Obligations, abuse, and changing relationship dynamics

Of course the smart comments, put downs, and harsh sudden remarks will not go away. Abusers cannot change.  Accepting that they are who they are and they will never change is part of your own growth.

Getting to a point where they stop bothering you is also tough.  However, to what level they bother you and for how long is what changes.  Also, how you look at them changes. When they no longer have the power to completely knock you off your balance.  When they no longer get into your very inner thoughts, emotions, and nerves.  You know then that you are free at last.

Abusers are two types: A type you can choose to walk away from because you owe them nothing.  However, when there is an obligation, like when the abuser is a family member, then things become a bit more complex.  I always thought that being in a relationship of obligation with an abuser is a curse.  I am now more inclined to consider it a learning experience, even though a very tough one.

After a long journey of self discovery, one might reach a level of being free from the spell abusive family members put on you.  Then amazing things happen:  It becomes easier to see the abusers’ vulnerability, and how they are not as strong as they try to look.  You also see how they start adapting to you being strong, and showing you respect.  You also see how they keep making the abusive behavior, however less often and they quickly retreat from it as they see you bothered but not shaken by what they did.  What amazes me is when they even become apologetic.

The cycle of abuse is totally different after you regain power.

The traditional cycle of abuse might resemble something like this: Abusers look for when you are most vulnerable, and strike hard.  You retreat feeling sorry for self and bad about you taking the abuse.  You start thinking about how unjust the abuser is to you.  The abuser sees you in that state and feels powerful and in control.  They are in control.  You are not.  Abuse becomes more frequent and harsher.  The cycle continues.

After regaining freedom, the cycle changes; They cannot find a vulnerable moment in you. They make a lot of preparation to put you in that weak psyche.  You do not go there. They get impatient and throw that harsh remark.  You show discomfort.  Showing discomfort is a sign of being strong.  There is a difference between showing discomfort but accepting self, and showing discomfort and feeling sorry for yourself.  The former is strength the latter is weakness. So since you are not weak, that means they have to retreat.  This is amazing because if they cannot break you, they try to pick a fight to get you weak.  Then they might try to make you feel guilty for misunderstanding their intentions.  It is very funny when they do that by the way.  If you still do not break, they will retreat and start showing you respect.  More respect than before the incident because they now know you are strong.  Abusers only respect power.  Nothing else.  Humanity, kindness, humbleness, and similar good traits are signs of weakness in their book.  So when they see strength and confidence, they retreat and show respect.

Do not misunderstand power in its superficial shapes.  Power is not physically power, or cruelty, or fighting, or shouting.  All of that actually is weakness. Real power is accepting self and being confident.  Staying genuinely calm and unshaken.

Some people only respect those who are powerful.  So you show power they will go look for someone else to abuse.  Once in a while they come back forgetting that you are powerful. But they again find out you refuse to play victim.  The abuse subsides.  Then a new relationship forms, with you being in control of yourself.

This is one of the strangest change in relationship dynamics I have ever seen.

 

Abusers love foolishly brave ones

When a lion stalks a herd, it is the one that does not run that gets targeted first.  The morale of the story is: It is better to run than to get eaten.  Same with human abusers. There is no valor in getting devoured by an abuser.

When one is verbally or mentally abused, his worst enemies are tolerance, bravery, and patience.  While in 99% of situations, these are good traits to have, however not when being abused. Actually abusers thrive because of people who think they “can handle it.”  While they cannot continue their favorite sport of abusing others if others have a shorter fuse.

I have seen abused people boast about their ability to withstand abuse: “It does not bother me.” or “I have a thick skin,” are all signs that one might be too tolerant to an abuser.

Even abusers encourage their victims to have a thick skin and not run.  They say things like “Come on, can’t you take a joke,” or “I thought we were friends, and friends tolerate each other.” No, I am sorry, I cannot take a joke, and no I do not want to tolerate you neither do I want you as a friend.  But unfortunately few do that. They succumb to the trickery and stick around for more.

It is like boasting about your ability to take punches in the face.  Why? Just leave, if you can. If you cannot stay away from things that trigger the abuse.  Move aside, reduce interaction. Anything but “taking it.”

 

An Oasis amidst disappointments

 

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Acceptance, self esteem, confidence, understanding, and peace of mind.  All are sought after qualities, but can we achieve them? The road to discovery is challenging, and this is why many of us settle for the “fake” version of these qualities.

So, one can find “fake” self confidence and settle for it.  When we have fake self confidence, we go overboard by thinking we cannot go wrong.  Then we become very tough on ourselves when we fail to achieve objective.  If someone is tough on self in a negative way, that results in low self esteem.  Fake self confidence  results in denying fault in self and blaming mistakes on others.

Same applies to fake self esteem.  True self esteem results from accepting oneself. Acceptance means being merciful towards self.  Allowing self to “be” true, instead of wearing masks to pretend to be someone else.

Acceptance results in true love.  But love also can be fake.  Fake love is negative.  It is based on hiding reality and trying to cling to something that does not exist.  For example, fake self love results in putting self above others, greed, and all sorts of narcissistic behavior.

To feel true love, one needs to be accepting of self and others.  Accepting means clarity, accountability, and understanding.   Understanding self means understanding strengths, shortfalls, ambitions, challenges, temptations, etc.  Just Understanding. Neither exalting nor demeaning self or others.

Understanding is important, but it is not easy.  It takes a lot of objectivity and maturity to observe ones actions carefully to reach understanding.  Sometimes we are not willing to be.

Once understanding and accountability are there, clarity results, leading to tranquility and real confidence.  This is the confidence one needs to aspire to, not the confidence based on fake belief that one is better than others or does not err. Fake confidence leads to disappointments, stress, and many other problems.  Real self confidence and high self esteem are the result of accepting oneself.

Even acceptance can be fake, if it is mistaken for complacency.  Real acceptance is the beginning of improvement, based on understanding, and that is the best way of improving, because it builds on clarity.

The oasis is here.  Those who believe they found it tell us it is closer than we think.  Maybe we just need to stop looking and just “be”.

 

 

Me, Me, Me

Ahhh, narcissism.  In its mildest form, it is OK.  It might be just a nuisance to others.  But in its ugliest form results in corruption, hatred, and devastating wars.

A narcissist is someone who believes the world rotates around him or her, so to speak. Everybody else? what about them? who cares? it is – yes: me me me.

Narcissists cause a lot of stress.  They need so much attention.  The extreme ones believe they are entitled, and everyone else is a mere servant.  People are tools to get to where they want.

How can you spot a narcissist? It depends on which narcissist.  The mild narcissists talk a lot about themselves, their needs, and their belongings.  They become bored when anyone or anything else is discussed.  But remember these are the garden variety.  There are more dangerous ones.  More dangerous ones though have much more serious symptoms.

The dangerous ones can have Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).  It is a formal personality disorder in psychology books.  To them, the love of self means trampling over others.  All what matters is self.  Even loved ones become an extension of self.  NPDs do not know real love.  They are not capable of loving anyone.  Even there love of their children come as love for a mere possession.  The wife, son, brother, anyone else is a sign of self worth.  A trophy if you will.  Nothing else.

The problem is that NPDs are around us.  But to spot them is very hard.  Unlike your average narcissist, they are good at hiding their true intentions.  They use charm and lies to lure people to their schemes.  Even psychiatrists run away from this type of personality disorder.  Many psychiatrists refuse to work with them.  However, this is not an issue since most NPDs will never confess to having a problem.  Everybody else has a problem but not them.

So how can you spot them? The easiest way in my opinion is to notice how a person makes you feel around him or her.  If they make you feel inferior, criticize you all the time, seek perfection from you, but the perfection lever keeps getting higher, all these are signs that you are dealing with an NPD.  Another funny sign of NPDs is that when you call their behavior, and ask them to stop, they either joke about it and tell you that you are too sensitive.  Or if they feel you will not take it anymore and they will lose you, they will apologize and might even put themselves down just to make you happy.  The truth is that they want you back, as having someone to abuse is key for them.  Usually, others fall for this, they either tell themselves not to be too sensitive, or they believe that the NPD will change his or her ways.  Then the NPD goes back to the abuse, and the cycle continues.

There is a lot of literature about NPDs online.  However, few notice or pay attention to this important subject.  One in 20 people are NPDs, according to research.  so being able to spot them and protecting yourself from them is important.  Are you worried that you might be one? most probably you are not.  They do not admit it.  They do not admit to being wrong.  Now in the rare case that you are an NPD, and you know it, and you do not want to change, then probably you have graduated from the NPD university and now in the even more cunning group of covert aggressives.  But let us not get into that.

Finally, if there is someone in your life who is causing you great stress, check to see if they have NPD.  If they do, you have to protect yourself from them.  Otherwise they can inflict real damage.  Best protection is walking away.  Because they rarely change.

 

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.