Writing this blog requires a lot of introspection and thinking about my past. I realize that I’ve changed a lot over the past months and years, and it’s all making sense to me now:
I was living in a shark tank!
Reading Chellie Campbell’s book “The wealthy spirit” (http://www.chellie.com/) brings her interesting concept of sharks and dolphins back to me. She describes it pretty well that there sharks and dolphins and tuna in your life. To break down her concept in a few sentences:
- Dolphins are wonderful creatures. They are playful, enjoy life, and they swim in schools. They are creative, they attract beauty and love, and they are successful.
- Sharks are eating machines, born to eat you. They fight against dolphins and eat tuna. They want to take advantage of dolphins.
- Tuna are “average” people, swimming with the mass, eaten by sharks.
Of course, it is a very simple concept, but I really find it very appealing, especially when looking back at my own life over the past years. As a creative, freedom-loving dolphin I found myself in a shark-ish sea. Fortunately, I had a some dolphins that supported me in my life and at work. Therefore, I always remained strong in my faith in myself, no matter how hard some people tried to push me down.
Con-artist sharks, disguised as friends
To say it with Chellie’s words, I met some “Con-Artist” sharks in my life. Con-artist sharks try to be dolphins, they pretend to be your friend, but in their eyes you can see the calculation. They just figure out how they can take advantage of you. They don’t want to pay you, or share anything with you – all they see is money and they use your efforts for their own good. They use YOU. They used me, too. I found myself surrounded by some sharks in my life. I noticed that something is wrong, because I had severe colds and infections every other month, my immune system was down. I realized that I had to change – I worked until I found myself near to a burn-out, I gave everything I could, but nothing was ever good enough. But the minute I changed – the moment I stood up for myself, I found myself confronted with sharks that tried to push me down immediately. I want to share some of the insights I gained over the past years.
Be aware of the signs!
First of all, be aware of shark signs. I realize now that I was being drained; it began to tune in to my body. I didn’t feel my usual spark anymore. Of course, I enjoyed working with my patients and clients, but other than that, I felt very tired after speaking to certain people. I realize now that these were the signs, that there is something wrong going on. Dolphin people lift you up; they support you and leave you with a better mood. I met some wonderful dolphin people over the last years, people who supported me, my work, people who shared my ideas, and we developed some amazing things together. But working with shark people left me without energy; I was exhausted almost every day and had a damaged immune system. I don’t blame shark people for that – it is the nature of them to use you. But it is up to you to stand up for yourself and to protect yourself, because you cannot avoid sharks at certain points in your life.
Stand up for yourself, and take a breath
Stand up for yourself! Coming from a psychologist, this is a rather natural advice; but I had to learn how to stand up for myself. I was teaching people how to stand up for themselves, but failing to do this in my own life. Over the past years I really changed, I inherited the habit of standing up for myself. But be aware that the minute you change and stand up for yourself, you will notice a change in other people’s behavior as well. It will attract good things in your life. Dolphins will welcome the change, help you and support you – sharks and tuna people won’t. They will try everything – using shrewd methods – to push you down.
You have to always remember your individual power! I know it from myself and from my work with patients, that it is so easy to lose it. The minute someone blames you in a bossy way, we tend to tense up and feel diminished. I found the following step to be a very good advice, both in my work with patients and in my own life: Take a breath. Take a deep breath; and maybe another one. The tension will go away eventually, and we can focus on our self, remembering the strength we have inside.
Your personal wall
Sometimes, it is difficult to quit the job. It is easy to say, just quit your job or leave a relationship, when people don’t acknowledge you. Sometimes it’s just not possible! In this case, I advise my patients and clients to visualize a protecting wall. This can be anything, and I am amazed with the ideas and visions my patients had –a fire wall, the Chinese wall, water ditches, brick walls, etc. Try to find something that protects you in your mind. Visualize a protecting wall around you, an energy shield. It is a good protection when somebody is trying to emotionally hurt you, is yelling at you or otherwise pushing themselves negatively into your sphere. You might experience that it won’t cut you so viscerally anymore.
Say NO – set boundaries
I found it hard for myself to set boundaries at work. Over the past years, I learned to say “I will give my best, and this is enough. This is what I can do for you, and this is what I can’t”. I learned how to not get defensive, but to talk in a constructive way. When someone is pushing your buttons, it is always your decision to react in a civilized manner. Of course, civilized and objective discussions like that are not possible with most sharks. The moment I changed myself, stood up for myself, I realized that there were still some people that tried to put me down. I learned to say to myself and to other people “Not with me!”
About the writer: Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum is a Licensed Psychologist, and the founder and director of Thrive in Life Counseling and Therapy LLC, his private practice in Franklin/Nashville, Tennessee. He is a researcher as well as the author of several peer-reviewed papers and book-chapters about internet gaming disorder, internet addiction and anxiety disorders. He offers services in English and German. Dr. Mario Lehenbauer-Baum diagnoses and treats individuals, couples and groups with a wide range of challenges in their lives, such as internet addiction, video game addiction, ADHD, shyness, social anxiety disorder and other anxiety disorders, phobias, diversity, relationship issues, men’s issues, career and life challenges, marital and couple issues and other challenges. His research work focuses on “new” technologies, such as online-based social skills trainings as well as the “side effects” of using new technologies, such as addiction.