By Esther R. Kane
I worked with a woman for four years whom I considered a friend, and admired her greatly. She is quite charismatic, and had a way of making me feel as though I mattered. I am a highly sensitive person- she, I discovered the hard way- is a narcissist and master manipulator. Her bullying tactics crept into our workplace, and as a result of finally standing up to her, she got me fired.
The hardest thing about this is not losing my job, but being aware of how much revenge based vitriol she must have summoned up to get me fired. I am constantly battling nausea at the image of her ranting at my boss to get me fired. No one dares to stand up to her. My desire to see the best in everyone was thoroughly exploited for four years, before she pounced. I might add here, that she has said she has no friends.
My big stumbling block are those terrible images of her raging against me. Even if a relationship is unhealthy, when it’s over, one still has to go through a grieving process. I do not know how to cope with my disbelief at her cruelty, or how to vanquish those ugly images of her ‘getting her way’. It has caused no small amount of depression and paralysis within me. If you could advise, I would be grateful.
How do I move on from being ‘stabbed in the back?
Oh dear reader, I feel so sad for what you’ve been through and unfortunately, I can unequivocally vouch for many reading this that you are not the only one this has happened to. And as a Highly Sensitive Person myself, I can only imagine how deeply you felt this in both mind and body. I cannot tell you how many similar stories I have heard from my clients over the years and how much distress it caused them both while it was actually happening, and then continued on in their minds and bodies even once the “monster” in question was permanently out of their lives.
These words stood out the most to me from your query:
My big stumbling block are those terrible images of her raging against me… I do not know how to cope with my disbelief at her cruelty, or how to vanquish those ugly images of her ‘getting her way’. It has caused no small amount of depression and paralysis within me.
While I am in no way in a position to diagnose you in any way, I would say that from what you say here that you are traumatized on a deep level from the bullying you endured from this woman and that it is affecting you on all levels: thoughts, emotions, and body. I would strongly suggest you find a therapist who specializes in trauma to help you move through this.
From the training I do have in trauma work, I can clearly see that you are traumatized because what happened to you was far from the realm of what the average person deals with and was beyond human capacity to a) understand- the disbelief (that’s the ‘thoughts’ piece), b) deal with emotionally and to let go of from both mind and body.
I am concerned that you mention both ‘depression’ and ‘paralysis’, which according to my understanding of trauma, indicates that you are in a ‘frozen’ state- very harmful to stay stuck in over the long-term. I am referring here specifically to the nervous system which kicks in when we perceive a threat to our safety; either physical or emotional. The three ‘f’s’ kick in- fight, flight, or freeze. If at the time of attack, your assessment was that fighting or fleeing weren’t options, your body would have gone into ‘freeze’ mode and shut down. When this happens, the result is usually depression and paralysis as you described.
Perhaps you also went into ‘freeze’ mode because it is a habitual state you are familiar with from enduring previous traumas. Whatever the case, you need a highly skilled trauma therapist to help you ‘thaw out’ from your frozen state, and resolve the trauma on all three levels: head, heart, and body. I strongly urge you to ask around in your community to find someone who can guide you through this process.
Esther Kane, MSW, is a Canadian women’s psychotherapist and author of three self-help books. Sign up for her free bi-weekly newsletter to uplift and inspire at: http://www.estherkane.com. Please consider this article for publication in your newsletter or website. Permission is granted to reprint for free with resource box and byline intact. Please send me a copy of your publication if you choose to include my article.