Monday, December 8, 2014

Surviving Workplace Abuse: Moving On


I've written about a bad experience I had on a local bus recently in a posting entitled Workplace Abuse:  Learning through experiences on the road to recovery.  It was horrendous when it was happening.  Afterwards, I had strong mixed feelings.  Feelings mostly of guilt at first which slowly began to be overtaken by other, more positive feelings.  With the help of others, I began to see the experience in a different light.  I finally, for the first time, realized the impact of one lie I had internalized from both workplace bullying situations:  that being loud was wrong.  It made people "uncomfortable" and that was more important than anything else.  Believe me, I was loud on the bus that day and I'm sure the people around us felt uncomfortable.  However, I was feeling very uncomfortable as well.  In that seat.  With that man glaring at me, shoving me, judging me, condemning me.

I learned that day, that situations like that are not comfortable for anyone involved.  Neither the instigator, the target or the bystander.

That one experience has since become a pivotal experience on my road to recovery as I processed and analyzed the experience in the light of things I'm learning currently and have already learned on the journey.

For one thing, I realized that this was one experience in a life time of experiences.  One experience in a lifetime that spans six decades of riding buses.

This concept is from Jan Silvious's book Look at it This Way, which is a resource I've used on the road to recovery (and is included in my bibiography - another posting).

Silvious urges the reader to look at experiences - both good and bad - in a more realistic light:  the light that this is just one experience in a lifetime of experiences.  This one experience does not define our lives - or our value.  It does not define who we are.

While I am admittedly still struggling with applying and internalizing this concept to my experience in the workplace - especially the second workplace which lasted for four years, I am starting to realize how I can apply this concept to other, shorter incidents.  Like the one on the bus.

Taking one small step at a time on this path to fully recovery.

Concurrently, my therapist has told me that I have a tendency to personalize things that might not be meant personally - which gave me a lot to think about.  It's hard not to take the workplace incidents personally - as they were meant personally.

BUT....

But, the bus incident is in no way personal.  The man's behaviour in reality had nothing to do with me.  Who I am.  My value.  My worth.  He didn't know me.  I believe that his behaviour would have been the same for anyone in that seat - particularly if that person was a woman.  It does not define me.

Which makes this incident easier to look at from the light of being "one incident in a lifetime of experiences".

Another thing I realized almost immediately was the importance of not hibernating in my "safe" room.  That I needed to get up and go out again.  As soon as possible.  Two days after the incident, I got on the bus again - and have ridden it several times since then.

Nothing bad has happened.  In fact, I see the opposite occurring.

On one occasion, I got on a bus which was starting already to get crowded at the downtown terminal and slid into a window seat.  I put my purse beside me between the window and my body leaving the aisle seat open.  I felt a body slide into the seat beside me.  Not looking over, I moved my purse onto my lap and slid over.  Then I looked at the person, smiled, and said "this should give us more room".  It was an older man.  And yes, I did check.  No hearing aids.  It was not the same man as before.  He gave me the most beautiful smile.  Had I not gotten right back on the bus, had I let my fears metastasize and grow, had I not immediately endeavoured to let go and move on from that one bad experience. this heartwarming experience would not have happened.  I still smile thinking of it.

The same day, I got on a bus that was again already filling up at my transfer point.  There was some confusion as a person with a service dog was getting on in front of me and couldn't decide where to sit.  So I waited patiently.  A woman I assumed to be much older than myself was sitting there and I asked politely if I could sit beside her.  She gave me a warm smile and we started a conversation which lasted until her stop.  She had a rich Scottish accent. I thoroughly enjoyed just listening to the cadence of her speech.  Another good experience which would not have happened had I not decided to let go and move on.

Lastly, saving the best for last of course....

Last week, I was getting on the bus to go home.  I rarely notice who the driver is, but recently I've noticed I've had this one driver several times.  He started to automatically reach for a transfer, looked at me and then said: "You're going home, you don't need ones of these!" I asked him if he recognized me by my face, my colourful coat or my smile.  He bantered back, saying: "all three". Then he added for good measure, "You're always smiling." I had to ask him after that comment what he would do if on the rare occurrence I wasn't smiling. Quick as a wink he said: "Then I wouldn't recognize you."

I don't think I've laughed so hard in weeks.

It was a good experience.  Something positive.

Until tomorrow ....




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