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Conversations with Leonie: Post Traumatic Growth

Conversations with Leonie: Post Traumatic Growth

Conversations with Leonie: Post Traumatic Growth

Hi Leonie,

Thanks in advance for reading my email. I am a 20-year-old male who has just started an electrical apprenticeship. I am having a very hard time at the minute. I am working under guys who are nasty and love being nasty. I have just broken up with my girlfriend who I found out was cheating on me for over 8 months with one of my mates. I’m not coping too well and drinking and smoking too much. My dad has been a sparky since he was a teen and says hard times build character and makes us well rounded, but he did his apprenticeship with my Pop and so there was none of this ‘giving the new guy a hard time’ going on for him. He milked the whole ‘I’m the boss’s son’ and he openly says this to me. One thing is good though because my mum reminds him of this constantly when he starts crowing about his “hard yards”. He had family and money, a dad in the business and an easy road to his first house. I’m so sad and just trying to get through the day and then all this stuffing me around for a laugh happens all bloody day.

All my life I get told, this will make a man of you, this will build character, this or that bad thing is all part of life. I just don’t believe life should be this hard. Do we really have to go through hell like bullying and breakups and just suck everything up so we can say we are well rounded and solid?

How does a guy get over all this stuff with his guts intact? No name please.

Name withheld / Mango Hill

This is a complex question and so the answer may be somewhat complex so just bear with me. The first thing is that I would say a resounding NO to deliberately making a person’s life harder in some misguided attempt to build character. Life is usually hard enough. Having said that, parents that continually pave the way for their children, supplying everything, sorting out all their problems and so on are not preparing their children for independent life and they are certainly not helping their child to build resilience. So, in my view there is some truth to adversity helping us become more well-rounded and it is also wrong to create hardships to make this happen.

Here I want to talk to you about a concept known as Post Traumatic Growth. Back in the 1970’s Ilya Priogine won a Nobel Prize for his work which examined how complex open systems (including us humans – the ultimate open system) evolve and get better.

He explained that suffering including emotional and mental turmoil causes stress that pushes us humans past our individual tolerance or threshold of what our systems can handle. When our tolerance for what is happening is too weak, we can go into chaos and reorganisation. It’s this reorganisation that sees our old system disappear and be replaced by a new and stronger system. Chaos can be caused by any stress that is too much to handle such as bereavement, heartache, abuse and bullying and so on. So, what does chaos look like?

It often manifests as:

  • Feelings of hopelessness and things never getting better
  • Gnawing stomach and needing to sit on the toilet all the time
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Loss appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Racing mind– should have done this or that – if only I said….

Now after chaos, the open system either fails (Post traumatic stress disorder, suicide and so on) or it reorganises into a better stronger model than the one that was in place before which is of course, known as personal growth.

I don’t believe we have to give this process a helping hand and as I said before life it hard enough. I would have you consider the course of redress available to you at work to hold these cowboys accountable for the workplace bullying you are enduring.

Also, if an organisation arranged your apprenticeship, you are well within your rights to speak to them about your placement and your expectation of being placed in a safe environment free of harassment.

Til next week
Leonie

Leonie Schilling

Leonie Schilling

Counsellor | Author | Columnist | Radio Commentator | Trainer | Mediator

Leonie is a Qualified Counsellor, Trainer, Mediator and Early childhood Educator who is also a Justice of the Peace.

Specialising in Relationship Counselling, Personal Counselling and Employment Coaching.

Relationship INTENSIVE CARE

Relationship INTENSIVE CARE

by Leonie Schilling

A Practical Guide to Saving and Maintaining Your Relationship.

This book is a must have for people looking for a practical and easy to understand plan to repair their relationship.

BUY ONLINE

Conversations with Leonie: Giving for the Wrong Reasons

Conversations with Leonie: Giving for the Wrong Reasons

Conversations with Leonie: Giving for the Wrong Reasons

Hi Leonie,

Love your work. I have what I am sure is an unusual problem. I am a giver. I like to give, and I was brought up with good values. I take little presents to friends and colleagues and I never drop in anywhere without a good wine and savoury loaf of some kind. I‘ve recently been told by my ‘not so giving’ or appreciative sister in law that she would like me to stop buying these little gifts. She says it’s inappropriate and makes her feel uncomfortable. I had a similar situation with a work mate last year, but she has since left so problem solved there. I spoke to my brother and he said that she cleared talking to me about this with him and he agrees. Giving is what I do and just don’t get it. Why would anyone not like a gift? This really has left me feeling upset and confused. So, I feel that if I can’t give anything to these people, I will just not go near them. I can’t change who I am. I am a giver and they need to accept me for who I am. I have other friends and family, but I find that I am always thinking about this esp. when I see little things that I would like to buy for their girls and thought I would drop you this email for your opinion.

Olivia/North Lakes

Hi Olivia,

You may find that you are not happy with my opinion but here it is. People are often suspicious of this kind of behavour, believing it to be due to the person wanting recognition or praise for their giving. They may see it as narcissistic and a way to be seen as an altruising, good person. I have previously talked about virtue signalling and this type of constant giving can be seen by others as an attempt to be recognised as prosocial and unselfish or as a martyr. You can be seen as giving only to get praise or to be spoken about in the positive.

This type of non-seasonal or non -special occasion giving could also be interpreted as a quid pro quo attempt by the giver where the receiver truly feels that the giver wants them to be in their dept and owe them a favour should they ask for it. These feelings naturally cause a person to recoil from a relationship and want to put distance between them and you. The last thing you want is for someone to dread your visits.

Additionally, your giving all time could be seen as you just showing off your income or your life style esp. if the people you are giving to are not experiencing the same standard of living.
In the same vain, some people may be uncomfortable because they are not in a financial position to reciprocate and this causes undue stress on the relationship.

Your brother and sister in law may be trying not to spoil their children or teach them that first comes effort then comes reward and your showing up with gifts every time you go over could be very undermining to their chosen parenting style.

I feel that you should stop and think about exactly what kind of relationship you really want with others. It’s wonderful if to be a giver. However, you are saying that you are giver and that’s just who you are holds no weight with me at all.

Why? Because there are many types of currency to give to others, not just money and people who are natural givers know this. One of the strongest currencies we can give others is the currency giving of time and effort. This includes volunteering, of working with the elderly and/or neglected animals, of raising money for research and also close to home is the currency of helping your family with child care and other non-monitory needs. Have you ever said to your brother “Hey guys how about you go out for a couples date and I’ll look after the kids” or “Would you like me to ferry the kids around to sport, dance or whatever so you can get on top of the shopping and housework and have a bit of the weekend left to rest before Monday”?

I hope I have given you some insight here because knowledge is power, and I would hate for you to continue to struggle with your relationships without at least exploring the above concepts.

Til next week
Leonie

Leonie Schilling

Leonie Schilling

Counsellor | Author | Columnist | Radio Commentator | Trainer | Mediator

Leonie is a Qualified Counsellor, Trainer, Mediator and Early childhood Educator who is also a Justice of the Peace.

Specialising in Relationship Counselling, Personal Counselling and Employment Coaching.

Relationship INTENSIVE CARE

Relationship INTENSIVE CARE

by Leonie Schilling

A Practical Guide to Saving and Maintaining Your Relationship.

This book is a must have for people looking for a practical and easy to understand plan to repair their relationship.

BUY ONLINE

Conversations with Leonie: Family Troublemakers

Conversations with Leonie: Family Troublemakers

Conversations with Leonie: Family Troublemakers

Hello Leonie,

I am having the Devils own time with my sister in law. My brother married her over 25 years ago and all this time she has been nothing but trouble and hard work. I have tried everything to get along with her, but she will always find a way to be upset, angry or insulted. She gets equally upset over things she feels we haven’t done as other things she (and only she) thinks we have done wrong. She will whinge to my brother about some ridiculous thing she feels we have done to slight her, and he will come and ask us to not hurt her feelings. After this last BS thing where she claimed that my sister, my mum and I deliberately excluded her from movie night has broken my tolerance to the point where I just feel like cutting my brother lose so I can be done with her.

What do think my options are? Does it really have to come to a point where we lose him to stop being targets of her toxic trouble making? She is literally making my mum sick. I love him but now it’s become a self-respect issue because none of us would put up with this crap from anyone else and we are sick of tolerating her to keep my brother happy. My sister wants to disconnect, and my mother is on the fence because naturally she does not want to miss out on seeing her son. We say seeing him means seeing her because they are now a matching set in that where he goes, she goes. They flat out refuse to go to family counselling. You must see this a lot and I feel others reading this will be able to relate. What is your take?

Tessa/Carseldine

Hi Tessa,

You are right in thinking you are not alone and most of us have to deal with a person either in the immediate family or a person who has married into the family whose behavours cause upset, often fracturing the family of origin. Often there are personality disorders, low self esteem or control issues going on with the toxic interloper. These people often have a predictable pattern of unhealthy behaviours such as waiting for and actually manufacturing a reason to get upset and cause drama and upset. Many families have lost sons and daughters (and even parents when they remarry to a person like this) to this kind of in law. One behaviour that I feel is the dominant one is that person always causing issues will never self-reflect and check themselves to see if they are a contributing factor to ongoing disharmony. They tend to always look for someone else to blame. Of course, this is a trademark of an immature and unevolved individual. So, in a nutshell, they won’t take responsibility for their own behaviours or outcomes. So how do you handle it? Knowing that the person will never take responsibility for their crazy making behaviours and that they often believe their own lies can help you manage the relationship by not, trying to justify yourself, argue with them or try to get them to see reason. Instead, I suggest that your sisters, your mother and you make a pact to stay united and not engage with her carry on. I know this is hard when you all love your brother so much, but you must not give up self-respect and in your mother’s case, your health by continuing to engage in this toxic interplay. I suggest telling your brother (collectively) that you don’t want to hear one more complaint regarding his wife and if he does start up, put your hand up in a stop sign in front of his face and if need be: walk away. In other words, don’t engage with the crazy! There is just no percentage in it. It usually solves nothing.

In the helping profession we often teach a client to use positive self-talk in your head when you feel that you are being confronted with these behaviours. Some internal dialogue to say to yourself may be something like

“This has nothing to do with me. This person was like this long before she joined our family. Its all about their issues”
“I don’t have to be an audience to this toxic conversation” and leave.

It can be a mugs game to try to reason with an unreasonable person, so the trick is to not involve yourself. I advise my clients to simply remove themselves from the perpetrator. For instance, if your sister in law is visiting, keep the conversation polite, don’t make comment on anything she or your brother are doing and never allow yourself to be left alone with her. In this way all actions are transparent to your brother and she can’t build a lie up about what any of you have said or done in his absence. If she complains about being left out of movie nights and so on, simply tell your brother that you do not enjoy her company and that you do not want to give her any opportunities to complain and whinge about any little thing or invent issues ever again.

Explain that you have tried for years and you are done trying. Explain that you have tried everything including suggesting family counselling. At the end of the day, you have the right to control your environment and not expose yourself to toxic people.

Til next week
Leonie

Leonie Schilling

Leonie Schilling

Counsellor | Author | Columnist | Radio Commentator | Trainer | Mediator

Leonie is a Qualified Counsellor, Trainer, Mediator and Early childhood Educator who is also a Justice of the Peace.

Specialising in Relationship Counselling, Personal Counselling and Employment Coaching.

Relationship INTENSIVE CARE

Relationship INTENSIVE CARE

by Leonie Schilling

A Practical Guide to Saving and Maintaining Your Relationship.

This book is a must have for people looking for a practical and easy to understand plan to repair their relationship.

BUY ONLINE

Conversations with Leonie: Addressing Anger

Conversations with Leonie: Addressing Anger

Conversations with Leonie: Addressing Anger

Hi Ms Schilling,

Been thinking about writing for some time now. I come from a pretty dysfunctional family. I don’t cope all that well with stress and find I’m quite an upset and isolated person. I have been told I have anger issues and this week my father has said that they are going away this Christmas to avoid another family get together blow up. Another thing if I’m honest, my work has become more and more toxic which has made me more and more angry and upset. The thing is I am not a person with violent outbursts or someone who has steroid rage. I have been given a written warning at work but every other nut job can go off and nothing is said.

I certainly don’t want to go to twee anger management workshops and I don’t want to be told what to feel. I see everyone else and all their issues and wonder why I am being singled out as the ‘Hot Head’. I’ve tried the stress relief stuff like running but now I have shin splints. I have tried meditation but can’t focus. I feel angry that I can’t just be angry. Mum and Dad pulling the plug on Christmas has really upset me. I feel as though they are distancing themselves from me and I rarely see them as it is. My brother and sisters are no angels and we do clash but I’m not one to just smile and swallow their rubbish. I should be allowed to feel what I feel, and we have emotions for a reason surely. And if I bottle up my anger, wont it make me sick? I’m willing to listen and learn but please don’t tell me not to be me.

Tash/Woodside

Hi Tash,

Let me come at this from a different angle: when I have clients, who are drinking too much and their relationships at home, socially and at work are suffering and they say some version of “It’s not like I’m an alcoholic. I don’t have a drinking problem” I point out that if their drinking is affecting others, themselves and or their ability to earn a living, they do indeed have a drinking problem. The message I am getting from you is that your anger is indeed affecting your relationships and your work environment and this being the case, you need to accept that you do have an anger management problem.

You have mentioned that you need to let your anger out to stop being sick. The truth is that you need to find a way to constructively manage your emotions so that you don’t get sick. Bottom line: people can’t afford to be angry. We have known for years that ongoing prolonged anger compromises health. There are chemical changes that occur in the body when we get angry and its not pretty. High blood pressure, cardiovascular and other issues such as a compromised immune system (which we rely on to fight disease) can be linked to unmanaged anger. Stress hormones like adrenaline and noradrenaline are released and these hormones are great to get you out of a dangerous situation, but they are detrimental if they are a constant in your body. Anger is bad for us and has a negative effect on our bodies, but the good news is that if we modify the way we process information, the way we deal with thoughts and the way we talk to ourselves, we can manage anger in a more productive and healthy way. This means that those with anger issues can enjoy better and more rewarding relationships with others. There is no doubt in my mind that unmanaged anger can cause the perpetrator to become isolated as you say you are. Healthy people won’t tolerate abuse or behaviours that make them feel threatened and so they rightly remove themselves.

Ask yourself,  “Is this what you want your life to look like?”

You don’t have to go to workshops to mange anger but rather I suggest personal counselling to show you how to recognise your triggers, change your thinking and internal dialogue to a healthier narrative and gain power over your anger. You say that this issue has been going on for some time now so perhaps its time for you to stop repeating the negative loops that are so affecting your personal and professional relationships and try something different.

Remember that if nothing changes then nothing changes.

Til next week
Leonie

Leonie Schilling

Leonie Schilling

Counsellor | Author | Columnist | Radio Commentator | Trainer | Mediator

Leonie is a Qualified Counsellor, Trainer, Mediator and Early childhood Educator who is also a Justice of the Peace.

Specialising in Relationship Counselling, Personal Counselling and Employment Coaching.

Relationship INTENSIVE CARE

Relationship INTENSIVE CARE

by Leonie Schilling

A Practical Guide to Saving and Maintaining Your Relationship.

This book is a must have for people looking for a practical and easy to understand plan to repair their relationship.

BUY ONLINE