Often our lives are characterised by FOG: fear, obligation and guilt. In many cases, this involves other people. That is what this blog post deals with. It concerns how to limit fear to the unavoidable, remove obligation when it is incorrectly placed and replace guilt when it is unjustified.
Who are you afraid of? Are family, friends or co-workers controlling you with your own fear? Does their behaviour, words, silent treatment, lies, or manipulation make you fearful? If you are aware of it, you can do something about it.
If the other person is aware of it, and continues to threaten (whether silently, or in words), this is called bullying or emotional abuse. Sufferers say often more damaging, long-term, than physical violence. And, in the realm of those who help men and women with domestic abuse, emotional abuse is subsumed under the heading of domestic violence. It is often likely to lead to it, and when emotional abuse is present, violence is likely to be too. A note of caution. If you have been physically threatened and are afraid of someone, or have already suffered at their hands, this is entirely different. Organisations such as Women’s Aid and, recommend removing yourself from that situation. Don’t live in fear of your life, or physical safety, or that of your children or other dependants. There are many organisations who will help you escape from this precarious situation.
Take advice from professionals who are practised at dealing with victims.
Never forget that the more you fear someone, the more power it gives them.
Violence aside, that ought to make you angry enough to actively and consistently change that emotion when it surfaces, from fear to pity or, better, indifference.
Techniques for Limiting Your Fear of People
- Attend an Assertiveness course, and learn how to communicate assertively, avoiding both aggression and passivity. Assertiveness and Workplace Confidence is one of our most popular workshops. Learn how to deal with those who would aggressively demand your obedience. You are an adult, you are entitled to your rights, you have responsibilities. Learn this and never be successfully bullied again. Yes, people won’t like you. However, being liked is not the goal. (In Northern Ireland, we are taught from a very young age not to flaunt our passion, opinion, emotions, or knowledge. Expect that when you begin to practice assertive communication, many will interpret your directness as aggression.) The point of assertive communication is to get your point across clearly, and succinctly. It does not involve shouting, bullying or manipulation. We recommend this: The Assertiveness Pocketbook.
- Limit the amount of time you spend in that person’s company. In many cases, this is achievable. If you cannot avoid them when you want to, for example in the workplace, then devise ways of limiting the contact. This may mean shorter meetings, moving desks, changing shifts, restructuring the team, or applying for a transfer. The less you see that person, the less damage they can do. The more astute will realise why you are spending less time allowing them opportunities in which they can attempt to manipulate you. This is especially effective if combined with assertive communication when you are forced to spend time with them. They will see less of you, and what they do see, is positively different.
This is one example of setting boundaries around your time. We highly recommend Cloud and Townsend’s Boundaries, which deals with protecting you and yours using boundaries.
- If your fear is one where you are paralysed in the company of more than a few colleagues, take it one step at a time. One of the best ways of overcoming debilitating shyness is to begin practising on strangers. Chat to the guy in the paper shop, or have a longer conversation than is necessary with a random stranger at the bus stop. This helps build up your repertoire of things to talk about, and makes you realise that you can participate in an interesting conversation after all. Learn to use body language, clothing, smiles, handshakes to create an air of confidence, and fearlessness. The feelings will come later, but the appearance of confidence is achievable. With success, comes the positive emotion of confidence, which in turn fuels the next encounter. We recommend The Confidence Booster Workout.
Who “makes” you feel obliged? A demanding boss? A lazy co-worker who will show up the team, if you fail to step in and cover up for her? An immature parent? A whinging child?
Are you the person who sorts things out? Gets things done? Fixes whatever, and whoever, is broken? Takes care of things no-one else will?
If your life is taken up with rescuing other people, then you’re heading for depression.
How do I know? Because I sometimes work with those who deal with depression sufferers. Besides, I’m the Rescuer personality type and I know what it feels like to be consumed with wanting to help fragile victims, taking on the heavy, emotional baggage they inevitably carry around. And, because I see the Rescuer type every day.
They’re physically exhausted. And, mentally?
Far from feeling benevolent toward the person they’re rescuing from their own problem, inadequacy or laziness, they most often resent them!
Techniques for Limiting Obligation to Your Genuine Responsibilities Only
You have the right to judge your own behavior, thoughts, and emotions, and to take the responsibility for their initiation and consequences upon yourself.
You have the right to offer no reasons or excuses for justifying your behavior.
You have the right to be independent of the goodwill of others before coping with them.
You have the right to say, “I don’t care”.
- Now, go back and read the rights again. Ponder what each one would look like in your life.
From now on, take care of those things you know are your real responsibilities, and ignore those that others place unfairly upon you. This is not a licence to drop your responsibilities. On the contrary, it is a license to take up those responsibilities and carry them out, unfettered by the illegitimate obligations placed on us by others.
What if you don’t do something for someone? Are you taken over by guilt? Do you groan at the consequences?
If I don’t do this for her, then she’ll suffer! If I don’t help out, then no-one else will!
Did you ever stop to think that it is not within your circle of concern what the consequences are? And, sometimes it is not even within your circle of influence! It only appears so, because you have allowed someone else to determine it for you.
Techniques for Not Feeling Guilty
- Ask yourself if you have done something wrong. If not, then you need not feel guilty. That nagging voice in your head probably speaks very like your parent/child/boss/friend/neighbour. It is false. Ignore it. You will train yourself gradually to mute the volume.
- Are you the type that can’t enjoy a success? You feel guilt instead? Think of success as a logical, intended culmination of years of planning, or months of study, or days of labour. It would be a huge surprise if anything other than success was the result. That is what you are working toward, isn’t it? Then, enjoy it!
You Are The Only Person Who Can Break The FOG Cycle
I’m very fortunate, I know, to have a husband who cares for my mental well-being. But, I was horrified, though not surprised, recently, to listen to a woman whose husband never asked her how she was feeling. The thing is, if you never say how you’re feeling, people can sometimes be forgiven for assuming that you feel OK. That leads to a situation where your feelings are unimportant.
Never underestimate the immense lack of interest of others, even those closest to you, in your contentment, mental wellbeing, physical health or fulfilment in life.
Fear – speak out, be heard in a positive way. Don’t fall into the trap of becoming aggressive towards those who scare you.
Obligation – take responsibilities seriously, but only those that you decide on.
Guilt – much of it is misplaced. Decide if the emotion is warranted, and act accordingly.
All of this takes a little practice, I know! But, it is achievable.
Image credit: mikecolvin82.
Join Our Private Facebook Group Bully Karma