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Workplace Bullying Recovery:

Thinking Makes It So


By Richard Schwindt M.S.W.,R.S.W.

  Richard Schwindt M.S.W.,R.S.W.

Richard Schwindt M.S.W., R.S.W. is a psychotherapist and hypnotherapist specializing in the emotional recovery of targets of workplace bullying and mobbing. He can utilize Skype and Paypal for Canadian clients. For more information visit

We have stories that define our lives. Your work story might be: "I am a good worker. I care about people and doing my job well. I believe that my boss and co-workers are good and work relationships are based on trust". This works well for you. You have friends, do good work and make a wonderful addition to your organization. Then the bully; jealous and malicious, decides to change your story. Suddenly you are being told that your work is bad, people don't like you, you aren't giving enough, what made you think you could do this work at all. With each violation you are injured: your self esteem, your health, your relationships. Every time you are abused or someone else takes the bully's side the wound deepens. You ruminate over everything that happens, even become obsessive. You feel a deep need to tell your story and be believed.

Those thoughts stay with you after you leave. What did I do to deserve this? Why did my friends abandon me? Will I work again? You may even have extreme and disturbing thoughts of harming yourself or the bully. Every time those thoughts come back, whether you are aware of it or not, they affect your mood and body. Some of these thoughts are destructive but true ("I was violated by someone I trusted") and others are possible but unlikely ("what if my boss comes to my home and attacks me?"). Either way, they become increasingly distorted and consuming. And we know bullies have no compunction about using your distress (caused by them) to demonstrate that you were crazy to begin with.

So pause here for a moment. What's going through your head? How is this article making you feel? If you've been bullied I know I will have triggered something. Please understand that you can change these thoughts and prevent the hurt and distress they cause. The bully changed your story and you can change it back. In fact you can make it better. It will require work but the process of changing your thoughts is well understood. Most approaches to therapy address negative thinking. Most workbooks on depression and anxiety will teach you how to do a thought record. This will help you investigate cognitive distortions and change them into thoughts that affirm and support you. Let's take the two examples:

  1. "I was violated." Yes you were but this negative thought leads to more increasingly unrealistic negative thoughts ("my life is over"), and you become depressed, angry or sick. But people have been violated before; in work and other places. Many of them came back to lead healthy and productive lives. What did they do? What would work for you? Try substituting: "I am resourceful and can heal like others before me."

  2. "The bully may attack me at home." At work bullies get away with cruelty and abuse. But most know that their sanctuary ends at the office door. Attack someone in the real world and there are real consequences. Try substituting: "I am safe at home but I will make my home secure and in the unlikely case that the bully shows up I will call the police."

Find someone to sit and "witness" your story from beginning the end. The flaws that provided fodder for the bully only round you out as a human being. The truth about you reveals your strength and humanity. The deeper your commitment to the truth about yourself, the greater the gain. You will see the direct link between your thoughts, your emotions and physical well being.

After I lost my job I commented to a friend who had previously lost hers that I was trying to find myself again. She told me: "Richard, soon you are going to feel more like yourself than you ever have before." And that was the truth.

Next: Forgiveness

5 Part Series by Richard Schwindt:
Getting Help To Come Back From The Dead
Seven Principles For Recovery
Dealing With Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Thinking Makes It So

Richard Schwindt M.S.W.,R.S.W. is a social worker in private practice in Kingston, Ontario. His website is


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