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Tremendous attention and outrage has been applied to the act of bullying. Unfortunately, almost all of the energy has been directed toward reacting to the act with punishment for the perpetrator and sympathy and counseling for the victim. Its contemporary handling has been focused primarily on the prevention of the action, yet, almost no attention has been given to the causes that would encourage one to do so,to what the victim broadcasts to attract his perpetrator or what kind of education or training would contribute to its prevention for the perpetrator and the victim.

Nothing happens at random. Because we live and grow in the physical world, we deal with our experience from an action/reaction perspective. For most of us, these understandings and perceptions are understandable and seem even reasonable. But, closing the barn door after the horses have escaped does little to prevent their escape in the first place. In the same light, punishing the perpetrator and counseling the victim from a victim perspective does little to prevent future occurrences. Their predisposition toward bullying or being bullied emanate from a deeply ingrained behavior learned in childhood. For us to be effective in our handling of this type of event something more must be come into play than to simply to punish or console. I’d like to offer some options for understanding but I must warn you ahead of time. Those who have been bullied, have children who have been bullied or have done the bullying themselves may take great offense at what I’m about to say. Please put aside your indignation and allow this to unfold in your understanding before you fold your arms and shut the door on what I’m about to say. It takes two to Tango. It also takes two to bully and to be bullied. Both the perpetrator and victim are implicated in what occurs, whether we or they are aware of it or not.

Let’s first start off by examining the old adage “birds of a feather flock together.” The more modern version of this is “like attracts like.” We can certainly see that people who like or do the same things will have an attraction for each other and are often found in the same groupings of people. Artists attract artists. Business people attract business people and so on. But can we also understand that people who are, say, very frugal with their money will also be drawn to people who throw money away? Yes! Why? Because both character types have a learned problematic attitude toward the handling of their money. In this light we can also say that people who are overly compassionate also attract people who are not and users always seem to find people who are easily used. It’s just a fact of life that we also attract our opposites. Why? Because an imbalance in issues draws us together more than which side or polarity of the imbalance we take our perspective from. Included in this perspective is the understanding that extroverts and introverts are opposites and are also attracted to each other in the same way. Both have an opposing tendency in how and how much they will tend to allow or seek contact with the “outside” world. Opposites attract as nature’s way of attempting to rebalance an issue that has become polarized. However, people who are a little more evolved and finely balanced than we will, most likely, not be perceived by us as being extroverted or introverted. For them, attention will be given to the degree to which they do or don’t project according to the appropriateness of the response required, not that they are opposites. We won’t see the polarity because their action will be in line and appropriate for what is needed.

For those of us who might not be quite as evolved, and that’s most of us, people who either advance into or retreat from contact will be perceived by us as being either extroverted or introverted. Let’s take this one step further. Bullies will appear to us as being more extroverted and those who are victims will appear to be more introverted. The issue creating the “difference” between them, outward projection or inward retreat, can be as strongly polarized for us as we compare male to female; active and receptive again reinforcing the fact that opposites attract. Our awareness is triggered by the perception of extremes. To us, the issue appears secondary.

So, now that we can see that like attracts like as much as opposites attract as a function of the issues not because of the sides or extremes we take in or perspective. The sides we take are simply symptoms of an issue that is unbalanced. Let’s move on and fill in some other factors in the dynamic picture that’s forming.

In examining how we handle contact with others we must look at character. We can initially assume that our tendencies toward exhibiting certain types of character may be either innate or hereditary. To some degree, I will agree with this. We most certainly seem to bring some forms of character and tendencies into life with us. But this may not be the only reason for our exhibited behaviors. Our tendency to either project toward or retreat from contact with others can also be trained or encouraged in us by those in our early environment such as parents or siblings. If we project a behavior that displeases someone in our early environment, their negatively perceived reaction may encourage us to refrain from using that same behavior, not only in the family, but in other circumstances outside the family. If we feel is frightened or intimidated by someone in our early environment, this will also intensify our reluctance to express ourselves the same way within and outside the family nucleus. Someone who is not innately introverted may then be shown that introversion may be the best behavior to exhibit within and outside the family to assure their emotional and physical safety. Parents who are extremely authoritarian or exhibit fits of anger when they are not pleased may very easily discourage their children into introversion thereby preventing them from exhibiting their innate behavior for fear that they will elicit unpleasant reactions. The child’s innate emotional strength has a lot to do with their responses. We must also understand that a strong spirited child may act out against discouragement of unwanted behaviors by the parents and not be subdued.

Contrarily, a child who may be innately introverted may feel encouraged by their parents to be more extroverted simply because their parental encouragement may give them enough confidence and courage to step outside their comfort zone, and perhaps even past ethical boundaries, to try new things. This will also be true with abusive parents when the child is taught or modeled that abusive behavior is appropriate to get what they want.

In both cases, hereditarily and environmentally, we’re working with nature verses nurture; also known as genetics verses environment. We all respond to both but in many varying degrees depending on their mix. What is environmentally trained depends on the mix between how we as parents respond to the behaviors we perceive in our children, our own level of emotional maturity and the emotional strength and resiliency of our child. We have the power to create balanced adults, narcissistic monsters (spoiled children feeling entitled) or people pleasers (fear induced submissives) depending on our behavior and what we encourage or discourage in our children’s behavior. Bullying is often a consequence of a pairing between apparent narcissists and people pleasers as opposites. Both the parent and child may be either. A submissive will create a narcissistic monster and a parent behaving narcissistically will create a submissive.

Children learn by example. They not only react but also emulate what they observe as “effective” behavior. The “effectiveness” will usually be paired with a purpose or intention, whether they are conscious of it or not. If a child sees that kind and tender behavior elicits a loving reaction, they will emulate that behavior to receive that response from others. If they see that an angry or abusive behavior elicits submission to their preferences, they will emulate that too. Whatever behaviors appear to work in getting the desired response from others will be emulated. A child’s emotional patterns are usually set by age three. An important factor in the development of their character is to realize that the young child as yet has no understanding as to whether their behavior might be nurturing or hurtful. At that age appropriateness never even enters the picture. All they know is that what they see projected by an adult or sibling achieves a result they may want.

There is one additional factor I’d like to talk about which may seem totally unrelated but bear with me. I will tie them all up shortly. This is the fact that animals can sense fear in other animals. When they become afraid they emit pheromones and are simultaneously catalyzed into a “fight or flight” response. This pheromone can be sensed by other animals and has a primary influence on whether one animal will choose to attack another. As part animal, humans have the same tendencies to sense and to emit these pheromones relating to fear. But now it is almost always an unconscious “recognition.” But there is an additional factor that humans have that animals are believed to not have. That is the potential to be able to think about possible future outcomes. In additional to instinct, fear can be generated by our minds by the perceived possibility of what can happen. When we as humans feel the fear, we also emit the pheromone. If we now connect this with a child who is about to be bullied, we can see that his release of pheromones and his fear response concerning what could happen can be sensed by a bully whether the bully is conscious of it or not. It is my belief that a bully will only bully those whom he thinks and senses that he can bully. The important factor to understand is that the bully may operate not only from a perspective of entitlement but also from fear. If a bully feels somehow threatened, they will bully or attack someone who appears or feels to be unable or unwilling to defend themselves. This will go a long way to alleviate any feeling of powerlessness or inadequacy on their part.

There are two types of bullies. Those who feel entitled to their safety and preferences and those who feel the potential loss of them.The first group is raised by parents who cater to the child’s every whim and create a feeling of entitlement within their expectations of the outer world. These children almost always exhibit an absence of compassion or consideration for others. These are the narcissistic bullies.

The second group is usually the recipient of authoritarian or abusive parenting. The modeling of their parents has taught them that the only way they can maintain their safety and preferences is to act aggressively toward those who trigger their feelings of powerlessness and inadequacy. As a consequence of the feelings of worthlessness encouraged by their parents or siblings, they will also tend to seek out, mostly unconsciously, those who emit fear pheromones and feel defenseless and those whom they feel that they can bully and believe won’t fight back. Bullying them into submission enables them to cloak and submerge their own feelings of inadequacy and feel the power they believe they lack. However, the feeling is gained only temporarily. The feeling of power quickly evaporates. What is truly ironic is that due to their unwary projection of their own sense of powerlessness and worthlessness they will constantly attract those who will answer their imbalanced perception of themselves with reminders of their own inadequate feelings. (natural entropy – nature’s tendency to neutralize polarities through their attraction to each other or opposites attract).

Both fear induced bullies and the “victims” of bullies need, essentially, the same kind of counseling; encouragement for worthiness and adequacy. However, the trained narcissists will require a different kind of counseling than bullies who operate from a fear induced aggression. The narcissist feels little or no fear relative to others. They’ve been trained into believing that they are entitled to whatever it is that they prefer in spite of what is brought to their attention by others. Counseling for them would consist, first, of awakening some sort of understanding and acceptance that others have and are allowed their own preferences if different from theirs and, second, that their total lack of awareness or attention to the needs of others should somehow be considered a deficit. The first factor would be mildly difficult to correct as it would require the narcissistic bully to relinquish some of their preferences. The second factor will be much harder to induce since it is irrevocably tied up with the ego. The older the bully, the more ingrained and embedded the feeling of their entitlement as being appropriate. With young children, the change is difficult but not impossible but with adults, the change seems only to be a distant hope. Remember, we are emotionally “coalesced” by age three and by the time puberty is added to the emotional mix, our ego boundaries become rigid and almost impenetrable.

We can now understand where the sense of entitlement comes from but where does the pre-emptive strike come in? When the fear induced bully feels triggered by the victim into feeling his unworthiness and inadequacy, the urge to strike is born. This activates the old adage “the best defense is a good offense.” If the bully can induce submission in the victim, the attention is drawn away from the bully’s own feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy and focused on the power they feel over their victim. If this doesn’t subdue these feelings, their actions will be over-emphasized. The stronger their sense of worthlessness and inadequacy is, the more intense becomes the bullying. The more elusive the submersion or cloaking of the bully’s worthlessness and inadequacy becomes, the more violent their bullying.

So now we have a perspective understanding of the two types of bullies and the victim. All three have their issues applicable to the creation of the problem. It takes two to Tango. Yet, consoling the victim and punishing the perpetrator does little more than to push their feelings of unworthiness or inadequacy further underground. In fact, consoling and punishing has the opposite effect. It intensifies the issue because it often ignores and suppresses its causes. It is common knowledge that anything that is emotionally compressed surfaces more violently in other unexpected areas and circumstances.

Bullying can be prevented in our children by making sure there is a balance between Self-Trust and confidence and their consideration and compassion for others. There must be enough Self-Trust to build worthiness and feelings of adequacy but enough humility and consideration for others to keep their interaction with others balanced and congenial. This must be taught if we wish to decrease the incidences of bullying. This may require some adults to receive some form of counseling if they are to prevent passing on this emotionally destructive and debilitating pattern to their children.

Child ProdigyThus far the majority of my previous work has been aimed at recognizing and disarming the dis-empowering effects of our childhood programming. Since my own background was an extreme product of this type of scenario, it seemed an obvious and necessary thing for me to do. It’s natural for us to write about what we need to recognize and repair in our own psyches. But what if we, as parents, had been able and willing to work through most of the pitfalls and crippling self-judgments that metastasize from such a debilitating childhood experience? What if we had a child that had not yet been indoctrinated in the emotional behaviors that would hide our perceived inadequacies circulating beneath our interpersonal rapport creating a matrix of subconscious codependence’s that would superficially assert our effective child-rearing skills in the face of social scrutiny? What if our child was starting out with a virtual clean slate? What elements would be necessary to be consecrated to their forming psyches that would enable them to remain free of our potentially compensatory codependence’s and operate effectively and independently in their blossoming world? I have found seven elements that would have made a dramatic difference in my willingness and ability to face the world with all its potential goals and challenges. I think I can safely assume that many of them would have served as an ample prevention for not only me but for a great many of you who have come from similar backgrounds.

trusting child1 - Interpersonal Trust – One of the most important factors that anyone needs to feel in order to allow themselves to be vulnerable to anyone else is a feeling of trust. This is something that is felt but not necessarily recognized by a child until circumstances and adult behaviors have shown them and hurt them enough to realize that there is a need for physical and emotional self-defense. Children are initially and innately trusting until they are shown differently. For most of us who are already adults, we have been through many painful awakenings and losses of innocence leading us to choose to believe that not all people can be trusted with our welfare. It’s not that people innately are malicious. It’s just that after many experiences through childhood and beyond adults have generally already learned to protect ourselves from the behaviors of others that might leave them feeling hurt or denigrated in some way as an after effect of their interactions with them. It’s much like staying out of the way of moving traffic. If someone inadvertently “hits” us, they’re usually not aware and are usually filled with remorse at their transgression when they realize what they have caused. Often times as adults we are so hyper focused on our own survival and daily activities that we don’t notice children getting in our path of travel. Sometimes, we know that they’re there but don’t allow the time or space to address them. The key to preventing their accidentally being harmed is our becoming aware of their presence in the path of travel and making an effort to be in the moment with them while interacting and attentively listening. Although children don’t consciously recognize it, they can feel our concern and consideration through our attention to them and know that we won’t punish or emotionally assault them simply for getting in the way. When feeling our attention to them in the moment they will begin to trust their interactions with us and feel confident that we have their safety and better interests at heart. We put this into play by accepting how they perceive the world, encourage their own decisions about things that concern them and support their efforts even if those decisions and efforts might run contrary to our own feelings and personal experience…as they often do. If we don’t have interpersonal trust with our children, that means trust going both ways, nothing else will initiate their voluntary vulnerability to us. If they feel that they will get run over in our daily movement around them or punished or ignored when they express their own concerns, no matter how childish, they will never permit themselves to trust us. No trust = no positive rapport.

Childhood Training2 - Validation – How do you feel when someone doesn’t believe you, puts you down for something you feel is important and they don’t or ridicules you for the way you perceive your reality? Pretty bad, right? Are you likely to confide in them again after you’ve been made to feel that your thoughts and feelings are of no importance? Of course not! As adults, we sometimes give others the benefit of the doubt that they might have had hurtful incidents occur in their lives or that they’re currently having challenging experiences that prevent them from seeing or feeling us clearly. As adults most of us have developed the ability to rationalize the details of our interpersonal experiences. Children don’t have that yet. They perceive our actions as being honest and up front. They haven’t had enough life experience to know that there can be extenuating circumstances for other people’s perception and treatment of us. If children feel invalidated, they usually shut down when they’re around us, or, if they’re very resilient, will challenge our perceived disapproval or invalidation of them. To prevent this type of misunderstanding and unintentional invalidation of them it’s imperative that we, at the least, acknowledge that what they are feeling is valid and important. Children are extremely perceptive. If they feel that we are patronizing them, they will perceive us as if we are making fun of them. We must be in earnest in our acknowledgement. They are dead serious. In our response we must also offer as clear of a reflection as we can for what they are confiding in us; first, to help them to develop their language skills in order to be able to convey their conclusions to others in the future and, second, to establish an honest one to one rapport with them so that they can feel that they can expect our acceptance and support for what they feel is important. No one feels good about being ignored or overlooked…least of all children.

super-hero-child3 - Personal Confidence – When children feel that they can trust us and that we assign value to their thoughts and feelings, they begin to develop, not only a confidence that we will support them, but a confidence that their thoughts and feeling processes are effective and can be trusted in their dealings with us and their world. This confirmation will allow them to begin to develop a tendency to rely on Self-Trust rather than the need to solicit excessive external approval through their many new experiences. If we fail to allow them to activate the internal process that enables them to choose between listening to their hearts and soliciting our input for every new experience, we will, effectively, train them to become codependent in their decision making process. Evidence of this failure is present in every child who has been used as an unconscious validation for their insecure parent’s child rearing skills and self-image. The more insecure the parent is, the more likely they are to create a codependency with their children by making them solicit confirmation and validation for every choice they make. This will undermine the child’s opportunity to develop self-reliance and trust in their own judgment. To validate this in our own psyches, all we have to do is examine how many times we have felt the need to solicit external approval for anything that we must make a decision about. This will reveal the extent to which codependency operates in our lives. This can be a very sobering realization for many of us to experience. For children, this is one of the building blocks toward establishing personal accountability in lieu of resorting to blame for personally perceived failures.

Training wheels-14 - Personal Experience – There is an old saying that we don’t learn from our successes but that we learn from our failures. And for many, there is a label for a more intense type of experience that this perspective engenders called tough love. If we are rescued from failure by our parents or loved ones every time we attempt something that could be potentially sobering and enlightening about our personal limitations and the need for our practice to overcome them, we are deprived of a valuable experience that enables us to know how to handle the world when our experiences in it doesn’t measure up to childish and irrational expectations. We can see evidence of this in adolescents who run afoul with the law and are literally bailed out by their parents so they can avoid having to be accountable for their own actions. Parental overprotection is a symptom of their attempt to establish codependency in order to hide their own perceived inadequacies in their parenting skills from themselves and the world. This behavior will create the same need in their children as they grow to become parents.

How we feel about ourselves comes directly from what we experience in life and/or from what we’re told about it by someone with whom we have developed trust. If we are prevented from failure at every turn through our externalizing of that trust, we can never develop the Self-Trust, confidence and self-sufficiency needed to get along in the world independently.

Children's feelings5 - Feeling Recognition -  When we as adults are asked how we feel about a situation or a set of circumstances, it is a poignant reminder that we are part of an equation where our participation almost always has an effect. Sometimes we automatically ask ourselves what we feel but we almost always have to train ourselves into recognizing and assessing our feelings consciously. Children don’t ordinarily focus on their feelings which allows them recognition of them. They more often than not simply react while being unaware of them yet still being affected by them. Their reactions are unconscious as are those of adults before we train ourselves into paying attention and recognizing them. Directing and assisting children toward looking internally develops in them a habit of focusing inward more often than attending and responding to external cues and directions. In our culture, especially now with such an intense focus on material needs and endeavors, it has not been a common practice for us to teach a child to listen to their hearts rather than external promptings. For a child to garner Self-Trust that contributes toward self-direction and self-sufficiency, it is extremely important that they listen to what they feel rather than what their told by parents and elders to feel. Learning to recognize their own feelings gives them the impetus for strengthening their own personal judgment. This, in turn, makes them much more likely to become self-directing. For the parent that wants to garner codependency in order to cloak their perceived inadequacies from being exposed by their child’s independent actions and choices, this is a terrifying prospect, especially, when it is more often than not unconsciously directed.

6 - Intuitive Directing – Our culture is so hyper focused on acknowledging and primarily using our mental concentration and attention that our inner urges often go unrecognized. By most of us our intuition has been essentially relegated to being considered an instinct. In doing so we have rationalized to ourselves that it must be pushed far back into our unconscious through our classification of it as part of our innate animal nature thereby falling under the list of aspects of ourselves which should be denied and thought of as immature. Since we also perceive instinct and intuition as being uncontrollable, they become regarded as aspects of ourselves that we are fearful of and that we feel even more compelled to allow them to remain unacknowledged. What is truly unfortunate is that it is through intuition that we are able to sense the inner urges that allow us to know our spiritual path.

childhood urgesLike feeling recognition, intuitive directing is another capacity that we must hone in our children by, again, encouraging them to feel inside themselves to recognize those inner urges which, ultimately, give them a sense of purpose and direction in their lives as they get older. An example of this is evidenced by observing some children who know what their vocation will be at a very young age and then follow through on the urge to manifest the career of their calling. Recognizing our calling comes from paying attention to our inner urges. Children who are essentially forbidden from acknowledging their inner urges in favor of mental prowess often follow paths in their lives that become eminently unfulfilling.

7 - Self-Accountability – In our observation of people in the media and those surrounding us we have all noticed those who tend to blame others for their circumstances. It’s not uncommon to hear someone say, “You made me feel…” or “If it weren’t for what you did, I could have…” Acknowledging our part in creating our own circumstances is a trained response. The more unsure we are about our own capacity to handle our life situations, the more likely we are to blame others for our shortcomings. Why might we do this? Because this feeling of being inadequate to handle our life circumstance comes from early training that undermines our ability to trust ourselves and our own judgment. Consider; if we are encouraged to take our cues for our actions and choices from the outside world and never consider our own feelings or opinions, we are trained into believing that the responsibility for them must also reside in the external world. What confirms that scenario is when we observe our parents doing the same thing; crediting someone else for their own circumstances.

Blaming-1There is a huge difference between taking blame and being accountable. Being accountable simply means acknowledging our part in the circumstances contributing to a situation regardless of whether it is something that directly affects us or someone else. It is a recognition of our part in an action or inaction and nothing else. Blame is a different animal. Not only must we take responsibility for what might affect us or someone else, but there is an implied obligation that we must atone or be indebted to someone else until the perceived transgression is accepted by us and then restitution of some sort is given to them. Sometimes restitution is not the motivation for them but the need for our constant indebtedness or subservience to them allowing them power over our lives, actions and direction. For example, if someone acts in a way that makes another feel hard pressed or inconvenienced, the inconvenienced person will issue a reminder of that person’s offense every time they again feel inconvenienced or need to adjust that person’s behavior for their own comfort or benefit. This happens frequently when a child acts in a way that reminds the parent of their perceived inadequacy or neglect in their parenting skills. The child will then feel that it is their obligation to “fix” the parent’s mood or change the parent’s feelings toward them. This puts the child on the defensive and undermines their ability to learn to deal with their parents and the world from a balanced point of accountability.

The balance and recognition involved in instilling a capacity for accountability as opposed to feeling the obligation engendered by blame is a very slippery and subtle dimension to implement in a child let alone to recognize in ourselves. With a parent who has not learned to be accountable or accomplished knowing how, a child is literally doomed to repeat the blame cycle in his family heritage unless that training comes from a source elsewhere than the family. Teaching a child to accept blame is tantamount to instilling shame in a child and thereby short circuits any Self-Trust or confidence they might have the opportunity to develop.

confidence-2Raising a child to be self-directing requires patience, observance and a great deal of inner work that must be accomplished by us as parents before we are able to accurately monitor and guide where a child puts their attention and how self-sufficient they can become in their world as they grow. In a large portion of our family culture this never occurs leaving us and our children to perceive the outer world as the governing and directing authority of where we set our efforts and goals in our daily lives. For any of the above steps to be effective, we must first recognize how our behavior affects our children and how our accountability is vitally necessary for us to do an effective job in helping our children to become self-directing and self-sufficient. Necessarily, we must refrain from molding them into a justification for how we view ourselves.

Damsel in Distress-2For many of us who are organized and task oriented or even just moderately productive we are viewed by others as have energy and momentum in handling life’s issues and responsibilities. Many people who may feel timid or at a loss for handling their own responsibilities often see us as an opportunity to acquire the completion of their obligations through our efforts. This perception often becomes compounded if we exhibit kindness and consideration for others which is frequently misinterpreted by them as our being an “easy touch” or manipulatable for getting what they want or need with a minimal effort, if any, on their part. Whether this is thought through or simply instinctual on their part is not as important as the fact that we must deal with them in a way that conserves our own energy for our own tasks, obligations and pleasures. Handling these kinds of people can be a real challenge especially for those of us who have been raised in our contemporary culture idolizing altruism. In this article I’d like to cover:

• The origins of helplessness,
• The ploys used by those to manipulate our attention and energy and
• 5 strategies to disarm their ploys and maintain our own direction and energy.

Origins: How might someone find themselves in a situation that they would consider themselves helpless? The simple and assumed answer is that they are simply incompetent or incapable of performing the tasks that are required of them. But it goes much deeper than that. With all the responsibilities we have in our daily lives and aside from those who are obviously handicapped we are all eminently qualified and able to deal with what our life throws at us. The chink in the armor comes when we’ve grown up in an environment where we’ve been subjected and encouraged toward the belief by our caretakers that we ARE incompetent and incapable. This coupled with the need to get on in life leaves us in an untenable position. How do we do what we need to do but avoid exposing our laziness or incompetence? Easy. We just get someone else to do it for us and no one is the wiser.

There are many reasons by which someone may feel incompetent. But, also, their personal ethics often come into play and they may not just use others to hide their perceived lack of ability. They may also have a diminished work ethic or lack consideration for others and their comfort and simply decide that there is nothing wrong with getting others to take care of their responsibilities. Whether through lack of competency or lack of ethics, the methods that others use to manipulate us into performing their obligations basically follow the same pattern. They play on our indoctrinated belief that it is our responsibility to take care of those who appear to be helpless and weaker than us.

Colonial Survivors-1But where did that belief come from? Two places: During colonial times we actually needed the help of others to survive and from our western altruistic and religious foundations declaring that the welfare of others is our responsibility before our own benefit or convenience. It’s a simple jump in our perception to see how easily this might be used to capitalize on our perceived obligations.

The ploys used by those to manipulate our attention and energy: This story has many variations but comes from two basic perspectives: either we believe that we are helpless or incompetent and solicit help or assistance or we know we’re not and simply use the ploys for our own selfish gains. Either way, the ploys are just as effective against us and need to be dealt with in a way that will conserve our energy and efforts so as not to be drained or subjugated.

Ploy #1: “Woe is me. I’ve been deserted and left in a position where the only way for me is down. You're my last hope!” This ploy is based on tapping into our compassion and our capacity to feel guilty if we decide to not assist. Our historically western religious belief that we are expected to be our brother’s keeper plays a major role in how we respond. This ploy has also been quoted as “the tyranny of the weak.” It also includes those who can be perceived as sick and assumedly unable to perform the tasks that are being solicited. We see this ploy Little Red Ridinghood-1primarily operating in family situations. If we accept the premise that the person is incapable or “too sick” to take care of their responsibilities, we’re dead meat. Our compassion will be seen as a weakness and we’ll be played as far as they can take us. Whether they are conscious of what they are doing or not is not as important as the process. The only difference is that if we confront the person who is unconscious of what they are doing we will most certainly solicit an honest denial and, if this is a family member, create a long term resentment on their part. Many elderly parents utilize this type of guilt and will use this ploy to maintain their children in close proximity to them.

Ploy #2: “My goodness! How well you do that! Everyone can see that there is no one as compassionate as you! I would be so grateful if you could do that for me. Where else could I find such perfection and consideration?” This premise is obviously focused on energizing our pride and ego. The controlling and hidden factors in this interchange are that if we don’t submit to what is asked we would, number one, be seen as lacking in compassion, number two, “everyone” else would see and be told that we are lacking and, number three, we would be held in contempt by the solicitor. This is the “build us up to break us down” ploy. This also includes the age old “damsel in distress.” Those of us who have fragile egos are highly susceptible to this ploy. The last thing we want is to be publicly “dissed” and our incompetence and “lack of compassion” exposed. Why incompetence? Because when we are so invested in our ego and its appearance it becomes a predominant factor contributing to how we overcompensate for our perceived lack of personal status. We will do almost anything to keep our publicly perceived image strong and intact.

Out on a limbPloy #3: “It’s your responsibility to have this taken care of. If you don’t, this will leave me in a very untenable situation.” This ploy is a combination of ploy#1 but with the added dimension of bullying us through using the performance of our perceived obligations as a gauge for how others will perceive us. In a sense, this is sort of a blackmail. Much the same as in Ploy #2, if we don’t acquiesce to their demands we risk not only exposure but the spreading of our “dis-commendation” to our family, business or peer groups.

5 strategies to disarm their ploys and maintain our own direction and energy. These three ploys will cover the majority of the ploys that come from the origin of helplessness. We must remember, however, that all these types of ploys derive their effectiveness from our own perceived frailties and failings. The fact that we believe that we have them is ample enough fuel to power our subjugation by them. However, the more Self-Trust that we are in possession of, the less these ploys will have an effect on us. But as adults and humans we all know that we have weak points in our self-confidence and until we are able to “plug the gaps” with the needed confidence building we will need to have strategies to keep the “users,” conscious or instinctual, at bay in order to maintain our energy and self-respect.

Strategy #1: Accept and displace the compliment. This is mostly in response to Ploy #2. Two things are happening here. First, our culture expects us to be humble when being complimented and then to somehow defer the “honor” to another recipient. This is considered a contemporary measure of humility. The second is a play on our desire to maintain our “granted” image of “better than.” Both actions require us to diminish ourselves in order to stay within the limits of “modesty.”

applause-1There is nothing wrong with accepting a compliment. It is only our own self-consciousness and expected modesty that encourage us to deflect it. Our self-consciousness is proportional to the amount of Self-Trust we are in possession of. If it is strong within us the next part is easy. Do project an exaggerated honor on another recipient claiming that their proficiency is better than our own, that they would do a much better job than we would and that they would more likely than we have much more time and consideration to answer the solicitor’s needs. In doing so we will have played into their demand for humility but deflected it to a worthier “contestant.” We’ve effectively acquiesced to their demand of humility and used it against them. Realize that if we can’t diminish our own need to be “better than” this will not work for us. We must remember and accept the fact that we are OK as we are. This will pull the rug out from any solicitor’s exaggerated compliment and free us from any assumed obligation.

Strategy #2: Actually “help” them but put limits on your time and energy. By telling someone that we have commitments to someone else we negate the “responsibility factor” implied in Ploy #3. Then if they threaten us with blackmail we have a counter with an obligation that meets their terms but just not with them. This will also enable us to gauge our time and energy in a way that meets our needs and obligations so our interaction with them can’t be pushed beyond “reasonable” limits. This salves our desire to be helpful and useful but keeps the degree to which we can be manipulated under our control.

You can do it-1Strategy #3: Cite circumstances where the person soliciting help was fully competent and able to complete their obligations without our assistance. This amounts to using ploy #2 against our solicitor. In pointing out circumstances where the solicitor has been competent and able is eminently contradictory to their claim of helplessness. In pointing out their successes they must acknowledge our observation and “compliment” on their proficiency and ability. This, essentially, frees us from feeling obligated to “save them” as well as letting them know that we know that they are able to do it themselves. They cannot, in good conscience, continue to solicit us unless they have neither shame nor self-respect. If that’s the case, or they pose additional reasons for their inability (unwillingness) to perform the task(s), our response would be, “That’s just something you’re going to have to work out for yourself.” We’ve offered a culturally accepted response to their request (demand) and they must acquiesce in order to remain in good standing with us and their peers.

Dumpster Diving-1Strategy #4: Commiserate. This strategy is the easiest and probably the most fun all. I was working for a boss who was very people savvy and could read them like a book. When she responded this way I was shocked at its effectiveness and laughed almost until I peed in my pants. When the solicitor complained about how difficult and how hard her life had been my boss responded with, ”Oh, honey I know. It’s so hard. Dealing with that circumstance has hurt me so much too and put me in such a bad way that I just don’t what to do.” In commiserating with the solicitor she had put herself in the same position as the solicitor and disarmed her ability to put her in a position of having to be responsible for “saving” her. In the same position the solicitor could not reasonably assume that my boss would have anything to do with her “rescue.” What a beautiful and harmless way to turn the tables on being used! (Not to mention funny).

Talk to the handStrategy #5: Simply state “No. I’m not comfortable doing that.” DO NOT give reasons for your decision. That gives your solicitor armament and a door to badger you. If your solicitor threatens you with harm or diminished social standing, just respond with, “Well, that’s just something that I’m going to have to deal with.” Your solicitor will then, most likely, realize that they have misjudged you as an easy touch and move on to easier prey. In these days and times there is a large component of us who simply have no fear or regret in dealing with those who would use and abuse us. Our Self-Trust is developed to a point where our image in the eyes of others is minimally important and our feelings about ourselves and what we do has a lot more sway over how we conduct our lives. This does not mean that we lack compassion. It simply means that we maintain the right to determine where and how we will apply it. But until we reach that point of trusting ourselves and attending our own needs, these strategies will serve to mitigate any “coercive” experiences we might encounter.

These strategies take our time, awareness, practice and patience to be implemented to full effectiveness. We must be patient with ourselves and recognize where we must simply “cut our losses” with certain people who will not acquiesce in favor of our comfort and our necessity to care for ourselves before addressing their needs. Unfortunately, our western altruistic approach to social relationships has metastasized into a voracious cancer eating away at our Self-Trust and confidence through implied obligation. Moving from perceiving ourselves as a victim to being in charge of our own love, work and energy is an ongoing process. Remember, it took a long time to train us into being susceptible to manipulation. It will take a reasonable amount of time, patience, and practice to change us from being reactive to being proactive in our own interest. There is nothing shameful in looking after our own welfare.

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