Dealing with abusive, offensive, critical or dismissive behaviours
Updated: May 5
Have you ever had an abusive colleague, critical friend or dismissive relative? It can catch you off guard or have you questioning ‘am I taking them the wrong way’?
At my first ‘real’ job after university, a male colleague told me “you only got this job because they needed to hire a woman”. Although I laughed this comment off, deep down I felt demeaned and hurt.
When a situation causes us to feel marginalized, we tend to react somewhere on the scale between denying how we feel and feeling completely victimized.
Our real point of power is found in the middle ground of these two extremes. When we start by acknowledging and accepting our true feelings we are able to assess the situation better. And from this place we can respond rather than react to the situation we face.
How can meditation help you respond versus react?
Firstly, I recommend taking the focus off the external circumstances (e.g. what someone has done wrong or how unfair the situation is, etc.), and instead focus on what’s going on internally for us. Once we understand our internal situation, we are better prepared to take any action that is needed.
Here are some specific practices that my students have found helpful.
1. Be real about how you feel.
While caught up in a situation we are primarily focused on things like who’s right and who’s wrong or fixing our dilemma. It is easy to lose sight of the thoughts and emotions that drive our behaviour.
Practicing mindfulness of feelings allows emotions to arise and be acknowledged. Some students find this difficult at first, but ultimately hugely rewarding.
Are you hurt, resentful or angry? Are you so identified with being a victim that you take on a feeling of moral superiority? Whatever emotion you are feeling – it is ok to feel it. It is just part of your human experience. You are not your emotions. Your emotions are simply energy that come and go, and like all energy it can be transformed. If you sit in meditation and watch your emotions you will quickly see that they are in flux all the time. Thus, there is nothing to resist, be afraid of or ashamed of.
Embracing your full range of emotions (essentially becoming comfortable with your uncomfortable emotions) can be transformative. People often experience ah-ha moments when they become aware of their root emotions. It is often enough to shift your experience of a situation and help you take more meaningful actions.
2. Tap-in to better feelings.
Like all energy, emotions can be transformed. In meditation you can use the power of resonance to improve how you feel.
I recently worked with my class to harmonize the energies around the solar plexus chakra so they can tap into their inner strength allowing them to feel confident, strong and courageous. This is enormously helpful if you are feeling marginalized in any way.
3. Chose empathy and compassion over resentment and fear.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but many students find it helpful to practice compassion towards their aggressors.
This practice can be confusing to some people, so I want to stress that I am not suggesting that your situation isn’t real. If you have been treated badly or unfairly you shouldn’t dismiss your feelings or excuse bad behaviour.
The intention of this practice is to discover your capacity to love. Expanding your love for the benefit of your growth. You can do this without expecting anything from them.
Sometimes just recognizing that they too have the capacity to love helps reveal and ignite this quality within yourself.
Cindy, a student of mine, was being bullied at work by a boss who regularly made comments that made her feel worthless and excluded. As her meditation practice deepened, she became aware of how powerless she was feeling. She allowed the repressed anger, hurt and fear to arise in the safe space of meditation (and with the help of a counsellor). Together we worked to harmonise her energy at the solar plexus and heart chakras. This helped her to feel more in control and to connect with others deeper at the level of the heart.
The dangers of creating a victim identity
It’s important to mention the dangers of forming a victim identity. It can be alluring to the ego and usually happens unconsciously. Doing so handcuffs you to the past, drains you of energy and prevents you from taking powerful action in the present.
It’s important you acknowledge and accept what has happened – but remember that being a victim is not ultimately who you are.
One of my students, Joanna, recognized she had formed a victim identity that led her to be perpetually unhappy and unfulfilled. We worked together to harmonise the energies at the level of her heart chakra and practice compassion towards her aggressors. This helped her enormously and dramatically shifted her relationship with her co-workers and family. She wasn’t expecting any change from them, but her shift in thinking impacted their behaviour towards her.
More about Julie and her classes, courses and retreats
With over 20 years of corporate management experience, I can relate to the stress of working long hours and leading a busy life.
I help professionals find long term, lasting relief from stress, burn-out, anxiety and poor sleep, by giving them tools to boost their energy and re-discover their enthusiasm for life and work.
I teach global audience via classes, workshops and retreats, that are held online and in person. I also have a growing digital format of courses, so you can discover meditation at your own pace.
If this topic resonates with you and you would like to experience meditation yourself, please join me, Julie Smith, for an online meditation class or 1-to-1 meditation session – I welcome the opportunity to share the power of meditation with you. You can also contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or +447887768084.