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Thursday, January 17, 2013

How Your Workplace Can Feel Like a Dysfunctional Family

Workplace dynamics often mimic dysfunctional family dynamics.  It's no wonder that employees are often emotionally triggered by what goes on at work.

At Work:  Feeling Powerless and Like a Child Again
Over the years, I've heard many psychotherapy clients complain that the dynamics at work, especially  with difficult supervisors, often make them feel that they're back home again when they were children being chastised by their parents.

In many ways, workplace relationships can feel like familial relationships in both positive and negative ways.  When workplace relationships are positive, they can be a source of mutual support in much the same way that siblings support each other.

But when workplace relationships are negative, they can be as competitive and contentious as dysfunctional family members.

When employees come from family backgrounds where there was emotional or physical abuse, they can get emotionally triggered when they work for a difficult supervisor, especially a supervisor who is verbally abusive, demeaning or a bully.

Getting Emotionally Triggered at Work:  Re-Experiencing Childhood Trauma
Most of the time, people who get emotionally triggered at work don't realize it because this is often an unconscious process.

When they get emotionally triggered, they're not only dealing with the current situation but, without realizing it, they're also re-experiencing the emotions from the past.  If these feelings are especially overwhelming, they might realize that they're overreacting to the present situation, but they might not understand why or what's happening to them.

Some employees, who are emotionally triggered by the dysfunctional dynamics at work, might feel anxious or panicky.  They might feel powerless to deal with the situation at work in much the same way that they might have felt powerless when they were children.  If the situation goes on long enough, they might feel depressed.

If it's possible to get out of a dysfunctional work setting, it might be the best recourse.  But it's not always possible to leave.  And there's no guarantee that the next place won't have its own dysfunctional dynamics.

Getting Help:  EMDR and Somatic Experiencing
Psychotherapy, like EMDR or Somatic Experiencing, can often help people to overcome the original trauma that is being triggered by the situation at work.

Both EMDR and Somatic Experiencing also help clients to develop emotional resources to deal with the stressors they're experiencing in the here-and-now and differentiate these stressors from the past.

Rather than getting triggered over and over again, if you're in a workplace environment that mimics a dysfunctional family, you could benefit from working with an EMDR or Somatic Experiencing therapist to help you overcome the trauma in your history as well as developing the emotional resources you need for your life now.

I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my web site:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006 or email me: josephineolivia@aol.com.

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