A few weeks ago one of our team was publicly put down in front of a whole group of people by someone participating in a program. She came back to the office shaking and near tears. When said individual then followed up with an equally attacking email, it was hard to not just retaliate and bring ourselves down to her level. However, we took the high road, even though we were gritting our teeth.
So I read with great interest a recent article by Martha Beck in which she talks about people trying to rob us of our good mood. She called it emotional mugging and explained that there are six types of muggers – from the puppy kickers who take out their frustrations on someone else or the exploding doormats who will take so much, and then explode at the slightest provocation, and who harbour festering hostility towards their targets, to other more serious offenders who long term can damage your core belief in yourself.
The deflaters, and you may even have these in your family, are the ones who burst your bubble and sees virtue in pessimism. They can “take the air out of any good time and make a bad time feel even worse.” shares Beck.
The most insidious is the secret keepers, because you can start to question your own sanity. You know something’s not right but when you talk about it, the secret keeper pounces back, anxious to stop you from learning the truth. The cannibals are the ones who can bring you down in a split second with their tales of doom and gloom. Beck recommends not feeding into this person’s misery but instead reinforce with them that they have the resources to resolve their issues.
The last are the dementors, who take pleasure in publicly humiliating another person. They, Beck points out, are “endlessly unhappy, addicted to the sense of control they get from violating others.” The dementors are the most vicious of the muggers and her best advice was to avoid them completely or if that is not an option, to keep your emotional distance.
To protect yourself from emotional mugging, Beck compares her advice to learning self-defense, except instead of learning karate-do to protect yourself physically, she advocates practicing emo-do – the way of the emotional master.
As for our troubled lady, she most definitely fit into the dementors category and we intend to follow Beck’s advice and keep our distance.