Ruth Field’s Advice: There may be troubles ahead but leave the old ones behind
If your boss is behaving inappropriately and treating you badly, then confront him like a grown up
I’d hazard a guess that every single person you meet has at least one terrible secret that would break your heart. Photograph: Getty Images
Q Dear Grit Doctor,
I’m heading for a meltdown. My job is on the rocks because my boss keeps falling out with his girlfriend and taking the aftermath of it out on me, finding fault with everything I do just because my staff have respect for me and not him.
I’m doing a course in counselling and psychotherapy and I’m pretty sure I’ve cocked up my assignment.
Thirdly, I don’t know how to help anybody because I can’t deal with my own life right now. I keep having nightmares about something that happened a long time ago. Everybody around me thinks I’m fine but inside I feel like I’m at the final straw.
To top it off, I’m still in the recovery process from alcohol and this is not helping at all. I don’t know which way to turn first.
A Right, here goes: your boss’s s*** is his own to deal with. If he is genuinely behaving inappropriately and treating you badly, then confront him like a grown up.
No tantrums, no finger pointing, just a simple “Can we have a chat please” and then set out your position as calmly and dispassionately as possible. If he fails to respond adequately, report him to whoever it is at work who deals with complaints. And move on.
There is nothing worse than petty infighting to create an unbearable working atmosphere and to demotivate teams.
Whatever it was that happened in the past that is giving you nightmares is almost certainly creating a lot of your feelings of inadequacy, because you are allowing it to impact on your view of the world and of yourself.
Ultimately, the only way round this is to get yourself into a position where you can leave whatever it was that happened in the past – where it belongs. If you need help in order to get yourself to that place, then get that help.
We all have awful things happen in our pasts, so you are not alone. I’d hazard a guess that every single person you meet has at least one terrible secret that would break your heart.
It is not the things, the secrets, the events themselves that cause us all the problems, but what we allow them to mean about us and our lives that is the killer.
For example, “My parents got divorced” might be the event. When it becomes: “No one will love me, I will be abandoned by everyone I love”, that is the problem.
It is the latter that is likely to cause the meltdowns in that person’s life, because they are allowing their parents’ divorce to colour their view of all future relationships.
Collapsing the relationship between the two – what actually happened and the story we create around it – is an incredibly useful life skill to acquire, because it helps you challenge negative and limiting beliefs you may have about yourself.
The other big secret is that everyone is putting on a good show to a certain extent. By that I mean, we are all faking it.
When you start to tell yourself that no one really knows what they are doing, it can be incredibly liberating, and certainly helps take the pressure off a bit.
Try it out and see. You may find it gives you a much needed boost in confidence, especially with the psychology and counselling course.
Whatever it is from your past that is holding you back will ultimately serve you in both your course and as a therapist, because the bad stuff from our pasts can give us great empathy in the present.
And you’d only have to scratch the surface of everyone else on that course to find that they, too, have suffering in their pasts that may well have inspired them into this line of work.
A psychologist without one – a past, that is – probably wouldn’t be much good.
Everybody is trying in their own way to deal with stuff from their pasts. Those who tend to get on better in life are those people who do not use the past as a reason or an excuse for their present woes.
They accept what has happened and try to live in the present and create a positive future for themselves.
Ultimately, we all have the choice to take full responsibility for our lives and to live powerfully in the present, or dwell in a past and events that we can never change.
One point of view is very empowering, the other the polar opposite. The beauty is we all get to choose.
You may find you can get some therapy as part of your studies. All good psychotherapists have therapy themselves, so do look into this option as it may save you unnecessary expense.
Why you think you flunked your assignment, I don’t know, but I sense at its root some low self-esteem issues which may be at the root of all your complaints.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed, try not to reach for a drink to take the edge off, but instead do the one thing you can do to deal with the assignment, your boss, or whatever it is on your mind.
If you don’t know what that one thing is, just clear a shelf of a kitchen cupboard, and while you are at it, think about how to break down that overwhelming problem into doable “shelves”. And start tackling them one by one.
If you feel like you really cannot cope, please see your GP (who may also be able to prescribe you a course of CBT which could prove extremely beneficial).
Ruth Field is author of Run, Fat Bitch, Run and Get Your Shit Together.