Emotional Sharks: How to Avoid becoming a Prey

People who prey on other people, to abuse them for personal benefits and gratification, can be labeled as “emotional sharks.” But in reality, they are worse than sharks.  Animals are without much choice over their actions. They have an instinct to eat and survive.  However, Emotional Sharks CHOOSE to manipulate, hurt, and do whatever it takes to “win” at the expense of others.  

Luckily, there are things that you can do to reduce the chances of becoming a victim.  I say “reduce the chances” because whatever you do, there is no guarantee that you will not fall for one.  However, one can and should try to protect self from these dangerous predators that live among us and unfortunately their numbers are on the rise.

One way to protect self is to be more emotionally independent.  It is normal to want support from others.  Who does not? But like everything else in life, there are extremes in depending on people emotionally.  One should try to be more self reliant.  Meaning, try to generate your own happiness and confidence.  This is doable with ample practice.  

So what are the things that can help you bring happiness from within, without relying too much on people? Prayer, yoga, Tai Chi, exercise, healthy lifestyle, discipline, and healthy routines (like cleaning chores, cooking, etc.)  Even breathing right can help you produce your own positive reinforcement.  These techniques are hidden treasures.  Many shrug them off saying they do not work.  But actually they need practice and patience for them to work.  Do not assume that your first practice will be a mind blowing experience.  These things take time.  


Regardless of the level of emotional independence one has, it is bound to happen: You will encounter the “Emotional Sharks.”  It can be at work, at home, or among friends and relatives.  What to do then? Of course you have to defend yourself.  Now, if you are confident in your abilities to fend off the attack, then you can stand your ground, and push the shark away.  However beware!  Few have the expertise and the abilities to do so.  It also depends on the type of the predator and on your emotional state.  Some sharks are masters in their game of manipulation.  They catch you in your low emotional state.  As if they smell it.  You are lucky if you can spot the manipulation.  Sharks are very subtle, and hide behind circumstances, so they are seldom caught.  They attack you but without you knowing where the attack came from.  They might even look innocent and helpful, when they are attacking you ferociously.

To spot the manipulation one has to be “in tune” with emotions and feelings.  Observe how others make you feel.  Some people make you feel uncomfortable.  You do not know why.  They are kind and nice, but you do not feel comfortable after sitting with them.  You have to do a check on your emotions and see why this is happening.  I am not saying dismiss people right off hand just because you were not feeling comfortable during a single conversation.  Sometimes what is causing the feeling is shyness on your or the the other person’s part.  Maybe you or them are preoccupied with something else.  Sometimes, the person brings up a painful experience you have had because of her demeanor or looks.  The mind works in strange ways.  So, be in tune with your emotions, and accept them, rather than try to suppress them.  However, If someone, CONSISTENTLY, makes you feel inferior, not worthy, or make you feel less confident of yourself, this MIGHT BE a sign that you are dealing with an Emotional Shark.  

Another word of caution, sharks look calm and non threatening all the way until they make their attack.  So, be careful of people who seem so kind and considerate, until they are provoked.  Then they attack you with personal insults and hurtful comments and behavior.  After the attack they usually come back and apologize.  Again, you need to be aware of consistent behavior.  Some have a rule like the “three strikes you’re out”; they would not  let hurtful action from someone hit them more than three times, then they start building their defenses not to be hurt from that person or action again.  Some major attacks need to happen only once for you to decide to retaliate, or to stay away.  You have to decide what works for you and nothing can replace human judgment in these cases.  The important thing is not to doubt yourself and observe your emotions.

Sometimes you have to live among sharks.  Meaning you cannot get away from them, or fend them off, because of a binding relationship or obligation.  Of course everything has a limit and nothing is black and white.  So, even the strongest of relationships must be broken when hurtful action becomes abuse that seriously affects your health.  However, in some situations, you feel you have to stay in the same area with the shark.  Especially if they are a relative, or a colleague at work, and you are able to manage the relationship without being permanently or seriously scarred.  Then you have to cope.  I have a few tips on how to deal with these predators in a couple of YouTube videos.  The first is on how to deal with difficult people (Click Here to Access Video 1).  The other is on how to deal with cunning deceitful manipulators, who have gone beyond difficult into becoming dangerous predators or sharks (Click Here to Access Video 2).

Finally, an important point to think about: just because there are predators out there should not prevent one from mingling with people and have trust in them.  To the contrary.  Most people are not predators.  Most of them are trying to get by, and do their best. So, secluding self from others is not a solution.  It actually might make one more of a target;  Usually emotional predators prey on lonely people.  Just like a shark, they target the secluded prey, as it is easy to hunt down, without it ever getting help from anyone. So,getting involved with people and surrounding self with friends is a better approach to prevent being preyed upon.  Remember friends do not have to be perfect.  But at least they have your best interest on their radar, and are willing to extend a helping hand when you need it.  More importantly they might alert you if and when you become victimized by an emotional predator, and become your supporters during such ordeals.

A Tribute to Hussein: Please drive safely

Hussein could not wait to perform prayers.  Whether Dhuhr Asr or Maghrib.  He was always eager to pray.  While others might be busy and delay.  Hussein was always ready for prayer.  This is how I remember Hussein; a colleague, a friend, and a role model.  He will be missed.

Hussein was in an auto accident last week.  He went into a coma, and he passed away this weekend.  Everyone in the office is saddened by this loss.  He leaves behind a grieving mother, wife, brothers, and two children.

It is belief in God’s mercy and highest wisdom that gives one condolence and relief.

I am not into the details of the accident.  How it happened.  But I want to honor my friend and his memory by reminding everyone reading these words to please please drive safely, responsibly.  Jordan has a high rate of automobile accidents.  We cannot stop fate, or reverse it, but we can make the choice to drive safely, and be responsible in the way we drive.  We cannot control others but we have control over our personal choices.

Here are a few things I want to share with you on safer driving, and I plan to observe these rules in Honor of Hussein’s memory and in respect to human life:

- do not use phone or text while driving

- observe speed limit especially when in a hurry

- when in doubt, give right of way

- put ego aside when driving.  The last place to show our strength, ability to maneuver and outsmart other drivers is on the road.

- be the one who yields, even his or her own right of way

- be cordial to other drivers

- keep pedestrians safe.  allow them to cross, without endangering other drivers

- driving is a big responsibility.  both hands on wheel, full attention to road.

That’s it.  I wish you all safe driving.  May God Bless Hussein’s soul and may he rest in Peace.

The jump, the shake, and the whole dance at Hospitals

A close relative was at the hospital for a few days recently, and I ha to spend a good amount of time visiting and supporting.  During this period, I saw a lot of weird “dancing” rituals.  I call them dancing rituals as they were exactly that; a mix of dancing and acting, to impress the target audience, who are usually the target patient and relatives.  Right in the hospital.

The act is carried out by an individual or a group of the patient relatives.  They show their concern for their patients by becoming belligerent with the “bad guy” character in this drama.  This evil character is a relative, a doctor, or it can even be a porter.  The goal is to point out the negligence and poor performance of this evil person.  Then make a drama out of it.  The purpose of course is not to help the patient or improve hospital service.  The purpose is to show selflessness and love towards the patient.  And more importantly to show that they are doing their “duty” towards this person, not by doing the right thing, but by SHOWING others that they really care and are concerned.  I say showing, because the key is showing, as it is what really matters.

There are a lot of fancy and basic moves to this dance.  One of the basic moves, is to look concerned, sad, and overwhelmed.  This is the least one can do, is to SHOW concern.  another basic move is to dish out advice to the patient and his or her relatives on what to do and what not to do.  but it is far from that.  One of the advice is to not listen to the doctor or nurses as they “do not know what they are doing.” That is a relief, given the patient’s circumstances.  Then, there is the advice about what to do or not to do in front of the patient, and how to show the patient your love and care.  This is of course advice to the close relatives.

Then there are the fancy moves, only known to the advanced dancers.  One is to tell the doctor and nurses what to do and not to do.  honest.  I have seen this.  Part of this fancy move is to get angry at the doctor and questioning his or her judgment.  Just when you think it cannot get any fancier, wait there is more.  There is intimidating, the doctor, nurse, and hospital management, for their “poor performance” and not being up tot he standards of Mr expert who is dishing the advice, or performing the dance.

It was like a dancing contest; lots of fancy moves, but no real valuable action.  This strange ritual is, in fact, a way to prove self worth.  The dance is supposed to show others strength, value, agility, but in reality, it is in itself worthless; There is no value whatsoever. No one  is immune from slipping into performing the “dance.”

I saw relatives of patients right in front of the patients’ rooms, bad mouthing the doctors, and putting down the efforts of doctors and nurses.  It is a dance.  See, this pessimistic action does not serve anyone.  How would it help to question the judgment of a doctor when he is handling a critical situation.  “Are you crazy?” is the first thing that comes to my mind.  I mean this guy needs a clear mind to deal with the pressures of handling patients well being.  Even the relative that they are concerned about will be hurt one way or the other because of the lack of focus of the doctor who is not sure whether to focus on the patient, or on the idiots, excuse my french, who are busy with their “dancing ritual” of proving their love to their patient.

There are some who cannot control their emotions.  I mean someone whose son or daughter or mother or father is suffering.  Of course they will be emotional.  But a lot of the motions I saw looked fake.  How do I  know? I do not know for sure but to me it looked so fake.  I mean, I saw a lot of actions that prove insincerity.  I saw people who look OK and fine and like they have no worry, and start acting up as soon as they feel one of their “target audience” is watching.  That is a sure sign of faking it in anybody’s book.

There are others who perform this dance because, for some reason, they think intimidation will make the doctors and nurses perform better.  I am not sure where this notion came from.  IF anyone knows where this idea comes from please help.

I have to admit, I was amazed at me getting drawn into this emotional roller coaster.  In a way, I felt guilty for not showing emotions as others are showing them in their dance.  I started noticing myself participating with some “basic moves.” It is funny yet sad.  I started caring about others seeing me concerned.  I mean I was concerned but I usually have my own way of dealing with my worries and concerns and emotions.  However, I found myself changing these habits and ways of dealing with my emotions to “dance” with the other “dancers” trying to look concerned.

Maybe this is what is happening to the other dancers.  Maybe they too are dancing to someone else’s tune, so to speak.  They are also afraid of how others will see them, if they do not dance.  So all of us are dancing the negative and destructive dance, just to show each other that we are concerned. I am not happy that it happened to me, but I have to be honest: this is exactly what happened.

Does this happen in all cultures? I have seen hospitals in some countries that were so quiet, and comforting to patients and their relatives alike.  However in some other countries patrons are not so fortunate.

Are you being Gaslighted?

Most have experienced it at different levels of severity, but most are not aware that it is a sickness and a type of mental abuse.  Gaslighting is a new term to me, even though the behavior is all too familiar to most of us; Gaslighting is a form of mental abuse, where someone intentionally, maliciously, and continuously  tries to make you doubt your own judgment, using lies and deceipt.  In a way, they are trying to convince you of a lie about yourself.

Another name for gaslighting is Ambient Abuse.  Let us use a simple example: if you have a good taste in clothes, and your abuser knows it for a fact.  If he says something like “Sami the other day was joking about your outfit.  He felt it did not match and out of style.  I told him, regardless, you have the right to dress any way you want.  But seriously, what makes you pick such styles?”  This statement is ambient abuse IF the person saying it is maliciously and intentionally doing this to put you down, AND he knows that there is nothing wrong with your style in clothes.   So, if someone is making statements, or doing things for the sole purpose of discrediting you, to gain real or mental advantage over you: This is gaslighting.

Who are the culprits? Some do it when they feel insecure around someone.  However, gaslighting is usually a recurring trend aimed at specific person or persons. The most professional in doing it are the most sick among us: psychopaths and covert aggressors. They do it to confuse the victims, and break their self confidence, so they get away with their abuse.

Gaslighting has been coming under the light in recent years in cases of domestic abuse.  However, it can and does occur everywhere. Unfortunately, many in the society are living with these abusers and not even aware of it.  It is sad.  Many victims live with their abusers for decades before they understand that they have been living with a sick person.  Most victims think that they are the problem, and never doubt the perpetrators.  Victims might suffer from gaslighting whether they are wives, spouses, children, friends, family members, colleagues at the workplace, subordinates, or neighbors.  I worry a lot about children whose parents or close family members are mentally abusing them, under the radar, and getting away with it.

I am not an expert on the subject, even though I am interested in it.  A good video I have seen on the subject is by Sam Vankin, who also wrote a book about the subject, titled “Malignant Self Love.” Here is  a link to the video and I advise seeing it and showing it to others you care about.  This is because this phenomenon seems to be on the rise, and many are not aware of it.

Unfortunately, gaslighting is often disguised under more benign names, like “I am just teasing you,” or “relax, we are just joking around,” but there is a big difference between joking around and abusing someone mentally.  Abuse is no joke.  Also, predators will try to accuse you of the problem by telling you that “you should not be so sensitive,” or “you are making a big deal out of nothing,” all of that to subdue you into more abuse.

Mental abuse is not a strength, but a sign of weakness and insecurity, disguised by inflicting pain on others, to feel superior. This behavior is of a psychopath.  Some argue that psychopaths are not even human, literally, not as a figure of speech.

Some do this for fun, and believe it is a joke to inflict harm on others.  This is a sickness.  A disease.  It is not a joke.  Those with this sickness cannot be cured, for the most part.  Some do this because they were taught by others to do it, not because they themselves have the disease.  Some are sick where they cannot stop.  The only way to tell is to try to stop.  Psychopaths cannot stop.  They either ridicule the whole concept of ambient abuse as a silly notion, or they believe they gain power by doing so, and want to keep that power.

Finally, please do not become paranoid, or use the words mental abuse lightly.  Some tell you things that you do not like as a matter of honest opinion.  Just because someone tells you that you are too sensitive, or that he did not like something you did does not make them mental abusers.  It is easy to blame people and label them when they have a point of view different than yours, so be careful.  Mental abuse happens when the intent is to put you down, and feed you lies, so they become superior or gain advantage.

Remember when…

There are times when one feels at peace.  In that moment, dealing with a difficult person becomes a “no thing” and so easy, it hardly requires any effort.  Every person must have had this feeling of peace at one point or another.  Usually it occurs when feeling grateful, or happy to see someone or achieve something.  That moment.   That feeling.  In that “zone” no person can take away from you that peace no matter what.  To the opposite, others might be touched by that peace and either choose to stay away, or become peaceful themselves. This high moment, is not to be confused with “ego induced highs” or drug induced highs.  The latter highs are short lived and can be followed by painful periods of “low.”  Ego induced highs are short lived and come from the ego telling one how superior they are, how great, how invincible, compared to others, and comes from win – lose scenarios.  There is a big difference.  The feeling I am talking about is more of gratefulness, love, and comfort in being who you are, including your vulnerability and all that is in the essence of you.  At that moment, everything around you, you accept, as is, and even love and be grateful for it.

When you are in that moment that is so hard to describe, no difficult person can shake you out of it: the manipulators, the liars, the hypocrites, the abusers, no one.  Whoever felt this moment, and most do at one point or another, will know.  Albeit, some will experience it more often than others.

But why? Why, in those moments of peace, do we become so comfortable  with ourselves? I am not sure.  However, if we can simulate that feeling whenever we encounter a difficult person, or better yet, get ourselves in that mood beforehand in preparation, it will make these encounters much easier.  There are some people who are able to experience these moments more than others.  The important question is what do they do differently?

I have been reading a few new books on the human psyche, and it seems if you choose to, you can trick your mind into anything.  Your true self can over power and beat your mind hands down, without any struggle, but by choosing to be present and accepting.  Many experts claim that you can imagine yourself in that moment of peace to get the feelings that you would if you were in it.  For example, think of the last time you had this peaceful feeling.  bring it into memory.  Remember how you felt, how you must have looked, and then be.  Tell yourself, “if I was in that moment, how would I react to this conversation or situation?”  then act accordingly.  Then, you ARE in that moment.  This is not hard, but what is hard is making that choice to accept those feelings and be in that moment.  Even though, ironically, one IS already there.  Such an irony.  It is so funny, yet so sad.  Sometimes our ego fights so hard to keep us in pain, as if that proves its worth and the need for our mind to think more.

My words are those of a novice, like a child who just found out that there is more to the world than his crib.  Even though his parents have always told him this, but still is at awe of the experience.

Has Narcissism become an epidemic?

It is all about the “i”; the “me.”  Nothing else matters.  Wherever one turns, this behavior is becoming more and more prevalent.  This is at the individual level, organizational level, and even national and international levels.  Where is this narcissism taking us?

Here is how narcissism goes.  It starts with what I want.  Then I justify these wants, because I want them.  Not because they are right, not because they are good, but because I want them.  After wanting them, I have to find a way to justify this want by having an excuse for it.  Since I want it then it has to be right.  Right?  So, if I step on others, hurt them, it does not matter.  It is about what I need and want and let everybody else suffer; family, children, friends, neighbors, and everyone else in the world.  Actually the more people I can suppress and surpass to get what I want only shows how powerful I am.  And that feeds the “me” in me even more.  It is all about me after all.

The dangerous thing is that the ones plagued with this narcissistic mentality are the ones most driven to get what they want, and because they will use anything and everything to get what they want, they usually get it.  So, the world ends up with managers, leaders, parents, teachers, that are narcissists.  And we are seeing the results everywhere.

When countries live lavishly at the expense of nations in dire poverty.  This is narcissism.  When top executives get bonuses when fired from their corporate executive positions, and get bonuses and golden parachutes, when their employees are being laid off in masses, this is narcissism.  When personal image, wealth, convenience, power, of leaders becomes more important than the people who voted for them, this is narcissism.

I am an optimist.  I believe fairness, love, selflessness, kindness, and everything we love in humanity will prevail.  Have you noticed that some look at these virtues as too “theoretical?”  As if they are definitions that belong in a textbook, not a way of life?

There are people out there.  Making a difference.  Contributing positively.  But one cannot help but be saddened by the level of narcissism that is out there in the world.

I am still optimistic and hopeful.  But even hope, for some, has become a textbook definition.

When verbal abusers screen for next victim

A verbal abuser have a nagging urge to find a victim to abuse.  This is why when one victim is no longer taking the verbal abuse, because they refuse to do so any more, they moved, or they have grown, the abuser has to find another victim.  So they start screening.  What do they look for?

I am not a psychiatrist, but I think what they need is a profile that triggers the abusive behavior.  They need to spot weakness that they can “pick” on.  Here are a couple of scenarios that I have seen from real life, and they are worth paying attention to, as they are unfortunately common but some people do not notice them.

A verbal abuser first starts experimenting with a potential victim, to see how much verbal abuse they are willing to take.  This is why sometimes we need to be less tolerant rather than more tolerant, especially when it comes to taking negative messages from others.  

Here is an example of everyday verbal abuse situations that most of us tolerate, and abusers con us with: “Can I tell you something and without you getting hurt by it?” they expect you to say “sure.”  You have just given them a Cart Blanche to abuse you. Instead of saying “sure,” you might want to consider saying “thanks, but no thanks.”  If the abuser thinks the statement is hurtful, probably it is.  If you let them, they can say anything they want and they usually get away with it.  If you get angry they say “I told you that you might get angry.” If you do not, then they know they threw their poison on you, which strangely enough gives them some kind of temporary relief of their own poor self image.Not everybody who uses this statement is an abuser, but still one has to be careful of consistent use to hurt others.

This happens also in business.  There are so many forms of it in business, but here is a common example.  Some, to show respect for the boss at work, they belittle themselves with body gestures or things they say about themselves.  So, they put their shoulders down, in a very appeasing body posture and start their conversations with the boss or client with long apologetic remarks: “I am so sorry to bother you with my silly issues but if you kind find out of kindness a minute for me?”  I mean such “spineless,” so to speak, statements and behavior tell the boss “I am an easy prey to become a doormat for your abusive behavior.  Low self esteem here…feel free to abuse.”  There is a big difference between being respectful and being submissive.  It shows from the way one carries self.  

Do not misinterpret my words as encouraging cruelness or to be against kindness and sensitivity.  To the contrary, I think the strongest personalities out there are the kind ones, and the sensitive ones are the creative ones, given they have a good self image.  

A kind person with a good self image might be mistaken for a good victim for abuse.  But abusers find and usually quickly that they better stay away.  They benefit from low tolerance to intentional negativity, and they steer away from it, confront it.  Remember there is room for finesse, strategy, and tactical maneuvers in all of this.

Even if self image is shaken a bit, one does not have to succumb to verbal abuse.  There are things that you can do to stop it.  Here are a couple of YouTube videos that I have done previously on the subject.  How to Deal with Difficult People and How to Deal with Cunning Deceitful Manipulators.

My Teachers

Remember the last time you sat down with someone who made you feel uncomfortable? In general, most, including myself, try to avoid these interactions and prefer the company of people who make one feel comfortable.  However, the not-so-positive interactions are inevitable and no matter how hard one tries, they are bound to happen.  What is hard to do is to remember during these encounters that these uncomfortable interactions can teach one a lot about self.

After all, being uncomfortable is more a personal thing than it is about the other person who is causing this feeling. There is a reason one is feeling uncomfortable and sometimes it has nothing to do with the other person.  It can be that the person brings back tough memories, or they look like someone who hurt you in the past.  Or maybe, there something in that personality that makes others feel inferior.  Regardless of the reason, it is evident that these encounters can teach us a lot about ourselves, and these people who we feel uncomfortable around can be our best teachers, and our chance to gain more wisdom.

What is funny and yet sad is that it is hard to remember to keep a positive attitude when around people who make one feel uncomfortable.  All one thinks about is when will he or she leave?  I think part of the problem is our refusing to have the feelings we are having.  Our ego jumps in and tries to save us from the situation by interpreting everything we see and hear as a dangerous attack on ourselves.  If we just sit and listen and observe our thoughts and feelings in these situations, without letting them disturb our peace, we can come closer to learning the lesson these people are here to teach us.

Can I take your word for it?

Some take their word more seriously than others.  Some think this is about telling the truth or lying.  But it is much more than that.  

Some are careful with the promises they make.  Others can easily go back on promises just on convenience basis.

Some are concise.  If he says it is true, then it better be true.  Others will shrug and say: “sorry, I thought it was otherwise.”

Some will only say something that will contribute positively to the situation.  Others say things for fulfilling the ego.  To feel superior; better, stronger, faster.  It is always a comparison, and a race: About money, fame, possessions.

Some are careful about what the effect of their words have on others.  Others will say the first thing that comes to their mind.

Some pick the words carefully, so they do not take them back, or regret saying them.  Others will let anger and fear take control of their words.

No one is on one side all the time.  We are humans and we are affected by our surroundings.  However, there are norms and averages.  On average, where is your word?   Are you on the “some” side or the “others” side? On average, can I take your word for it?