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.

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Approving of self, our faulty self image, and emotional vampires

One of the toughest challenges for anyone is to not take things personally.  It is so difficult.  Of course It is easy to claim: “I never take things personally; whatever people say or do it does not affect me personally,”  but that would be a lie.

Everyone, to different degrees, take work and what others do personally.  The more passionate one is about the work at hand and about the people involved, the more vulnerable one to signs of disapproval or lack of grattitude.  “I am trying so hard because I really care about them getting the best possible service and this is what I get in return?”  This is usually followed by feelings of sorrow, disgust, and anger.  Then comes the self pitty:”This is what you get for staying here and putting up with this.  I should have left to a place where Iget some appreciation.” More pain and agony.  This goes on and on in the head in what I like to call the”self pitty party.”

Another wrinkle to this is that sometimes we beat ourselves on the head for taking things so personally.  Then we get even more frustrated and emotional. Here is an example of a line that goes through my head when I take things personally: “Come on Ammar; you of all people.  You teach others to be objective, professional, and deal with things in a cool manner, then you get frustrated over something so silly? shame on you…” Then I remember how people usually commend me on my subtle and poised demeanor in dealing with work or personal related issues.  Then I get angy over being angry.  It is so funny when I write about it, but to feel it is a totally different matter.

I think people should not take things personally ever.  However, that is impossible.  Otherwise one would not be human.  I think what causes all this anguish is the lack of self approval, which is the self portrait that defines in one’s eyes: “who I am.”  That portrait can change and vary depending on the mood.  For examnple, when “I” approve of who “I am”; the imperfect, erring, yet beautiful creation of God, “I am” in peace with self and accept self as is.  Then, nothing anyone does or say is taken personally at all.  However, this state of mind does not last, under the pressures of the day.  As this state of mind shifts, one gets prone to disapprove of self, or parts of self (because I want me better, stronger, richer, more perfect, etc.) In that state of mind, it is easy to disapprove of self and hence take things personally.

Some see in the disapproval of self a way to encourage self to be better.  I think that would be fooling ourselves.  Nothing good can come from beating ourselves on the head.  We need to bravely accept who we are first, then improve on self, not out of disgust and disapproval of who we are, but out of love, compassion, and forgiveness of our imperfection.

Here is a word of caution: Emotional vampires out there can sense your area of weakness and attack you from that specific area.  Here is a funny but sad story.  A friend of mine had a theory that many of us were raised to take orders from our teachers and elderly in a demeaning fasion:”pick up that book,” or “go to sleep,” or “stop whining,” etc.  So, he believes that giving orders to others in the same tone of voice as their abusive teachers or parents will result in the person doing the command you give him without thinking about it, having the same feelings of intimidation he had as a child when these commands were given to him.  He showed me examples where he did that and it worked.  He of course does not do it with anyone.  He selects the “right” person to do this with.  I do not approve of what he did, and it was very sad to see his demonstration and it seemed totally inhumane.  However, in real life many do this and they will take advantage of your weakness to manipulate you.

Our negative self portrait, highlighting parts of ourselves that we disapprove, are never accurate.  Usually they are far from the truth.  So where do these negative ideas about who we are come from?  I do not know but one thing I did notice: Most things that you disapprove of yourself are things someone in the past disapproved of you. Like a father who always told you that you are lazy, or an uncle who always teased you about being thin, etc.

Another way we build our disapproval of self is from disapproval of others from our past.  For example, if a relative was too harsh on his kids and that affected you when you were a child, part of you might say “I will never be like that person” then you will be very careful not to be harsh on your kids, and maybe too critical or disapproving of yourself for the slightest harshness in dealing with your own children.

Our mind plays tricks and games on us where we are oblivious to our worst weaknesses while we convince ourselves that we have problems in our personality that we do not even have.  Many people who say “I am too tough,” when they are very lenient.  Others say “I am fat” when they are really very thin.  All are games our minds play on us.  When we tell ourselves that we are a certain way, we need to remember that most probably that perception is false.  It is a figment of our imagination.   We are who we are, and the best that we can do is accept, then improvement can come to us as human beings.

How to deal with a boss who thinks she is too smart for you!

If you have to deal with a boss who thinks she is too smart for you, at least it would be good to know their weakness to use it to protect yourself.

Some manipulators think they are smarter than everybody and they can fool all with their ploys.  It is true many will be fooled but many also will not.  The boss thinks no one is up to his ploys, and those who hate him hate him because he is a great guy and they are jealous.

I know this sounds pitiful but if you know a manipulator you know what I mean exactly.

So how can you use this against them? let them think they got you fooled.  that does not mean that you let them hurt you, but pretend that you do not see their tricks and that they fooled you.  they put down their guard and now you can protect yourself by playing innocent and oblivious.

Here is an example.  Let us say that she repeatedly is trying to have you work on the weekends and do some of her work for her, by saying that it is so easy and won’t take you a minute.  She might even make you feel guilty thats he is loaded with work and she needs this for her boss so importantly and she will be in trouble if you do not help her.  You know better.  Because you know all she is trying to do is to get you to do her work for her and you know her overworking you is the norm not the exception.

So, what you need to do is to show her empathy.  Feel with her.  Tell her you appreciate what she is going through, but give her a reason why you cannot help and it has to be true.  Do not lie, but be clear that you have something important to attend to.  For example, you are having neck pains which requires rest over the weekend.  (If you do not have neck pains, then do not lie, and pick something else.) Tell her you promised your kids to take them somewhere this weekend and you do not want to weasel out of it because they will be angry with you.

Here is another tip for you.  choose an excuse that she herself would use.  For example, if her kids are on her case for staying at work too long, use something related to that.  If she has a back ache or a neck ache that prevents her from working, use that.  Again, do not lie, but try to use something that she can relate to.  And believe me the only thing they can relate to is somthing they are going through.  They cannot relate to something from your perspective.  It has to be from their perspective.

Since she thinks you are sincere and that you did not catch her plot, and she feels that she herself can relate to the excuse, you will get off the hook without her using too much vengeance or guilt trips on you.

Try it and enjoy it 🙂

Games Abusers Play on You – Part 1

When bullies and abusers feel they are exposed and their con is clear to you, they might react in one of two ways: The first is to get angry and get back at you for exposing them.  The second is to lay it on thicker and bring out the nice guy personality where they shower you with kindness and gentleness.  They use the second technique to confuse you and to make you feel guilty that you even doubted them.

I want to talk about the second behavior because it is very dangerous.  When you see kindness from the bully you start blaming yourself for doubting him and think that you were unfair of thinking of him so badly.  This is exactly his intent.  He is manipulating you .  To prove it, wait until you accept his nice behavior and accept him again, and see how he goes back to his same old cunning deceiptful manipulation.

This is why relationships with abusers and bullies usually go through cycles of ups and downs.  He abuses you until you are fed up.  When he feels you are about to leave and just had enough, he switches to kindness and gentleness and pampers you to the extreme.  Then you soften and go back to square one of abuse.

You can avoid this vicious cycle and its effect on your emotions and health by following a couple of tips I tried.

Instead of letting him control the cycle, you control it.  Meaning, get to the point where he has to be extra nice, don’t accept it completely by becoming nice again to him, but accept it to the point where you accept his nice behavior without getting too nice to him.  Now, when he feels he is ready to switch back to old self, don’t wait until you cannot take it anymore.  Reduce your tolerance a bit and make him feel that the red lines you drew in the relationship got tighter a little bit.  For example, if he is used to ridiculing you before subliminally, and you do not do anything about it until he starts doing it explicitly, the next cycle, draw the line at any subliminal demaning behavior.  Ask him why is he doing that, then ask him to stop.  Don’t give him a chance to make you feel guilty , or come up with excuses.  Walk out of the situation as if you are fed up.  Next time you see him he will try to talk about it to convince you that you acted unreasonably and that he was not putting you down, refuse to discuss it and tell him that this is making you feel uncomfortable and that you are not willing to talk about it.  he will get mad, but he will know that this is a red line and he cannot cross it.

This way the area that bothers you and you do not tolerate will get smaller and the abuse will subside a bit by bit.  He will probably  try to find another person to abuse since you are not taking it anymore.

Don’t think that you can fix him let us not get over board.  They will never see themselves as doing something wrong or that they need fixing.  They just move from one abuse-ready person to another.  At least shield yourself and hopefully others should be able to fend for themselves.

Let me know if you are familiar with this behavior and let me know if my technique works.