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What to Do If You’re the Target of Bullying at Work


women bulliesBy the time you realize you’re the target of workplace bullying and mobbing, it’s usually the beginning of the end. The ultimate goal of the bully/mobbing ringleader is to eliminate you from the organization. Unfortunately, most organizations neither acknowledge nor address workplace bullying in a way that protects the target.

In fact, Human Resources and management usually further victimize you by siding with the bully. Unless you can document acts of sexual harassment, racial or religious discrimination, pressure to engage in unlawful activities or discrimination for a physical disability, bullying/mobbing isn’t illegal in most states unless you can tie it to these specific acts of harassment. Therefore, it’s important that you come up with a plan to protect and remove yourself from this unhealthy and stressful work situation.

The following are measures you can take if you’ve become the target of mobbing at work:

1. Assess your professional options. What can you do to protect yourself in the short-term while working on a long-term solution? Do you know people who can connect you with other job opportunities? Do you need to learn new skills to transfer to another department or to seek employment elsewhere?

If management won’t address the problem, you’re going to have to leave or continue to suffer the abuse. Bullies don’t stop until they force you out. Their attacks escalate in severity and in frequency. The more they get away with their behaviors, the more vicious they become.

2. Play it cool. Don’t react with anger at work. Even though your anger is completely justified, don’t blow your top. Find an outside person with whom to vent your frustrations.

A common tactic of bullies is to provoke you into anger in front of co-workers and management. They then pretend like you’re the one who is out of control and hostile, “See. What did I tell you—s/he is uncooperative and people are afraid of him/her.” Of course, they don’t mention the dirty tricks and psychological torture they used to push you into it. They want to destroy your professional reputation. Don’t give them the ammunition to do it.

3. Don’t give your employer “cause.” The bully/mobbing ringleader is looking for reasons to have you terminated, so you have to be beyond reproach. When you’re bullied, you feel demoralized, unappreciated, attacked, and frustrated. Consequently, you lose interest in your job. Your heart just isn’t in it anymore and you let things slide. This is referred to as “presenteeism” or “discretionary effort.” The mindset is, “I’m being mistreated. The company isn’t doing anything about it, so why kill myself working any harder than I have to?”

Try not to do this. Your goal should be to leave your current organization on your own terms. Don’t give them grounds for termination. Demonstrate that in the face of a hostile work environment, you did your best. Once you’ve secured a comparable or better job, let the HR person know exactly what happened during your exit interview. If the company gets enough victims of the bully on record, they might eventually do something about it. The bottom line of any organization is money and recruiting and training new personnel is costly.

4. Create a paper trail. Document everything: dates, times, witnesses, detailed descriptions of their behaviors and events. Send emails describing what’s going on to yourself or a trusted colleague. If you meet with HR, take notes and submit a signed copy for your personnel file.

If your manager or boss is one of the people bullying you and they pressure you to sign a false or unfair performance evaluation or disciplinary action, draft a counter statement explaining your position. Stick to the facts and try to keep anger and emotionality out of it. State that you were made to feel belittled or persecuted. Document that it’s a hostile work environment, which is highly stressful and makes it difficult for you to do your job. Most importantly, keep the original copies and store them in a safe place—i.e., not at work.

5. Get a second opinion. Reality test with a trusted colleague, therapist, coach, or lawyer. One of the most damaging aspects of workplace bullying is gaslighting. You begin to doubt your own perceptions because most of these behaviors are diffuse forms of innuendo, done behind your back or, even worse, if you’re publicly humiliated, the participants deny or minimize how you were treated.

6. Use available resources. Do research on the web. Study your organization’s HR handbook, particularly work grievance and harassment policies. Although, keep in mind, workplace grievances usually aren’t an effective way to deal with a bully. Either the bully has friends in HR or management or is your boss. HR usually sides with management. Plus, most bullies are practiced liars who deny, minimize and distort the facts with ease. Additionally, your company has already failed you in allowing the bullying to occur and not stopping it.

If you have access to a labor attorney or are able to obtain a free consultation, consult with him or her about your rights. Look for other work options. Seek support from friends, family or a therapist.

7. Take care of yourself. Bullying is a form of emotional abuse and violence in the workplace. It takes a very negative toll on your physical and psychological health. Work becomes an active war zone, which causes you to maintain a defensive stance and become hypervigilant. It’s incredibly stressful, exhausting, and traumatic. This toxicity will eventually spill over into your personal life.

Minimize the effects of the abuse by reframing or changing how you see things (Sutton, The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One that Isn’t, 2007, pp. 131-147). If you change your mindset about what’s happening, you can reduce the amount of damage you experience. For example:

  • Avoid engaging in self-blame.
  • Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
  • Develop indifference and emotional detachment.
  • Learn when and how not to give a damn.
  • Lower your expectations about your co-workers and management.
  • Remind yourself that you’ll recover and move on from this ordeal.
  • Look for small wins. Gaining control over little things will positively impact your well-being.
  • Limit your exposure with the bully.
  • Build areas in your life that provide support, safety, and sanity.

8. Use your free time to develop your career outside of your organization. If you’re not being given assignments anymore or your responsibilities have decreased because of bullying/mobbing, use that time to network in other departments, attend professional trainings, work on your résumé, and network outside your organization.

Quantify how these activities are related to your current job in some way, so that you can’t be accused of working on personal activities on company time. For example, hand out business cards when you attend an outside networking event and mention your company and what you do in conversation. Do not, however, bad mouth your company to anyone outside the organization. This will reflect poorly on you. Additionally, you don’t want to be accused of disparaging the organization as grounds for termination.

Workplace bullying and mobbing are insidious forms of psychological and emotional abuse. You can survive with your professional reputation intact if you don’t fall into the trap of reacting or shutting down at work (i.e., not fulfilling your responsibilities). Educate yourself, protect yourself, and develop a plan to get out and move forward with your life.

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to shrink4men@gmail.com.

Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.

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Reference:

Sutton, R.I. (2007).  The no Asshole rule: Building a civilized workplace and surviving one that isn’t.  NY, NY, Warner Business Books.

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Talking behind my back on Forbes.

How to Avoid Bullying and Mobbing at Work


bullseye painted on my foreheadBullying and mobbing are forms of workplace emotional abuse and psychological violence. These behaviors are more than a case of harmless personality differences; bullying and mobbing are purposeful and malicious.

Bullying, whether perpetrated by an individual or a group, entails victimization of a target with the goal of demeaning, discrediting, alienating, excluding, humiliating, undermining, and isolating him or her. It often manifests itself in petty harassment and bureaucratic hassles.

Bullying doesn’t stop unless someone with authority steps in or the bully is able to manipulate the target into quitting or being fired. The bully’s  ultimate goal is to force the target out of the organization.

7 Steps to avoid becoming a target for mobbing and other workplace bullying:

1) Heighten your awareness. Be aware of changes in management and possible differences between your values and organizational values. A power shift or change in management structure can create an environment conducive to bullying and mobbing and/or trigger bullies who already exist within the system.

New managers typically want their own people in place who are loyal to them and share their beliefs and values. If they don’t have legitimate grounds to fire you, they may try to eliminate you through bullying tactics by making the workplace as unpleasant as possible for you.

Alternately, new managers often inherit bullies from the old manager. They’re difficult to initially spot as most bullies put on a charming face in front of authority figures. If the bully enjoyed a position of power before the new manager arrived, they’ll try to undermine and derail the new boss to exert their dominance, maintain their power base, and perhaps try to get rid of the new boss. If this occurs, give the bully a warning and terminate them when they violate the agreement post haste. It shouldn’t take very long; bullies are repeat offenders. They cannot not bully.

2) Can’t we all just get along? More often than not, the answer is a resounding, “No.” If the change in management is big enough, it may warrant transferring to another department or finding a position at another company. Sometimes, you can’t “just get along,” which means you have to move on. It’s unfair, but that’s how it goes. Some differences are too great to resolve. Create a strategic career plan to begin this process.

3) On the down low. If you decide to stay at your current job due to financial restrictions or because an alternate job isn’t readily available, find ways to protect yourself and keep a low profile. It’s more difficult to become a target if you stay off the radar.

Don’t openly disagree with or challenge the bully. Don’t offer suggestions that differ from their agenda. Don’t offer constructive criticism. Become a “yes” man or woman or stay silent when you disagree. Get assignments done on time, smile, and don’t go above and beyond.

If you do outstanding or highly creative work, bullies will find that threatening. It seems counter-intuitive, but if you do something that makes you look good, bullies believe they look bad in comparison and turn on you. If you can find a better or comparable job opportunity, please do so as quickly as possible. This strategy should be a temporary solution, not a long-term one. Over time, it can become just as stressful and demoralizing as being bullied.

4) Play it cool. If you’re prone to anxiety, try to mask it as best as possible. For example, minimize anxiety behavioral signals like fidgeting, leg bouncing, nail biting, constantly apologizing, and nervous laughter. Predatory bullies pick up on fear, so “never let them see you sweat.” Exude quiet confidence, even if you have to fake it at first.

5) Look ’em in the eye. This is related to keeping your emotions in check. While it doesn’t pay to directly confront or challenge a bully, don’t make the mistake of backing down or running away when they verbally attack you. Look them in the eye, remain calm, and politely state your case, being sure to stick to the facts. This is easier said than done. Bullies are masters of baiting people into losing their cool.

6) Develop and practice conflict management skills to minimize the tension. A hallmark of bullying and/or mobbing is continuous conflict. Finding ways to manage conflict and anger before it becomes a problem will be to your benefit. Practice deflection with humor. Learn how to detach yourself from the emotionality of tense situations. Try to remain unflappable. If bullies see you flinch, they’ll move in for the kill.

7) Know your rights. Study your organization’s HR employee handbook and harassment policies. Research your state’s employee’s rights. If you belong to a union, find out what resources are available to you. Good news! Several states are “considering laws that would make workplace bullying an ‘unlawful employment practice’ and give victims the right to sue an employer that fails to prevent it.” About time if you ask me.

If you work for an organization where bullying is tolerated or condoned, it’s only a matter of time before it’s your turn. With every target a bully successfully eliminates, you’re on an ever increasing short list of potential new targets. And, quite frankly, if you participated in making someone else’s life hell at work out of self-preservation, you probably deserve a little karmic payback.

Bullying isn’t just a problem for the targeted individual. If bullying and mobbing are permitted in an organization, it’s everyone’s problem because it means no one is safe. Bullying in the workplace is a form of systemic abuse. It takes more than one person to say, “Enough,” and end a bully’s reign of terror. Start by educating yourself and co-workers. If you see a colleague is being bullied or mobbed, reach out to him or her privately and offer your support.

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to shrink4men@gmail.com.

Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.

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Bullseye on my forehead on corbis.

Workplace Bullying and Office Politics: What is Mobbing?


paranoidDo you feel like you’re being singled out or “ganged up on” at work? Do your co-workers suddenly stop talking when you enter the room? Do you notice co-workers and/your boss rolling their eyes or exchanging glances when you talk in a meeting? Do you feel like people at work are undermining you or out to get you? Do you wonder if you’re just imagining things or being paranoid?

If so, you may be the target of a form of workplace bullying called mobbing. Mobbing isn’t illegal and is a commonplace occurrence in office politics.

What is mobbing?

Mobbing is the impassioned psychological harassment of one individual by a group. The attack is usually instigated and led by one or two people who are typically in a position of authority or a peer leader. The instigator enlists his or her colleagues to engage in a form of group bullying.

The group victimization of a single target has several goals including: demeaning, discrediting, alienating, excluding, humiliating, scapegoating, isolating and, ultimately, eliminating the targeted individual.

These behaviors typically manifest as petty harassment and bureaucratic hassles (Rosen, Katz & Morahan, 2007). Mobbing is a form of emotional abuse, which can negatively impact your health, career, family, and the organization that harbors bullies.

Organizational impact of mobbing.

Companies that condone individual bullying and mobbing are affected by hard and “soft” costs. Hard costs include high employee turnover, high absenteeism, “presenteeism” (employees show up, but they’re on “autopilot”—they exercise discretionary effort), decreased productivity, and a bad reputation in regard to taking care of employees. A bad company reputation reduces the ability to attract talented recruits. Soft costs include decreased job satisfaction, poor communication and information sharing, low morale, and a sense of betrayal by management. Eventually, the poor morale and reduced creativity trickles down to a poor customer experience.

Who is likely to mob?

Mobbing ringleaders are bullies who try to dominate and control others. These behaviors usually aren’t overt. Instead, mobbing employs the surreptitious use of rumor, innuendo, making inappropriate jokes, and public discrediting. One of the most stressful aspects for targets of this abuse is the covert nature of what’s going on and the lack of concrete evidence. It’s a form of gaslighting in which the target begins to doubt his or her experiences and/or sanity.

Namie and Namie (2000) describe individuals who instigate mobbing as, “inadequate, defective, and poorly developed people.” They’re generally angry, unpredictable, critical, jealous, and manipulative (Davenport, Schwartz and Elliot, 1999; Namie and Namie, 2000). The emotionally abusive bullies who engage in mobbing revel in the excitement produced by their animosity. It produces a pleasurable buzz or rush in them. Westhues (2002) refers to this as “the euphoria of collective attack.”

Bullying and mobbing in any organization usually isn’t a one time occurrence. All bullies are “repeat offenders;” if they’ve bullied once and gotten away with it, they’ll most definitely bully again. Getting away with it is its own reward as is being able to manipulate and control both the target and management.

A bully always has an “enemy” in the cross hairs. After they force one target out of the system, they’ll move onto the next one within 2 hours to 2 weeks. Abusing others are how they derive a sense of power and control. A bully doesn’t stop bullying until someone with authority makes them stop and/or fires them.

Who is likely to become the target of mobbing?

Mobbing targets have certain characteristics in common. Typical targets include people who are:

  • average to high achievers
  • extremely competent
  • devoted
  • loyal
  • organized
  • cooperative
  • experienced

They become targets out of jealousy or because they’ve somehow put a co-worker or superior to shame. Creative people are also likely to be mobbed because they present new ideas that challenge others. Other likely targets include people who excel in some area, are different in some way (e.g., gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity), dissent with certain organizational practices, or have knowledge of wrongdoing or a breach of ethics by someone with authority in the workplace.

If you believe you’re being bullied by a co-worker and/or are the target of mobbing, take the time to research your options. Find out what you can do to protect yourself and come up with a strategy to find away out of this toxic situation. It may require that you to transfer to another department or seek employment elsewhere. If your company condones bullying, you may have no other choice but to leave.

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to shrink4men@gmail.com.

Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.

Donations

If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

Related content:

Photo credit:

Paranoid on Francis-Emporium.

Rosen, S.E., Katz, J.K., & Morahan, P.S. (2007), Avoiding \’mobbing\’ in the workplace–and surviving if you are mobbed. Academic Physician & Scientist, Sept. 2007, pp. 4-6.

Financial Fraud by Wall Street and Mortgage Lenders: Ignorance and Stupidity Are No Excuse


eric-j-holder-jrIt’s not my fault. I didn’t know what I was doing. My boss made me do it. I didn’t realize it was wrong. Everybody else was doing it. Nobody told me. I didn’t mean to hurt anybody.

Now that the white collar criminals who perpetrated the mortgage crisis by deliberately giving loans to unqualified buyers and defrauding the country are on the brink of state and federal prosecution, they’re pleading “stupidity and ignorance.” According to the New York Times:

The question behind any cases brought against Wall Street will boil down to this: Was the worst economic crisis in decades caused by law-breaking or some terrible, but noncriminal, mix of greed, naïveté and blunders? The challenge for the Obama administration will be to prove that it was the former, said Michael F. Buchanan, a partner at Jenner & Block and a former United States attorney in New Jersey. “We punish people for intentional misconduct, we don’t punish them for stupidity or innocent mistakes,” he said. “If you’re a prosecutor, you want evidence that shows real dishonesty. You want something that shows that these people were doing something wrong, and they knew it.”

Really?! People receive speeding tickets when they don’t know they’re over the speed limit. For example, they’re preoccupied and don’t realize they’re going too fast or they miss a sign that the speed limit dropped from 65mph to 50mph. Should their tickets be forgiven because of ignorance? I wish.

Stupidity and ignorance are no excuse, hence, ignoratia juris non excusat (ignorance of the law does not excuse). Stupidity and ignorance do not exempt you from accountability and consequences, it just makes you a dumb crook. You’re still responsible for your actions. Even if you were just “following orders” because you were afraid of your boss, you’re complicit. Higher ups who encouraged these behaviors are doubly responsible for encouraging criminal business practices. If executives claim they were “unaware” of what was going on in their organizations, that makes them criminally negligent.

People who took out the bad mortgages with no thought of the morrow are just as culpable. Borrowers were scammed. Banks offered them a deal that was too good to be true. Banks preyed on people’s fantasies of McMansions, borrowers fell for it hook, line and sinker and now they’re paying for it.

A few years ago, a friend and I were in midtown Manhattan with our suitcases on our way to Penn Station. A man approached us and asked if we were interested in buying a “seriously discounted all inclusive day pass to a luxury spa” for $100. My friend and I  knew what was going on and asked very detailed questions about the spa, products, etc. With each question asked, he became irritated and tried to make us feel like stupid hicks because we didn’t recognize what a “great opportunity” (to be fleeced) he was offering us. We kept grilling him until he spotted two other women with suitcases and moved on. I called after him, “Good luck finding another mark!”

Even though we knew better, we both had an initial flash of excitement at the thought of having a day at the spa for next to nothing—until our brains resumed control over our ids. Had we fallen for his scam, we each would’ve been out $100 with little recourse—even if the police caught him. No one would have given us our money back. Unfair? Yes, but we would’ve learned a lesson about being gullible; it’s survival of the mentally fittest. I have the same view of people who signed on for mortgages that were beyond their means. They fell for a much bigger scam with a far more expensive lesson.

According to the same NYT article:

That nearly all of the banking industry acted the same, possibly reckless, way could actually help any executive who lands in court, lawyers said. The herdlike behavior suggested that bankers were competing for business using widely shared assumptions, rather than trying to get away with a crime. It would be hard to prove that anyone broke the rules, these lawyers said, since regulations in the riskiest parts of the mortgage industry were so lax.

Ahh, the “But Everybody Else Was Doing It” defense. Are you f**king kidding me?! Are these adult executives or 14-year olds who were caught drinking beer in their friend’s basement?

Narcissistic, predatory bullies believe they’re exempt from the rules by which the rest of us abide. They know what they’re doing is wrong; they just don’t care. In terms of psychological development, the narcissistic mentality is that of a 6-year old, which explains the childlike lame excusess they’re using to exonerate themselves from their indefensible behaviors. They’re not sorry for what they did; they’re sorry that they’ve been caught and are being exposed.

feeding-frenzy-sharksThis as an example of a group of abusive, predatory bullies who saw an opportunity to go after financially vulnerable, gullible people who wanted the good life, but no means to attain it. They offered them a risky, “Get-a-House-Quick” scheme and the pigeons wanted to believe everything would work out in the end.

When reality hit the fan, the bankers blamed the victims and then hit the government up for money. The same government who should have been protecting its citizens instead of enabling corporate malfeasance.

The NYT continues:

One defense lawyer said he expected to argue that either his clients did not understand the financial instruments they were marketing, or were not warned of the dangers by underlings. “We’ll all sing the stupidity song,” said the lawyer, who said he feared that speaking publicly by name would deter potential clients. “We’ll all sing the ‘These guys never told me’ song.“

This is financial abuse on a grand scale. These people knew what they were doing. Once one bank made big profits off these practices and got away with it, the rest of the banks followed suit in a predatory feeding frenzy.

The mortgage lenders need to be held accountable for their corrupt practices and the people who fell for their scams need to deal with the consequences of their gullibility and wishful thinking. Every scam is a dance between predator and prey. People who took out the loans were willing victims. Harsh, but true.

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to shrink4men@gmail.com.

Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.

Donations

If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help me maintain the site.

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Attorney General Eric J. Holder, Jr. by European Press Photo Agency.

Shark Feeding Frenzy on Animal Pictures Archive.

Parental Alienation: Why Kids Usually Side with the Custodial Parent Especially If They’re Emotionally Abusive


brainwashed childDo your children refuse to see you since you and your ex separated? When you actually get to see your kid(s), do they lash out at you? Do they know things about your break-up or divorce that they shouldn’t know? Do they “diagnose” or berate you by using adult terms and expressions that are beyond their years?

If so, you’re probably experiencing the effects of parental alienation and hostile aggressive parenting. It’s normal to have hard feelings at the end of a significant relationship, however, you have a choice about how you handle it.

Most cases of parental alienation occur in dissolved marriages/relationships, break-ups, and divorces in which there’s a high degree of conflict, emotional abuse and/or mental illness or personality disorders.

If you were emotionally abused by your ex while you were still together, then your kid(s) learned some powerful lessons about relationships, especially if you had a “no talk” policy about the rages, yelling, emotional withdrawal, cold silences and verbal attacks. Children are adversely affected by witnessing constant conflict and overt and covert relational abuse, no matter their age.

Emotionally and/or physically abusive women and men are scary when on the attack, which probably makes it all the more confusing to see your ex turn your child(ren) against you. Don’t your kids see how out of whack their mom or dad is being? Don’t they know that you love them and how much you want to be in their lives? Don’t they realize they need you now more than ever? Yes and no.

On some level, they do know this. Nonetheless, they’re lashing out at you like mini-versions of your ex. Why?

It’s not that confusing if you think about it from a child’s perspective. Children depend utterly upon their custodial parent. Seeing mom or dad lose it and out of control is anxiety provoking, if not downright terrifying. The following are possible reasons why your ex’s campaign of parental alienation may be successful.

1. You left them alone with the crazy person. You got out and they didn’t. They’re mad that you’re not there anymore to intervene, act as a buffer, protect them or take the brunt of it.

2. Self-preservation. They see how your ex is treating you because she or he is angry with you. Your kid(s) don’t want your ex’s wrath directed at them. It’s like making “friends” with the school bully so they don’t pick on you.

3. Fear of loss. They’re worried that if they anger or displease your ex that they’ll be emotionally and/or physically banished, too. This is especially true if your ex used to shut you out, give you the cold shoulder and/or ignore you when she or he was upset with you. Your kids probably fear your ex will do this to them if they don’t go along with her or him.

4. They’re mad at you. You’re no longer physically present at home, which they experience as a psychological loss. Many kids experience this as betrayal and/or abandonment. Even if they can recognize that you didn’t have a happy marriage, they still want mom and dad to be together.

Loss, whether it’s physical (death) or psychological (divorce), requires a mourning period. Children aren’t psychologically equipped to handle grief and mourning. Pending other developmental milestones, kids don’t have the psychological capacity to successfully navigate loss until mid-adolescence. If you’d died, they could idealize your memory. However, you’re alive and chose to leave (or your ex chose for you). How do you mourn the loss of someone who’s not dead? It takes a level of intellectual sophistication children don’t possess not to vilify the physically absent parent—especially when your ex isn’t capable of it as an adult.

5. Rewards and punishment. Your ex “rewards” the kids (material goods, praise, trips and fun activities—probably with your support money—oh the irony) for siding with her, being cruel to you or cutting you off. If your kid(s) stand up for you or challenge your ex’s smear campaign, they’re chastised, lose privileges or have affection withheld from them. Remember how your ex used to treat you when she or he was displeased? It’s way scarier when you’re a kid. You have options as an adult that your children don’t.

6. The good son or daughter. They see how upset and out of control your ex is and want to take care of and make her or him “better.” They try to do this by doing what your ex wants, which is being hostile toward you and/or excluding you from their lives. This creates what psychologists refer to as the parentified child. Parentification forces a child to shoulder emotions and responsibilities for which she or he isn’t developmentally prepared and is also a form of child abuse.

Emotional parentification is particularly destructive for children and frequently occurs in parental alienation cases. The custodial parent implicitly or explicitly dumps their emotional needs on the child. The child becomes the parent’s confidante, champion/hero and surrogate for an adult partner. This is extremely unhealthy as it robs children of their childhood and leads to difficulty in having normal adult relationships later in life.

7. Power and control. They see the power your ex wields by behaving in an abusive and hurtful way toward you. They can wield the same power by acting out and hurting you, too. A child or teenager’s first taste of power can be thrilling for them. Of course, what they’re learning from you ex is how to gain control by being an emotionally abusive bully.

8. It’s good to be the victim. The more your ex plays the professional victim to friends, family and the legal system, the more benefits she or he may gain—deferential treatment, sympathy, power, money and other assets. The kids mirror your ex’s victim mentality and behaviors and use it to net their own gains.

A combination of the above reasons probably applies to child(ren) siding with your abusive  ex, particularly when you’ve been a good and loving parent. It’s demoralizing to have your kid(s) slap or push you away each time you reach out to them. It’s maddening that family court, in many cases, is blind to the abuses of parental alienation. Try to keep in mind that most children aren’t consciously aware that the above phenomena are occurring. Of course, that doesn’t make it any easier to be the emotional and financial punching bag for your ex and children.

by Dr Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Counseling, Consulting and Coaching with Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD

Dr. Tara J. Palmatier, PsyD helps individuals work through their relationship and codependency issues via telephone or Skype. She specializes in helping men and women trying to break free of an abusive relationship, cope with the stress of an abusive relationship or heal from an abusive relationship. She combines practical advice, emotional support and goal-oriented outcomes. Please visit the Schedule a Session page for professional inquiries or send an email to shrink4men@gmail.com.

Want to Say Goodbye to Crazy? Buy it HERE.

Donations

If you find the information I provide free of charge helpful and valuable here on Shrink4Men, please consider making a donation via PayPal to help maintain the site.

Related material:

Why Parental Alienation is the Act of an Emotionally Abusive Bully

Also available on WashingtonSharedParenting.com

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How do you reach a child who has been brainwashed? by halgil on flickr.

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