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Sexual harassment at work. Lets stop it now

Posted on 04 December 2017

We have all been hearing a lot about sexual harassment at work recently, from Hollywood studios to our own parliament and it is clear how deep the wounds can go and how long they can last.

It is now obvious that sexual harassment at work exists in all types of workplaces and in all professions and jobs. The flood of revelations is making it crystal clear that lives are being impacted all around us. Sexual harassment has financial and career-limiting effects as people have to leave their work or don’t go into the careers they want.

We just do not know how many promotions have been missed, how many shifts have been lost, how many job changes and early retirements are attributable to sexual harassment, but we can make a good guess that it is huge.  It is no exaggeration to say that a proportion of our workforce are living their lives in a psychological state of being under attack.

If you are following the news, you may be finding the revelations painful. Perhaps hearing about other people’s stories has brought back bad memories for you. Or it might be that, seeing other people taking a stand has made you realise that you cannot go on in your current situation.

I hope you do feel you can do something if you are suffering, and I would encourage you to take action to defend and protect yourself. Make no mistake, if you are being sexually harassed at work, it is likely to be doing you great physical and mental harm.  

If this is happening to you, you are probably very aware of how limiting this can be, not just in your career but in other areas of your life as well.  Perhaps less obvious, but just as damaging are the enormous psychological consequences and effects sexual harassment can have.

For millions of people, going to work every day is a psychological equivalent of stepping into a lion’s den, primed for fight or flight. You may recognise this in yourself, perhaps you are feeling anxious, jumpy and tearful or increasingly lacking in confidence. This is not surprising, if you are going to work every day knowing that your personal integrity and body space are likely to be breached, your defence system will kick in. Every fibre of your being will be on the lookout for danger and primed to react. You will be hypervigilant, constantly looking out for the next threat.

And there is no respite

Then there is an extra and very nasty twist. It is very hard to get out of the situation if you are sexually harassed at work. If you are in, say a nightclub and you are getting the sort of sexual attention you do not want then you can leave. This might not be fair or right, it might really annoy you but chances are you will be able to get out of the situation. This is much less true of work. If you want to pay the mortgage you have little choice but to work. If you are being sexually harassed at work, you have little option but to keep turning up every day. So, every day the body and mind go into battle mode once more.

This is incredibly damaging to our health and wellbeing. A study in the United States found that over 90 percent of women who have been sexually harassed at work experienced “debilitating stress reaction, including anxiety, depression, headaches, sleep disorders, weight loss or gain, nausea, lowered self-esteem and sexual dysfunction.”

Just looking at that list of symptoms may make you think that you have to change your situation. I am not going to say this is easy, but for the sake of your own health and well-being it is necessary.

One good thing to come out of the current situation where sexual harassment is finally being acknowledged is that sources of help and advice on what to do is easier to find. This article from the BBC website is full of useful practical stuff.

Optimistic future

Practical solutions and support are essential, but they may not be enough. As we have seen, if you are experiencing sexual harassment you are taking a psychological battering and you may need professional, targeted help to rebuild your strength and self-esteem.

I would advise you to seek help from a cognitive hypnotherapist. If you can find someone who is also trained in eye movement techniques to help you deal with memories and trauma then even better. 

A good therapist will talk in detail to you about your history and your experiences and help you learn how they impact on your behaviour now. This will enable you to use your own personality, your own strength and beliefs systems to deal with the situation you face.

If you come to see me, in my anxiety hypnotherapy clinics in Harley Street or in Henley then I will work with you to both heal the harm which has been done and build the resilience and confidence to help you win out in your current situation. This will both help you cope in the here and now and also to find and connect with your core inner strength to stand you in good stead for the future. I will help you deal with painful memories and show you how to reduce painful emotions and unhelpful behaviours. This, in itself will show you, at a deep psychological level, that change is possible. You will feel better after we have done this work, and that can start to happen in one session.

Deeper work, getting to the root of the problems and healing long-term damage can take a little longer, but often we can resolve the issues in four or five sessions. I will also take time to help you deal with your current situation. Your self-esteem and confidence will return and increase and you will feel able to look to your future with a new optimism.

Please do not suffer alone. Contact me here and let’s talk through what I can do to help you.

Fiona Nicolson on Google+

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