How To Let Go?

There was an incident at work that happened (or started happening) two years ago. It spiraled out of control because of a co-workers inability to tell me what was happening.

Essentially a very small issue that was a misunderstanding got construed into something far more than it was supposed to be and the retaliation for such an event was a lot of personal and professional harassment from above mentioned coworker. There were e-mails to friends I had outside of work talking about how much better off they would be without me in their lives. Gossiping and complaining about things that were irrelevant to my superiors (without talking to me first, but on the other hand they were told by the superiors that they needed to “mind their own business”). The individual painted every unsuccessful experiment as a character flaw against me – not just a normal part of research.

I’m not going to go in to a lot of detail, but I tried to take the high road and not retaliate in the same fashion that this person was lashing out at me. I didn’t tell my side of the story, I didn’t complain, I just took it. Because that’s what I thought I needed to do to get through two more years of work (the length of my fellowship). I did ask said individuals multiple times what the issue was, tried to work through it and discuss it, but I never took it further that this and any resolution we seemed to reach on a one-on-one basis was quickly undone when a stressful event in their life happened and they needed someone to be a villain.

I didn’t even know the issue the person had with me until a year later. It took her a YEAR to tell me it was because she had read something on my blog that she didn’t like. I didn’t even know she read my blog (I’ve since changed my blog domain and it is highly unlikely, though still theoretically possible, that she or other former coworkers could read this), but I had talked about a work issue (that’s the specific post, if you’re curious) and it bothered her that I would talk about it to total strangers. (Never mind the irony that she was pissed I would talk about work issues anonymously to people who don’t know me, but she was totally okay with talking about me behind my back to EVERYONE I knew and worked with in real life.)

What has always bothered me about the entire incident was that the issue she was unhappy about was one where she asked me to stand up with her against another member in the lab and I did because she was my friend (or so I thought), and in my blog I talked about how I didn’t necessarily believe that she should have complained about the person to our boss. Because I didn’t agree with her, but I still stood up for her when she needed it, I was the “bad guy”.

(If you’ve ever heard anything about graduate school life and how back stabbing and manipulative people can be, essentially imagine that.)

The thing is, that I can’t seem to let go of the anger I feel because of what I was put through. Everyday for a year following that “incident” was essentially a new day for her to find new and ingenious ways to try to make my life as much of a living hell as possible. With only one goal that I could foresee: making me leave. Eventually she won and after a year of her social and professional torture I started applying for jobs and left.

Some days I say that I’m happy to go through all of that. With that experience I now appreciate so much more the coworkers I have now, the school I’m at now. The caring and constructive, non-backstabbing nature of my new position is something that I love and value – and I’m not sure that I would if I hadn’t have had such a terrible experience at my previous position.

However, whenever I’m reminded of what went on it still fills me with anger. I just don’t understand how someone could intentionally be malicious and spiteful to someone. When I hurt someone it makes me feel bad. She seemed to take pleasure in not only intentionally hurting me, but going out of her way to do so. I just don’t get that.

But my question is: How do you let go?

The issue was reflared in my mind yesterday because of a harassment training I had to do. And the last 24 hours have been filled with me going over every instance and every moment of pain that was inflicted on me for, from what I can best perceive, was started from nothing but a misunderstanding as I tried to stand up for her.

I try to pre-occupy myself – but it just comes back. I tried physical activity – that only made me more angry.

I know eventually I’ll forget about it and it will go back under the surface until the next time something triggers a response. But I just don’t know how to let it go. How to think about my time in that position without anger or resentment or utter confusion.

Suggestions? I could sure use some help right now…

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11 Responses to How To Let Go?

  1. agirlwriting says:

    I’m not sure how I do just let things go but I can. I can forgive but never forget.

    If you’re hanging on to this, it’ll just pull you down in every day life. You have to move on or else it could slowly just eat away at you and everything you do!

    Focus on the future.

    Jessica

  2. Oh goodness – I know what you are going through with looking back and being angry for things. I get that sometimes with different things from my past. All I can say is that you need to find the positive in the situation for you.

    My life coach mentioned that writing a letter to that person getting out all of the things on your mind, may help you to set it free. It’s an emotional exercise, and can be quite draining but when you are done, you can make a choice – mail it off to her, or burn it. When I did my letter I burned it. That person isn’t part of my life anymore. I’ve moved on and moved up and am enjoying where my life has taken me since the altercation. I wish the person well in their life, but I have no desire to have that return to mine.

    I have also broken dishes (ones I really detested) to help me release the anger and frustration.

    The only other thing I can suggest, is start training your brain to shut it off when the thoughts get back there. Tell yourself it’s in the past, it can’t be changed, but you’ve learned from it and will take the lesson forward with you.

    It’s a tough thing and a hard process. Maybe talk to your guy about it – to get it all out to someone and release it from you. Cry, yell, scream, break something you don’t like. Vent it all out – no matter what form that venting takes – but do something to let that out and set it free. Kickbox class? Boxing class? Martial arts?

    The other thing that worked for me was visualizing all of those emotions tied to that event in a backpack. Each time you find yourself thinking about, physically walk to someplace and physically go through the motions of taking that backpack off and dropping it somewhere else. Don’t walk back to that place when you leave whatever room it is and leave it there. Do that as many times as it takes. It also helps to be aware of your thoughts. Whenever you think about it, say out loud. “No. I’m not going back there. That is in my past and not part of my present” then take off the backpack/shed the clothing, do whatever you visualize to remove that from you and leave it behind. Literally.

    (I can tell you this is another reason I’m a curler – what other sport do you get to throw something as hard as you can, and get a most satisfying CRACK/SMASH as it hits the opponents rocks and they go flying away?!)

  3. She’s got serious mental issues. Convert that anger to pity and it will be easier to deal with. If you’re religious, pray for her.

    I had a similar situation with an administrative assistant here a few years back who was harassing me. My mom said to document every thing she did and to stay as far out of her way as possible because if she was doing this to me, she was probably doing similar things to other people as well. Turns out my mom was right and the woman was strongly encouraged to resign by upper levels of administration. There was a little kerfuffle with the faculty she did like sending around emails about how could we possibly let this woman go etc. I quietly voiced my concerns to my department chair with documentation suggesting that not all of the faculty was united in support for the woman and the chair did not fight for her. Her replacement is just awesome, competent and totally sane.

    Still, I feel sorry for the woman. She’s never going to be happy. She’s always going to be crazy unless she gets professional help and does a lot of growing. It’s good to stay away from nutcases.

  4. I try to remember, “Anger hurts you, not the person you’re angry with.” Even so, maybe a kind but firm e-mail to her stating these feelings would be therapeutic – doing so as a catharsis and not expecting an apology. Or hand write this all out and burn it.

  5. ndchic says:

    Maybe you could give her some budgeting tips so she can save up to remove the stick from her ass. She sounds mean and cold-hearted. On a serious note, you could pray about it. That usually helps.

  6. k says:

    I agree with the first commentor – write a letter. I was chatting with a friend a couple of years ago (a friend I met via blogging!) about relationships and specifically about a relationship where I was hurt badly, and she told me about a book she read about letting go. Obviously the name escapes me now, but the thing I took from it was that I should write down how I was feeling and how he hurt me. It was this awful, cathartic experience with a bunch of tears. I never gave it to him (never intended to), but I kept the letter – which I wrote over a couple of days – in my nightstand for a while, in case I wanted to read over it again, and then eventually tossed it. I found that it really helped me let go of the situation. Every now and again I still think of therelationship and of him but with less anamosity and hurt, and I now think of it as just something in the past that will never go away but doesn’t really impact me anymore.

  7. eemusings says:

    I had a very long time of harbouring anger toward my parents for some of the things they said and did to me. I’d veer between hating them, and hating myself for the part I played in it. Really, I think all that helped me was time and distance.

  8. Allison says:

    Wow, I had a really similar experience, very recently. I don’t know that I have much to offer, but remember that the best revenge is living well.
    You didn’t deserve what she did and just remember how much better life is now. Don’t give her any of your energy.

  9. Mama Martin says:

    The key is forgiveness. Forgiveness is not only for the person forgiven but for the person doing the forgiving. It means a decision of your will to accept the pain and consequences of her words and actions. It means trusting God to be just. Justice may not be evident now in daily life, but it will in the end.
    The decision to forgive may need to be made over and over – “I decided to forgive…and I still decide to forgive.”
    Forgiveness does not mean that the relationship will be restored unless she asks for forgiveness and you both work to rebuild what has been destroyed but you can forgive, even if she never asks.
    Forgiveness is also easier when we see who we are and what we have been forgiven. “Those who have been forgiven much, love much.”

  10. Psychsarah says:

    I wish I had a great suggestion for you. I had a horrible incident with a colleague a couple of years ago. It caused me great anguish. Many tears, lots of anger, lots of venting to my mom, my husband, a good friend, my boss (who was awesome about it thank goodness). It took a while, but i no longer react strongly when i think about it. I still regret what happened, because vulnerable people were hurt by her actions (much moreso than I was hurt) but I can’t change it, so I tried to forget about it. I only see this woman maybe once a year now, and I just kind of pity her. In retrospect, I realize her actions came out of her insecurities, and she is almost old enough to be my mother. It’s sad to think that people carry stuff like that with them through their entire lives.

    I hope you’re able to process what happened to you either through writing or taking it out, so you can put itbehind you soon.

  11. Serendipity says:

    I had something similar happen to me over a year ago at work. It seemed no matter what I did, my supervisors were treating me like crap. One sent me to the hospital and one bullied me. She bullied me when I was her assistant and now that I’m on the same level as her, doesn’t bully me so much but still makes snide comments to me. I have literally had to turn my head sometimes at meetings.Right now, I’m not her focus anymore, someone else is, so I had seen a lot of relief.
    I agree with ee musings. I’ve held a lot of resent towards my father and while I still get angry at him, I’m trying to let it go. It’s hard to not have feelings and the only thing that is going to help is time I think.

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