Two weeks ago, I highlighted Janice Gilligan White’s insightful and hopeful writings about recovering and healing from severe workplace mobbing. Among other things, Janice’s recollections of obsessing over the details of her experiences capture what so many bullying and mobbing targets go through:
Getting past my own personal circumstance was very difficult for me. I found myself constantly trying to piece together every last detail of my story.
I had to decide how much more time I was willing to spend on all of it.
There is a truth to workplace bullying / mobbing I had to accept; much of what happened I would never know. The destruction of my career and reputation was done behind closed doors of which I had been denied access.
It’s part of common, larger dynamic that I’ve characterized as the challenge of getting “unstuck”:
One of the biggest challenges facing many people who have experienced severe workplace bullying is getting unstuck. Some may feel trapped, helpless, or victimized. Others may be caught in a cycle of anger, defiance, or battle-like conflict. Oftentimes, these thought patterns and behaviors are associated with psychological conditions including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress.
A more clinically accurate term for much of this behavior might be rumination. Here’s what I wrote in 2015:
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.
Work abuse can inflict considerable emotional harm. It’s no wonder that many targets of bullying and mobbing have trouble getting unstuck. However, finding their way toward doing so may be the key to their recovery and renewal. After all, to borrow the lyrics from a song by the band Creed, “…what consumes your thoughts controls your life.”