Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tearing Down

I take a breath. Pick up the phone. Make the call.

Twenty minutes later the call is done.

And so am I.

In many ways I'm a fortunate man, people come to listen to me teach and lecture, others pop by and read my random musings on this blog, I am often employed to listen, think then render an opinion. It's good. Growing up with messages of worthlessness it has always been a challenge to see myself as having even the slightest thought or idea that would be worth a penny. This has changed a lot in recent years and self confidence has snuck in the knapsack along with other trinkets that I carry through my day.

But there are those people who seem to set about bringing down others around them. People who 'smell' my vulnerability and pounce upon it with relish. I do all I can to avoid these people but life doesn't always cooperate and there are times when I have to buck up and do what needs to be done.

Now is one of those times.

Every conversation with this person leaves me feeling heavy and stupid and totally inadequate. I believe strongly that I have managed to keep the servitude out of my voice and respond with authority. But they know, I know they know, that they got to me.

Then I think about those in care, those whose vulnerablity isn't as well hidden as mine. I wonder about those who are drawn to this field. What are they in search of? What needs do the needs of others meet? I'm sure everyone knows some who are addicted to the subjugation of others - tearing apart someone else's esteem to use the parts to build their own.

My encounter was 20 minutes.

They are not so lucky.

So this is what I'm doing. I'm looking for all solutions for dealing with this situation with this person. I'm looking to see what I do that encourages such liberties,I'm looking to see what flaw exists in the character of the other. I want to be better prepared to protect my self, next time.

I want also to figure out how to teach people in care to deal with petty tyrants - the one's with acid on their breath. I've taight about physical abuse, and sexual abuse, but this is different. This kind of abuse is so subtle that it would look ridiculous put in writing on a complaint form. You can't document tones of voices and sighs of exasperation, and little knowing nods. All those non verbal way of calling someone stupid, all those insidious ways of predicting your failure, all those people who talk kindness but whos words cut. These are the people that are truly dangerous.

But what I can't yet do I can't yet teach.

One day though, one day.

Because I've got the chance to work with an expert.


Susan said...

There is a prayer that helps me when I am feeling overwhelmed and intimidated. Please say it many times when you are preparing for that type of call . . .
"Is there any Remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praised be God! He is God! All are His servants, and all abide by His bidding!"

Wishing you strength that comes from your encounters with bullies!!!

Belinda said...

Preparing is a very good thing.

Some of us went to Assertiveness Training and learned to say:

When you....

I feel....

I need you to....

So that we can....

Even thinking those statements through is helpful. When I took the training--for the second time in my life--and found to my surprise that I was aggressive and needed to be "toned down," I thought how helpful this training would be to the people we support. It would help them identify the problem behaviour, how it makes them feel--putting words to the feeling--and tell the other person what they need from them so that they can continue in their relationship. I've had this script spoken "to" me--and I found that I didn't rise up in defensiveness because it didn't attack me in any way.

But I also say "Amen" to Susan's prayer.

Anonymous said...

Funny how this synchronicity happens ... I blogged about
dealing with bullying last night.

What I hate is how some people make one feel so fisselig. "Fisselig" is a German word, meaning, "flustered to the point of incompetance due to too much supervision".

Anonymous said...

Belinda, the strategies you mention, I think, can be useful when dealing with people who have roughly the same amount of power as you and who genuinely just aren't aware of the impact their behavior has on you.

However, I'm not sure it would be quite as effective for, let's say, someone in an institutional situation who may be PROFOUNDLY disadvantaged in the power structure. ESPECIALLY when dealing with genuine bullies of the variety that Andrea (the other Andrea) above, or people who are outright abusers whether or not they're prepared to admit it.

Assertive training is perfectly fine for dealing with ordinary personality conflicts with reasonably well-intentioned people who are able to cope, more or less, with constructive criticism. Dealing with outright verbal abuse requires a different set of strategies.


Belinda said...

I agree with you Andrea. Another approach is definitely called for in such cases as you mentioned.

Even in peer to peer relationships with staff it can be easy in theory and hard in practice--but the more tools in the back pocket the better.

Anonymous said...

when you have found out Dave please post it. Then I will put it on the biggest poster and hang it from the highest flag pole and leave it in the homes of those I work with because I am tired of my powerlessness in not being able to support those whom I know are being bullied, and it is not just in institution care but the disabled person who's "carer" has become their abuser - and unless there is actual physical abuse there is no law in the land that can protect or allow them to speak for themselves.

ballastexistenz said...

The "When you..." "I feel..." stuff was actually used in some institutional power situations I have been in, to uphold the power structure as it was. And it was vile. I've henceforth utterly refused to use formulas like that, my body reacts to them like they're poison.

It also assumes the other person is benevolent and likely to actually care how you feel. Which are not safe things to assume in the described situations.

The problem with teaching people how to deal with these situations... is that it needs to be more like... how to end them, how to get the person to actually change what they're doing or get them out of power without being in a dangerous position ourselves. And many of us know our danger far more acutely than those teaching us these various responses do.

Belinda said...

I honour your experience ballasexistenz--and your right to despise formulas when they are used "on" you or to maintain power structures. I would despise them too, if used in that way. I guess it boils down to anything can be used for a negative or positive purpose.

You're right--if someone is malevolent in their intent, then they need to be stopped.

My problem was going off on a tangent again. Dave was talking about someone who has a nasty streak and a predilection for power plays. I was talking about people who don't realize how they are affecting others--two entirely different things. Thanks for helping me to see that.

Dave Hingsburger said...

It will help just knowing that I am not alone in having to deal with those whose sole intent is to indent my soul. I've some ideas about what to do next, there will be a part two to this post. Thanks for caring enough to respond

Sally said...

In the past seven years I have had four years of care agencies providing my home care, and three years of being an employee, a small business in fact, buying my care with an equivalent budget from social services, advertising, recruiting, training.

And that is the magic that makes the difference. I can sack them; but only when the situation has got so bad, that the alternative of not having care is better that having them in my home.

What seems to work for me, for my situation, for now, is not advertising for a 'carer' because that word in the advert brings out the worst in people, brings the worst people out of the woodwork. Bugs, cockroaches, bitches.

It is working for me for the moment because I am well enough to cope, because I have trained as a psychodynamic counsellor (where assertiveness and knowing what's going on is essential), and I use my left over energies to engage with social services local authorities and health authorities when they carry out 'consultations' ordered by government departments, and let them know what goes wrong, in people's attitudes and actions against people they perceive as weaker than themselves. All this I do when I can, against the time when I am not able to be assertive for myself, in the fervent hope that things will have changed; so that I am not taken advantage of.

I think that all of use who can, have a duty to do something like this, and in my experience of blogging, that's what blogging crips do. They speak up. When they can.