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Workplace Bullying Recovery:
By 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 www.richardschwindt.ca
"To forgive is to set a
prisoner free and
discover that the
prisoner was you."
~ Lewis B Smedes
Picture the bully; surrounded by sanctimonious toadies or frightened and confused bystanders. She selects her target, probably the most caring and committed person in the workplace. Perhaps she acts alone or maybe she incites a mob. What follows for the target include sleepless nights, panic attacks, searing emotional pain, obsession, cognitive distortions, and in the worst cases, suicide or cardiovascular illness . Those who remain after the target departs are traumatized by what they've witnessed or tainted by their participation, and probably don't understand why. I'm on record saying that forgiveness is the gold standard of healing but how do you forgive the people who create this desolation?
I plan to forgive those who bullied me; not soon, and for some of them perhaps never, but I will strive towards that goal. It won't be about the bullies or anything that they did. After all, few things are as scarce as a repentant bully. Someday I may try and understand why they did what they did. But Hannah Arendt spoke of the "banality of evil" and right now I have no desire to immerse myself in what would likely be a miserable tangle of jealousy, past wounds and fear.
In my career I have witnessed rape victims pressured to forgive unrepentant rapists and move on. I have talked to men who beat their wives for the affirmation that eventual forgiveness provided them. I have seen people wield forgiveness like personal power to provide absolution. And expressions like, "forgive and forget" seem more applicable to neglecting a birthday than the terrible crimes people commit against one another.
This was by far the most difficult article to write in the series and past hurt kept leaking into the drafts. I spoke to people that I consider wise and came to believe that forgiveness is a personal process and will look different for everyone.
It will never be easy or quick. The dark side of targets is our shattered naiveté and deep resentment that for all our good intentions people chose to abuse us. We tried to find the best in others while bullies studied us to discover our human flaws then use them to harm our spirit.
But what is the alternative to forgiveness? Holding on to hate, anger, thoughts of vengeance? While anger can serve a temporary purpose, inspiring you to protect yourself and others, hate and vengeance are the antithesis of healing. They will only continue the destructive process the bully began. We know what bullies are like; think of the pleasure they take in your strangled rage. But for targets the intense negative emotions rips us apart.
Forgiveness is not reconciliation, though it would be part of a reconciliation process. Nor does it require remorse by the bully; that would simply provide them more influence over our thoughts and emotions. In the end it is a process of letting go and moving on. Releasing you from them and them from you.
And what of those in the workplace who resist bullies and mobs, supporting the target instead? We need to hold our gratitude for their inner compass, and honour their compassion.
Gandhi said that forgiving enemies was a sign of strength and Oscar Wilde, in a different vein, noted that it was the best way to piss them off. Do your healing, and some day, when you are ready, close that door and come back fully to the world where you are loved and cherished for the special person you were meant to be.
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 www.richardschwindt.ca
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