Thursday, January 5, 2012

Keep Your Personal Boundaries Intact

A part of keeping yourself heathy, is keeping your boundaries intact.  This means physical boundaries as well as emotional boundaries.

Keeping yourself healthy emotionally means that you don’t allow others to verbally abuse you, shame you, control you or pull you into a co-dependency relationship.  To be emotionally healthy you need to be involved in encouraging, strengthening relationships with family members and friends.   You need to be around people who will emotionally support you and be your ally when necessary. 

To keep yourself healthy physically, not only do you need to address and control any chronic health issue(s) you may have, you also need to exercise and eat right.  But that’s not all.  You also need to keep yourself healthy physically by staying out of volatile scenarios, either at work, or with a family member.  For if you are around volatile people, they can harm you emotionally (through verbal abuse) or through physical assault on you.  Either way you have to deal with the emotional baggage that comes with the incident.  If you don’t deal with the emotional baggage, then you put yourself at risk of having panic attacks, anxiety, high blood pressure, etc in the future.  None of which is in your best interests. 

As an example of the above, I’ll share with you a work scenario that I was involved in and ended up being temporarily victimized by. 

At the time that this episode happened, I had finished writing a NIH (National Institutes of Health) grant and it had been submitted for possible funding.  Nancy was the department service line administrator and hence she was responsible for the financial affairs of the department. 
 
I walked into Nancy’s office, she was sitting at her desk, probably about 20 feet away from me.   I stayed near her open door.   No one was in the outer offices, they had left work for the day. 

My hands were down, clasped together and I was standing in a non-threatening position.  I proceeded to advise Nancy in a very non-threatening mode, that I had come across an error in the NIH grant I had written, and would therefore be withdrawing it from consideration.  With this said, Nancy immediately FLEW out of her chair and came across the room so fast I probably didn’t even have time to take a breath. 

She went from being calm at her desk to being extremely angry in less than 10 seconds.  Rage filled her face as she stood less than 2 inches away from my face and started to scream (literally scream!) at me. 

With her right second finger wagging in front of my nose (almost touching it), and her left hand in a cusped position 1 inch from my neck as though she was getting ready to throttle me, her face red with rage, she informed that I couldn’t do that and if I didn’t immediately leave her office she would call security on me. 

I continued to stand there with my hands down at my side totally confused by how she had acted.  I was in shock over her reaction.  What she had done really scared me. 

When I didn’t immediately leave her office, Nancy then turned around FLEW back to her desk, picked up the phone to call security on me.  Still screaming at me to get out of her office, she proceeding to dial security.  Not knowing what else to do I left her office. 

I went back to my office, sat down, in shock and cried.  I honestly couldn’t believe I had just witnessed Nancy in such a rage.  I tried to contact my physician boss,  but he was in a meeting. 

The next morning I waited for my boss to arrive at work so that I could advise him of what happened.  When he got off the office elevator,  Nancy was by his side. 

He proceeded to come into my office where we discussed what happened.  My boss told me that Nancy had been waiting for him on the 1st floor and was profusely apologetic to him over what she had done.  He told me to wait a few days to see whether Nancy apologized to me.  At the time, he truly believed she would.  He knew that I had not done anything wrong, or made any movement with my body to incite Nancy to have done such a thing.

Nancy never did apologize to me.  She refused.  Little did anyone know or understand that Nancy had a narcissistic personality disorder, which allowed her to have a contemptuous and uncaring attitude towards her work colleagues.  And because submitting a NIH grant cost the hospital I was working for monies, she became enraged at me at what she thought was financial wastage. 

I later found out that I had 30 days after my NIH submission to make any last minute corrections to the grant, which I did.  The grant was eventually rated, and they came back to me and told me they wanted to fund me after I published my research data. 

It wasn’t until 3 years later that Nancy was finally fired.   

Now how can you protect yourself (emotionally and physically) and help heal yourself from such a scenario that I was involved in.  I’ll share with you some of the things that I did to heal myself. 
1)      I shared this incident with my close friends, which allowed me to acquire support from them
2)      I allowed myself time to grieve the incident, to express my emotions and feelings I was going through during and after the episode happened
3)      I expressed my righteous anger towards Nancy’s actions in a safe environment and tried to understand the incident from her point of view
4)      I went and did a long, hard physical exercise session which allowed me to express and vent my emotional energy which was caught up in my physical state
5)      I attempted to report this incident to higher ups in the hospital adminstration seeing that they were compiling a work policy against work place violence
6)      I kept my wits about me and from then on I stayed away from Nancy and was never around her again without someone else in the room with me
7)      I advised other work colleagues of what she had done, so that they were aware of her ability to fly into a rage, so that they would be aware of this potential against them

All of these 7 steps allowed me to stay emotionally healthy and not end up feeling permanently victimized by Nancy.  I remembered who’s fault it was and therefore didn’t cower around her after this incident happened. 

So if you find yourself in an abusive scenario (either emotionally or physically) which can indeed affect your physical health, remember what I did to address my emotions and remain in control of who I was and not act like a victim from them on out.  In the end, I stayed empowered and healthy. 

Another thing to remember is that if you are a victim of workplace violence, you are not alone.  It is estimated that 10% of all employees have suffered from some sort of workplace violence.  I hope you are not one of them, and if you are that you have been able to recover from it. 

Again, thanks for reading and leaving your comments, I hope you have a great 2012!  --sharon

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