When you don’t like what is being done to you, turn around and say NO!
A conversation we had yesterday with a young lady led to a question: “Why do some people hurt, harass and victimize others?” And to another, more important, one: “Why do the victims often suffer in silence?”
Vaani and I have experience of dealing with a long period of emotional strife with my own mother. So we know how it feels to be the victim.
We know of a lady, our age, who is married into a large, well-known and revered, business family in Chennai. Her husband abused her physically for 25+ years. It wasn’t until her son, who went to school with our son Aashirwad, stood up for her that the lady even realized she could say no, that she could walk out, that she could stop being the victim. Until then she suffered silently.
I have also been harassed and bullied at work for over 18 months by my former employer, a billionaire dealmaker. I had met him as a journalist when I was working for Business Today magazine. And I had written about his then-proposed foray into the telecom sector. I later joined him, on his invitation, as his traveling Executive Assistant and was based out of Singapore in the mid-1990s; I was part of his crack team that introduced cellular telephony into India. Over time, I noticed that there was a pattern to the way he was treating me. He was harassing me. His style of harassment was personal and abusive at one level and physically exhausting at another. He would call me names and would keep me unsettled for 20 hours a day, constantly ensuring that I was either traveling across continents, or running between the floors in hotels we stayed in doing petty errands for him. I was always backlogged on my Things To Do and therefore I was stressed out at all times of the day. Further he would not allow me to travel back to India to meet my family on short vacations (even at my expense) for birthdays or for a wedding anniversary. One day I asked him why was he doing what he was doing to me. He replied saying he was avenging an article, which critically examined his chequered past a businessman, I wrote about him when I was working with Business Today magazine. He said he employed me so that he could make me his ‘white-collared slave’. I resolved to quit; but I decided I would quit only when I had become totally indispensable to him. So I worked hard to achieve that goal of mine in six months and I left him when everything in his multi-million dollar business empire and Life depended on one man – AVIS!
I learnt a lot about being victim, closure and moving on from that experience. As I lay in bed last night, preparing to sleep, I thought about the conversation over coffee, and the two questions that came up – “Why do people hurt others and why do victims suffer in silence?” – in the backdrop of my own learnings.
First, I believe people who are causing pain – physical, emotional, whatever – to others are actually suffering themselves. Their behavior mirrors what they are going through within themselves. My mother browbeat us perhaps because that is what she had experienced – as a child, as a daughter-in-law and maybe emotional strife is all what she had seen. My former employer harassed me because maybe he was intrinsically insecure. Despite all his wealth, he was always chasing his tail making more money and had no family Life for himself, and all his time he had spent check-mating people to make business deals; so he was continuously wary of being check-mated himself! I am not trying to justify people’s behaviors here. I am just saying that this is one possibility why people bizarrely end up hurting others.
Now, we end up suffering as victims when people harass us because we are so shocked and numbed by their behavior when it all begins. And by the time we realize that we are being exploited, we have become a victim – cowering in fear and wallowing in self-pity. The only way to stop being a victim in any situation is to say no. When you feel uncomfortable doing something or in the presence of someone or when something is done to you, just say no. Each of us has the option to say NO – all the time! And only when we utilize that option, we stop being the victim. When you stop being the victim, even if the pain endures, even when the perpetrator continues to try to harm you, you don’t suffer. And in most cases, when you turn around and face your perpetrator, or what you fear, in the eye, the victimization stops.
It is only when you are facing Life and saying no to what you don’t like done to you that you become stronger. And Life is all about getting stronger at dealing with situations, becoming courageous by looking what you fear in the eye.
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In Life’s darkest moments, remember, the light within you can show you the way!
A friend who works with a large US-based financial institution called me a couple of hours ago. He is the head of operations of this company’s back-office in Pune. Many of his company’s Asia-Pac business leadership has quit in the last week. Actually, with an acquisition n India having gone awry, the US office has asked the Asia-Pac business leaders to own accountability and leave. My friend has over the last 10 years built a reputation for himself within the company as a reliable and responsible manager. Therefore, he was allowed a higher degree of empowerment. He was, exceptionally, allowed to lead the company’s largest global back-office in Pune. Which meant that his centre accounted for the highest payroll in the company. But just this week, with the top heads quitting, the Pune centre has been made directly reported to a person sitting in UK. My friend called me to seek my view on making sense of this development. “I am very uncomfortable that my empowerment is withdrawn. I fear I will be axed,” he told me. He was sounding very, very disturbed. I told him: “You are feeling insecure. Which is natural. Accept your insecurity. Talk to your new boss or even to your global CEO and ask them upfront if the reason for this change has anything to do with their view of your efficiency as the centre head. If your insecurity persists, despite that conversation, go look for another job. If you get one that you like, move. If you don’t get one or don’t want to move even after getting another offer, at least you would have realized the value of what you have on hand and you will be able to be more productive and efficient. Important, you will stop feeling insecure and disturbed.”
For various reasons, in myriad situations, each of us encounters insecurity. The best way to deal with insecurity is to accept that it is there.
Insecurity is a normal human response to situations that you can’t immediately make sense of. Metaphorically, you are groping in the dark. There is no light. Suddenly you feel lost. Lonely. You are filled with fear. What do you do? Well, you can shiver and shudder. You can cry in despair. But soon you realize that none of that can drive the darkness away. What you need is light – and you don’t have a source like a torch or a matchbox or such. So, when you understand and accept the hopelessness of the situation, when you embrace your insecurity, you will be able think with greater clarity. And then the greatest realization will dawn on you – you don’t need any light from the outside; you are the light! The light from within is what can and will guide you onward. This light is your faith, your trust in the process of Life, that no matter what, you will get what you need, you will be cared for and looked after.
When you think about Life deeply, you will recognize the truth that there is nothing called security. On the vast cosmic plane, the human being is as powerless as an ant is in front of humans. One event, and in under a moment, a Life is snuffed out. So what security are you and I seeking when we can never really escape the inevitable end, death? When you understand this quality – its impermanence – about Life, you will stop seeking security.
In the course of a lifetime, there will be several million, or more, occasions when you will feel insecure. Accept your insecurity every single time. When you do that, your awareness, through your acceptance, will remind you each time that the security you crave for is a myth. Then insecurity will not hound and haunt you. You will be free from it. You will then be happy despite your circumstances.
You too can be courageous in a situation – if you choose to face whatever you fear!
A reader of my Book ‘Fall Like A Rose Petal’ (Westland) met me at The Uncommon Leader Event I was curating last evening. He said he found my Book very useful in developing the courage to deal with his own Life: “I was running away from my problems. Your story inspired me to turn around and face Life. Thank you!”
I am grateful to this reader for his feedback. It makes me feel blessed that our experience and learnings are useful for someone, somewhere.
It is only through living with fear, from feeling insecure, desperate and despondent, that I personally woke up to the futility of those emotions. When I was tired of living that way, I decided to turn around and face my situation. And, interestingly, what I feared most stopped haunting me. In fact, my worst fears have never come true and only facing my fears have made me be courageous in dark, apparently, no-go situations!
To be sure, fear spares no one. Even so, interestingly, all of us have the ability to be courageous. Because courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is what fear delivers when you face up to the fear. Only when you face up to something, will you realize that it cannot harm you; only what you run away from chases you, haunts you.
For instance, with a health challenge like cancer, you will feel fearful of death. But as long as you run scared of death, it will torment you. But the moment you discover that death is a non-negotiable eventuality that all of us who are born have to confront, you will no longer fear death. Then you start living. And you begin to feel blessed that at least you reasonably know how much time you have left to live. So, you start investing in the process of living than obsess with the process of dying. Clearly, fear of death has delivered to you the ability, the courage, to live simply because you stopped running away from death.
So, it is with every Life situation. The more you run away from a problem, the more fearful you will be. When you face it, the problem, even if it doesn’t go away, will at least stop tormenting you. Try this approach on anything that you are dealing with presently – watch your fear dissolve and feel the courage rising in you! Let me assure you, you will feel infinitely stronger, no matter what your circumstances are!
- Even wishing a situation doesn’t exist is a luxury many don’t have. Anand Jon surely doesn’t!
- The only way to be free from suffering is to accept pain: Assuming his cases are not immediately reopened through appeal (at the moment, the family does not have the financial wherewithal to support this) in a higher US court, what other way does Anand Jon have than to accept his Life for what it is?