“Discover a Better Life” By a Farmer’s Daughter

As I was replenishing the rabbits’ food supply the smell of hay brought me back to the days with my sisters being in that barn every day.

Growing up on a farm I learned dedication at an early age. The animals had to be fed and watered every day regardless of how of cold it was outside. In the winter my sisters and I would pile on the overalls, winter hats, gloves, boots, and make our way to the barn. If the animals’ water had turned to ice we had to break it up and provide new water. It required carrying two ten gallon buckets across the long graveled barnyard which was quite heavy for a little girl. Filled with horses, rabbits, a couple of dogs and often a new litter of kittens, rabbit poop and hay, that barn seemed impossible to keep clean. When you opened the barn doors there was always work to be done.

In order to free ourselves from the daily feedings and massive poop clean up, one Spring day my sisters and I had taken all our rabbits in the middle of the alfalfa field to run free (in our minds).  While I have fond memories growing up on a farm and am thankful for the values it taught me like hard work and dependability, I did NOT miss the chores.  After shedding many tears due to pets “going missing”, I also learned not to grow too close to the animals on the farm.

I had thought that Spring day was the last time I would ever be cleaning up after rabbits. Now years later, my daughter’s desire convinced me to agree to be part of the Bunny Brigade at the Human Society. Typically it was my daughter that handled the rabbits. I typically just went through the cleanup motions as an obligation to my daughter. Yet this morning was different.

When I started the task of removing the first bunny from its cage I could still hear my daughter’s response to my unhealthy comment the night before.

“Why do you feel I owe you for helping out animals?” She had wisely replied.

Her come-back had left me in silence and in thought. Even though it was not her fault she had another obligation, I had been irritated that it was her idea. I was once again stuck.  It wasn’t right to reschedule as they had counted on us showing up.

Over the course of the morning, smelling that hay brought back memories. After petting and holding that rabbit I started to realize my core issues.  My daughter was innocent. The truth is I had built up a blockade to not feel anything for those rabbits. I had left myself cry too hard too many times when I lost them and quit seeing them as something to love and enjoy.  By resisting vulnerability I killed my own joy.  The experience became an unwanted task because I resorted to just going through the motions.

Can you relate? Are you currently stuck and find something you used to enjoy has now turned into something you dread? Have you let yourself become bitter for feeling out of control of something in your life? Or have you even become detached to someone or something to prevent yourself from being vulnerable?

When you experience yourself feeling irritable, examine the root of it? Dig deep and ask yourself, “why do you feel that way?” Randy Creamer the lead teaching counselor at Southbrook Church then says to ask, “How are you going to find your joy if nothing changes?”

What is holding you back from experiencing joy? What is it you have control over? What can you change to become unstuck?  What are you going to do about it?

Until we dig deep about what it is that is really leaving us annoyed about our life, we will keep living each day as a daily ritual and soon our life will have passed us by. We can choose to live with a dark cloud over us or we can choose to live in the light. It is our choice.

For me, after working through the answers to those questions I began to see again. I was able to see those rabbits as God’s creations who needed care. The bitterness was replaced with delight. I also could see the positive…at least those rabbits were not in my old barn, it was not the dead of winter, and no ice needed to be broken. It was only me who needed to warm up inside.

What can you do right now to enjoy this very moment? Examine the beauty around you right now!  It is there, you just need to look for it.  Begin truly seeing again like you are experiencing whatever it is in front of you for the first time. Let your appreciation be known. Focus on the blue sky rather than the work required. It is amazing what doors will begin to open!  Doors to a more enjoyable life!

Positive Messages

Workshops and Resources

 

Barn Photograph was taken near Terre Haute, IN in 2019

Dear Daughter,

Dear Daughter,

Work seems to have never-ending demands. All of these years I have strived to find balance.  It’s hard to not want to be the best at both career woman and Mom.  As I look back I hate when works’ demands and running the household made me choose to work over putting you first on my list. There were so many times I wished I could quit in order to have more time with you.  Sometimes it makes me bitter, however, I realize my career has always also been a part of me. 

Now as you go off to college I wonder where all the time has gone.  My biggest concerns are what impact I’ve had on you. What lessons have you learned from how I have parented you and what I have valued? Has my ambition for my career and drive for success in my career negatively affected you?

Time seems to be running out and I find myself quickly trying to fix all the things I may have broken in you. Teach you all you need to know before you move out of the house. I want to pour out all my knowledge and life lessons to make your life easier, more fulfilled and joyous than my own.

Sometimes when I am trying to teach you all of these things or try to help you live life better, I go about it all the wrong way. I see that when I try to control your actions and your choices you do not react well.

I noticed the change in your tolerance of control around 13. You entered the time of your life where you were trying to understand yourself. You started to desire the freedom to define yourself and not let others try to define that for you. You started transforming from being a kid to an adult. Sometimes you still feel needy and yet you don’t want to feel you need anyone.

I was once like you.  I know you want to make your parents proud but also want to be true to yourself. Some days are better than others and you still struggle with who you can trust. You want to have the freedom to make mistakes as you are learning. You want to be able to have your own money and not let that be the way others have control over you. You take pride in earning it even though you would prefer to do things where you don’t have to take on adult responsibility.

There are so many things I want to know about you. So many things I want to understand regarding your individual path of life.  What are your fears, struggles, hopes, and dreams?  I want you to feel safe to share these things with me.

I want to share all my own struggles and make myself vulnerable to you so you know you are not alone. I have and still make mistakes too. I know I am not perfect. I am on my own journey of life as well. The more I can understand you and you about me the better our relationship and lives will be.

I promise to work on not controlling you. Instead, I strive to work to influence you to make the best decisions for your future. I will work to make it safe for you to share who you are with me.

All I ask is, talk to me. Trust your Dad and me with our wisdom. Count on our love for you to coach you on decisions that are for your long-term well being. Get me to listen to you, understand you and ask for guidance when you need it. 

Know that I am so very proud of you and that I love you no matter what!

Mom

I had written a similar letter to that of the above to my oldest daughter over a year ago. She is the one that said I should publish it. It was healing for me to write to her and healing for her to know how I felt. It helped bring us back together when I felt I was losing her.

Many working Mom’s ask themselves, “Have I:

-put my work ahead of my kids and made them feel less important?”

-set such high expectations of them the measuring scale seems to be perfection?”

-overcompensated to make their life easier and instead made them take things for granted?”

-taught them to find balance in their life and happiness within themselves?”

The second-guessing list goes on and on. If you are struggling as a Mom, know you are not alone. May this letter inspire you to write a letter of your own and help you find your own healing as your kids grow and start lives of their own.

Show Your Enthusiasm for Other Humans

Dog owners know the sheer joy of being greeted by their incredibly excited dog when they come home. Their shaking bodies and wagging tales leave no question they love to see their human friend.  That’s why there are so many dog lovers!

The friends who welcome you with open arms, excited voices and smiling faces are the friends we are always excited to see.  They can turn around a bad mood in an instant.

However, have you ever went up to someone you had not seen in years and were so excited to see them based on an amazing memory with them that your energy was bubbling over until they greeted you back? Once you said “Hi!” and you quickly realized they were less than enthusiastic to see YOU or didn’t even remember your name, how did that make you react? If you’ve ever experienced this you know how deflating it can be. Doesn’t it make you want to dial back your excitement next time?

However, why DO we dial back next time? Maybe it was just that person’s problem, not ours! Why do we let the fact that they don’t remember us deflate us or put up a shield? It can be so hard to concentrate on the simple fact of how we may have made that person feel super special even though we just let them make us feel like crap.

Many years ago at a work event while alongside one of my inspiring mentors, I excitedly went up to someone who I was looking forward to introducing to him. Upon saying hello, my mentor witnessed my response to how her enthusiasm was not shared. I must have shown the disappointment in my body language because my mentor later advised me to not let that stop me from greeting every other person I was excited to see with that same enthusiasm!

Yet, as much as I still tell myself to listen to my mentors’ words of wisdom, when rejection happens it is hard to not revert back to dialing back. The fear of being disappointed if the reaction is not reciprocated makes me modify the true feeling I have for the person. I sure hope I have not been that person who may have deflated someone else. For inside I was thinking:

  • “I am surprised you remember me!”
  • “I wish I could remember your name! It is just my brain isn’t working!”
  • “Oh, I called that wrong…you ARE a hugger, I am too!”
  • “Are they being real?”

Why is it we sometimes guard ourselves so much from being hurt that we forget to live? Who knows, they may have wished they could have remembered our name and feel bad for their not so great memory! When we can authentically share our love for another human being and we find they feel the same we find the most joy!  How are we to discover that if we hold back?

Be authentically excited to see other humans who you adore! Risk yourself to let others know they are special and held dear! Don’t hold back. Be excited to say “hi” to people even if they may not remember you. Remind them of your great memories with them! The more you show you admire others the more you will be remembered whether they reciprocate the enthusiasm or not! Becoming more vulnerable leads to connecting more and becoming fulfilled!

Make Peace With Your Parents

Every five to ten years it seems most people go through a life examination. Typically during those times we work on a deeper understanding of ourselves and examine our childhood and where we want to go in the future.

In counseling, it is common practice to have someone share their childhood memories to help them understand their challenges of today. When you review your own upbringing you may also see areas where your parents may have influenced root pain where you struggle in adulthood. However, you are responsible for healing from that pain rather than causing a chain reaction to the next generation.

As you look back on your childhood, recall moments that instilled your currently held beliefs. Some good and some not so good.

Write down what those moments are for you. When you write them, are there open wounds that you have not repaired? Are there areas that still require healing? If so, what has prevented you from facing that pain in order to heal and live a healthier life?

If you have dealt with abuse or trauma, then please seek professional counseling. If your experience was not severe, a good practice for working on healing is to write a letter to the person you feel caused that pain. However, do not send it. Just write. Express your raw emotions on paper.

Now write down all the positive things you can remember. Are there more than you typically recall?

While I was very fortunate to have a good childhood and upbringing, there were times in my life where I longed to have my Dad be something he was not. I had wanted him to be interested in me by asking about my life. It would have been nice to hear him say “I love you” back. However, after looking harder at trying to understand him, there were many things to appreciate about him. It brought healing to me to let him know how he was valued.

The letter explained to him how it was understood he wasn’t raised in a time where men were involved in deep conversations with their kids. He also had ten of us!  The letter let him know how he taught me to work hard and it was noticed when he had to eat alone at night after a long day of working in the fields. He taught me values at a young age to be respectful, to be mindful of cussing, not quitting, and doing what was right.  Memories of him teaching me to fish and telling stories even for the 5th time are still cherished.  He is still telling those stories.

Many people live in anger and resentment and don’t realize until it is too late how hard it is to be a parent. They don’t view their parents as people who were raised in a different time and could be fighting their own battles. They don’t get time to share what they do appreciate about their parents and then live in regret for unspoken words.

Why choose to live as a victim when you can be the person who initiates the healing yourself? For me writing that appreciation letter brought healing for me and my Dad too. Ironically receiving that letter inspired him to say he loved me back when it had originally been so hard for him to do. Maybe the same peace could happen for you!

Photograph taken at the Peace Center in Greenville, South Carolina

How to Turn Anger into Inner Peace

Compassion is the road to forgiveness and turns anger into inner peace.

So often we get caught up in our own jealousies and anger of other people and forget what they may be feeling or facing. If you are someone who feels weight caused by others and wish everyone else would change, then start looking inside yourself. Realize the solution may be within you.

If you find yourself being quick to anger, think about why that situation made you blow up. In the psychology lessons I continue to study in order to counsel myself and others, I have learned anger comes from unexpressed communication, a hurt from our past or the lack of the ability to forgive either yourself or someone else.

What is it for you? Likely you deal with something that makes you quick to anger as it seems everyone does. For me, it is in the evil parts of perfectionism. As a perfectionist, I beat myself up and always try to do the right things. I work so hard at it that it can lead to harboring resentment for others who seem careless. I can grow bitter for the endless work and strict rules I have worked to try and follow, especially when I let myself be a pessimist. I can get swallowed by my self-pity when someone else is rewarded for their little effort.

However, in reality, no one else has put those rules on me. That is me putting those strict guidelines up thinking if I just follow all the rules nothing will go wrong. By recognizing my anger is coming from how I am viewing the situation and not because of the other person, I realize I can do something about dealing with the bitterness. I have no right to build up resentment or force change on those who are more carefree. What I need to be doing is learning from them. The more I strive for excellence, not perfection and more importantly remember to have fun, the happier I become. Also laughing at myself could do me some good!

For you, it could be something much worse. Many people have shared stories with me where I can’t help but get mad with them. If you have deep-rooted anger due to the cruelty of the unimaginable, please seek professional counseling. Get coaching on how you can write letters without sending them to express the hurt those people caused you. Just admitting the source of my anger in writing draws my attention to working on it. It will help you heal too. Begin to write out the anger directed toward the appropriate parties. Then work through a process of understanding the situation from their viewpoint. It helps you to be compassionate. Forgiveness is not excusing what was done. It is instead a way for you to find healing for yourself.

In most cases, when you identify who or what it is you are blaming or directing that anger towards, it brings an awareness that makes it easier to bring light to a solution for peace within yourself. There may be cases where it makes you realize the root cause for someone else being hurtful to you was the aftermath of someone else not dealing with their pain in a healthy way.

Maybe they are dealing with a trauma that is unfathomable to you. Doesn’t that change your perspective of your anger towards them? When you dig deeper and see that person’s hurt or your own struggle from other perspectives you can take ownership of controlling the anger and finding your peace.

If you are someone who experiences a lot of road rage, and a driver around you does something stupid, rather than cussing at them for their carelessness, ask “I wonder what is going through that person’s mind?”. That person could have just found out their parent passed away or received various other amounts of bad news. Or they could have made a mistake and maybe apologizing in their own car to you right now. It doesn’t excuse their bad driving. However, when we look at options rather than first assuming the worst, doesn’t that make for a healthier version of you? Also, Randy Creamer at Southbrook Church teaches counselors to ask those with road rage, what is it about others driving that makes you angry? Is it you putting your own expectations on them to be perfect? Is it their carelessness? Realize everyone is fighting their own battle. Mistakes happen.

If it is a person that makes you angry, instead of getting angry or frustrated Kyle Maynard a mixed martial arts athlete, Mountain Climber, Author, and Speaker who is quadruple amputee says to ask yourself to look deep within them as if you are looking into their soul and ask yourself what it is they need? What great inspiration to start YOUR compassionate journey to forgiveness.

Find Freedom from Controlling Behaviors

It was August of 1997.  I was 24 years old, extremely motivated, and trying to make a living in sales. A business client had called for an appointment and gave me an address regarding where to meet. When I arrived, I said to myself, “This can’t be right.” The address is a house. I called the number again.  The client verified that was the meeting place. According to my notes, there were supposed to be multiple people in this meeting. Again, I said to myself, “Why aren’t there any cars? This doesn’t feel right.”  Convincing myself that I needed the business, I went to the door anyway.

I knocked on the door and the client answered.  I felt somewhat relieved that he answered the door.  I knew him. He had gotten married recently and was very happy when I worked with him a year ago. We had made small talk waiting on the other people to arrive.  He recognized my discomfort due to his shaven head and twitching face. He shared he was diagnosed with a brain tumor and it was very serious.

As time started to lapse, I looked at the clock.  My fiance was going to start wondering where I was.  I had grown even more uncomfortable as time passed.  I wondered how much longer it would take for the others to arrive.  After declining his offer for a glass of water, he asked if I wanted to see the blueprints for the business. Again, I ignored my instincts.  I entered the room to look at the architect table. There was nothing on the table. When I turned to look at the client, he was holding a revolver.

Rather than listening to myself, I ignored my inner voice. As he said “I am not going to kill you or rape you” I turned my head to see the revolver pointed at me. Instantly, I went into hysterics. He closed the door and moved me towards the back of the room.

“Take your clothes off.” He said.

I immediately envisioned myself taking off my clothes and that not being enough for him. I saw images of him asking me to do things I did not want to do and him eventually taking my life. I saw my dead naked body lying on the floor, and my loved ones finding out I was found lifeless and without my clothes in some strange house. I felt if he wanted all that he would have to take my clothes off after I was no longer alive. I said to myself, “My life is not ending this way. I have so many more dreams to fulfill.”

Somehow, I found the power within and decided to reason and plead with him. “Why are you doing this? What about your wife? I am not going to… You can kill me first.”

He replied, “I will cripple you.”

I said, “I don’t care if you kill me or cripple me.”

As he started to explain himself, “It is just that this tumor…” Right then, his twitches in his face and clicks of his head that I had witnessed earlier came back. I continued to plea and refuse to give in to his demands. I noticed that I was emotionally getting to him.

Suddenly, he turned the gun on himself.  While frightened he would take his own life in front of me, I saw my window of opportunity to escape.  Quickly, I went towards him as he backed himself up towards the door.  I grabbed the doorknob with my left hand and was able to wedge it open enough to get my leg in through the opening. Meanwhile, I pushed my right hand towards his face in an attempt to move the gun away from his own mouth. Somehow I was able to get out, grab my bag and keys and run out the door to my car while my whole body was shaking. He did not follow me.  I began driving and frantically called 911. They directed me towards a local fire department for safety. I repeated the story multiple times of how I ended up in that house.

In the end, after police had surrounded his house and tried to get him to come out for hours, he ended his own life that night.

I had made multiple very risky decisions that day.  I was thankful to be alive. I questioned myself. I worried about what people would think.  I thought, “Why was I so gullible? Why did he pick me?  Was there something I did that made me seem vulnerable?” I could never even face his wife to see how she handled all of it. I felt sad for her and envisioned him being sorry for what he had done to me. Truth is, I will never really know why or fully understand. Why would anyone choose to sabotage someone else’s life?

Often times, people attempt to control others when they feel powerless in their own lives.  The more we feel we have lost control, the more we want to try and control others.

After talking to my sister-in-law who is well versed in mental health, she helped me understand it was not my fault.  Being able to talk with someone helped me be able to focus on what could come from the experience. She helped me understand that some brain tumors cause irrational behavior. It was not about me. I was proud of how I had been brave enough to escape. I also learned that I need to listen to my gut instincts.

When sharing my story, some questioned why I didn’t just do what he said. You may even be questioning some of the same things and wonder why I am sharing this story.

While I was not a victim of rape, I felt the extreme case of having someone try to control me by force at a relatively young age.  I felt the side effects. My purpose is not to gain pity here. My purpose is to increase awareness and help you prevent being controlled. To teach you how to stop your own ineffective habits of controlling behaviors.    There are some lessons to be learned from this story, and others I have experienced in my life as both the victim and the controller.

Through professional help and research, I have learned how to identify signs of controlling behavior,  the reasons behind it, how to overcome situations of being controlled and recognize when I am the person doing the controlling.  By sharing my findings, may you learn some skills to find freedom from this controlling behavior as well as know where to go for additional resources that go beyond my experience.

Let’s start by helping you identify situations where someone has tried to control you or you have controlled someone else.  Can you think of times when someone used force, guilt or fear to get you to do something? How did it make you feel?

For example, as common as someone saying:

“If you can’t do this, then you must not want to be the best and accept mediocrity.”

“I have done so much for you, you mean you can’t even do this for me? Guess I don’t mean enough to you.”

Have you been the person who has tried to force your power over another person by saying things like:

“If you don’t I will…”

“Do …because I said so.”

To help you identify controlling behaviors, Andrea Bonier Ph.D. has as a blog in Psychology Today where she states: “Controlling people often know how to fly under the radar and how to make themselves look good. They can be skilled in manipulating the people they are dating into thinking that their friends and family must be wrong or jealous or overprotective. Controlling people may try to leave trails of “evidence” that they are good partners, and fool you into thinking that they only have your best interests at heart. And they can be adept at making you doubt and second-guess your instincts when your alarm bells do finally go off.”

Here are the 20 signs from Dr. Bonier that indicate your Partner is Controlling:

1) Isolating you from friends and family.

2) Chronic criticism—even if it’s ‘small’ things.

3) Veiled or overt threats, against you or them.

4) Making acceptance/caring/attraction conditional.

5) An overactive scorecard.

6) Using guilt as a tool.

7) Creating a debt you’re beholden to.

8) Spying, snooping or requiring constant disclosure.

9) Overactive jealousy, accusations, or paranoia.

10) Not respecting your need for time alone.

11) Making you “earn” trust or other good treatment.

12) Presuming you guilty until proven innocent.

13) Getting you so tired of arguing that you’ll relent.

14) Making you feel belittled for long-held beliefs.

15) Making you feel you don’t “measure up” or are unworthy of them.

16) Teasing or ridicule that has an uncomfortable undercurrent

17) Sexual interactions that feel upsetting afterward.

18) Inability or unwillingness to ever hear your point of view.

19) Pressuring you toward unhealthy behaviors, like substance abuse.

20) Thwarting your professional or educational goals by making you doubt yourself.

To give you an understanding of the scale of people who may have experienced controlling behaviors, I would like to share data from Hotline.org.  In January 2019,  nearly half of all women and men in the United States reported that they have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively). This does not include physical abuse.  1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year according to Loveisrespect.org.  NCADV reports on average 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.  On a typical day, 20,000 phone calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.

In business, I have witnessed many situations that left me appalled.  Once, a manager called in his female subordinate into his office after failing to get me to tell him he was good-looking.  He said to her, “Tell me I am incredibly handsome.”  She did and he found entertainment in his power to get her to fulfill his demand.  He thought he was funny. After she left that company, I ran into her later and she said that was the least of the demeaning requests she had to deal with while working for him.  He may not have realized that his humor was only funny to him. There are many other stories of women in sales who have to deal with clients who make inappropriate requests in order for the client to buy their product. I will refrain from sharing the vulgar details. With the “me too” movement, it is no secret.

In a Moneyish article, seven women tell Moneyish how they handled harassment and assault on the job — and what they wish they’d done differently.  On October 17, 2017,  Meera Jagannathan reports: “About 40% of women report experiencing unwanted sexual attention or coercion at work and nearly 60% say they’ve endured workplace gender harassment, according to a 2016 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report.” At the time of the article, there were over 52k likes on Alyssa Milano’s Tweet feed based on her request for people to speak up.

When people I know or in the news share their story, they express feelings of shame, not knowing what to do, and inability to express how it made them feel. In many situations, people feel trapped.  In work environments, people feel if they report it they will be seen as weak.  In cases where women have taken their case to Human Resources, the problem has not always been solved.  There are stories of legal services even discouraging women from filing lawsuits as it goes on public record and then deters future employers from hiring them.  In 2016 Cynthia Shapiro, a Human Resources expert and author of “Corporate Confidential’ published an article in ABC News Opinion section: What You Need to Know Before Filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint.  She wrote, “even though sexual harassment is strictly illegal, many companies tell employees to notify right away because they want to get ahead of, and hopefully squelch, a potentially damaging legal issue for the company.”  She goes on to say, “The harsh reality is that many employees who file claims of sexual harassment find themselves discounted, sidelined and even managed out or fired.”

Now that you have seen some statistics to show the massive amount of people who have been a victim of abuse and unwanted sexual attention, imagine how many more people have been impacted by controlling behaviors.

In order to be able to respond to the behavior, you must first seek to understand why the person is trying to control you. To do that, Sarah Newman M.A. MFA Publisher of Psych Central in her blog “Why Would Anyone Want to Control You” says:

“People who can’t control themselves turn to control others. This happens on an emotional level. A person full of insecurities has to exact a positive sense of self from other people because their self-esteem is too low to do it for themselves.”

“People control because they are afraid of being abandoned. They don’t feel secure in their relationships and are often testing to see if they’re about to be betrayed. The paradox is that their behavior creates exactly what they fear the most.”

When you recognize it is about them and not about you, it gives you a power within to figure out the person’s motivations. It stops you from giving in to their demands. In the situation with the person who was suffering from a brain tumor, he had no power over it and therefore possibly wanted to exert power over someone else in hopes it would make him feel better.  In the situation of the client needing to hear he was good-looking, it was truly because he was going through a divorce and was not feeling secure in himself.  He needed boosts to his ego. In other sexual assault cases, there are obviously more issues involved that I am not prepared to address.

In most cases, once you recognize the root of the problem with someone who you notice is controlling, you can start identifying what will work best. Preston Ni M.S.B.A. lists the following excerpts from his book How to Successfully Handle Aggressive and Controlling People in his blog which I highly recommend and can be found in my resources section:

1.    Keep Your Cool and Maintain Composure

2.    Keep Your Distance and Keep Your Options Open

3.    Depersonalize and Shift from Reactive to Proactive

4.    Know Your Fundamental Human Rights

5.    Put the Spotlight on Them & Reclaim Your Power

6.    In Relatively Mild Situations, Display Superior Composure Through Appropriate Humor

7.    In Serious Situations, Set Consequences to Compel Cooperation

Preston says in his blog, “to know how to handle aggressive, intimidating, and controlling people is to truly master the art of communication. As you utilize these skills, you may experience less grief, greater confidence, better relationships, and higher communication prowess.”

In the case of the client who needed to hear he was good-looking, I could have better handled the situation by asking, “why do you need me to say you are good looking to feel like you are?”  In instances where someone has tried to demean you, you could say “I do not deserve to be treated this way, is there something bothering you?”  If the behavior continues, set a boundary by saying something like, “If you continue to talk to me disrespectfully, I will begin to avoid you.”

In more severe situations that I have witnessed in the counseling sessions where the individual has shown controlling behavior or even abusive behavior, it was common that they handled all the finances and safety was a concern.  In these extreme situations, the control seeker has wanted a spouse who does not work so they have financial control over them. The women then stay in abusive relationships because they don’t have the ability to move out financially.  If you are in a situation like this, make sure you become informed and are at least aware of account balances, account numbers, and passwords.  It is crucial you stay educated.  If that is not possible and you are one of those women in a living arrangement where you feel you are in danger call for help.  National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800-799-SAFE.

If you are stuck with an extremely controlling person in a business situation and none of the above methods of communication have worked, look at your options rather than suffering and doing things that conflict with your value system.  If it is a client, go to your manager and explain the situation and see if there are options for account transfers.  If the manager doesn’t support you then report it to your Human Resources office.  If your company doesn’t have one or you are afraid of the repercussions, then look for other positions.  In my experience, if the manager is someone who cares about you, they will work to help you.

Given not all work environments are healthy where some managers and the leaders at the top work to control their employees and put them down versus providing constructive criticism, you may also feel trapped in your job.  You may think it is you.  There may also be times where you do need coaching.   However, good managers will praise in public and critique in private.  If they are saying things that only bring you down in front of your peers and others, that is a sign that the manager may be the problem.  Also if what they say isn’t helpful and beats you down more than coaches you to be better, than you may need to examine your situation closer.  Your gut will tell you if it is truly you or if others around you are experiencing the same problems. You have choices.   First work to address it with the person.  For example, you could say in a one on one, yet safe setting, “I know I have some areas where I can improve.  When you used the terms “…”  what did you really mean by that?   Next time could you help me understand exactly how to get better?”  If you are in an extreme situation where you are feeling controlled to do inappropriate things please see https://www.eeoc.gov.

On the reverse end, I have learned lessons about my own controlling behavior, which I utilized without realizing it and its consequences.  In my counseling lessons at Southbrook Church, Randy Creamer has explained “the more influence you have in a relationship, the less you need to control. And the more control you use, the less influence you probably have.” He made me start listening to how I interact with my daughters. He made me realize there were times I was using guilt as a way to get them to do something or even talk with me. It became obvious that the more I tried to control, the more I pushed them away. When I started to give them the freedom to choose and listened and asked questions instead there was less fighting. I started explaining WHY it was important to do something to get them on board in a positive way.  I worked to show unconditional love regardless of their choice. It is sometimes hard. Yet it is critical.

Randy shared how based on his counseling experience and studies if we control our kids, they will learn to accept being controlled as adults. They will not learn to make choices on their own and it can hurt their self-esteem. So instead of forcing decisions on them, teach them to stand up for themselves, learn self-defense, set boundaries and also model the behavior you want for them.

In addition, it is important to teach children to work to understand the person hurting them.  Getting them to understand “hurting people hurt people” has helped my daughters remember to be compassionate and to not take things personally. They will now remind me of it when I need to be reminded.

As you start to be more aware of areas where you can improve even if you aren’t extreme, know it isn’t too late to change.  I have not always made the best choices, however, I now have techniques I have been practicing that are making differences in my struggles of control. Brene Brown makes a great point in her book I Thought It Was Just Me, but it Isn’t. She says “When we have our self-worth rising on the realization of something that we can’t control, we put our self-worth in jeopardy.”

What do you do when someone doesn’t do what you want? What style do you use with your children? Your spouse? Your employees? If you notice you are controlling as defined above, seek counseling if necessary. Uncover why you feel you need to have power over people.

If you are a manager that struggles with not being able to get their employees to do what is needed, don’t fall back on using forceful, threatening or demeaning remarks. It has negative effects on the person’s morale and kills the person’s desire to want to work for you.  While it is important to hold people accountable, it is ineffective in the long run to add demeaning comments that take a strike at the person’s worth. Rather than saying “you are lazy” a more constructive way of motivating someone would be to say, “You are not showing your full potential.  You are capable of so much more.”

For those in leadership, are you keeping an eye on how your managers treat those working for you?  What about how they treat your business partner representatives?  How they treat people is a reflection of your company’s image and could be costly to your business in turnover, your reputation with customers and maybe even lawsuits.  Be sure to have your employees do anonymous surveys.  Have someone secret shop, play vendor or play undercover boss for the day if you suspect anyone who could threaten your company’s values.

Whether you are the controller or being controlled, help is available.  You are worthy of so much more.  No one deserves to be treated as beneath another person.  You deserve to be treated with respect.  Be sure to look yourself in the mirror and reassure yourself of all your incredible traits.  Make a list of all your great qualities to reframe your mind and maintain your boundaries.  You have the right to have your own value system and maintain your self-worth.  Be brave enough to address the problem.  If safety is a concern, find support.

Other resources:

For more help with a controlling partner, I recommend Dr. Bonier’s blog: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/friendship-20/201506/20-signs-your-partner-is-controlling

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/201409/how-successfully-handle-aggressive-and-controlling-people

For more help handling Aggressive and Controlling people see Preston’s blog: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/communication-success/201409/how-successfully-handle-aggressive-and-controlling-people:

Southbrook counseling – https://southbrook.org/ministries/

Boundaries By Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend

Www.ndvh.org

If you are a victim of Sexual Violence or Trauma, please seek your local counseling services.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert in the best way to handle yourself in a sexual assault situation or when someone is threatening your life.  Please see http://www.rainn.org or NSVRC. or http://www.cdc.gov

https://www.thehotline.org/2018/10/08/national-domestic-violence-hotline-and-avon-partner-with-suze-orman-to-shed-light-on-financial-abuse-in-special-video-series-women-breaking-free-stories-of-strength-from-survivors-of-domest/