The Invisible Seduction

 

Copyright© 2021. Deborah J Crozier.

The right of Deborah J Crozier to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All Rights Reserved.

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When I began presenting STAND for the prevention grooming behaviours in 2015, it was with the sole intention of contributing to the prevention of Child Sexual Abuse by raising awareness of how adults are groomed. At the time, the NSPCC website had suggested  'Vulnerable' children where at a much higher risk of Sexual Abuse; i.e disadvantaged, disabled, living in poverty etc. , although there was nothing on their website relating to grooming behaviours available at the time.

My argument was that All children are vulnerable due to having limited choices, and what I meant by that was, as adults; parents, step-parents, grandparents, teachers  - we often over rule children's choices without even thinking about it...

CHILD: "I don't like sprouts"  ADULT; "Eat your Greens, they are good for you"

CHILD: "I don't want to go to bed", ADULT: "Its bedtime, you have an early start in the morning"

CHILD: "I don't want to go swimming with uncle Bobby!!!! ," ADULT: " Don't be silly, go and fetch your swim kit"

[Despite a the positive response from  Directors and various heads of departments, including the Home Office, the NSPCC decided not to run with STAND Grooming Behaviours in the end,  instead they focused on their PANTS campaign - teaching children to speak out if someone asks to look at their pants.  While I believe the campaign has its place, I have a few concerns that `I want to share;

Firstly, it is not the responsibility of the child to protect themselves. While it is right that we teach them to be careful and responsible, protecting children from sexual abuse is the job of the adults, therefore far more effort should go into training parents and caregivers. Secondly, Childrens brains are not fully developed until they reach their late teens. children have no comprehension of sexual abuse, and if someone asks to see their pants, they have no way of linking that behaviour to the horrific experience of sexual abuse that could potentially follow. What happens if the child gets it wrong? What if they miss the signs because they don't know they are there? Let's face it, adults rarely see it coming, how are innocent children expected to know? . What is the long term repercussions and a child's mental health having learned about PANTS in infant school, but not recognising the importance of it should they then find themselves in that situation - guilt, self loathing, shame and blame, a life time of misery.  Unable to say anything because with hind sight, they believe they should have known better. This has the potential to create more vulnerable adults in my view. Finally, if a perpetrator is asking to look at a Childs pants, I worry they, and even their parents may have already been groomed, and therefore this isn't exactly prevention in my view. Early intervention should be delivered by adults/parents/caregivers,  whose job it is to protect children, and who have been trained to spot the signs of grooming, and anything that can contribute to prevention should be encouraged, especially when its being offered for free - but that's just my lived experience and professional opinion.]

As adults, we are the first and often only line of defence in protecting children. Yet it is often the case that the parent/s are targeted by the perpetrator first, as a means of gaining access to the child! Winning favour and gaining the trust of the adult protectors first - makes it much easier to get to a child.

While the over riding of our Childrens choices may be well intended, what happens when the choices we make for lead to adverse consequences for the child, or any individual concerned whose choices have been overruled? Often, there are clues in what isn't being said if we choose to listen; (I don't want to go swimming with uncle Bobby) for example!

When we press ahead without listening, over riding choices on auto pilot with the assumption that we know best or have all the answers - we are heading straight for trouble!

Exercising our Right to Choose what we believe is right for ourselves, is incredibly important and must always be protected.

Even as adults, we want to believe nothing bad could ever happen to us; bad things happen to others. We imagine we know what perpetrators of sexual abuse are likely to look like, or at least - we  imagine we will instinctively know if someone capable of such unthinkable behaviours are in our midst. Something in their appearance, the way they behave perhaps - we not be able to article it, but we are sure something would give them away and alert us, the responsible adult to the dangers - and we would take the appropriate action to protect those around us. It's a belief that is unfounded of-course. Chances are, we wouldn't have a clue, more often than not it is the last person we would ever imagine it to be.

So where do these ideas come from?

Well firstly, the way our brains work as demonstrated in the workshops with the exercise' What's in the Tin'?, (bottom up processing) - we are drawing on past experiences - filling in the blanks with what we assumes to be true given what we already know. When we see someone who in our past experience appears to be decent, honest, trustworthy, professional, reliable - our guard drops. When someone is wearing a uniform - Doctor, Nurse or Police officer -  the universal uniform of trust - we tend to trust upfront based on what we assume to be true. We imagine it's someone else's job to do the checking, and we trust given how important it is, that they will have done a thorough job.

Then, for some of us there will undoubtedly be the impact of Public information advertisements in the 70s and 80s that will have shaped the view of many parents, and grandparents warning us all about Stranger Danger. Screechy, jaws type music and terrifying images depicting sinister looking, white, middle aged men dressed in flasher Macs with glowing red eyes, frequenting kids playgrounds with pockets full of sweeties and the promise of viewing some puppies. These strange looking men were alleged to be found hiding in bushes or hanging around schools and parks, driving old cars with metal coat hangers used as make shift Ariel's protruding from the bonnet. This may give the impression that perpetrators are at the poorer end of society, people who cannot afford to fix or buy cars. Images burned into our minds. No sight of celebrities, police officers, MP's, Judges or priests - no mention of gender or race. Such is the power of the media, it had us all convinced we knew exactly who we were looking for, the suspects were obvious and stood out like a sore thumb - middle aged, white working class men.  In reality of-course, the majority of sexual crimes committed against children have always been committed by someone known to the child, Often its someone closer to home, often someone that we trust.

Lets consider vulnerable;

What is Vulnerability?

According to the Oxford Dictionary Vulnerability is someone who is

“In need of special care, support or protection because of age, disability or risk of abuse or neglect”

What makes someone Vulnerable? (not an exhaustive list - feel free to add your own)

Temporary Health IssuesAccident/Diagnosis/Hospitalization

Mental Health Issues - Trauma/Depression/Uncertainty

Learning Disabilities - Considered incapable of making informed decisions

Unemployment - Loss of income/Purpose/Engagement

Uninformed - Incapable of making informed decisions

Naïve/Passive/Fearful/ Lacks confidence/ Easily manipulated, Coerced/Silenced

Permanent Health Issues - Deaf/Blind/Chronic Illness

Divorce/ Separation - Disconnection/Loneliness/Isolation/Alienation

Financial Difficulties/Poverty - Debt/Cause for worry & concern/Potential ruin/Homelessness

Grief/Bereavement - Loss of a loved one/Empty Nest Syndrome/Trauma

Previous Experience/Trauma - Grief/Loss/Domestic Violence/Poverty/Attempted Suicide/Depression/Criminality/Addiction/Accident/Illness

Abusive Environments - Domestic Violence/Bullying/Emotional, Physical, Sexual, Financial abuse/Oppression/

Age - Elderly, Young, Midlife Crisis, Menopause etc.

Hands up - Who considers themselves Vulnerable then?

We tend to consider ‘Vulnerable’ people as ‘them’ rather that as Us, especially true of those tasked with delivering healthcare services. It is vital we are able to recognise our own vulnerabilities if we want to be able to support others, because failing to recognise our own vulnerabilities, in itself, makes us vulnerable. All of us fit into at least one, if not several of these categories - ergo, All of us are vulnerable!

The importance of recognising our own vulnerabilities!

  • Failing to recognise our own vulnerabilities; makes us vulnerable!
  • We are all vulnerable, we live in a vulnerable world
  • Embracing our own vulnerabilities allows us to accept our own weaknesses and imperfections
  • Compassion and Care begins with self; one cannot truly care for others unless we care about ourselves

“Vulnerability is based in fear, shame, disconnection and worthlessness, 

Vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, creativity, love and belonging” (Brene Brown)

If we agree it is vulnerable people who are mainly targets of grooming behaviours, we must also accept that vulnerability is part of the human condition and we are all, each and every single one of us are vulnerable to have any chance of protecting ourselves and our children.

What might grooming look like? (stay with me on this, and I will take you through the invisible seduction in a way you would not expect)

The 5 Ps of Grooming

If you type the word ‘Grooming‘ into the Google search engine (which is how many people find their information these days) it will provide you with the following Oxford dictionary definition.

The 'action' by a paedophile of preparing a child for a meeting, especially via an internet chat room, with the intention of committing a sexual offence'
'Online grooming has become a growing cause for concern'.
— Oxford Dictionary online

While there are a number of definitions of Grooming available online, I believe this one is particularly misleading. Not only paedophiles groom. Both adults and children
can be groomed. People groom people for a variety of reasons not only for committing a sexual offence.

For the purposes of clarity, I describe the act of grooming as follows:

"Grooming is a process of manipulating a person's, Thoughts and Feelings, in order to secure an Action or Outcome that is advantageous to the Manipulator".
— Deborah J Crozier

 1.People

Q. Who Grooms, Who Manipulates?

A. People! All kinds of people, Irrespective of Gender, Age, Status, Race or Religion!

Examples of Grooming (not an exhaustive list):

Paedophiles grooming children – on or off-line

Exploitation/ Slavery

Drug Dealers/Sex Traffickers

Scams/Phishing (for financial gain)

Pursuing relationships for financial or sexual gain

Fake Workmen claims (financial gain) / Fake Holiday Lets (Financial gain)

2. Persona

Something manipulators tend to have in common is Persona, which is what makes them difficult to spot. Let’s face it, most of us have a persona - presenting our ‘best selves to
the world whenever we need to.

"A Persona is a mask or façade, presented to satisfy the demands of a situation or environment, and not representing the inner personality of the individual - The Public image - Carl Jung

Most people have a persona, and are capable of presenting our ‘best selves to the world whenever we need to! Many of us were brought in an era that taught us not to express, but rather to suppress our emotions; children should be seen and not heard era/boys don't cry,  don't to wash our dirty linen in public – regardless of how we may be feeling underneath, we were taught 'how bad it was to show emotion'. We weren't taught how to deal with the emotions that were bubbling away underneath - stiff upper lip, was the order of the day - we have been conditioned to suppress,  smile and to just get on with it!

The birth of social media such as Facebook and Instagram, ushered in the influencers and the  new age of Persona, where incongruence is king; profiles and selfies that no way resemble the truth that is masked underneath. (Check out sliding scale of narcissistic traits in some of my other blog posts). 

3. Process

We often hear Grooming referred to as a 'Grooming Process'

What is a process?

According to the Oxford Dictionary online;

'A process is a series of actions or steps taken to achieve a
particular outcome. A desired result.'

Unlike the previous Oxford definition I gave about grooming, that suggests ‘ its the 'action' by a paedophile of preparing a child for a meeting’

A process is a Series of pre-determined Actions or Steps’! Pre-determined, as in Planned!

Why is this important to know? Because It provides the opportunity to consider what those actions or steps could look like.

We use processes all the time in our every day lives;  Making a cup of tea for example – Boil the kettle, put the teabag in the cup, add sugar, pour on the hot water, leave to mash, remove teabag, add milk. The result being a cup of tea! That's a process.
We use processes in business every day to achieve results, make sales, earn money.

Let’s look at how a sales process might work to achieve a desired outcome.

Fig 1.

Fig 1.

 

In Figure 1 we have a Sales process as frequently used by salespeople in the Motor Trade. There is nothing extraordinary about this particular process, you can witness this process being used in sales environments everywhere - if you're familiar with sales, you may have used this or something very similar yourself - lets call this 'a general sales process'.

There are other sales processes out there that are considered 'unprofessional'; cold calling, pressure sales - i.e the Pendle system - often used to sell timeshare and in perpetuity agreements.  Auto-expo;  a cold calling system that uses subliminal messages in the script to try to manipulate customers into 'come down, buy car - buy, buy, buy now!.

Incidentally, there is some troubling terminology used in the motor trade which may give an indiction of where and from whom the sales process originates.

"Lads, get out there, There are Victims on the pitch" Target, Mark! "I lifted his leg! - "I took her pants down" "I [financially] raped the customer" "Here comes a screamer - (a dissatisfied customer) Here comes a Sui (metaphorically waving a white flag of surrender), 

You may be pleased to know, that the general sales process we are focusing on, is just a straight forward, simple and professional sales process - nothing untoward.

Shaped like a a funnel; The name of the game is to take the customer through each of the six stages of the process from start to finish, without missing any of the stages out to ensure we achieve the desired result. Theoretically, the process should become easier as we go, once we have formed a relationship of sorts, at the start with the warm welcome.

1. Warm Welcome
2. Build Rapport
3. Qualification
4. Presentation
5. Negotiation
6. Close

 

I'd like you to Imagine this process as a corridor, each of the stages are open doors.
Your role as a salesperson is to guide your customer down through the corridor, closing each door as you go – thus keeping your customer in the process right to the very end, to ensure the desired result! In this case the desired result is to Close the deal which basically means you have the customers commitment, a deal is agreed!

Note, I have added exit routes in red at two stages of this process, this is to mark the areas where customers are most likely to leave the process Firstly, at the start, Warm Welcome;

Imagine you are out shopping on a Sunday and happen across a dealership selling
Ferrari’s. You wonder onto the forecourt for a closer look, with no intention of buying a
Ferrari any time soon (sadly),  when you spot a smart, wide smiling salesperson heading in your
general direction to help you. Immediately you raise your hand, ‘thank you but no thank
you, I’m just looking’ you say as you scurry off as fast as your feet can carry you –
petrified that you might end up with a £100,000 debt parked on your drive and so you
quickly leave by the exit, because you don't trust yourself to say no!

The second exit route I have placed further down at Negotiation, because people tend to become a little bit twitchy when it comes to commitment, especially when agreeing to hand over any thing of value, especially their hard-earned
cash.

What is the purpose of using a Process in business? As you can see on the slide at Fig 1. its considered to be, professional, Good Customer Service, Promotes repeat business. A Process is thought to be Structured and Organised, Habit forming – in as much as once your sales team learn the process – practice makes perfect they get better at it and quicker, making more sales for the business! Its a tried and tested method  – we know for certain it works and achieves the desired results.

From a customers point of view; If executed correctly, it will have been a pleasant experience. The majority of dealerships and car manufacturers pride themselves of delivering not just ‘Good customer service, but Outstanding customer service’
Delivered professionally, the salesperson has been professional and friendly. It’s not only accepted today; it is also expected – you expect a certain level of service whenever you are spending your money. It hasn’t been broken down to the customer like I have broken it down for you here today, instead its been seamless and flowing – a coffee and a chat – 'normal', this is common place in our society!

Let’s take a closer look at the 6 stages of this process!

  1. What do we mean by Warm Welcome?

To Present our Best Self/Public Image - we are straight in with Persona
Most of us can present our best selves when we need to; First Dates, Job Interviews for example or times when we aren’t feeling great inside about a situation, but we smile on
the outside and pretend all is well!

2. What do we mean by Build Rapport?

Quite simply we mean -Gain Trust.

No one knowingly hands over anything of value, to someone they don’t trust – by building rapport we aim to build a relationship in order to gain a person’s trust.

3. What do we mean by Qualification?

To qualify means to Identify a customer’s ‘Wants & Needs’, 'Hopes & Dreams', It also means to identify any potential problems that could prevent us from moving
forward in the process – we refer to these potential problems - Pains & Weaknesses/Vulnerabilities!

    4. What do we mean by Presentation?

Based on the information provided by the customer we aim to present our best offer. An offer that is too good to refuse! Why? Because if the customer refuses it, we are not
going to get through the rest of the process to our desired result

    5. What do we mean by Negotiation?

We intend to overcome any obstacles and remove any doubts that our customer might have that could prevent us from moving forward in the process.

   6. What do we mean by Close?

By close we simply mean – gain commitment! We shake hands and the deal is done. Happy Days!

This completes the 6-stage process.

There is one thing above all else that makes this a pleasant experience for our customer! Choice.  Choice is what makes this a ‘pleasant experience’ for the customer.

Consider; If you are buying anything of value, A new or new to you car, a house, a holiday home, even a phone or a computer – it can be a huge financial commitment
that needs some serious consideration and plenty of information in order to make an informed decision. Before you commit, you are likely to want to do some
homework, read some reviews, compare the competition, weigh up the pro’s & cons of each choice, check your finances, be in agreement with your other half about size,
colour, make, cost, location, appearance etc and having completed all of that – only then are you like to arrive at a decision you will be comfortable with.

Exercising our Right to Choose what we believe is right for ourselves, is incredibly important and must always be protected.

What if it wasn't your choice? I want you to consider the following scenario...

Opportunity/Chance!

Our fictitious Customer, Sam walks into our fictitious dealership. Heading directly for the service reception desk, he books his car in – potentially for a service or an MOT. Having handed over his keys, he walks straight through the showroom and is standing outside, tapping away on his phone, potentially he is waiting for a lift.

Imagine this is a quiet day, with very few potential customers around and I am a sales-
person – what am I likely to do?

“Sam you say – okay and what is he here for? - an MOT – cool!
As a salesperson, I go outside with the intention of engaging Sam in conversation.
“Sam – how are you?
As you may know, most sales environments are target driven.

I am watching Sam’s reactions, does he smile, is he responding positively, does he
appear approachable, does he appear confused as though he isn’t sure who I am?
“What are you doing standing out here in the cold? Hey, we don’t like to see our good
customers left in the cold, come inside, let me get you a cuppa? ”

I am going to watch for Sam’s reactions – I will gently touch his arm to see and point
towards going inside – I know that if he’s follows, he’s comfortable wit me, I will take
him back inside, sit him down at my desk, get him a coffee and take him through the
process! However, should he pull away or not respond positively – I know that Sam’s
feeling uncomfortable, therefore it’s unlikely he trusts me” at which point I’ll say
something like ‘Suit yourself – just being social’ and I’ll walk away!

As a sales person, I am taught to live by the rule, ‘some will, some won’t, so what, move on!

What do you think? Is this me just being friendly? Am I being Manipulative? Or is it simply
business?

Who knows best if Sam feels obligated to come inside for a coffee or not?

Who knows best if Sam is the sort of person to feel intimidated by someone as confident and as pushy as someone like me - the ficticous salesperson?

Of-course its Sam! Only Sam can truly know how he feels about it! How many people would feel obligated in a situation like this and just go along with it rather than saying what they truly feel? A lot will depend on Sam's previous experiences in life;

If Sam is lacking in confidence, lacks boundaries, he may not feel able to say no even if he really wants to!
or if he has previously been bullied, he might feel intimidated by someone else’s apparent confidence.
Maybe if he has felt excluded in the past, the attention he’s receiving from the salesperson may stroke his ego, he may feel the salesperson really likes him and
really considers him a ‘good customer’ and therefore goes along with it because it makes him feel good about himself. The salesperson is only interested in obtaining the information they need to sell another car and reach their target.

Target!

Consider the following Scenario where ficticous customer Dawn becomes the Target

‘Dawn's car has broken down for the third time in as many weeks, Dawn is something of a key-board warrior so she’s at home, ranting about it on her social media page.
Dawn’s previously liked & shared our page after entering our monthly ‘win a car’ competition online.

I've noticed Dawns post this morning– she’s furious about being stranded again and without her realizing it,

Dawn is waving a white flag in my general direction!

I’ve spotted it and therefore today Dawn has become my target!
There are no buying signals from Dawn, she isn’t even in the dealership. A quick look over her page tells US everything WE need to know about Dawn. We have
her details and so you ring her with every intention of inviting her down for a ‘coffee and chat’ – the call will go something like this.

Hello, is that Dawn?
Dawn, I’m really sorry to bother you – it’s not something I would normally do – my
names [insert your name]. I am the ‘CUSTOMER CARE’ manager at ‘[Dodgy Deals on Wheels for example]
I was just updating some details on our Social media page when I chanced upon your post – and Dawn, honestly – my heart goes out to you! The very same thing happened
to me last month – exactly the same thing – three times I was left stranded so, when I saw your post I was like, oh my God, you poor thing, I know exactly how rubbish that
feels, and so I just thought – you know, I’m in a position here to help, I thought I’d give you a quick call and see if I could invite you in for a coffee and a chat and see what I can
do to help you? Is that okay? You don’t mind? – that’s brilliant – okay – shall we say 2 o’clock – fab, Shall I send a car for you? Are you sure, it’s no bother? - okay - I look
forward to seeing you then Dawn!

‘In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity’ Look for the person with problem (not forgetting - we are all vulnerable!)

Why is our sales person taught to look for the person with a problem? In order to provide a solution of course!

Realistically there are only two ways we can get anyone to do something against their will.

  1. Force: We could hold a gun to Dawns head and demand her to sign the paperwork! This isn’t good for repeat business, and I probably should mention – its illegal which means there is a high risk of getting caught
  2. Communication: We can talk her into it!Let’s face it! As a salesperson, I've a proven track record in communication
    Communication is far more effective!
    Communication isn't legal It’s incredibly difficult for someone to prove they were ‘talked’ into something - and whose going to admit to that?So, Option B. is the option we will choose!Remember, there have been no buying signals from Dawn, she hasn’t even stepped foot in the dealership yet, and from her social media post, she isn’t intent on buying
    another car as long as she lives – so how exactly to we hope to achieve this?

The Invisible Seduction

Hidden in plain sight, scattered in-between the 6 stages of the process are something we call The Invisible Seduction, which includes;

Sympathy and Empathy

“ My heart went out to you Dawn when I read your post, and honestly – the exact same thing happened to me, I know exactly how you feel”

Flattery and Praise

“You’ve got great taste Dawn; you obviously know what works - I mean, your car it might not actually start, but it’s a great colour isn’t it”

Camaraderie

“You’re just like me Dawn, we are the same – not like those other women who come here are refuse to test drive – its great to see another woman who knows what she wants - we are in this together"

Flirtation

“Aye, don’t look now Dawn, but you see that guy there – he’s our business manager and he is an absolute sucker for Blondes – you’re in for the deal of the day, no joke”

Secrecy

" Between you and I" -  “Don’t tell him I told you, but his wife left him, he’s such a massive flirt”

Diversion

Yes, Dawn I get that price is important to you but put let’s that aside for now, cost isn’t the most important thing here – choosing the right car should be your main
focus”

Hints of Intimidation/ Fear – (nothing to heavy or sinister at first– just suggestions)

“People around here know better than to mess with me Dawn! If I say we need this today – it will happen today – don't you worry about that - I don't tolerate any messing! no fear!

Guilt/Obligation

Gosh, is that the time?  – time flies when your having fun- although I wasn’t having fun this morning – I had a guy who took up like 2 hours of my time, gulped down 3 cups of our freshly made Free coffee – ended up being a total time-waster! Can I get you anything Dawn, another coffee perhaps?”

Pains & Weakness/ Vulnerabilities – using Dawns vulnerabilities against her to plant seeds of fear/doubt

“I bet your boss was livid that you couldn’t get into work again wasn't he? – My boss probably didn’t say it directly but you just know they are thinking P45 don’t you! Don’t worry Dawn, it won't come to that -  I'll get it sorted out for you if its the last thing I do!”

Throughout the Invisible Seduction I am using everything about me;

Body Language
Mirroring Dawns Movements
Eye contact
Knowledge –lots of information/ not enough information – ‘If you can’t blind
them with brilliance, baffle them with bull*#$+
Perceived Trust – "Assuming you trust me Dawn",
Perceived Sincerity – ‘Honestly Dawn, we’re pulling all the stops out for you today!
Confidence - I am confident, I am direct. I look and sound the part. I am surrounded by important looking people in suits, in a garage with millions of £ of
stock – everything about me is convincing
Humour – as and when required, I am funny, charming & likeable
Leverage – Free coffee, I’m going to do you a favour Dawn, don’t tell anyone, they’ll all want this kind of service! I’ll throw in some fuel
Gaslighting – Twisted trusts – “Listen if you don’t feel you can trust me Dawn?”
Love Bombing – Warm Welcome!
Yes Tagging – “It’s a great colour isn’t Yeah? – It’s a great deal isn’t Yeah? Because
once we start saying yes, yes, yes – it’s difficult to say no!

Dawns Ego

Nodding dog – (nod your head as you are talking  and notice how many people in the room are also nodding along

Throughout this process I, (fictitious salesperson), am using everything about me – and more importantly, I am using everything about YOU Dawn to achieve my desired result.
My intention is to do everything in my power to keep Dawns attention focused.

I do not intend to let Dawn Stop and Think about this decision because stopping and thinking becomes dangerous territory for me. I will keep her talking, keep her in the
moment. Assuming I have done my job well, and trust me – I will have done, Dawn will leave our meeting feeling every bit as happy with the outcome as our
customers did. To the untrained eye, this has simply been a coffee and a conversation.

’I am however very aware, given the circumstances that when Dawn has had some time to think and reflect on the situation, there is the potential for ‘buyers remorse’.

Given time Dawn, may well realise that she did not intend to buy this vehicle. Potentially Dawn could become what is known as a ‘Screamer’. She may return in the days that follow to apprehensively inform the salesperson that, she didn’t intend signing up for a new car and maybe, she cannot afford it.

4. Perception  -  what can you be made to believe!
Most of us think with our eyes, we believe what we see. Our brains process information
by drawing on experience and filling in the blanks!  We make assumptions based on the information we have been given.

We tend to judge others based on what we consider to be right & wrong

As a manipulator I do not only use everything about me, I use everything about you! (Your vulnerabilities)

If Dawn questions or complains, I simply remind her of Three little Facts!

  1. You are an Adult
  2. You walked in here of your own free will - no one held a gun to your head did they? Our T&Cs are clearly visible in our paperwork
  3. The responsibility is yours not mine!

These are three facts that Dawn cannot deny are true, which has the impact of making Dawn feel complicit!

She may sense that she has been mislead or duped in some way but Dawn has no evidence to support her theory. Instead, she must accept the facts being presented by
the manipulator; Dawn walked in of her own free will, she went along with the salesperson’s suggestions, over-riding any sense of doubt that she may have
experienced at the time . This leaves Dawn feeling completely responsible for what has happened – an excellent result for the manipulator who will reinforce this idea.

The salesperson using the 3 C's of Manipulation has deliberately

Taken Control, with the aim to Confuse, with the sole intention to Compromising

Dawn has no proof of that any of this occurred and so the experience leaves Dawn feeling stupid, defenseless and vulnerable.

Our salesperson knows something Dawn doesn't know ...  to be continued in the Next blog post along with the last of the 5 Ps....

In the meantime, check out the World Health Organisations new standards for sexual education - visit the appendix on page 39;

https://www.bzga-whocc.de/fileadmin/user_upload/WHO_BZgA_Standards_English.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3utYVmdz_wmvHiQN43aGtud1B8cIM0fdP1BSIDNkBReQEOhnv-cVFFeQA

 

 


Coercive Behaviour

Copyright© 2021. Deborah J Crozier.

The right of Deborah J Crozier to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All Rights Reserved.

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Those of us with lived experience of toxic environments and oppressive relationships, recognise the familiar territory of coercive, manipulative behaviours which I've written about a lot over the years in my blog posts and abuse prevention workshops.

'Narcissist', has become something of a buzz word in recent years;  'My boss is a proper narcissist'; a throw away comment with little or no understanding of what narcissism really is. What many people are referring to are narcissistic traits or behaviours, rather than Narcissistic Personally Disorder. 

The truth is, most of us are capable of portraying 'Narcissistic traits'   and of adversely impacting others with selfish, often damaging language and behaviours. Whether we are willing to accept that or not, will pretty much depend on how high we are on the narcissistic scale, and how self aware we are. We are all responsible for our actions, and it is imperative each of us constantly monitor our language and behaviours in order to recognize the impact that we are having on others. It is our responsibility as evolved humans, to ensure we are not abusive or impacting adversely on other peoples health and mental wellbeing. This doesn't mean being silent as not to offend, it means learning about and practicing self-care and self reflection, boundaries, emotional intelligence and emotional literacy, while being mindful of our ego's and keeping them in check.

If you Type 'definition of abuse' into google search, which is how many people find their information,  it offers the following examples of abuse;

verb

use (something) to bad effect or for a bad purpose; misuse.
"the judge abused his power by imposing the fines"
treat with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly.
"riders who abuse their horses should be prosecuted"

noun

the improper use of something.
"alcohol abuse"
cruel and violent treatment of a person or animal.
"a black eye and other signs of physical abuse"
Over riding a persons choices, is not directly mentioned,  but it should certainly be considered as a definition of abuse.
After all, a victim must live with the adverse consequences of another persons decisions, when their choices are influenced or over ruled,  while the person doing the influencing/over riding, walks away scot free.
We live in a society that trains people how to target individuals with the sole purpose of influencing and if necessary, over riding their choices. I have witnessed this first hand as a former sales person, and during my research of sales techniques while creating STAND - Grooming Behaviours. This behaviour has increased dramatically since the birth of social media, victims are constantly being targeted, which is regularly happening outside of the victims awareness. It is only after a period of reflection, that a victim may come to see the truth.
We imagine only vulnerable people are targeted - which is true, if you can accept that as humans each and everyone of us is vulnerable.
Coercive behaviour is embedded in our culture. We are constantly creating new and retraumatizing former victims. Coercion is incredibly destructive in nature, therefore we who recognise and understand it,  have a moral duty to inform and protect the people who don't, which unfortunately isn't as straightforward as one might hope.
In the Grooming Behaviours online workshop, I use a sales process scenario as an example by targeting a character I call Dawn for the purpose of manipulation. I explain how I choose my target, by using the 'white flags' that I'm observing. While this technique is common placed within a sales environment, very few people appear to be aware of it, when it comes to themselves.  The workshop demonstration always has the impact of triggering the audience, usually made up of support services.
People squirm uncomfortably in their seats, recoiling,  scrunching their eyes - the usual body language that you might expect to see when witnessing someone being manipulated.  Unfortunately, more often than not, people are reluctant to talk about the experience afterwards, due to the fear of embarrassment and humiliation, which are the white flags the workshop aims to draw attention to. No one wants to admit to feeling duped or coerced, it makes us feel stupid and vulnerable, so we clam up, ignore and pretend, hiding under the mask of persona - thus creating a vicious cycle.
Understanding and accepting our own 'white flags', is crucially important if we hope to be able to prevent abuse. Manipulators are practiced, keen observers, they sniff out vulnerability; i.e weakness and ego so they know in advance who to target. Many people with narcissistic traits are familiar with the territory, A caused of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, is considered to be abuse. Manipulators therefore initiatively know what they are looking for and how to manipulate others.
In a previous blog series, 'Falling for a Narcissist, I talk about how being in a relationship with someone displaying Narcissist behaviours,  can be a devastating and mind-boggling affair, that can take many years to process and can prove incredibly damaging for the victim.
I describe it as being The sinister ‘Switcher-Roo‘ of relationships, where nothing is quite as it seems, resulting in an emotional roller coaster of highs and lows along with confusion, fire-fighting and devastation. Toxic relationships such as this, adversely impact the victim’s health & mental well-being. The experience can leave the victim ‘triggered’ and in anguish in the aftermath of trauma, struggling to comprehend what has happened to them, sometimes for many years to come.

To the outside world, a toxic, narcissistic relationship with a partner/spouse, parent, boss or other may go by unnoticed because coercive behaviour is often invisible to the untrained eye. Regularly overlooked, misinterpreted and/or misunderstood by some who are in the position of supporting victims but who are fortunate enough to have never experienced, and by experienced I mean, Felt the impact of -  coercive or abusive behaviour. 

'You may be able to accurately describe an island that you have never visited by reading about it in a brochure, but can you ever truly know what it feels like to be there unless you have experienced it first hand? Can you know how it feels to have the sand between your toes, the wind in your hair, the smells, signs and sounds of the sea if you have never actually visited to a Beach? Its doubtful, which is why its so important to include lived experience in victim support services.

Coercive behaviour is all about the senses – its about how an individual thinks & FEELS, and how a manipulator can influence their thoughts and feelings by using techniques like the Invisible Seduction. 

We often make the assumption that a trained professional will be able to recognise the signs of an abuse and coercion on the basis that they have studied and trained for the role and so must therefore understand it fully. In my own experience, and the experiences of many of the victims I've supported, this has not been the case. Judges who ask victims why they have stayed in a violent, abusive relationship if it was really as bad as they say it was – a perfect example of a lack of understanding around the issue of coercive control. This lack of understanding is devastating for the victim who comes to realize that the people who are supposed to be on their side fighting their corner, cannot be relied upon because they do not understand the first thing about their situation or their circumstances. Victims are often made to feel as though they are the problem, which is perfect for the abuser who has cleverly instilled this belief. The feeling of hopelessness is magnified by this realization, further traumatizing the victim who does not feel safe. A lack of safety is at the heart of trauma. 

I describe coercive behaviour, as though the outside world are watching a 3 dimensional movie in 2D. They get to see the outline; the overview -  but its impossible for them to see the whole picture. This is also true for many unsuspecting victims who spend years believing they must be going mad. Once recognised, the victim and the experienced survivors are viewing in 3D and they are all seeing something entirely different. The abuser is fully aware of this and uses it to their advantage. Most victims doubt themselves, a consequence of this kind of behaviour. They question themselves and are more likely to believe there is something wrong with them; they are paranoid, or going crazy when  in reality the issue is a merely a lack of understanding of what they are dealing with.

In couples counselling, I have sat face to face with victims of abuse who have smiled and laughed along with their abuser, confirming verbally that everything is fine, whilst at the same time attempting to speak to me with their eyes whenever their abuser isn’t looking. Silently signaling that they do not feel safe to speak. The aggressor, looking every inch the caring, smiling & friendly partner – plays the part faultlessly. The fact that the victim feels unable to say what is on their mind is a sure sign of coercive control. The problem is, unless you know this, the victims smile often gives the impression that everything is fine.

Unable to speak freely, victims experience a whole range of negative emotions that cannot be witnessed by the onlooker; Panic, Anxiety, Stress, Embarrassment – all being held together by a well-rehearsed, painted smile. Victims have unwittingly learned to appear calm on the surface, while falling apart within. In my experience victims themselves often do not recognise how controlled they are, it is only when you ask why they feel unable to speak their truth in front of certain individuals that they can even begin to see the situation for what it is. Fear is the driver - it is also a white flag, an energy that is picked up and used by the manipulator to further their advantage.  Facing the fear, being able to stand up to the aggressor is an essential part of the healing process. 

 Even now, I find it very difficult to articulate the strength of this silent, invisible power that controls the victim. There is no need for the perpetrator to speak, or even be present – just the idea that the perpetrator is aware of what is happening, is enough to set off the negative emotions and panic within the victim who will readily conform.

In my experience, I was able to determine from the sound of the footsteps on the floorboards above me, whether today was going to be a good day for me or not. I instinctively knew what to say and what not to say to keep myself safe. I was highly skilled at navigating my way around the landmines, but I hated myself for being so weak because I would say or do whatever it took to keep myself safe. I had no control over the silent power that decided my every move and thought of myself as a worthless loser as a direct result. The longer I permitted this behaviour,  the harder the fight became. I was not only losing the fight, I was losing important relationships, integrity, worth, financials, home, job, and so much more, time and time again.

I have sat in a room full of people where untruths are being spoken aloud and yet no one dare contradict for fear of upsetting the aggressor. A silent pull of toxic energy that everyone, regardless of age or gender, goes along with, even when they may disagree or know the truth – rather than having to face the wrath that will surely come should they speak out. They have learned over a long period of time that it is far safer to smile and nod than to contradict and fall foul of the humiliation, embarrassment or being targeted for abuse. Being congruent means the somatic feelings on the inside, match what is being expressed on the outside. Masking emotions is not congruence, indeed, masking is a narcissistic trait aswell as being a trait of the people pleaser, found on the opposite end of the scale. 
Coercive behaviour is confusing and difficult to articulate if you don't understand it. However, there is a way you can tell for sure whether or not you are being manipulated or coerced - and that is by recognising how you Feel. Many people struggle to article their emotions - they may say, "I'm peed off, or I feel crap", but not know what that really means. Understanding how you feel and why is the first step to protecting yourself from manipulative, coercive behaviour.
Ask yourself - do you feel safe speaking freely, sharing your truth and viewpoints? If not, why not?
Do you feel obligated to share in the opinion of others/another, for fear of humiliation and/or rejection?
Do you feel obligated to make choices on the basis that others/ another thinks you should? or because you are fearful of what others may think or say?
Do you feel selfish putting your own interests before the interests of others/another?
Do you know how your truly FEEL? Are you able to recognise and articulate your emotions?
Do you understand what triggers you and what happens when you are triggered? Do you know what you feel, where you feel it and why? If you answer no to any of these questions, its in your best interests to Learn. 

Wooden gavel on table in courtroom

Copyright© 2021. Deborah J Crozier.

The right of Deborah J Crozier to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All Rights Reserved.

No part of this works may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the Copyright owner.

 

 

"If you pin me to my past,

you forbid me a future,

Judgements are built to last,

Let my conscious be my tutor"....

Above is the first line of a poem written by me aged 14 entitled Judgement.

By the tender age of 14, I had already developed an incredibly low opinion of myself which I believed the whole world shared.

I had never been on the wrong side of the law, the police were never at our door. I had never taken drugs or consumed alcohol. I wasn't a fighter or a bully. The point being, if I had been more rebellious growing up, my low self esteem may have made a bit more sense to me. On the contrary, I was a quiet, shy and timid kid outside the confines of the family home. I was petrified of doing anything wrong that would cause me to get into bother or bring trouble to my parents door. Every one of my school reports said " quiet, shy or lacking in confidence",  some teachers didn't even know I was one of their pupils.

I attended Church regularly, helped the older residents in our neighbour, running regular errands and even staying over to care for an elderly neighbour who had suffered a stroke when I just 12 years of age.  I played 2nd Cornet in the local brass band and attended guitar lessons on a Saturday. I was trying to be what I thought a good person should be, but I was failing miserably. I was aware that some of my peers considered me to be a 'goody two shoes', while some family members had decided I was a 'useless waste of space whose opinion counted for nothing', and it's from these opinions that my core beliefs and limitations were created.

As I left school I began living up to my reputation.

I started smoking at the age of 17 in order to try to fit in with the other students on my course at college. I bought a packet of cigarettes even though I didn't smoke, as I saw it an opportunity to make friends with the people that gathered together outside for a fag at break times. I wanted to be part of a group instead of always being the outsider, but I simply didn't know how else to achieve it. I had nothing to say, no opinions to share on any given subject, nothing of value to offer, so I found alternative ways of including myself - even if those ways weren't in my own best interests.

I began sneaking off to friends parties - sneaking being the only option available to me at the time as I was not permitted to go out with friends, my parents were incredibly strict and disapproving. I began missing college and hanging around the shopping centre with some new Punk friends, although I still didn't part take in drink or drugs, being out of control absolutely petrified me.

As I transitioned from teenager into a young adult, I began making bad choices for myself. I entered into relationships for all the wrong reasons, which inevitably became unhealthy and even violent relationships, further impacting on my lack of self worth. I often made a fool of myself, I was disorganized and late, which lost me several opportunities.  I felt I had absolutely no control over any aspect of my life. I had no voice, no say in what was happening and no choice but to accept whatever cards life dealt me. Soon I was unemployed, living on benefits in rented accommodation, trying to survive in a sadistic violent relationship with a narcissist isolate from the world and living in constant fear.

It took something serious to happen and hitting rock bottom, before I was able to navigate my way out. That was almost 30 years ago, the distance I am incredibly grateful for the distance I have travelled which still amazes me.

Over the years I have met hundreds of people who, for no apparent reason hold extremely low opinions of themselves and have come not to expect too much from life.

I once interviewed a 23 year old young woman for a work placement.  When asked to talk about herself, the first thing she said was,

"My name is Kay - and I have a reputation for being a bad bugger -  I keep the police around here in a job"!

When I asked her what she most would like to achieve in her life, she said;

"What I'd like and what I get are two very different things" - "I'd really like a job, and I'd like to pass my drivers test but that's not even possible - I was 'done' for joy riding aged 12, I'll never be allowed to drive again, and I couldn't afford to anyway -  I'll be dead before I'm 25"

I offered Kay a paid placement, with a view to full time employment. She accepted without hesitation and arrived early on the Monday morning  - she was sitting on the wall when I arrived. Over the course of the next 12 months, she took the opportunity seriously, she always arrived early and never once didn't show.

Kay had been living up to this reputation her entire life. At the age of 23 she had never had a job because she had never believed she was employable. Within 12 months of working with her, Kay was employed full time, she was in a new relationship, had passed her driving test and was driving around in a second hand car. I will never forget the day she passed her test - she was on cloud nine for the whole week, driving everyone to distraction as she repeated the words; "I nailed it" over and over again".  during the course of her employment, Kay and I became friends.  We spoke on the phone regularly and she introduced me to her family. Kay was incredibly proud of her achievements, inviting her family members to visit and see where she worked and the things she was achieving. The Job Centre, who had considered Kay to be 'unemployable', remarked on Kays complete change in attitude.

Despite her remarkable achievements that came about while she was being seen, heard and supported, without continued support Kay's core beliefs continued to inform her decisions. Following an argument with her new partner, Kay reverted back to her destructive behaviours, downed a bottle of vodka, smashed up the house in temper and overdosed on painkillers.  As she herself had predicted during her interview, Kay died of an accidental overdose at the age of 25.

I returned from a two week holiday to the news which absolutely devastated me, making me question myself and everything I was doing.

I had spoken with Kay just a few weeks prior and we had arranged to get together on my return from holiday. I had invited Kay to assist with a new project, an invitation she was keen to accept it. The grief and regret that I felt was overwhelming - I didn't pursue the new project.

Attending the inquest with her Mum and family, I learned some things about Kays life for the first time, which sadly, knowing Kay, I could have guessed.

The middle child of three, Kay's Mum and Dad split up while Kay was still a toddler. Her Dad had been a violent man who regularly beat on her Mum, the family had been relocated for their own safety; a situation Kay and I had unknowingly had in common. Her Dad was a drug dealer, in and out of prison for most of his adult life. Kay's Mum eventually moved on and remarried, but without any support to process the unresolved trauma, she jumped from the frying pan into the fire.  Kay was repeatedly raped by her step father from the age of 3 years, he was eventually sentenced to 8 years in prison.

At the age of 13 Kay had turned off her fathers life support machine, he had been badly beaten in a drugs deal that had gone wrong, and no other family member felt able to do it, Kay had stepped up. I can only imagine the guilt and pain that she will have carried with such a responsibility for a young already traumatised young woman.

When I met Kay, she was just 23 years of age. She was loud and rebellious on the surface, bravado - masking a hurt and lost child.  It was obvious to me Kay was living up to a reputation that protected her from her from the world and from herself.

When we share our negative opinions of others, letting them know we think of them, We are assisting in the creation of a reputation, whether they are deserving on it or not. Reputations tend to stick with a person forever, despite the obvious fact that nothing in life is static, we are constantly learning, changing, growing and evolving. The human body is always changing, ageing, growing new nails, hair, skin and cells, and yet the core beliefs that we hold about ourselves and the reputations that help to create them,  can last for a lifetime and hold us back for years.

If you have a reputation that makes you feel 'less than' seek support. Do not tolerate people labelling you or making you feel small.

Negative emotions are like vampires! they thrive under the cover of darkness, while we are hiding them away from the world because of the shame and embarrassment that facing them makes us feel. Shining a light on them, bringing them out into the sunshine and talking about them, releases their hold on us, setting us free to live the life we are truly destined to live.

Facing up to the truth about ourselves sets has the ability to set us free

Manipulation

Copyright© 2021. Deborah J Crozier.

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All Rights Reserved.

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The 3 C's of Manipulation

Control

People who manipulate and abuse others, begin by taking control of the situation. Keen observers, they seek vulnerability in others, instinctively knowing who to target and how. They will use their knowledge, skills, charm, charisma, gaslighting and powers of persuasion to convince people of things that they may not otherwise be inclined to trust, believe or involve themselves in.  In our Grooming Behaviours course,  we refer to this process as ‘The Invisible Seduction’.

Confuse

People who manipulator others, aim to confuse. They may overwhelm their victims with information; questioning,  focusing and narrowing their attention. They deliberately prevent the victim from having the space to consider what is right for themselves. This may be experienced by the victim as overwhelm or bombardment. Should the victim be given the opportunity to stop and think about the situation, they may come to realize how awkward or uncomfortable they feel, which is dangerous territory for a manipulator, who is likely to be pursuing an agenda of their own.

Compromise

The manipulator’s intention or end game is often to obtain an outcome that is in some way beneficial for themselves. They pursue their goals without any consideration to the victim or the consequences that the victim will face.
An unsuspecting victim may assume they are being over-dramatic, or are maybe reading too much into a manipulator’s action. Due to the mask of persona, the victim may fail to recognise the manipulator’s true intentions, reinforced by the gaslighting and the manipulators coercive behaviours. As a result, the victim is often left confused and compromised, having trusted what appears to make sense at the time, only to later discover that its all been a big show. Victims often beat themselves in the aftermath having inadvertently 'gone along with', or responded in ways that would not be of their choosing and which may not reflect the victim’s true values or beliefs, had they been privy to the truth.


 

Copyright© 2021. Deborah J Crozier.

The right of Deborah J Crozier to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All Rights Reserved.

No part of this works may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the Copyright owner.

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a form of psychological and emotional abuse that causes victims to doubt and question their own judgement, reality, self-perception and sometimes their sanity.

Gas-lighters twist and distort the truth in order to manipulate, confuse and control their victims.

The term originates from the 1938 play Gas Light, by Patrick Hamilton which was adapted for film in the 1940’s. The storyline features a man who manipulates and deceives his wife into believing she is going insane. One of the tactics he uses is to dim the gas lights in their home, making them flicker. Whenever his wife ask about the flickering gas lights, he convinces her she has imagined the dimming flames. Gaslighting also featured in the 2001 film, Amelie, Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, written by Jeunet with Guillaume Lauran. The main character, Amelie, sneaks into a shopkeepers home and moves numerous objects around and programs his phone to dial a psychiatric institution when he believes he is phoning his mother. Frightened and confused, the shopkeeper believes he is losing his sanity.

We now use the term ‘gas lighting’  to describe the tactic of manipulation victims into doubting their reality, memory or perception.

Victims can be gas-lit by questioning, mocking or denying their reported experience until they lose confidence in the own senses. Over time, victims of gaslighting struggle to know what is truth and what isn’t. This often becomes a trigger point for victims in the aftermath of an emotional abuse which we refer to as Trauma. Living in the era of persona and fake news, the world can become a scary place for victims of gaslighting.

At A Positive Start we have created the S.T.A.N.D strategy – Stop, Think, Act – NEVER DOUBT, to help re-train our minds and remind us how to respond in situations when we might otherwise doubt our own judgement.

Gaslighting may occur in many different types of relationships including; romantic partner relationships, professional relationships and friends and family relationships. The side affects of gaslighting can have lasting effects in many areas of a victims life and may include;

Lack of Confidence/Self Esteem
Uncertainty
Guilt
Shame
Unhappiness/Loss of Joy
Repeated Apologizing Unnecessarily
Indecisive/Incapable of making decisions
Confusion
Self Doubt
Anxiety
Denying/Unable to recognise Gaslighting Behaviours
Depression
Extremely Stressed

A Positive Start

Copyright© 2021. Deborah J Crozier.

The right of Deborah J Crozier to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All Rights Reserved.

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A Positive Start

Saturday morning, its 6am and the sun is streaming through the crack in the curtains.  With a hot cup of black coffee in hand, I sit down at my computer in my home-office (aka spare bedroom),  as is my usual routine. I'm fully intent on mapping out my explanations of why the Funding providers should consider funding our project aimed at Improving people’s Lives.  I'm  preparing for the scheduled meeting due to happen in a few days time.

I struggle to articulate my purpose, which  has led to a succession of unsuccessful funding applications, so the pressure is most definitely on. My inability to impress the funders has stifled our project since relocating to the Borders and since my failure doesn’t only impact me,  It’s important I get it right.

With a background in sales and marketing,  it seems ridiculous to me that I never struggle selling other peoples ideas, yet have issues selling my own. Of course, I recognise these to be lingering remnants of long-held limiting beliefs - ‘imposter syndrome’, the aftermath of the trauma, something I help others to recognise, confront and overcome on a daily basis. Unfortunately,  funding providers don’t know the stories behind projects such as ours, and are unaware of the distance some of us have travelled or the demons that have haunted our souls.

In preparation for the meeting, I write down the three requirements as headings: People -Strength - Connection -  and consider what to write under each…My mind is still preoccupied by the funding officers question; "Your project sounds like its all theory based to me!, what ‘Lived Experience’ do you have that qualifies you to run this project"?
I struggle to know how to answer that, so I respond with “Where do I begin?”

There’s a piece of me that is secretly delighted that the past is no longer obvious, I’ve worked incredibly hard over the years to free myself and lay the ghosts to rest - I know I should be pleased. But there’s a part of me that feels the sting of his assumption. The unfortunate truth is, I am more than qualified, and while I am no longer ashamed of it, its not a conversation I want to have over the phone.

He comes across as dismissive and I get the impression that he’s missing the point and has already written me off. Still, he agrees to have a meeting, the ball is in my court.

As is often the case, when I sit down to write, my mind is redirected. Like a pianist poised for a concert,  my fingers take to the keyboard with gusto and appear to have a will of their own.  They’ve decided  to deliver todays blog post instead, my preparation is put on hold. Avoidance? perhaps, but then we know how these things work, don’t we? The blog is In the beginning, or a positive start as it transpires to be…

The idea for A Positive Start began at least ten years before the CIC.  I had the bright idea of documenting my ongoing journey of self -discovery and turning it into a training programme for young people. It was my attempt at helping youngsters to circum-navigate the many pitfalls that had plagued my own life. A collection of the harshest of life lessons, that I was in the process of teaching my own children.

Even then, I was still battling the shame of unintentionally putting myself in situations that others labelled as reckless and ‘unhealthy’. Abusive, Violent,  Narcissistic relationships that had almost cost me my life and the aftermath that had held me back for years. If you’re familiar with my blog, you’re probably already aware that by this point in time,  failure was clinging to me like dogger to a blanket and the heavy chains of shame and worthlessness, like unwelcomed squatters, had taken up residence in my soul.

Skint and jobless following yet another disastrous outcome - a non-fault incident at work, (which I’ll leave for another blog), an incident that I shall refer to as ‘ the problems that arise from whistle-blowing’, when doing the ‘right thing’ puts you on the smelly end of the poo stick. With the tribunal hearing over,  and the vulnerable residents now protected from the bad guy, I found myself in the familiar position of feeling like the only option available to me was to quit my job and run.

Familiar territory indeed, revisited many times already.  Anxious and miserable, the feeling of dread made me nauseous, my right leg shaking uncontrollably, as I faced the cold stern face of the job centre trying unsuccessfully to convince the disinterested advisor that I wasn’t the useless, feckless idiot that appeared to be rambling in front of her. Proving your not a moron  is a  difficult task when you happen to be consumed by a compulsion to run away from chaos when all roads lead back to the job Centre – and here I was again, for the umpteenth time, begging bowl in hand – jobless, worthless, potentially homeless - emotionally drained and running on empty.

Back at home, home being a cold, damp rented mid-terrace with an ever-hungry electricity meter, I dropped to my knees, sobbing like a baby- ‘What would I tell the innocent kids?’.  I was so sick of being here, so sick of letting them down – of moving, struggling  - robbing Peter to pay Paul!.  ‘Square one’ had my name printed across it, like a really naff version of Hollywood Boulevards Walk of Fame – for me, this was the familiar walk of shame!

I was exhausted just by the thought of the disapproval that I knew was yet to come. The tutting, rolling of eyes and knowing sideways glances from those who knew me best. ‘Here we go again, the eternal no hoper,  never managing to settle! Expressions that had long screamed  Loser loudly in my head. I hated being me -  I could no longer bare it.

By this point in time, I had been running away and starting again for more than 20 years. My default setting was always to pack up and run. Different faces, different places same old cycle of abusive relationships, same old failed outcomes.

My ‘woe is me’ mentality was now in full swing, I felt sorry for myself as I sat, staring into the abyss – my head banging from trying to work it all out, but still drawing a blank. I was hollow, empty,  I had nothing left to give.

I reached for the pad of sticky notes and felt pen that had been left on the dining room table. I wrote the words ‘WHATS WRONG WITH ME’ in capital letters and stuck the sticky note on the wall in front of me.

It turned out to be an incredibly easy question to answer;

YOU ARE STUPID,

USELESS,

COWARDLY,

WORTHLESS, HOPELESS, VOICELESS, UGLY, LIAR, GUILT, ASHAMED, UNWANTED, UNTRUSTED, UNTRUSTWORTHY, BORING, ASHAMED, BROKEN …….. the words came thick and fast, 129 sticky notes of emotionally loaded words reflecting the view I held of myself and not a positive word amongst them.

As a I stood back and examined my wall of words - I was shocked. Despite feeling this way for most of my life, the words came as a complete revelation. Oddly enough my body felt lighter!

I had been carrying this reflection of myself around with me like shit in a handbag. How on earth had I come to be here and more importantly – how was I going to change it?

Tomorrow part two -

2. Let the learning begin…….


 

Copyright© 2021. Deborah J Crozier.

The right of Deborah J Crozier to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All Rights Reserved.

No part of this works may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the Copyright owner.

S.T.A.N.D© is an acronym for Stop, Think, Act, Never Doubt –   A trauma informed response to be applied in situations when an individual may be triggered by the behaviours of others.   Developed in 2014 for Adverse Childhood Experience’s trauma support, S.T.A.N.D© continues to be an effective tool for those prone to negative automatic responses, driven by fear and uncertainty due to previous experiences of trauma.

Rather than responding with confidence and conviction in a way that is beneficial for self, trauma victims can be prone to people-pleasing, often finding it impossible to put their own interests before the interests of others, inadvertently making themselves vulnerable. Hyper vigilance and high levels of empathy mean they are often overwhelmed by negative emotions when faced with what others may perceive as simple decision-making.

People- pleasing behaviour occurs when a person doesn’t know how to say no, and have difficulty with boundaries. They mask their true feelings with smile,  going along with something they disagree with, rather than expressing how they truly feel for fear of disapproval, rejection or reprisal. They may feel ‘put on or put out with others who they see as taking advantage, when they are the ones giving out mixed messages, saying they don’t really mind when infact they do.

This happens because a trauma victims focus automatically shifts to the other person or persons well-being rather than their own. Their main concerns tend to revolve around what other people will think of them, how they will be perceived by others, and how others are likely to feel as a result of the victims decisions. All of these concerns for others (family, friends, work colleagues, neighbour’s, even strangers often leaves them swamped by feelings of guilt, awkwardness and apprehension, victims tend to bypass their own thoughts and feelings of well-being, prioritizing others  and frequently suffering as a result.

The way our brains process information, often draws on previous experience, filling in the blanks with the ‘most like outcome’. We call this Bottom-Up processing. If, due to previous experiences,  our first thought is likely to be a negative automatic thought (NATs)  – the way forward from a trauma response is by retraining our brains to recognise and intercept the NATs,  to ensure the thoughts that follow are mindful, intentional and balanced.

Even when victims of trauma recognise negative negative responses, such as people- pleasing behaviour in themselves, they may have difficulty over coming these behaviours because they may be ingrained because of childhood trauma and/or because victims of trauma rarely trust their own judgement – another side effect of the trauma they have suffered.

As observers,  we may be surprised by a trauma victims response to a situation. It they may appear to a bystander that the individual is not being genuine or applying any common sense to their responses, instead they appear to be opting for the ‘same old mistakes’ time and time again. With hindsight, the individual is likely to arrive at the same conclusion, which only serves as a big stick to beat themselves up with, reinforcing the negative views that the traumatized individual already holds about themselves, further impacting on their low self-worth.

“If we look at this man’s behaviors without knowing anything about his past, we might think he was mad. However, with a little history, we can see that his actions were a brilliant attempt to resolve a deep emotional scar. His re-enactment took him to the very edge, again and again, until he was finally able to free himself from the overwhelming nightmare of war. ACCIDENTS “JUST” HAPPEN”
― Dr. Peter A. Levine, 

 

Perpetrators are keen observers who can easily recognise automatic people pleasing responses in others, making them easy prey.

This happens because people who live with unresolved trauma, often become stuck. They may find themselves going round and round in circles; different faces, different places – same old mistakes and outcomes.

If I didn’t have bad luck, I would have no luck at all” is often a belief held by the traumatized, who tend to view their own lives as spectators from the sidelines, rather than being actively involved in the decision making, due to a lack of control. In these circumstances, people tend to default to people-pleasing rather than expressing their true inner feelings in relation to any situation, because facing emotions leaves them vulnerable, and feels like a scary or even dangerous place for them. Some people may default to anger, appearing passive-aggressive or defeated, because their responses are driven by fear or panic due to the stuckness or disassociation.

“Re-enactments may be played out in intimate relationships, work situations, repetitive accidents or mishaps, and in other seemingly random events. They may also appear in the form of bodily symptoms or psychosomatic diseases. Children who have had a traumatic experience will often repeatedly recreate it in their play. As adults, we are often compelled to re-enact our early traumas in our daily lives. The mechanism is similar regardless of the individual’s age.”
― Dr. Peter A. Levine,

Over time, with practice, the acronym; S.T.A.N.D©Stop, Think, Act, Never Doubt – serves as an aide memoir prompting the individual to stay calm and focused in the present moment, reminding them to turn their attention inwards and to connect to how they are feeling, as opposed to allowing their minds to run riot, whizzing back and forth searching for answers which is what often leads them to a place of panic and anxiety.

By turning the attention inwards, they are guided by how they feel,  an indicator of what feels right for them and what feels wrong for them as their internal navigation system fires up thus assisting them to respond in ways that are healthy and in their own best interests. Over time, with practice, S.T.A.N.D© becomes the new go to response.

To find out more about S.T.A.N.D ©and how it could work for you, register for our upcoming Webinar Today!

Feelings of helplessness, immobility, and freezing. If hyper-arousal is the nervous system’s accelerator, a sense of overwhelming helplessness is its brake. The helplessness that is experienced at such times is not the ordinary sense of helplessness that can affect anyone from time to time. It is the sense of being collapsed, immobilized, and utterly helpless. It is not a perception, belief, or a trick of the imagination. It is real.”
― Dr. Peter A. Levine

 

 

S.T.A.N.D© As a toolkit for the prevention of

Grooming Behaviour’s©

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The impact of trauma can be devastating and being  groomed for any reason, is a traumatic event. The experience often leaves victims feeling embarrassed, ashamed and guilt ridden for years to come as they struggle to make sense of what has happened to them. 

Being deceived by someone we trust and respect is a difficult situation for anyone. It can take its toll on our emotions and well-being, adversely impacting a victims confidence and self-esteem.

The experience of Grooming behaviours may lead victims to question their reality, causing confusion and/ or anxiety, as the process of grooming usually involves manipulation and gas-lighting.

Grooming may cause victims to feel in some ways complicit; as they convince themselves that they should have seen what was coming or they should have known better.

Understanding that we are not responsible for the behaviours of others may make sense, but understanding it and accepting it are two separate things entirely – it may not always be enough to prevent the negative emotional impact that follows. Victims regularly blame  themselves despite being able to reason that they could not possibly have known and are not to blame for trusting someone unworthy of their trust. 

This is especially true if a victim has encountered a trauma or multiple traumatic events in the past.

How to respond to the negative behaviours of others is often out-with the control of victims who have experienced previous trauma as they become triggered yet often unaware of what is happening to them or why.  Knowing how to respond in a way that keeps us safe and empowered in such a situation is vital if we hope to protect ourselves.

This is where S.T.A.N.D© comes in.

To Learn more about our online workshops, how S.T.A.N.D© is an effective strategy for victims of trauma and for Lived Experience Trauma Support, Get In touch.

 

There’s one more symptom we need to look at before looking at how trauma actually gets into the body and mind and causes long-term problems. This one is a little less straightforward than the others. Here’s one of the more unusual and problem-creating symptoms that can develop from unresolved trauma: the compulsion to repeat the actions that caused the problem in the first place. We are inextricably drawn into situations that replicate the original trauma in both obvious and less obvious ways.”
― Dr. Peter A. Levine

The Lived Experience of Non-Fatal Strangulation - Part 1. The Experience

Copyright©2021. Deborah J Crozier.

The right of Deborah J Crozier to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All Rights Reserved.

No part of this works may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the Copyright owner.

 

Christmas Day

One particular Christmas Day is etched into my memory for all the wrong reasons.

I'd been living with Domestic Violence for some time and sadly, due to the hypervigilance; a side effect of constantly living in fear, I instinctively knew today was going to be a bad day for me by the sound of the footsteps on the floorboards above.

It was 3pm in the afternoon. Two of my three children and I had awoken early as was usual for me on Christmas Day, my eldest was staying with my Parents. Christmas had always held fond memories for me growing up,  and despite the circumstances, I was determined to make it special for my own children. Together we had enjoyed unwrapping the gifts that Santa had left under the small white, second hand Christmas tree that was decorated with a mixture of homemade baubles and tinsel, that stood proudly in the corner of the living room.

I'd managed to borrow some high-interest cash from the local Greenwoods representative that pursued the poor and needy along the streets where I lived. I had managed to stretch the £46 in cash that would cost me £5 per week for the rest of my natural life, to buy cheap gifts for the children. It amazes me when I think back now, just how far I was able to make that meagre sum stretch, but stretch it I did. The children were overjoyed with their small piles of plastic toys each, and for a short time that morning, I felt the fullness of contentment warming my soul. Seeing my children happy gave me purpose and made my life worthwhile.

Leaving the children happily playing with their toys and watching Christmas cartoons on the telly, I'd snuck off into the kitchen to prepare the Christmas dinner of Roast Chicken with fresh veg and all the trimmings. I couldn't afford a turkey but chicken was the next best thing. With the chicken in the oven and all the veg peeled and ready to cook, I returned to the room and spent the rest of the day playing with the kids and watching movies while they slept on the sofa. As usual, my partner spent the day in bed.

He didn't celebrate Christmas, (he never bought gifts, although he still expected to receive them). His mum had left the family home one Christmas, waking his younger brother who he had shared a room with. She had decided to take her youngest child with her and leave the eldest one, who was just 8 at the time, with his Dad. This had devastated my partner and he had never celebrated Christmas as a result.

He often slept throughout the day and stayed up all night playing on his mega-drive and smoking cannabis - and today was no different. At the beginning of the relationship, I'd complained about his smoking cannabis, it wasn't something I had ever come across before. I was advised to mind my own business. I'd also complained about his lack of input because of his nocturnal behaviour, but I learned very quickly to keep my thoughts and opinions to myself. Being interrogated by me, as he called it made him incredibly angry. The first time I'd experienced his rage was just 3 months into the relationship. Nothing I had ever experienced in life before him had prepared me for that first outburst - it had shattered my world and changed it forever. As far as he was concerned, he wasn't answerable to anyone, least of all me, At just 20 years of age, I had learned to just let things be, my safety depended on it.

The dinner cooked, I set the Christmas table with napkins and crackers. I'd managed to buy a bottle of Belnor whilst shopping; a cheap bottle of sparkling Perry especially for the Christmas dinner. I was pleased with myself that I had managed to make things nice for us despite living on benefits and having very little money spare. I sat the children at the table, the youngest in his high-chair, and I began dishing out their food.

I heard the creaking of the bed, and the thud of feet landing on the floor above me. I glanced at the clock, it was almost 3pm. I felt the tightening in my chest and the prickling sensation of cold sweat crawling over my skin - I held my breath for a second and listened attentively to the sound of the movements above me -  something felt wrong.

I tried to focus on what I was doing, frantically mashing vegetables into a bowl for my youngest child, the walls started drawing in, the space around me was getting smaller. As the kitchen door opened, I could see the dark stocky shadow of my partner standing in the doorway, through the corner of my eye. I did not look up. I grabbed the bottle of Belnor "Could you open the wine please", I asked glancing up and making eye contact before quickly looking away. His face was stern, dark circles framed his red eyes, he took the bottle from me and popped the plastic cork. I placed his plate of freshly cooked food on the table in front of him, and picked up the opened bottle of wine. The children were tucking into the food already, as I began to pour the wine into his glass. I could feel his eyes burning into me, my heart was pumping and body began to shake. I was struggling to keep the bottle of wine steady, and as I tried to pull the bottle away from his filled glass, I accidently knocked the glass with the tip of the bottle.

Everything slowed to slow motion. I watched as the glass of wine, losing its balance slowly tipped sideways. I grabbed the glass, with my other hand, and pulled it back in place. A single droplet  of wine splashed, jumping from his glass. Shhhittt! - the panicking voice in my head scolded as it landed on the edge of his plate. I watched in horror, frame by frame as the droplet slowly ran down the curve on the plate, heading straight towards the gravy. Time stood almost still. As the wine droplet reached the gravy - I could hear the pounding of my heart in my chest. I held my breath and looked up, Our eyes met momentarily,  his face flushed red began to  contort - I knew this was it, I was dead. Simultaneously, I let go of the bottle,. grabbing my 4 year old and 2 year old from their seats and pulling them behind He jumped up from his seat, throwing the table of food  up in the air., I pushed the children in front, through the door and into the living room opposite, as my partner scrambled over the carnage coming towards me.  Miraculously, the kids safely behind the closed door, I made up the stairs on all fours, using my hands and feet to propel myself as fast as I could, my partner close behind me, grabbing at my heals. The panic in my chest was agonizing, as I reached the top of the stairs. No sooner had I done so, he was there - grabbing my top with both hands he threw me, forcing me backwards onto the floor, I landed with a thud, and he was still coming - arms and legs peddling backwards, I was desperately trying to get out of the way but I had nowhere left to go. Before I knew it his entire body weight was on top of me, pinning me to the floor. At 6 and half stone, I was no match for him as he forced his knees down onto my arms and squeezed my throat with both hands. My legs were kicking as I struggled for breath - it was hopeless. Powerless, I felt a tingling sensation over my face and lips, Black and White flashes obscured my vision;  silence filled the room - the blackness consumed me.

 

"Mummy, wake up - mummy" - the faint voice of child in the distance. I tried to swallow, my throat was dry and sore. My vision blurred, I could feel the gentle touch of my daughters fingers stroking my face. I started to cry. The silhouette of my partner, sitting on the end of the bed, his head in his hands. The air was still and quiet. Without saying a word, he got up and ran down the stairs. I heard the front door slam behind him.

I hugged my daughter - I was alive. Hurting, Confused, but alive.

The next few hours are a blur. My children and I huddled together in the same bed. I had pushed a set of drawers up against the door, securing the room. Something I had once seen my parents do when we were children in Africa. My partner did not return for the next few nights. He reappeared a few days later, taking his usual chair in the living room and playing quietly on the games console. We never spoke a word. Something felt different.

A few days later, whilst making the children's breakfast, silent tears began to roll uncontrollably down my cheeks. There was no sound, no thoughts, only numbness.  I was empty, lost, shattered.

I hadn't visited my parents home for a few years, we'd fallen out - which is another story.

Having dressed the children in their coats and shoes, I fastened my youngest child in his buggy and left the house. I could hear my partner shouting behind me, but the sounds were faint, in the distant. The tears, still rolling, I made the short journey from my home to my parents home with the children, and knocked on their door.

The door opened and my Mum was standing there. We hadn't spoken in some time. The look on her face was one of surprise. I didn't speak, I didn't need to. She invited me in.  I don't recall there being any conversation between us, there may have been, I don't recall it.  I can remember her speaking to me, asking me questions which I couldn't answer - my mind was fuzzy, I couldn't think.  My body felt unusually calm and peaceful, the shaking had stopped.  It felt as though my mind had withdrawn in side itself to a safe place. I was looking out, from behind the safety of what felt like a clear screen in my mind, just observing the world from a safe distanced. My parents fed and chatted to the children while I looked on. I wasn't listening.  I was as present in body only. I was sitting in silence,  my mind and spirit observing, but not engaged.

I was in shock.

 

The Lived Experience of Non-Fatal Strangulation Continues with Part 2 - The Aftermath and concludes in Part 3 - The Road to Recovery.


Lifting The Mask of Persona

Copyright© 2021. Deborah J Crozier.

The right of Deborah J Crozier to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All Rights Reserved.

No part of this works may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written consent of the Copyright owner.

(Image: Real is Rare by Brett Jordan Courtesy of Unsplash)

Narcissistic Traits

Increasingly, the term; 'Parental Narcissistic Traits' is being used to describe the childhood experience of a generation of adults brought-up in a strict and controlling, often toxic, sometimes religious environment.  Now adults; many of these children are seeking support to deal with unresolved trauma and suppressed emotions that may have shaped their lives and held them back for years. Children who have grown up, unheard and voiceless believing their opinions count for nothing, often become adults who struggle to express themselves. They are either lacking in confidence,  prone to people pleasing, or are over confident prone to passive-aggressive communication, as they strive to make themselves heard.  Neither of them, ever taught how to effectively communicate their emotions as children because their parents, and their parents, parents also didn't know how.

These behaviours may have been passed down through the generations without question, delivered on a society widely accepting of outdated ideas such as 'children should be seen and not heard', 'spare the rod, ruin the child' at a time when expressing any kind of human emotion was considered a sign of weakness; often punishable by outrage, ridicule, criticism and even physical violence.

Narcissistic traits are often considered to be a condition of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD),  a mental health condition that usually develops in adolescence or early adulthood and is characterized by;

  • Persistent Grandiosity
  • A superior sense of self/Inflated sense of self-importance/ arrogant
  • Abuse of Power & Control/ Impersonally exploitative behaviour
  • A need for Excessive admiration and praise
  • A fragile self-esteem
  • Lack of empathy/ An inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs of others
  • Sense of Entitlement/Pretentious and boastful
  • A belief that they are special & unique
  • Preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, Ideal love
  • Arrogant & Demanding
  • Reacts negatively/Aggressively to criticism
  • Encounter difficulties in relationships
  • Accept no responsibility for their actions

While the causes of NPD are not well known, and the area requires further study, many cases are believed to be due to:

  • Childhood abuse/neglect
  • Unpredictable or unreliable care-giving by parents
  • Unrealistic expectations from parents
  • Excessive parental control
  • Excessive praise for good behaviours in childhood
  • Excessive criticism for bad behaviours in childhood
  • Cultural influences

Recognizing the Impact we have on Others

Most people will display some traits that could be considered narcissistic from time to time.  Whenever we may be feeling lazy or tired and call on others to carry out tasks on our behalf " Do me a favour" [ complete requested task as required]!

Whenever we take our loved ones for granted, expecting them to understand and tolerate our negative behaviours or mood swings. When we are feeling angry or upset -  when we lose our temper and snap, yell or lash out at the people we allege to care about most, expecting they will forgive us.  Or when we are acting over confident, bossy,  judgmental, belittling or critical of others.

We often fail to recognise these traits in ourselves, because as humans, its both easy and convenient to leave ourselves out of the judging whenever we are criticizing and judging the behaviours of others. All negative behaviours impact on the well-being of others and we must take responsibility for our part in that. If we want to break the cycle of negative learned behaviours, it is imperative , no matter who we are or what role we play in society, that we become observant and mindful of the impact of our behaviours. We must recognise and take responsibility, owning rather than overlooking, excusing or turning the tables, calling out and blaming the responses that our behaviours create in others. We are each responsible for our actions, and for change to happen we must learn to accept that we cannot control the behaviour of others, we can only control how we respond.

There may be subconscious behaviours learned during childhood that we are unaware of as adults. We will only become aware of these behaviours if we take the time and effort to work on ourselves and come to fully understand our internal landscape; necessary if we want to ensure we do not inadvertently pass on unconscious actions to our own children and grandchildren.

Lets consider Narcissistic Traits as being on a scale as shown below, with the Excessively Selfish, score at ten plus at one end of the scale showing Narcissistic traits and the Excessively Selfless, 'People Pleaser' traits shown as minus ten on the opposite end of the scale. Note the score of balance sitting at zero in the centre. The aim for each of us is to stay as close to the zero as often as possible. Acting with integrity, being honest with ourselves and others. Practicing self-care and voice our opinions, honestly, openly and fairly. We achieve this through the process of self-discovery and awareness.

 

The Mask of Persona

One of the most recognizable traits of the Narcissist is the mask of persona. The 'Smiling Assassin' - the person in the room, whose outward smile hides an inner agenda.

According to Carl Jung, “A Persona is a mask or façade presented to satisfy the demands of the situation or environment, and not representing the inner personality of the individual. The Public Image.

Persona is also a trait of the people-pleaser. The person who smiles and says "Yes, of course, I don't mind helping out",  - when in reality,  nothing could be farther from the truth. People-pleasers will try to convince themselves that they are being kind, helpful, and considerate, despite hiding their true inner feelings behind a fake smile. People-pleasers will excuse this behaviour as being 'tactful, non-confrontational 'not wanting to rock the boat', - just a little white lie so not to offend' -  in reality, they are not being truthful or genuine about the way they feel, much in the same way as the narcissist.

Whenever we display an emotion, that does not correspond with the bodily feelings within (the somatic experience), then we are not being true to ourselves or honest with others. Integrity requires us to be truthful and direct at all times. Not to make excuses for ourselves by assuming others will not understand us. Whenever we smile and agree to do something that we later complain about because we only agreed to it because we felt uncomfortable, obligated, guilty or too fearful to say what we really think and feel at the time, then we are employing the narcissistic traits of the mask of persona and further impacting our lack of self worth.

Rule number one - Say what you mean and mean what you say! The emotion on the inside should always match the expression on the outside. Some people describe this as 'wearing your heart on your sleeve', I describe this as being the Truth of the Matter.

We live in a society that teaches Pretense and 'Persona' over truth and integrity.

We teach the mask of Persona as a matter of course.

Many professions are responsible for promoting Persona - expecting people to hide their truth feelings rather than delivering a genuine, truthful response. Sales and Customer Service is a profession renowned for it. People are regularly rewarded for smiling and acting 'interested and concerned', while dealing with 'difficult' or awkward customers, when interested and concerned is unlikely to be what they are experiencing emotionally on the inside, Persona places them on the lower end of the Narcissism Scale rather than teaching them effective, assertive and honest communication skills that will give them important life skills and assist them in reaching balance.  Mis-communicating our emotions in this way is unhealthy for us, it creates confusion and a lack of emotional intelligence.

How can we ever hope to break the cycle of toxic relationships or teach our children how to confidently express their emotions when we are actively teaching them how to apply the mask of persona and hide their emotions as professional adults.

The way forward is to teach people self worth, and effective communication. How to speak the Truth. How to say what they mean and to mean what they say.

Through the S.T.A.N.D one to one coaching sessions, we learn to drop the mask of persona and break the cycle of miscommunication; teaching Confidence through Authenticity, Self Awareness,  Responsibility, Assertiveness and the setting of Clear Boundaries. I hope you will join me in lifting the Mask of Persona. We can change our lives by changing our beliefs.

Enquire about one to one S.T.A.N.D Coaching Sessions for Confidence Building, Self Esteem, Assertiveness, Boundary Setting, Responsibility & Acceptance. 

And Remember - How you Feel, Matters!


Religion and Spirituality

Religion and Spirituality

Just the mention of the word 'God', has been enough in years gone by, to make me want to turn away, to switch off and roll my eyes knowingly. The words "oh, here we go - more preaching" echoing in my mind.

From as far back as I can remember, I have been aware of God. God has been present throughout my life in one form or another. I've sometimes referred to the presence of God, as God, Lord and as Father during conversations within myself (internal dialogue). While at other times I've used the terms 'Source, Life Force or Infinite Wisdom, depending on who I was speaking to or how I have felt about God at the time. My journey with God could be described as turbulent. I am ashamed to admit that this has mostly been a one sided relationship, in which I have regularly played the role of abuser - all in and attentive one minute, dismissive and uninterested the next.

During different stages of my life, I have adored then, ignored.  Relied then, denied.  Abused, Accused, Pleaded and Begged, Blamed and been ashamed of,  always taking for granted, but never really listening to what God might have to say. Never really understanding who God really is.

Being the eldest, religion was something of an issue for me as a kid, in as much as my relatively young parents hadn't quite worked it out yet. My Mum, a devout Roman Catholic who believed children should be brought up in the Catholic fold, my Dad, C of E, believed they should not. There was some push and pull about where us kids belonged religiously;  as often happens in families, and so for the first 8 years of my life I was considered to be C of E, which essentially meant my Dad had won the argument. As a result, I attended a C of E school and God didn't really figure in any of it. I didn't need to attend church either within school or outside of it, apart from the odd hymn, school didn't involve a relationship with God at all. Religion for me felt distant, removed, cold and indifferent, it wasn't something I felt I was part of. I can say this now because I am able to make a comparison, but I didn't know anything different then, I just remember - God wasn't involved in my life and so I didn't really notice he was there. C of E School for me was about learning to read and write in ways that made the teacher happy, it had nothing to do with God.

By the time I was 9 my Mum had won over,  and following our return from living in Africa, my siblings and I were christened Catholic and sent to a Catholic school. It was different - very different. Nuns doubled as teachers in this school -  called Sisters, and they were married to God. A confusing concept for a 9 year old newbie, but seemingly not something to be questioned,  because like God, Nuns were to be revered, especially this particular Nun, that was now to be my teacher.

Being a Nun who was married to God, essentially meant you were closer to God than the kids or any of the other teachers, therefore Nuns were tasked with keeping the kids in check by punishing them often enough to ensure they never toyed with any madcap ideas about misbehaving. You didn't actually have to do anything wrong to be in trouble in Sister Winifreds class. Sister, along with her trusty red pen, was a dab hand at child misbehaving prevention, an avid supporter of children in need, of a good stabbing with the aforementioned pen! She terrified me, which led to me frequently being stupefied in her presence - another behaviour she couldn't tolerate.

The Catholic School and The Catholic Church functioned as one as far as I could fathom.  I was expected to attend Mass and Confession regularly at Church, while prayers and assemblies were continued in School. God would know those who didn't attend Mass, because He was always watching - and Sister would soon find out about it.

There were lots of new rules for a kid to learn, for example; It is considered rude to look behind you in Church and usually resulted in a thick ear! A harsh learning curve for an inquisitive kid. Turning your back on the alter in Gods house isn't the done thing, eyes forward, head down, honour and respect are the order of the day. I was introduced to Mary, Joseph and Jesus - this felt so much stricter, but strangely, it felt closer, warmer even, a togetherness which was intense at times. I fainted on numerous occasions in Church, I think it was due to the worry of getting things wrong - the smell of incense still makes me queasy. I didn't understand the relevance of the feelings back then, or why one religion felt different to me than the other - it has taken me half a century to figure it out and to understand what the feelings meant for me.

Growing up I was an observer of life. Watching, listening, digesting, interpreting. A quiet but challenging kid I imagine - always questioning things that were 'none of my business in an era when children should be seen and not heard rarely won me favour.  I quizzed away silently - internally, drawing my own conclusions from the information I was observing. I could never understand the relevance of going to Church on Sundays to recite the same words over and over again; week after week, year after year, repeating the same thing - what did it mean? what was the purpose of it?. I haven't been to Mass in almost three decades but I can recite an entire Mass by heart.

Growing up a Catholic,  I often wondered if this ritual was what made someone a good person. Attending church every Sunday and being able to remember all the right words and actions in the right order wasn't easy, but is this what makes someone a good person in the eyes of God? I had my doubts about that, and if this were to be the case, what about the rest of the week?

I knew some people who never missed Sunday Mass, but I had my doubts they were 'good people'. God would undoubtedly disagree with that. The playground bullies who appeared to forget about God during the week, the gossips and the judgemental, - those people who showed up for Mass dressed to the nines and looking fabulous, while eyeing up and down with an expression of pity or disgust, those of us dressed in less glamorous hand me downs; "You should stick to wearing your school uniform you should, it makes you look much less scruffy" was the kind advise I received from one hypocritical regular church goer. God didn't mind I don't think, he could see beyond clothing - he knew what was in my heart.  I decided this is what confession must be about.  Maybe God doesn't actually expect people to be good or even nice to each other all of the time, and as long as they are sorry afterwards, every week - then all is forgiven and God will be pleased! A peculiar set up I thought and one that I was aware baffled my paternal Grandad.

I wondered about the people who regularly turned up late for Mass, since I was always in bother for being late. They'd attempt, in vein to shuffle in unnoticed - clanging through the double doors with their car keys rattling during silent prayer. Clambering clumsily into the pew at the very back, which usually meant they ended up sitting next to me. A crisp five pound note would be neatly placed on top of the loose change in the offertory tray, then they would nip away early before Mass had even ended - seemingly way too busy to give God their undivided attention. I never once saw any late comers getting a thick ear or the hard stare, no one seemed to mind their tardiness or interruption, then adults are treated differently to kids. I often wondered if the fiver made a difference to God? It certainly caught my attention, since our family could only ever manage a few loose coins.

A fiver would have bought the required ingredients for a decent family sized meal. A favourite homemade meat and tattie pie perhaps, covered in a thick crust pastry, with lashings of gravy, that my Dad had perfected. Baked in the old Range in a huge metal mixing bowl, money well spent in my view! My meagre offering was usually a solitary scruffy ten pence piece, retrieved earlier from the back of the couch or pinched from my Mums purse to save me from the shame of having to pass the tray along without putting anything into it. On a bad week, when I turned up to Mass with no money for the offertory, I would take the round wooden tray from my neighbour with one hand, shaking it gently while holding a clenched fist over it with the other hand, creating the illusion that I was dropping coins onto the green felted wooden tray. As a child, I'd developed ridiculous ways of disguising elements of my life that I was embarrassed or unhappy about - having no money being one example. As an adult, I realise it is unlikely I fooled anyone with my coin rattling charade, but it helped to make me feel better.

On a good week, my offering was a shiny new 20 pence piece taken from my Mums empty steradent tube collection, which were her savings for a rainy day. In my mind it would have been better spent on a quarter of Kop-Kops from the little shop next door, and I'm ashamed to say, very occasionally it was. The indiscretion inevitably led to confession the following Saturday, 3 Hail Mary's, 2 Our Fathers and a Glory Be - I have to admit, it was worth it - I loved Kop-Kops . I wonder how many other kids confessed about their ill gotten sweet-fest in the confessional, or was it only me?. Either way, I was glad the shop keeper wasn't a Catholic else Sister would have had plenty to say about it.

Being a helper; handing out hymn books, offertory trays, playing the Organ, being an alter boy, reading out or singing a psalm- these things seemed to win favour. I'm not sure if it won any favour with God but being a helper certainly won over the Priests and the important people in the Parish. I wasn't a Church helper and my singing was and still is highly offensive,  so I stuck to helping out the old people in our street and the residents in the old peoples flats. God wasn't there to witness it, but the old people, like Murray Mint George, Custard Cream Pat and our neighbour Auntie Pearl, known by the local kids as The Witch.  They all appreciated help from my younger Sister and I, running errands in return for a Murray Mint, a soggy biscuit or a delicious coconut covered snowball - and in my mind, the old people needed our help far more.

Over the years I experienced many twists and turns on my journey with Religion; regularly feeling judged or frowned upon, restricted and not good enough, but this is neither the time or the place to go into that. Needless to say,  I pulled away from the Church and it's teachings and as a result - I excluded God from my life for a while.  Growing up I had come to know God as part of a religion. I was desperately trying to make sense of things that didn't make any sense to me. Reprimanded for asking questions about things I didn't understand, and treated as though I was being disrespectful by asking, when in reality I was seeking answers. I was regularly advised to 'just have faith' which never felt like an answer to me, I interpreted it as 'shut up and do as you are told'.  Trying to figure out what this remote, mysterious, bearded super hero, that I envisaged looking down from his kingdom in the clouds, expected of me.

I was protective of my God;  fearful of listening to other peoples ideas of religion incase it offended my One God. Affronted by people who attempted to force their religious beliefs onto me - those who appeared to assume their God was the right God, and a different God to mine. I got involved in many arguments about religion over the years, which wasn't really my intention.  I closed the door on a God who I believed had stepped aside, leaving me alone to cope and allowing some of the darkest hours in my life to almost destroy me. A God who in my mind couldn't really love me as he had failed to intervene on my behalf.

For me Religion, with its hierarchy, rules, regulations and restrictions, with all its the pomp and circumstance, misogyny, preferences and exclusions  -  had clouded my judgement and confused my relationship with God. It has taken me almost half a century to truly connect with God, which I have achieved through the art of meditation - a practise previously known to me as prayer, albeit on a much deeper level.

Like pulling back the curtain to reveal Oz in the The Wizard of Oz, I found that by separating God from Religion, for me it revealed Spirituality.  I discovered God within.  With it came clarity, a feeling of connectedness, truth, light, insight and inner peace. I realise now that by having knowledge of God as a child, I'd learned the difference between what felt like being close and warm was God in my life and a sense of belonging,  as opposed to the empty, distant coldness of not knowing God.

Religion had introduced me to God, and whether it had intended to or not, it had inadvertently taught me that God was an external being, a source outside of myself, a force to look up towards, to worship out-with, a Creator of all living things, looking down on me from above.

With Spirituality came the realisation that God is within me - within each of us, a part of us and within all living things - God is the universal life force that dwells within the souls of every single one of us and without it we are lost. By focusing my attention inward I am connected to God, an entirely different feeling to what I previously understood about God and religion.  This has been a life changing experience for me, it has changed the way I live my life. It has changed how I treat myself and others. It has brought new understanding and clarity to things that are important to me.  I recognise that not everyones journey or relationship with God, Religion or Spirituality is experienced in the same way and therefore this blog post may or may not make any sense to you, the reader. However, one thing I am absolutely certain of is that when God was excluded from my life, the emotions I experienced within myself felt cold, empty, uneasy distance; the reverse is also true.

I'm not suggesting for one minute that anyone else has or will experience either religion or spirituality the same way that I describe it here in this blog - I only ever speak for myself and my experience. I mean no disrespect to anyones beliefs or chosen religion, be that Catholic, C of E or other - all knowledge of God is valuable.

Through Spirituality I am closer to God and connected to the universe. I feel warmth, connectedness, peace, gratitude, contentment, love and joy. I see beauty in things that previously went unnoticed, I find joy in the simplest of tasks, gratitude for the love I feel and life that I share, understanding has replaced confusion, I feel grounded and contentment where once instability reigned.

If you are suffering within and have yet to find inner peace, my advice is - meditate, you can be sure the answers are within you. I wish you love and peace.