What Do I Do With My Negative Emotions
When I Feel Violated?

©2003 Vivian Ellis Zabriskie

When confronted with acts of hurt or betrayal, the temptation is to respond by assuming the role of 'helpless and hopeless victim' wanting to be saved. We give in to our sense of powerlessness. Instead of tapping our inner strength, we wimp out, sell out, or numb out, allowing our spirits to be broken. Or, we may take on the role of false hero, attacking the unpleasant challenges by lashing out, taking our frustrations out on others. We use force, scape goating, or frivolous litigation to get our needs met.

False victims and false heroes alike invoke a variety of destructive responses. The list is long: real and vicarious revenge, denial and avoidance, fantasy, self-justification, blaming, self-pity, indifference, and cynicism. Avoiding the rites of passage to adult responsibility at work, we deny the reality of our higher, nobler selves. [For more information, see In Search of Harmony:Becoming Your Own Hero at Work, Chapter 3, Refusing the Call: The Victim Response]

Yet, all these responses to hurtful situations at work by the now self-deluded victim only delay the inevitable. Eventually, these painful feelings surface and the law of the harvest prevails. Buried, unresolved feelings never die. They just come back in more harmful ways, often as a neurosis. Curing a neurosis is so much more difficult than facing the truth that the neurosis was designed to avoid! In the words of psychiatrist Carl Jung, 'Neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.' More simply put by Benjamin Franklin, 'Those things that hurt, instruct.'" [Chapter 3, Refusing the Call: The Victim Response]

The person who takes the above approaches in dealing with their negative emotions finds herself trapped in the “Cycle of Organizational Pain.” However, we may escape this vicious cycle through the pathways that lead us out of the vicious cycle: Understanding the Cycle, Choosing not to Participate, Practicing the Golden Rule, Using Self-determination, Forgiving Others, Giving Honest Feedback, Showing Consistent Character, and Increasing Organizational Savvy.

There are many myths that keep us entrapped in the cycle of organizational pain:

Myth: I have to stay here, I have no other place to go.
Myth: There must be something wrong with me to feel the way I feel.
Myth: I am responsible for all the consequences of my behavior at work.
Myth: The enemy is out there.

Breaking out of the bondage of pain in our worklife is not easy, but most likely when approached from a spiritual perspective. In Bonds of Anguish, Bonds of Love, Terry Warner reinforces the necessity of such an approach:

The only change that matters is a change of heart. Every other change alters us cosmetically but not fundamentally, modifies how we appear or what we do, but not who we are. Our hearts change when resentment, anxiety, and self-worry give way to openness, sensitivity and love of life.

The subject defies understanding. Our troubled emotions are so foolish and self-destructive that it is hard to see why we would ever allow ourselves to indulge in them. But equally they are so entrapping that it is hard to see how anyone could escape them. Indeed, most who teach and write about them offer techniques for changing behavior, not feelings. They assume the unlikelihood of a change of heart.

But in the end, if we do not make that change it won’t matter much what other changes we have chosen.

In Chapter 4, “Accepting the Call: A Commitment to Healing,” we learn to take the first steps towards making that change of heart and dealing with our negative emotions. Three critical steps towards that end are addressed:

    1. If you can’t claim it, you can’t change it.

    2. The responsibility for reconciliation is more personal than organizational.

    3. If you can’t name it, you can’t change it.

These are the first steps towards reconciliation. It is the reconciliation process that helps us to get past the negative feelings and onto the healing process.

The process of reconciliation is multifaceted, integrating and coming to terms with the mental (logic and rationality), physical, emotional (feelings), spiritual (soulful things), and social aspects of our lives at work. Body, mind, and spirit are so intertwined that all aspects must be dealt with if healing is to occur. Otherwise, when either part is missing, real, lasting change never occurs. We may make small improvements but never enduring ones. Professing otherwise only perpetuates our cynical reaction to organizational “flavor-of-the-month” and continuing dissatisfaction. Reconciliation at work begins with accepting responsibility for whatever mess we find ourselves in and finding ways to become wiser, to become whole, to increase our confidence, to avoid the mine fields, and to help others do the same.

There are no magic steps to healing difficult wounds. Thus, you will need to ponder deeply the concepts detailed in In Search of Harmony:Becoming Your Own Hero at Work. See more in Chapters 4-10.


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