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Book Review: Mobbed

Book review of
Mobbed!: What to Do When They Really Are Out to Get You

by Janice Harper, Ph.D.
Self-help, Abuse
234 pages, Backdoor Press (2013)

Reviewed by Anne Smith

Janice Harper is an author and cultural anthropologist. In her book Mobbed!: What to Do When They Really Are Out to Get You, she combines her career and personal experiences. The result is a very well written examination of mobbing. First, it is good to know we define bullying as when one person repeatedly and purposefully hurts another. More than one person bullying is known as a mob or mobbing. Harper states that group mentality (a mob) takes on a mind of it’s own and is much more difficult and devastating for the target. Everyone is at their worst in a mobbing explains Harper. The tension and stress is high. What is very interesting is that Mobbed! is written for work place mobbing, but the similarities between parent estrangement by your adult child and mobbing in the workplace are strikingly similar.

Harper begins with research and information about animal behavior and reveals similarities to human behavior. She then focuses on what to expect when someone attacks you, spreads lies, alienates or shuns you, defames your reputation or character. It is good to hear you are not alone and that your feelings are ‘normal’. It’s also good to hear what you could do to make things better and what you should avoid doing so you don’t make things worse.

Harper’s approach is very different from the many authors who write on the subject of bullying or mobbing. While most will tell you to ‘talk it out’ with the bully or ‘stand up’ to the bully, Harper suggests we stay quiet and step out of the way of the bully and focus on ourselves instead. We cannot change the mind of someone who is full of rage, hate, or anger. You will not change the person who is bullying so do not try. If you could manage to move forward knowing that, you are likely to find peace.

Harper emphasizes that is extremely important to find a way to feel compassion for those doing the mobbing. Without it, it will be very difficult for you to grow from this experience and heal. She explains that in any social situation, we must stop thinking in terms of good, bad, or evil. What we are seeing in a mobbing are good people going wrong.

Speaking to others, going on and on to family and friends about the situation may alienate you even more. Even your closest family member or friend will tire of the stories. The problem is that you are rightfully overwhelmed, scared, and engulfed in this situation. You must find peace with the compassion for those involved, and then redirect your focus on yourself.

You may be shocked at the turn around from some family and friends. Accusations from the ones you once trusted will hurt you the most. As the mobbing continues, a shift in thinking may occur in some people close to you as they move from ‘what they are doing to you’ to ‘what you did to deserve it’. This is not because those bullying you are correct. It is a normal reaction in a very crazy situation..

I highly recommend Mobbed! to anyone who is mobbed at work or estranged by his or her adult child. The topics covered and the expertise provided delivers a powerful message. Harper does a great job as she explains we cannot shun people, mob or bully them. It is not the way to handle our issues. Also, we cannot change someone else. We can only help ourselves and learn from our own experiences

Get Free of the Pain of Betrayal

getting over betrayalWhen People Hurt Us: Getting Free of the Pain of Betrayal

In the spirit of the Independence Day holiday, let’s talk about getting free of the hurt and pain that goes along with betrayal.

When it comes to betrayal, the effects that can seem to go on forever, Sometimes tough questions can help. Here is one to consider asking yourself. Take a few quiet moments to reflect upon the thought, and see how your own responses might make a difference.

Getting over betrayal: How am I participating?

When it comes to the emotional upheaval, the upset, the pain, the anger, and continued hurt that can go with getting over betrayal, are you acting in ways that keep the effects of the betrayal alive?

Getting over betrayal: Setting yourself up for hurt?

Laurie, the mother of a daughter who’s been estranged for nearly four years told me she never fails to send a card or text at every holiday and on her daughter’s birthday.

“I don’t know why I bother anymore,” Laurie says. “I’ve learned by now that it only means I’ll be waiting for a reply. Then when there is none, I grieve all over again.” This mom has reasoned that she can’t let those special days pass without comment. “I feel like it’s the only way to let my daughter know that I still love her,” she says. Laurie is hoping that one day, if she keeps up the contact, her daughter will come around. But she also admits, “I know I’m setting myself up for hurt, and I’d like to stop doing that.”

Getting over betrayal: Reliving the hurt?

Jackie, another mom, told me, “My son won’t speak to me anymore.” Jackie kept the email her son sent when he cut her out of his life. “For two years, I would pull up the email and re-read it,” she says. “And when I did, I was angry all over again.” For Jackie, the anger represented a bit of independence. “It was better than feeling sad,” she explains. “So pulling up that email now and again when I was sad actually helped.” Then Jackie’s hard drive crashed. “At first I was mortified,” she says. “My last communication from my son . . . gone.”

Losing the email was like facing the entire loss all over again. Jackie cried off and on for several weeks. “I even tried to remember the exact words he’d said and write them down,” she says. “But focusing so intently on remembering his horrible words also made me realize that I was continuing to relive the experience. I’d set up a shrine of sorts, holding those last words he’d said to me as sacred, even though they hurt. It was like engraving his cruelty on my heart over and over again.”

Jackie describes the realization like a weight being lifted from her shoulders. “I was lucky to have that computer crash to do the hard work for me,” she says. “Losing that email from my estranged son was freeing. Life’s too short to relive the past and be angry.” Since then, Jackie has taken down photographs of her son, and packed up his sports trophies and other effects she’d been hanging onto. “I don’t need the constant reminder of somebody who doesn’t care about me, even if he is my son. And it’s made more room for people who do care about being my life.”

Jackie isn’t the only mom to hang onto anger as a step up from the horrible pain that goes with an adult child’s estrangement. People in all sorts of betrayal situations find themselves holding onto anger because, at least in the beginning, the anger feels better than the crushing pain of rejection. But for many, there comes a time when anger hinders them from moving on.

Getting over betrayal: How can I hold myself accountable?

Once we recognize what we’re doing to renew our hurt, stay angry to avoid another type of pain, or otherwise act in ways that keep our hurting fresh, it can help to devise a plan to halt the behavior.

“I’ve decided that I won’t send out holiday cards anymore,” says Laurie. “And on my daughter’s birthday, I will only text. No card. No present or money.”

An emergency call out.

Because Laurie believes it’s so important to keep the door open with at least some contact, she’s made a compromise with herself to limit her efforts. Laurie believes this will be difficult, so she’s asked a close friend to provide support around the holidays and as her daughter’s birthday nears. “She won’t have to do anything, really,” says Laurie. “Just listen if I call or text, and remind me of the decision I made and why.”

Laurie’s plan is a sort of emergency call out, which can be effective.

Keeping reminders ready.

Candace, a young woman who had an unhealthy relationship with a boyfriend she kept returning to, created note cards to help herself. On each card, she listed reasons why she didn’t really want to get back together with him. In times of weakness, Candace would turn to those cards she pasted up in frequented areas at home, kept in several handbags, and in her desk drawer at work. “Whenever I’d get lonely for him, I’d pull out the cards,” Candace says. “Eventually, the longing went away.” Three years after making a decision and creating those note cards, Candace got married to a man who treats her well. “We’re a good match and very happy,” she says.

What ways can you hold yourself accountable and break free of activity that keeps the hurt of betrayal fresh?

Please share your thoughts and your wins by leaving a comment below.

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Wabi-sabi: Letting go, living in the present

wabi sabi blooming weeds by Sheri McGregor

What seems like eons ago, in a junior high sewing class, a teacher we’ll call Mrs. Horne instructed with an air of rigid perfection. She was tall and thin, and wore her creamy blonde hair in a flawless French roll secured with a tortoise comb. She made all of her clothes: polyester pantsuits with sleeves hemmed to highlight French cuffs with pearl buttons, and leg lengths just right to show off polished ivory pumps.

Letting go, staying mindful of the present, embracing the process. . . . These bring balance and joy.

Mrs. Horne’s apparel with its perfectly aligned buttonholes and even top-stitching in complimentary hues was nothing like my own home-sewn garments. Her clothes looked factory-made, where each piece is the responsibility of a single skilled person who works with practiced precision.

Having learned to sew at age 12 on an old treadle machine that was once my grandmother’s, my sewing creations had never been so perfect. Like many youngsters, it wasn’t about the perfection. It was the doing, the learning, the creating of the moment that brought me joy. I loved those imperfectly handsewn clothes anyway, and loved the process.

My mother taught by example not to waste, so when a garment came out too big, I took it in. When the sides of a frustrating zipper didn’t close evenly at the top, I trimmed down one side of the band, or wore a shirt out to cover the flaw. An accidental hole was incorporated into the design by using a homemade patch in the shape of a heart or flower. For me, sewing was an expression, a joy, a useful way to fill my time. That’s why my less-than-perfect classroom grade didn’t bother me. 

lady bugMany years later in an art class, I learned about Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, of embracing mistakes, and I realized I’d been practicing the art all along. For instance, my garden is a lovely tumble of imperfection. Some parts of the happy family home I’ve worked at for more than two and a half decades are a mesh of mistakes, but beautiful anyway. Wabi-sabi is the art of embracing life as it comes, and creating beauty with the happenstance.

In Japan, pottery cracks may be mended with seams of gold, generating strength and making use of the broken. Here in my American life, I might interpret wabi-sabi as looking for the silver lining in a bad situation. Or finding strength in my weakest moments – – and transforming loss. I might slather more butter on a too-dry slice of home baked bread, or decide that even weeds look pretty when in bloom. And there are plenty of weeds. They also attract beneficial insects.

Mrs. Horne could have used a little wabi-sabi. One day, she singled out a student who had joined our class mid-term. She called attention to the “dull blue blouse” the girl wore each day, and the “dirt-caked jeans” Mrs. Horne figured she never washed.

The bell rang, and as we all got up to go, I looked back and saw the girl still sitting at the long table close to the front of the room. Her limp dark hair parted over slumped shoulders. Was she crying?

By the end of the day, we all knew the student’s story. That blouse and jeans were the girl’s only clothes. That’s why she had joined the sewing class in the first place. Amid her circumstances, she was attempting to learn and grow.

I imagined Mrs. Horne discovering her mistake. I saw her brushing back a tuft of corn silk hair that had fallen loose during her outburst. The feathery tendril softened the sharp planes of her face. As the story around my school went, Mrs. Horne had used the machines in the home economics department to launder the girl’s clothes during lunch. She told that student she could stay after school to wash her clothing anytime.

I don’t know for sure, but I like to believe that teacher helped the girl even more that year, maybe sewing her some new clothes from the scraps of fabric and full bolts of cloth she kept in the classroom storage closet. Maybe she dragged out students’ old tries at sewing that they’d left behind. Taught her to fix a zipper here, take in a waistband there. Nips and tucks that made those discarded garments the girl’s very own. We saw the student around school with a widening wardrobe.

Purpose from loss

And as the years passed, I like to imagine that Mrs. Horne looked for other students that might need her help. If she embraced her mistake, learned from it, and became a better person, then she practiced wabi-sabi. And through the student’s attempt to transform loss and make the best of her situation, she helped Mrs. Horne find more meaning and derive a deeper purpose from her profession.

Even a seemingly perfect teacher without a single hair out of place could learn from her mistakes, set aside her ready judgment and look past the surface to what might exist beneath. I like to think that young girl taught her something. That student was attempting to transform loss. She had lost her parents, and was living with relatives who didn’t have much. So, she was learning to sew.

We can all use a little wabi-sabi attitude, and learn to appreciate the unexpected accidents, frustrations, and grief of life. When it comes to dark periods and daily problems, we can choose to grow brittle and bitter, and be as ready as Mrs. Horne was to find others’ faults. Or, we can embrace the happenstance, let our negative experiences benefit us and those around us, transform loss, and make ourselves more useful. A little wabi-sabi sweetens the flavor of life’s accidents and mistakes, helps us recognize the growth in grief, and softens the palate to find what’s right in the wrong.

Stuck? More like sitting pretty

Not long ago, my husband and I were stuck in a traffic jam in an unfamiliar area. Although we tried to find side streets, the roads all led back to the bottleneck.

I’m not always so sensible, but on that day, I made a good choice. “Well, at least I’m with you,” I said, letting go of the annoyance of being stuck, and relishing the isolated time with my best friend instead.

He settled back into the soft seat, and flipped a CD to an old song that always makes us smile.

What accidents or irritations can you embrace? With a new perspective, can you turn to gold or silver the stuff that happens? With an open mind and a willing attitude, even in the worst of life’s challenges, we can find beauty and value, and give life as it is a hug.

When you do that, you’ll be practicing the ancient art of wabi-sabi.

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