Over the past few weeks, I have been taking ownership of my life. I mean, really sinking deep into the root of what still controls me; security. We all know that domestic violence is all about power and control, but what happens when that power and control is directed towards someone that cannot be completely dominated – say an employee – or when you, as an individual, give up your power and allow yourself to be controlled by something, or someone, else.
I spent quite a few years rebuilding my life after my marriage. I believed that I could control my happiness by finding security, proving my abuser wrong, and keeping busy. But these things do not create happiness. Even more, finding security meant working a job that proved to be less of who I was and more of who I believed myself to be. No matter how much personal growth was taking place, the person I had to be at work remained the same. There were certain expectations, rules that had to be followed, a lot of directives, but no explanations. With each year that passed I found myself being backed further into a corner and less of the free spirit that was finally emerging in every other area of my life.
But my job gave me the security I needed. I had worked hard for it; studied hard, trained hard, and beaten the odds of getting hired in a field that many strived for. And yet I was triggered weekly. Now, I know how strange that might sound. How does one get triggered at work? For some, triggers at work come from a mean boss that yells, talks down to, or demeans their employees. Today, there are a lot of laws on the books that prohibit that type of behavior and give employees backing if their boss is acting out in that kind of negative fashion, which has likely stopped some of that behavior.
But that is not what I’m referring to. In my case, it was all about control and how those laws can be twisted by employers so that they are not breaking the above mentioned rules and, yet, still not giving up their power and control. Some call it passive aggressive behavior; I call it emotional manipulation.
It’s important to point out that there were two equally different things happening in my work life that were allowing me to be controlled by my security issues. First, I found that I did not enjoy my work. As a matter of fact, I truly disliked it and was stressed by it daily. I didn’t dislike it because I was bored; I disliked it because it was not me. I was doing something every day that put me in situations I didn’t want to be in. I didn’t like how I felt when I came home at night, I was surrounded by negativity, and I felt trapped by the numerous laws that were laid out for me to follow in my professional and personal life (trigger).
As someone who is a free spirit (i.e. doesn’t do well being told how to live their life) and someone who was emotionally, verbally, and physically abused by my husband for many years (i.e. doesn’t do well being told how to live their life), being in a work environment that was intent on controlling my actions and behaviors was not the best fit. If you understand triggers, you will understand how uncomfortable my daily life was becoming.
But there was another problem that started to rise up and affect my relationship with my job even more. As I became more and more uncomfortable with the realities of my daily interactions with work, I became defensive. I felt like a fish out of water. It was clear to me that I did not belong there, but try as I might, I was unable to find employment that was comparable. It was a two-edged sword. I could leave a good job to be happy, but then know that I would be right back to where I started seven years ago…broke. I fought hard to get this job. It took years of schooling and work, it gave me self-confidence and financial security when I needed it the most. I had become something. And he had always told me that I would amount to nothing.
Was I just going to throw it all away? That would be insane. So, I trudged forward. But the stronger I became in my personal life, the more out of place I was in my work life. I had true moral issues with what I was involved in. They were not illegal, actually quite the opposite, but they went against everything I said I believed in; everything I had become. And when I started to question what was going on, I was met with the passive aggressiveness that I was all too familiar with. It was the same as what my ex-husband used to use on me daily.
And with every comment that turned my concerns back on me and away from the organization, I saw that it was all about power and control. Anyone who seeks power and control, be it in a relationship or a job, is often willing to spin the story to suit them and question the accuser. It was all too familiar.
With each conversation and email, I saw a trend of putting the blame back on me, questioning my understanding of “simple concepts,” and diminishing my concerns as questionable or due to some form of brokenness on my part (I didn’t understand, this is how it is for everyone, I was too sensitive, I was taking it the wrong way, they were doing everything in their power to resolve the situation that never got resolved, etc.). There was never a time where my concerns were considered legitimate or worth looking at. And if I pushed too hard for answers, I was threatened with misconduct charges and punishment.
And each time I was triggered. Each time, my blood pressure rose, my emotions were frazzled, and I came home angrier than I was the day before. Soon, I felt like an animal backed into a corner. I needed the income and security but it was devouring me very slowly. It was stealing my joy. I found myself fighting with old demons like depression and anxiety all over again. I had left one controlling relationship and replaced it with another.
I was allowing the “need” for security to control me. I was ignoring my passion, for money. And, I was living a lie, daily, out of fear.
When I made the decision to move forward and trust my instincts, all of that faded away. As always, our growth is a process. We can chose to be controlled, live as a victim, or give up on our happiness, or we can choose to create change in our lives.
What controls you? Will you break free?