A journal of healing

Harassment

This idea for this post came from my Doc friend’s blog. She was talking about harassment and where does the line get drawn. She had a patient who was making passes at her staff in jest, but it was still annoying. Of course it was annoying. It was harassment. And as I wrote back to her, harassment is determined by the person who is receiving it, not the person who is inflicting it. It has nothing to do with the intent. It is all about how something is received.

I also went on to say that for someone who has a traumatic childhood, or was a victim of sexual abuse or other violent acts, the response to someone’s intent to be funny has just the opposite effect. It can cause a major trigger that can put someone into a tailspin for days and weeks. They may not even know what they are reacting to. It could be a word or even the tone of the harasser.

Harassment can come in many forms. Often people think they are doing a good thing. But someone who constantly harasses someone from the concept of improving the person is totally misguided. What makes that person think they have that right? What makes them so superior to be able to comment?

As I thought about this all week, it hit me that parents come from a point of improving their child but when does it become harassment? Isn’t improving a child the role of a parent? Is there a point when the parent should stop trying to improve their child?

What about a spouse or your partner? Is it ok to harass them into doing something, especially when it affects your family or home? It probably is not ok, but it is hard not to do. I speak from experience.

My husband’s 28 year old daughter will not learn to drive. This makes me crazy. She is terrified, she says. She finally got her permit and then took one lesson. This took three years to accomplish. She said the lesson went ok. But she has made no attempt to continue.  Instead, she relies on her father to tote her around like Miss Daisy. I think he enjoys her dependency on him. Did I say this drives me nuts?

I am skilled in motivation interviewing. I teach it matter of fact. I know in my heart that I am not going to move either one of them on this topic, so I resort to harassment- truth be told. My intent to get his daughter to drive is based on the best interests for her. I want her to be independent and not have to rely on US for the rest of her life. We won’t be there. She has no other family and she has no friends. Her mother passed away at the age of 52. She instilled this irrational fear to drive in her daughter as the mother never drove.

The real reason the daughter won’t drive is because then she will be expected to do something with her life. That ain’t happening either. I know this probably irks me more than anything. What a waste.

Does harassing them help? Absolutely not. It only escalates my anger and frustration more. Can I walk away from it? NO. It slaps me in the face every time she calls her father for a favor. There was over twelve years when his daughter was out in California with her mother that she never called or spoke to her father. It hurt him to the core. But when the mother died, it was; “Oh, Daddy.” He can’t see it or chooses not to.

The bottom line is it still harassment, even with the good intent. I know in my heart I want her to have a life and not rot away like her mother did. I am sad that she is wasting her life. She has all the capabilities to do whatever she wants, but she chooses the easy way out. I have no right to her life. But boy, it is hard to keep my mouth shut. I am so helpless on this because she is not even my kid.

The bottom line is harassment is a person attempt to control. It is coming at someone from the viewpoint of superiority, or desiring some effect of change. I lived with harassment my whole life. Although it was sometimes masked in humor, it was my family’s way to control and inflict. Years of harassment left me sensitive to being criticized in any manner.

We cannot change people. We can influence them, we can teach, we can support. But it is impossible to change someone who does not want to. But damn, its hard not to do.

 

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Comments on: "Harassment" (8)

  1. I am conflicted on this. On one hand I agree completely with what you are saying, on another I do not. I agree some harassment is wrong. That if a persons says that they are uncomfortable with something that the person must stop what they are doing. Though what if it is for the greater good if the person? Like with the driving. It is unfair for her to expect her father to take her everywhere and it would benefit her to learn. If she says she won’t though would it truly be helpful to drop the topic. What happens if you or her father can not be reached and she is having an emergency. Will she just wait till she gets a hold of you or wouldn’t it be better for her to have that skill.

    Harassment and just basic encouragment (?) Are two totally different things. We want our children to do better even if they do not see it at the time. The line between the two is fairly fine though.
    I do not know though. I am only 23 myself and can’t drive. I am afriad but i do not have that support from anyone trying to get me to learn.

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  2. Encouragement and harassment are two different things. When does encouragement become harassment? When it is persistent and unwelcome. When I am getting my kids ready for school, I sometimes find myself shouting up at them every two minutes to get their bo-hiney’s downstairs pronto. I do this for twenty minutes. No wonder they aren’t listening. I am a broken record they have tuned out. Harassment, not encouragement. It works better to explain expectations (get down by 7AM), assign a punishment (missing a star on their chart and having plain toast instead of something on it), and then enforcing it. Sexual harassment is a completely different animal. It has to be assumed to be offensive from the start. That patient was not joking. He was dead serious. He really wanted her to go on a date with him. Her NO was not taken for what it was. He kept asking. That is harassment.

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  3. thank you for your comments. I think you are right about encouragement, but if the child perceives it as harassment, is it?
    As far as an emergency, we had that happen. first thing she did was call her father. She fell. She wanted us to rush over and see her. We did not. However, her father took her to emergent care the next day as she sprained her ankle and it was swollen.. You cannot turn away in a situation like that.
    I also understand the fear about driving, however, there is no mass transit here and taxis are outrageous. She is pretty much stuck in her condo because she cannot drive.She walks to work.

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  4. It’s really not my business, but it seems at 28, she is old enough to take a bus or a cab – or walk. No one should be her chauffeur. But if neither your husband nor his daughter is willing to change, why waste your breath? They’re feeding off each other and seem to be ok with the situation, annoying as it may be for you. Were it me, I would just go off in my own car and do my own thing – but that’s probably just me.

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  5. Encouragement is something I have done in buckets. I used MI on her to have her see the possibilities of things she could do if she drove. She was on board and that’s how we got her to get her permit. But now, we have nothing to “hold” over her to get her going. It is so sad.

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  6. I hear you. This issue is that if I do not work with her to be independent, she will end up worse off. As I said, she has no one else. No friends. Nothing. Her mother made her totally dependent on her, including as a friend. Now she is gone and her daughter is suffering from depression, is eating crap and she is very heavy, pre-diabetic, and had not seen a dentist or doctor in 13 years. Could you stand by and let her continue to live like that? I cannot.

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  7. No, as a mother, I probably couldn’t stand by and just watch, either. Good luck, Jane.

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  8. I believe that there is a lot of stuff that parent’s do that frustrates us. Some good and some bad. I think that if it is for the good of the child then a little harassment is ok from time to time as long as the parent doesn’t punish the child for not doing exactly as they say. Encourage them with love and kindness.

    I am sorry you all went through that I know it can be scary to stuff like that happen. Maybe in the bear future she will learn. Some tough love could help even if she starts to dislike you for it. It is for her development in the end.

    As long as the encouragement is for the greater good of the child and not for just the convience of the parent all is ok in my eyes.

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