“….what consumes your thoughts controls your life”
Creed, What If
I don’t listen to a lot of hard rock, but when I heard these lyrics from What If, a song about hatred, oppression, and vengefulness by the group Creed, I thought immediately about the experiences of many people who are dealing with severe workplace bullying.
Bullying targets often ruminate obsessively about their situations. In a piece for the Greater Good Science Center, therapist Linda Graham defines rumination as “thinking the same negative worrisome thoughts over and over again.” She continues:
Rumination usually doesn’t solve what we’re worried about and, in fact, leaves us more vulnerable to staying in a funk, even becoming depressed. Rumination makes our view of events, and our feelings about ourselves, worse.
Graham encourages her clients to engage in self-compassion, which includes “evoking a sense of kindness and care toward one’s self.” Her full article delves deeper into nurturing practices of self-compassion, and for those who want to learn more, it is well worth a click and read.
For some targets, self-compassion practices will prove helpful and healing. For others, however, it’s awfully hard to avoid dwelling upon the negatives. I frequently invoke the findings of a 2006 study by communications professors Sarah Tracy, Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik, and Jess Alberts, who found that bullying targets’ narratives of their experiences “were saturated with metaphors of beating, physical abuse, and death.” That’s a pretty dark place to be, and it is not uncommon.
As I’ve written before, we are still in the early stages of developing effective counseling, therapeutic, and coaching protocols for helping targets of workplace bullying. Too many practitioners remain unfamiliar with workplace bullying and its effects on individuals. Among other things, we need to enable those engaged in these helping modalities to help more people move out of that state of obsessive rumination and toward better places in their lives.
For more about the Tracy, Lutgen-Sandvik, and Alberts study referenced above, see my 2009 post, “Workplace bullying as psychological torture.”
Lynne Shallcross, “Grown-up Bullying,” Counseling Today (2013) — Includes extensive commentary by therapist and coach Jessi Eden Brown, who for many years has been affiliated with the Workplace Bullying Institute and is one of the nation’s most experienced and knowledgeable practitioners in working with targets of workplace bullying.