Coping with workplace abuse by challenging thought patterns

Thoughts lead to emotions, and emotions can spiral out of control, leaving you feeling helpless, depressed, and anxious. That's one of the lessons from a 5-week class I took called "Secrets to a Satisfied Life," a course about taking control of your life path and inner peace.

The teacher introduced a "challenging beliefs worksheet" used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a disorder common with veterans and targets of workplace abuse, which can cause shock to a positive, trusting worldview. Though some say human connection and validation are most effective for coping with workplace abuse, these ideas can still be helpful.

The idea with the worksheet is to change a pattern of problematic thinking and reframe it. Do you have evidence? Are you confusing the possible with the likely? Are you jumping to conclusions? Are you oversimplifying a problem? (This coping technique by no means excuses workplace abuse. It is simply a way to help you unteach yourself the abuser's toxic lessons.)

Walking through reframing a thought pattern
For example, you might believe you're incompetent because your boss treats you like you are. Following the worksheet:

A. She may have belittled you at a meeting or given you unreasonable expectations.

B. Your stuck point may be that you're not good enough.

C. You might feel hurt, angry, or resentful.

D. You challenge the thought. You may realize you're accepting a lie.

E. You might decide that your boss puffs up her feathers and belittles and acts pompous when she's threatened by your competence. Your worry about your own self-worth.

F. When she belittles you next time, you can say to yourself "this belittling is just her insecurity talking. It has nothing to do with me, but I'll take it as a back-handed compliment."

G. Now you realize you are good enough — better than good enough, actually.

H. You feel much better.

Try these steps next time you're abused or you find yourself in negative self-talk or overwhelmed with negative emotions. See if it will help you separate yourself from your abuser's toxic worldview and understand it has nothing to do with you.

Worksheet source:

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