30 August 2011

Health Impact and Side Effects of Bullying ... Blaming others can ruin your health

  • Authors calling for new diagnosis called PTED, or post-traumatic embitterment disorder
  • Expert suggests griping for a while to vent, get it out of your system
  • Then keep reminding yourself of the all the physical harm you're doing to yourself

Kevin Benton had every reason to feel bitter.

During his sophomore year in college, he says, white students harassed him and the only other African-American living on the floor in his dorm in order to get them to move out.

The white students spat on their doors, tore their posters off the wall, and banged on their door at four in the morning. When Benton brought up the problems at a dorm meeting, the other students snickered.
"I felt like I was being bullied, being targeted," he says now of his college experience 19 years ago. "I knew I couldn't retaliate in any way or I'd lose my basketball scholarship."

This was the first time in his life Benton had encountered racism and it hit him hard. He had trouble sleeping, and then over the next several months he suffered panic attacks. Admitted to the hospital, he was found to have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or thickening of the muscles in the heart. The disease is the leading cause of heart-related sudden death in people under 30.

So sick he couldn't walk, Benton lay in his hospital bed bitter and resentful. "I thought to myself, 'I've never hurt anybody. I serve in the community. I work with youth. I wrestled with God -- why did this happen to me?'" he remembers. Just then, a janitor walked by and grabbed Benton's hand, and prayed aloud to God to heal him. "As soon as she said, 'Amen,' I felt like someone had poured cold water on my head and made my heart shrink," he says.

The first time Kevin Benton encountered racism, he was in college and took it really hard.
The first time Kevin Benton encountered racism, he was in college and took it really hard.

Benton forgave the students who had tormented them, and three days later, he walked out of the hospital. "If I hadn't forgiven them, I'd be dead," says Benton, now healthy and a social worker for the Philadelphia Department of Human Services.

Feeling persistently resentful toward other people -- the boss who fired you, the spouse who cheated on you -- can indeed affect your physical health, according to a new book, "Embitterment: Societal, psychological, and clinical perspectives."

In fact, the negative power of feeling bitter is so strong that the authors call for the creation of a new diagnosis called PTED, or post-traumatic embitterment disorder, to describe people who can't forgive others' transgressions against them.

"Bitterness is a nasty solvent that erodes every good thing," says Dr. Charles Raison, associate professor of psychiatry at Emory University School of Medicine and CNNHealth's Mental Health expert doctor.

What bitterness does to your body
Feeling bitter interferes with the body's hormonal and immune systems, according to Carsten Wrosch, an associate professor of psychology at Concordia University in Montreal and an author of a chapter in the new book. Studies have shown that bitter, angry people have higher blood pressure and heart rate and are more likely to die of heart disease and other illnesses.

The data that negative mental states cause heart problems is just stupendous. The data is just as established as smoking, and the size of the effect is the same." --Dr. Charles Raison

Physiologically, when we feel negatively towards someone, our bodies instinctively prepare to fight that person, which leads to changes such as an increase in blood pressure. "We run hot as our inflammatory system responds to dangers and threats," says Raison, clinical director of the Mind-Body Program at Emory.

Feeling this way in the short term might not be dangerous -- it might even be helpful to fight off an enemy -- but the problem with bitterness is that it goes on and on. When our bodies are constantly primed to fight someone, the increase in blood pressure and in chemicals such as C-reactive protein eventually take atoll on the heart and other parts of the body.

"The data that negative mental states cause heart problems is just stupendous," Raison says. "The data is just as established as smoking, and the size of the effect is the same."

How to get rid of bitterness

It's impossible to avoid all events that could turn you bitter. At some point, all of us will be the victim of a crazy boss, a cheating spouse, a spiteful co-worker, or someone else who does us wrong. Some will be even more unlucky, and suffer physical or sexual abuse.

"There are situations where you'd have to be the Dalai Lama not to feel bitterness," says Raison, who writes regularly for CNN.com on the mind-body connection for health.

The key is how we react to these situations in the long term. Here are five tips for how to let go of bitterness as quickly as possible for the sake of your own health;

1. Gripe for a while

"Give yourself time to vent and get it out of your system," suggests Dr. Maryann Troiani, co-author of the book Spontaneous Optimism.

2. Watch the news

Frederic Luskin, director of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, tells his embittered patients to think about how many others have had bad things happen to them.

"I ask people to watch the news for a day, or read the paper, or go to work and talk to people, and they'll see that others have suffered and this is just a part of life," says Luskin, author of the book "Forgive for Good."

3. Consider confronting the person who's hurt you

Troiani says some of her patients have found solace in doing this. Other times, however, it can backfire. "Some ex-spouses are real psychopaths, and hunting them down can be disastrous," she says. "They'll just connive and twist things around and blame you." If that's your situation, try writing a letter to the person and reading it to a trusted friend, she suggests.

4. Realize you're only harming yourself

Keep reminding yourself of the all the physical harm you're doing yourself by remaining bitter. "I tell my patients, take care of this bitterness now, or in five years it will haunt you in the form of chronic headaches, fatigue, arthritis, and backaches," Troiani says.

5. Consider the other person's mental state

Author Maya Angelou has every reason to feel bitter. Raped as a child, then overwhelmed with guilt when her rapist, an uncle, was murdered by another family member, she was mute for several years. Still, she says she never felt bitterness toward her attacker. "Although he was a child molester and abused me, I never hated him, and I'm glad of that," she says. "What I realized is that people do what they know to do -- not what you think they should know." As an adult, she's continued that mind-set. "If someone hurts my feelings or hurts me in any way, I think, 'This dummy, that's all he knew,' and I'm not going to carry this bitterness around with me. I will not give it a perch. I will not give it a place to live in me because I know that's dangerous."

Don't be a doormat

Taking these steps and losing your bitterness does not mean you should be a doormat, Raison says. For example, consider the classic case of the wife whose husband leaves her for a much younger woman. Instead of feeling angry, she can think about moving on with her life and finding someone new. "What happens is that the husband who's been doing the 20-year-old comes crawling back because now his wife looks really good, and the wife can say, 'You're a day late and a dollar short,'" he says.

25 August 2011

A precursor to Bullying.... Rudeness At Work: On the Rise, And Coming With A Big Cost

Just because you’ve developed a thick skin for rude, discourteous behavior, doesn’t mean workplace incivility is not hurting you–and your family.

A new Baylor University study published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior found that workplace rudeness can follow you home, causing you to unleash “incivil” behavior on your loved ones.

That’s disconcerting news for the 43% of Americans who have experienced incivility at work, according to the report, Civility in America, 2011. To be clear, incivility is different from aggressive bullying, which usually carries the intent to harm someone. With incivility, the intent is ambiguous, and it’s less intense and characterized by demeaning remarks, showing little interest in a worker’s opinion, acting rudely or with poor manners, among other uncivilized behaviors.

The Baylor study found that those who experienced workplace incivility had lower levels of marital satisfaction and greater family/work conflict, particularly for the partner. It also found that stress from incivility was contagious to family members.

Whose to blame?

When asked to name some of the top causes for the growing incivility problems, 65% of workers blame their company’s leaders and 59% also blame employees, while 46% list the lagging economy as a cause. Interestingly, 34% blame younger employees for incivility and only 6% blame older employees. But incivility at work, many agree, is an artifact of life in America. More than 70% of Americans consider political campaigns, pop culture, the media, government and the music industry hubs of incivility, according to the Civility in America Report.

How to tamp down rudeness

In the words of Aretha Franklin, R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The authors of the Civility in America report write:

Johns Hopkins Professor Pier M. Forni, co-founder of the Civility Project, defines the basics of civility as the Three R’s: Respect, Restraint and Responsibility. When Americans were asked to define “civility,” the words “respect” and “treating others as you would want to be treated” predominated.

And rather than shrug off rudeness, name it, because the more you become inured to it, the more normal it becomes.

24 August 2011

Workplace becomes new schoolyard for bullies

Many adults shake their heads in dismay over bullying that targets children and teenagers online and in school; they even push for lawmakers and schools to do more to stop the harassment.

But many are afraid to admit another dirty little secret: Bullying is just as big a problem for the adults in the workplace.

Up to 70 percent of working adults say they've been bullied at some point in their working lives, and 53 percent to 71 percent of the bullies are in management positions, Civility Partners LLC says.

The prevalence of bully bosses is why many don't report they've been bullied, says Bert Alicea, a licensed psychologist and vice president of employee-assistance programs and work/life services at Health Advocate Inc.

"A lot of people would rather leave than stir the pot and fear retaliation," he says. "But even if they want to leave, with the bad job market there's nowhere for them to go."

The problem of workplace bullying is not new, nor is it illegal.

If bullying leads to illegal workplace acts, such as discrimination or harassment, then the courts can act. Legislation called the Healthy Workplace Bill would make bullying illegal and has been introduced in more than 20 states since 2003.

Even without the bill, Alicea says many companies are beginning to take steps to reign in workplace bullying because of its bottom-line consequences: Bullying can cost a company $83,000 a year from absenteeism and stress-related issues.

Companies often ask Alicea to provide harassment awareness or sensitivity training as a way to make supervisors and employees more aware of bullying behavior and the steps needed to protect workers. But businesses may have another incentive to offer such training.

In some court cases, companies that have provided anti-bullying training are not always held solely responsible if an employee's lawsuit alleging harassment or discrimination is successful, Alicea says. Instead, individual supervisors may be held personally liable for some financial damages awarded to an employee if a company can show the supervisor received anti-bullying training.

Still, despite more interest from companies in anti-bullying measures, Alicea says he remains concerned.
"If the bully is in a power position or someone like a rainmaker in the organization who brings in $5 million a year, then no one really wants to rattle that cage," he says.

Another worry for Alicea — a growing use of online bullying. "Cyber-bullying is more prevalent in the workplace. People become friends with their supervisors on Facebook, for example, and they become more emotionally connected. It begins to blur the objectivity of those involved. I just think it opens up a whole can of worms," he says.

Workers also can feel bullied via other online communications, such as email, he says. "I think there's a real need for email etiquette to be taught in workplaces today," he says. "Sending an email, written in bold with 15 exclamation points sends a message in a degrading way."

If an employee feels bullied at work, Alicea says that person should:

• Contact the company's employee assistance program. While acknowledging that some employees may fear word getting back to the bully, "you have to be able to take that risk because you're tired of feeling the way you're feeling," he says. "You need to be able to talk to an objective third party who knows how to deal with these kinds of issues."

• Tell human resources. While you don't have to provide the name of the bully, it's important to have a record so if you experience retaliation, you have proof that it took place after your complaint.

• Ask for dignity and respect. You don't have to launch into a litany of complaints but simply state you want fair treatment. This often prompts companies to bring in outside help to educate and train supervisors and employees. source

10 August 2011

CAREER : The Path Less Travelled

Top 10 midlife career change tips”

Chaos and happenstance play as much of a part in careers as planning

Things both good and bad happen in our careers that we do not expect and have not planned for.

 The idea that we plan our careers by thinking carefully and logically about what best suits us and then simply implementing our strategy is probably the most commonly held view of how our careers work.

"Plastics" was the career advice given by a well-meaning family friend to Dustin Hoffman in the film The Graduate. The 1967 movie reflected the societal expectation that all graduates (and school leavers) should have a clear and firm plan for their lives.

This expectation is pretty much still in place today, but should it be?

When we start looking closely at careers as real people genuinely experience them and not as some mythologised logical, linear and ever-upward trajectory, a different picture emerges. It turns out that careers are a lot less predictable than we imagine.

Think about your own career - is what you are doing now, what you believed you'd be doing when you were 15 or 21? The career path of most of us better resembles a drunken man's stagger through the world of work than a neat, calculated and straight line.

 Careers are riddled with chance events. They are also subject to a complex array of different influences. Career decisions are not the result of cold, rational and logical thought processes, rather they emerge from a melting pot of personal history, circumstance, interests, experiences and more.

The rise of foreign economies has dispossessed many Australian workers. Whether it is using an iPad to order your meal in a restaurant, driving a Chinese car, or sending your dictation to India to be typed, the way we work, and hence our careers, are changing continually.

Here are some facts about careers and their trajectories:

■ At least 70 per cent of us will experience a chance event that significantly alters our career.

■ A US study found that over a period of 25 years about 60 per cent of us will change occupations and will report higher levels of well-being because of it.

■ A 2005 report from Monash University showed that after one year 29.7 per cent of enrolling students had changed courses, universities or had dropped out.

■ Federal government figures suggest 26.2 per cent of apprentices dropped out in 2009-2010.

We may think we make our own decisions about our careers but all of the following factors have been shown to be influential in our choices: where you live, your mother, your father, your siblings, politicians, the media, the web, your health and injuries.

What all this means is that shift happens in our careers continually.

Sometimes it is the result of planning but often it is not. It means that "planning a career" is a less viable and useful thing to do. The appropriate reaction to this is not to become fatalistic or despairing but to recognise that our careers are the result of a complex, dynamic system of influences, people and the environment. 

Emerging from the complex interaction of all these different things will be a career pattern that has periods of stability but is subject to unpredictable and sometimes radical change.

 The appropriate reaction to the complexity of our lives and careers is to place more emphasis on learning the skills of planning - how to make a plan, how to change a plan, how to copy someone else's plan and how and when to abandon a plan. It means developing the skills and mindset to embrace uncertainty and realising that unplanned events - both good and bad - are inevitable. 

This will help us to be resilient and persistent in the face of bad-chance events and ready to take advantage of any good-chance events that come our way.

Those who react to uncertainty by trying to control and predict everything by risking nothing are likely to be either confounded in their efforts by the forces of change and complexity, or they will limit their careers to such an extent they risk never fulfilling their potential. Successful people live their careers on the edge of chaos, a place where they are sufficiently open to change to engage, learn and transform.

The Chaos Theory of Careers describes the realities of working in the 21st century in a complex, changing and unpredictable world. To be successful in our careers now, we must be more open than ever to new possibilities, continual learning and the need creatively to reinvent or recast ourselves as circumstances permit or demand.

It is no longer necessary or even desirable in a world defined by change to have too firmly decided what we are going to do with our lives, because shift happens.

Perhaps we should adopt the approach of Peter Ustinov who said, ironically, on his 75th birthday: "I really must decide what to do with my life."