feel that bullying is abuse and therefore the victim's personality, mindset etc are as irrelevant as if it had been a violent assault. Bullying to me is a psychological assault. Anyway, the article is worth reading http://bullyonline.org/recovering/recovering_from_workplace_bullying.htm.

Finally, I suppose the ultimate empowerment is to take a 'political' stand. Not for everyone I'll grant you. Here we seek legislation to recognise bullying for itself, no grey areas. Bullying per se is not a ground for an employment tribunal, it has to be accompanied by harassment, discrimination or victimisation.  In the civil courts there has to be some personal injury. (there may be other legal routes beyond this blog). We feel that bullying should be a crime. We believe there should be a bullying Ombudsman and a Fair Work minister of state. We believe that workplaces should be respectful and that the onus should be on the workplace to demonstrate that it is. We believe that compromise agreements, gag the bullied and protect the bully and this is an area that needs reform and finally that the time limits in ET's are too short. Three months is not enough for a traumatised individual to act. This is our personal view. We recommend going to the WorkplaceInstitute.org, that has the results of surveys and seeks to institute Health Workplace Bills in states of America. We think this should happen here in the UK.

You will note that I have not gone into detail about litigation, unions or other legal and professional agencies. That is because this blog is about health and rehabilitation and does not aim to advise. There are resources on the web such as ACAS who can give information about the practical solutions to bullying. Additionally, this blog is to give solace to those for whom taking legal or other steps was either not possible or not desired. Each to their own, we do not judge here.

Finally, being kind to yourself, understanding that IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT and permitting yourself to heal, however slowly is essential. For some recovery from the assault of bullying seems an impossible road, but as they say time is a great healer.

So this is my list for empowerment. What ideas do you think might help?