Energy Vampires and Compassion: Protecting Oneself without Judging Others

Energy Vampires and Compassion: Protecting Oneself without Judging Others

A few months ago, I final read Dr. Christine Northrup’s book, Dodging Energy Vampires.  It had significant meaning not only for my clients but for my personal life.  I have had significant trouble maintaining my own energy around certain people and it took me a long time to realize that I am an empath.  Like many empaths, I had to learn the hard way and undo the damaging conditioning done by our society that always referred to me as “too sensitive.”

Yet, rather than feel validated as I read this book, I felt that there was a slight tone of negativity that made me believe, for just a hot second, that I must be stupid for not realizing that there are toxic people in the world.  We all know there are.  What I’ve learned from my practice is that the majority of these people need healing too.  The conventional advice to simply stay away from all people who you identify as an “energy vampire” seems to promote a dualistic view that people are either all good energy or all bad energy.

And that’s not realistic.

Having worked with domestic violence and sexual assault trauma victims (and at times, perpetrators), I’ve learned that people will be open or closed to intervention at different points in their life.   A custody battle will turn highly contentious with a narcissist involved but the system (if it is working correctly) can intervene and make a statement.  Does it always happen? No.  The most toxic energy vampires are master manipulators but that does not mean we should run and hide in a cave our entire lives.  Some of the most toxic men I’ve come into contact with have also been the most hurt and damaged by their own relationship history (You can watch an episode of Mindhunters and listen to the serial killed Ed Kemper talk about his mother – just saying).  They are trying to survive as much as you and I are.

I like to think that the tone of Dr. Northrup’s book is a familiar one.  I’ve certainly tried to save clients from bad decisions by being more direct in session.    Yet, from my experience, people must walk his or her own path.  They must learn and when they are ready for change, we can all be there to cheer for them.  What the toxic vampire needs is for his or her victim to grow strong enough to reject them so they can be forced to begin their healing process.  While some will never choose to heal in this lifetime, it doesn’t mean that, as an empath, we don’t take the opportunity to do our own work.

Assessing, acknowledging and separating yourself from toxic vampires is only the first step in healing.

What needs to happen as you have this opening to realization is a profound and deep healing process that starts with finding your authentic voice and bolstering your insecurities.  It means diving deep into your own dark side, swimming in what is there, and emerging from the other side with the knowledge of what it is about you that finds these people intriguing and attractive.  An energy vampire is essentially the Universe telling you that it is time to get to work on YOU.

If you miss the call or do not heed the warning, you will repeat the process with someone even more toxic (Freud called it the repetition compulsion).  It will keep happening until you are strong enough to leave this dynamic behind.  When you reach that level of strength, you will no longer need to blame, criticize or judge the vampire.  You will feel safe and be able to acknowledge that he or she is simply on their own path and that you have the CHOICE to decide if you will be a part of their own healing journey.  Choosing to not be at this stage of healing creates a sense of well-being and empowerment.

The types of relationships that give us the most trouble as empaths are karmic ones.  They are the ones that feel magnetizing and amazing – like you’ve known each other for years on the first date.  Most often, if we have not done our healing work, these are not soulmate relationships.  They are here to wake you up and teach you something.  Often, these relationships will be with energy vampires.  So while it is always good to run the other way, without doing the work to heal, you will never truly be free.  Often, they also will never leave you alone!  This is especially true if you are living in a culture where abuse and violence is a natural part of the way men and women communicate.

Energy vampires are not pleasant people.  They are, however, our greatest teachers and the people who probably need the most compassion.  But it is not the job of an empath to take care of them.  On the contrary, it is the job of the empath to fight like hell to heal so that his or her authentic voice can be heard when they set their firm boundaries with loving kindness.  It is the job of the empath to grow when they are being held back.  It can be so easy to resign oneself to life “as it is” but with the advent of technology, a re-emergence of spirituality, and a heck of a lot more knowledge about energy medicine, we don’t have to sit around and hope that things get better – we can take action.

Finally, part of the healing process is radical self-care.  Energy vampires show up to signal to you that you are. not taking care of yourself.  You may be physically unhealthy, drinking too much wine, not exercising or working 90 hour weeks.  If you are an empath, heed the sign that YOU need to make some life changes.  The energy vampire is not there to help you change but if you can recognize his or her purpose, you may realize that they are a Universal gift and a real opportunity for transformation.  Even if you are living in a community where physical escape is not possible, you can transform your emotions and your mind.  No captor  is ever really able to take your soul if you know that you have a greater life purpose.  I like to think that as empaths, part of our journey is learning how to care and protect ourself AND to speak our truth.

I like to send gratitude to all the people I have identified as an energy vampire in my meditation practice.  I will not be spending personal time with them but if they are showing up or around in some way, rather than get defensive and judgmental, I let go and say thank you.  They have been my greatest teachers.

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Licensed Psychologist and Founder of Rapport Relationships

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes is a relationship expert and licensed psychologist.  She provides dating strategy, consultation, and date coaching services to clients all over the world.  Dr. Rhodes is a frequently sought out media expert on the topics of seduction, sensuality,  dating, divorce, and relationships.

Verbal Abuse, Aggression, and Trauma:  What We Can Learn from US Open 2018

Verbal Abuse, Aggression, and Trauma: What We Can Learn from US Open 2018

Serena Williams and the US Open Verbal Abuse Incident

Like so many people, I got side tracked from work this week following Facebook comments pertaining to the 2018 US Open.  Except to my surprise, comments on my Facebook wall took a negative turn in ways that I did not anticipate.  Rather than have a conversation of opinions among adults, it was very clear that there are very strong opinions about what transpired in the women’s final between Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams.

If you missed it (not sure how that is possible), Serena Williams was penalized in an allegedly harsh way for negative behavior pertaining to her frustration of receiving a loss of point for unauthorized coaching.  While on the surface this doesn’t seem like a big deal, if one watches the video, I think it is a big deal and was a situation that escalated out of control.   In my opinion, her choice of words and the way they were delivered was professionally inappropriate and does constitute verbal abuse.

So, my mind went to other places and wanted to know if there were scientific reasons to consider when evaluating whether Serena William’s behavior constituted verbal abuse and whether the umpire’s behavior was indeed unfair.

Aggression and Neuroscience

In my research, I quickly stumbled across an article by Micai, Kavussanu, and Ring (2016) that compared the executive functioning of both male and female athletes as it pertained to outcomes of antisocial and aggressive behavior.  Executive functioning are the skills needed to monitor, plan, and control our behaviors/emotions and are located in our frontal lobes (the front part of your head). The results suggested that poor self-reported executive functioning was related to higher levels of antisocial and aggressive sports behavior by male athletes but not female athletes.  This suggests that the male athletes may have less impulse control and, therefore, poor self-monitoring skills.  They did find that female athletes who argued, criticized, swore at or abused their team mates had poorer working memory and spatial planning skills but the correlations were weaker than found in male athletes.

In other words, scientific research shows that we probably need to be stricter with male athletes about their antisocial and aggressive behavior.  

The scale that was used to measure the antisocial behavior is called the Prosocial and Antisocial Behavior in Sport Scale.  It is a 43-item scale created by Kavussanu in 2009. Since that time, it has been used in numerous research studies to help add to the literature on prosocial and antisocial behavior of team sports.  Prosocial items include, “Asked to stop play when an opponent was injured,” “Gave positive feedback to a teammate,” or “Encouraged a teammate.”  The antisocial items include, “Verbally abused a teammate,” “Intentionally distracted an opponent,” or “Retaliated after a bad foul.”

Aggression was measured by the Reactive and Proactive Aggression Questionnaire, a 23 item self-report checklist.  It specifically is designed to measure aggression in relation to another person who has annoyed or angered the other person.  It asks the rater if, “they yelled at others who have annoyed” them or, “had fights with others to show who is on top.”

This post is not meant to be a research paper but to only highlight what may be an underlying issue none of us are paying attention to as it pertains to the Serena Williams incident. Namely, that we are excusing aggressive behavior because we do not punish men for similar behavior.

In my opinion, this is not just sexism, its stupidity.  Men are much more likely to act aggressively and have poor impulse control. This, however, does not mean that men should NOT be penalized for their behavior – it means that what happened in this match should happen when EVERYONE acts in ways that would be classified as aggressive or antisocial.  We should not be trying to give Serena Williams a break so much as to equalize the system so that everyone receives the same penalties for such transgressions.  It should be clear what constitutes verbal abuse and penalties should be instituted in an uniform manner.

She Lost her Cool.  Why is it a Big Deal?

Almost half of this country has experienced childhood maltreatment and multiple forms of abuse before the age of eighteen.  We are a traumatized nation who is living in a world of fear and anger on an everyday basis.  Children and adults with trauma histories need to see that abusive behavior can be dealt with in professional ways and that yelling, screaming or threatening in any way is simply not okay.

We all deserve to feel safe and treated with respect. While I understand that Serena Williams does not feel she was treated with respect (and I do understand why), it does not give a free pass to abuse someone in retaliation.  Most children would identify this as bullying.  We as a nation cannot tolerate minimizing aggressive behavior if we truly want to help everyone rise and make this nation a happy and healthy place we all call home.  Standing your ground in an assertive manner does not need to tip over into verbal abuse.

My Experience with Serious Abuse Cases

While in California, I worked on a particularly difficult child custody case.   It was a battered woman’s case and the allegations were the worst I had ever heard.  Yet, the one thing that stuck with me all these years is that when asked why he beat his wife, he simply said she spoke to him in the wrong way and deserved to have her head beaten so hard into the floor that she sustained permanent brain damage.  He yelled this at me and when I asked for him to lower his voice, he told me I was being biased.  He was given a warning but as he continued to escalate his tone with me, I was left with no choice but to end the interview and record it as incomplete.  The issue of bias was discussed for weeks before a judge made the decision that the children were not safe with an abusive father. Many years later, they are still in court arguing over what exactly constitutes abuse and whether abuse affects your parenting skills.

If there needed to be discussion in a case that was as clear cut as this as to what constitutes abuse, I think it is safe to say that our tolerance as a country for abusive behavior is way too high.

I don’t think any of us means to minimize aggressive behavior or make light of the seriousness of sexism.  We do, however, need to stop and think about the larger message of what it really meant when Naomi Osaka took the responsibility of apologizing for her win when a grownup lost her cool at work and took it out on another human being.  We are not talking about just etiquette here. We are talking about human rights and being able to take responsibility for one’s actions (because only antisocial people blame others without seeing their own contribution to the issue).  Professionals all do the best they can.  I certainly did with the case above and know I could have handled some things differently.  I hope this umpire learns what he could have done better to deescalate situations like this in the future.  His behavior is certainly not best practices for dealing with highly charged emotional situations and I’m sure he will have some professional repercussions from it and hopefully have some training.  Yet,  I’m still waiting for Serena William’s statement where she eloquently takes responsibility for her portion of the incident and then discusses why we need to stop giving free passes to male athletes for poor behavior.

Only time will tell how Serena Williams chooses to deal with this situation.  Speaking out shouldn’t result in a blurry line as to whether the words used are abusive. For me, the words used in this situation simply are just too close to what the above research article would code as aggression and I think we all should stop and think about what that really means for us all and what we value as a country and the messages it is sending to everyone.  I think we need to stop and think about whether we equate having a voice at all with aggression because that would mean we are constantly missing amazing examples of leadership. Naomi Osaka deserves credit for the way she handled herself during this difficult situation and perhaps its time to focus on those athletes who exhibit exemplary sportsmanship.

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Licensed Psychologist and Founder of Rapport Relationships

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes is a relationship expert and licensed psychologist.  She provides dating strategy, consultation, and date coaching services to clients all over the world.  Dr. Rhodes is a frequently sought media expert on the topics of seduction, sensuality,  dating, divorce, and relationships.  In addition to Rapport Relationships, Dr. Rhodes is the founder of Visual Arts Reimagined (VAR) where she provides services to visual artists interested in entrepreneurship and leadership.

Why you Attract Toxic People

Why you Attract Toxic People

You’ve heard it before – you attract what you are.  Yet, sometimes you have been working so hard on yourself that you believe there is something wrong with someone else!

Many women attract narcissistic men for a reason (and vice versa).  These individuals have charming persistence, drive, ambition, and can be a lot of fun in the beginning.  We are often attracted to them because they make us feel whole.  Their “confidence” makes us feel stronger and safe.  As the process of disillusionment starts, however, the tables turn and you find yourself in front of a man who blames you for waking up in the morning.

Yes, these people lack empathy and are challenging.  Yes, they have their own work to do.  The problem is that if we simply judge and blame the narcissist or the toxic person, we miss the bigger picture.

The Universe has sent them to you as an opportunity for you to learn to say no, set proper boundaries or to stop giving too much of yourself.

But we often don’t see it that way.  Instead, we blame ourselves, call ourselves a failure, believe the abuse and can’t see how messed up the other person may be.  Yet, the toxic person knows, perhaps unconciously, that if you ever figure out what was really going on, you would leave and demand more for yourself.

So in the meantime, they will feed off of your energy.  They start showing up at work, in your personal life, and even walking down the street.  You try to get rid of them one at a time but a new one finds you!

WTF is going on?!  It’s a sign to dig deeper and do some serious self-growth work.  At our core, those of us who attract these types of personalities may feel empty, lonely, and abandoned.  We may have childhood wounds that were never fully healed or we are simply looking for distractions to keep going.

In these moments, it is best to take a step back and commit to your own self-care.  It may mean you need to go to therapy, find an energy healer, or make some lifestyle changes.  Whatever it is, there is probably things from your past that are making you vulnerable.

Doing your healing work is not easy.  The journey may be a long one but warriors never had it easy.  A journey means over-coming adversary to be stronger.  If we start thinking about these toxic personalities as simply opportunities for growth, their behavior is less personal.  We can let go of judgment of our self and surrender to the lessons that need to be learned.

And yes, narcissists love empathic people.  Empaths often run away from anger but anger on their part is often a sign to you that you are not being controlled by them.  Let them be angry and you step away to heal.

You are not alone.  So many of us have worked through these challenges.  If you need support, reach out!

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Licensed Psychologist and Founder of Rapport Relationships

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes is a relationship expert and licensed psychologist.  She provides dating strategy, consultation, and date coaching services to clients all over the world.  Dr. Rhodes is a frequently sought media expert on the topics of seduction, sensuality,  dating, divorce, and relationships.  In addition to Rapport Relationships, Dr. Rhodes is the founder of Visual Arts Reimagined (VAR) where she provides services to visual artists interested in entrepreneurship and leadership.

Why you Should Care about Core Values

Why you Should Care about Core Values

Healing is not an easy or inexpensive process.  It is the process of undoing one’s cultural conditioning and trusting that what is left, is worth the time and effort.  It truly is a leap of faith.  I believe that we are all here for a reason but we often don’t get to discover that reason without having our a$* handed to us and choosing to be brave enough to go through the pain and the darkness.  It is not a journey everyone wishes to embark.

How do you define your self-worth?

For the longest time, my self-worth was attached to academic achievements and the title of Doctor.   Or it was attached to my physical appearance or sexuality.  It took me years to discover who I really am, love who I am and own who I am.

My hope and dreams for the future are to either prevent the development of the false self through education and preventive interventions and in helping young adults step into a more mindful process of self-discovery at a younger age.  I don’t think we need to wait to 35 before we realize that we may be on the wrong path or a path that is not truly aligned with our true purpose.

What are core values?  What are yours?

Every experience we have creates our life story.  Our thoughts about those experiences make the difference between co-creating with the Universe and living in fear.

Years ago when I started my healing journey, my therapist asked me what my values were.  I was 31 and realized I wasn’t sure how to answer the question.  Our personal values are the guiding principles behind who we really are.  Knowing them and understanding we all have them will not only guide your life and decision making, it will clue you in to why people piss you off.

Fear of narcissists

Now more than ever we live in fear of being taken advantage of by narcissistic people.  Many women have had the experience of not being believed when the “amazing” man in front of them treats them like crap behind closed doors.  Like these women, it would take me a long time to realize that the man I thought I was going to marry at age 28 was indeed one of these dreaded narcissists.

What helped me through the beginning part of my healing process was to discover that one of my top values is love.  It has guided my career and helped with my decision making in my personal life.  When I look back on that relationship, I realized I could either blame him for not meeting my needs or come to terms that my core value of love was not something shared.  He was looking for a socialite and interested in his own status more than in being himself and creating a truly happy life.

Core values as life lessons and empowerment

I also have learned to not blame him.  We met at a time when I was deeply hurt and grieving the loss of my grandfather, moving across the country and facing an impending lawsuit related to my grandfather’s estate.  Everything was falling apart around me and my last memory of my grandfather was when he told me to marry a Jewish doctor. Six months after his death, that’s exactly who I found and boy would it be the wrong fit for me but I also was living my false self, trying to fit in and be what I was not born to be.

FInd out your core values

Today I live by my own values.  I learn from the lessons the Universe provides and I am happier than ever (even if I am single).  I encourage you to take the time to care about your values, learn about your core strengths, and sign up for a free mini consultation with me so we can help you figure out a path to your happiness.

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Licensed Psychologist and Founder of Rapport Relationships

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes is a relationship expert and licensed psychologist.  She provides dating strategy, consultation, and date coaching services to clients all over the world.  Dr. Rhodes is a frequently sought media expert on the topics of seduction, sensuality,  dating, divorce, and relationships.  In addition to Rapport Relationships, Dr. Rhodes is the founder of Visual Arts Reimagined (VAR) where she provides services to visual artists interested in entrepreneurship and leadership.

What Aziz Ansari can Teach us about Dating and Seduction

What Aziz Ansari can Teach us about Dating and Seduction

In the past week, allegations of sexual misconduct were released by a website called Babe.  According to the allegations, Mr. Ansari asked a 23-year-old out on a date that, in her opinion, turned into a nightmare and led her to conclude that she had been sexually assaulted.

My Background Working with Sexual Assault Survivors

I want to be clear that I consider myself an advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.  In the past two weeks, I have walked 3 personal friends through reporting very significant date rapes.  All three of them made the choice to report it to police, to have a rape kit completed and go through the process of getting a restraining order.  All three women were scared and told themselves that maybe it was a “hookup that went bad.”  In their cases, there was nothing that put them at fault.  These situations were clear abuses of power and caused physical and emotional harm.   Judges did not stall in giving these women their restraining orders.  One of them has been harassed by his family members and wishes that she didn’t report the incident just so the re-traumatization would stop.  Date rape happens more often than we think.  I routinely deal with this in my professional career as a psychologist and have special training in the assessment of domestic violence and abuse (including sexual abuse).

The Ansari Allegations Raise Other Issues: What Does it Mean to be a Man?

I, however, do not see the Ansari allegations in the same manner. Rather, the allegations bring to light a huge problem we have with American dating and hook up culture: None of us really have a clue on how to communicate about dating, relationships, and sex. We are too afraid to just be honest about what it is we really want.  Every woman in New York has had a version of this dating story but with differing outcomes.

It is hard for women, let alone young women to really understand what it is like to be a man in the United States. I’m obviously not one but I do work extensively with men who struggle with their personal definition of masculinity.  They worry that if they don’t make a move that women will think they are not interested.  They now worry that if they do make a move, they will be at risk for sexually harassing their date.  What most women don’t know is how much men’s masculinity is tied to their ability to get women to like them and ultimately sleep with them.  Most of my coaching conversations with men under 40 revolve around how to increase the number of women they sleep with.  It often becomes my job to dig a little deeper as to why they are not yet ready for a serious relationship.  The response is almost always related to previous rejection and pain associated with a bad experience with a woman.  Women simply do not understand the power they have to make or break a man’s ego at a young age. Eventually many grow up to use women as a form of validation that they are indeed “a real man.”  Tinder becomes a tool to recieve the self-esteem boost he lack on the inside.

Why We Can’t Always Simply Blame Men

To further complicate things, we can’t blame all men for this point of view.  We essentially train them to be this way as teens and young adults.  We teach them that women like assertive and confident men.  We teach them that persistence is the key to getting a woman to sleep with you.  We teach them that if they want something, they need to go get it.  We mistakenly tell them to “man up” when they are struggling to express their emotions.  The documentary The Mask you Live In beautifully discusses the toxic culture of masculinity we have cultivated in this country.

We DON’T teach young men how to read body language or read the state of mind of their date.  We don’t teach them that they are more likely to misinterpret a woman’s interest in sex. We don’t teach them how to calibrate their approaches to fit the woman sitting in front of him rather than memorizing a list of universal rules.  We don’t teach them that the REAL definition of seduction is about being selfless and socially calibrated so she feels safe enough to pursue sex, a hookup or a relationship. The real definition of seduction is more about sensuality and respect – the very things women need biologically to feel comfortable with having sex with any man.

Rather than learning these skills young men, who were not good with women at a young age, focus on achieving high levels of financial success and/or status.  While women may be more likely to make more careful determinations of whom they share their bed with as they become more successful, most men do not think that way. Success and wealth can become a tool of manipulative seduction whose aim is to get a beautiful young woman into bed as quickly as possible.  These men truly believe that being seductive means using explicitly sexual language and acting sexual. They simply do not understand that the real definition of seduction requires an understanding of the other person as a human being and selflessly providing what she needs to feel comfortable enough to consent to sex.

Most Women Want to Have Sex Way More than our Culture Allows us to Believe

What is funny about this viewpoint is that most young women today would be more than happy to sleep with a man quickly if he treated her like a gentleman, made his intentions known, and asked for her opinion or allowed her to lead. There is no shortage of one night stands in NYC. Many men and women happily hookup without a problem and the men that are successful with women do not have to work so hard – their behavior makes her feel safe enough to consent in the affirmative.  It is a healthy interaction where both parties feel happy with the outcome.

So here is what I think went wrong in the Ansari situation:  She expected to be courted and respected because that what she needs to be turned on.  He failed by this account.  She gave him complete control of the date. He thought he was on a roll and that it was time to seduce her into bed.  Had his approach been completely different, one in which made her feel taken care of and respected, I doubt that this would have been the outcome.  Had he made his intentions known from the start by telling her he was not interested in anything more than a night of fun, it would have given her the opportunity to consent or not. The problem may have been sidestepped all together.

What Now?

For everyone to move forward, we really need to be mindful to deal with the lack of respect we have toward each other in general. Online dating has commoditized women and women are tired of feeling like an object.  Women also need to communicate with men when they do things we do not like.  Simply stopping communication and disappearing does not help to resolve the issues that transpire.  We as a culture can put a stop to these types of behaviors if we are simply brave enough to communicate and behaviorally match our actions to our words. 

We are all going to have problems in the dating department – I just hope this story encourages women to assert themselves without anger or defensiveness so that men can learn how to treat women appropriately and women can learn to simply walk away from experiences that make them uncomfortable sooner.  I also hope that men can begin to simply be upfront and honest about what they want to avoid this type of mismatch. If you just want sex, find the woman who just wants sex.  Be open, honest, and direct.  You may be surprised how many people are willing to share your vision and how happy that relationship oriented women will be if you stay away from attempting to seduce them with overly sexual behavior on a first date!

If all else fails, keep it classy – in today’s world, you can’t risk ruining your reputation over a bad sexual experience.

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Licensed Psychologist and Founder of Rapport Relationships

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes is a relationship expert and licensed psychologist.  She provides dating strategy, consultation, and date coaching services to clients all over the world.  Dr. Rhodes is a frequently sought out media expert on the topics of seduction, sensuality,  dating, divorce, and relationships.

#MeToo, Now What? How to Move the Conversation about Sexual Harassment Toward Concrete Action

#MeToo, Now What? How to Move the Conversation about Sexual Harassment Toward Concrete Action

There are many women across America who are celebrating that men are finally seeing repercussions for their sexually inappropriate behavior.  It surely is a time to sit back and thank all women for their sacrifices in getting to this point and shared their #MeToo stories.  From Minakshi Jafa-Bodden who was brave enough to file suit against Bikram Choudhury for sexual harassment and won to Ann Curry whose career was derailed simply because she set appropriate professional boundaries with Matt Lauer, women are standing up and finally receiving the recognition for their reports of unprofessional and inappropriate behavior .  All over the country, men whom we perceived to have a great deal of power are being told that at the end of the day, they abused that power and now, for the first time, must face the consequences.

It is unclear how long this trend of bestowing consequences for, unfortunately, very common behavior will last.  Human resources managers and attorneys are likely to be kept very busy for a long time.  Yet, as a professional with forensic psychology training and expertise in domestic violence and sexual abuse, I can tell you that while we may get excited by the progress that is happening now, it would be foolish to think that this battle is over.

In fact, smart women know that the war has just begun.  Smart women know that not every organization will support them, even with these changes.  Smart women know that white women may be safer to report sexual harassment than women of color.  Smart women know that just because you report sexual harassment does not mean it stops. Smart women know that startups or companies without actual human resources departments likely do not have the staffing to handle these reports appropriately.  Smart women know that our world is quickly turning into a freelance dominated culture where human resources simply will not exist to help a solopreneur.

A problem that will not go away

Sexual harassment is a problem that will not easily disappear.  Power and control are intoxicating feelings and are often heightened in high stress situations.  If we as women are to have any true impact on the future of the workplace environment, we must come to terms and LEARN how best to manage power dynamics in the workplace.  Mimicking the perpetrator in the office is likely not a good long term strategy but education about power and control is.  Learning to identify the dynamics well before a line is crossed is good prevention.  Knowing how to protect yourself and build alliances in the workplace will continue to be necessary.  Gaining an understanding of why our culture rewards narcissists and other antisocial individuals will help build resilience. These are all skills that traditionally men have been better at than women and we can no longer afford to let these aspects of the game slide.

Young women are at highest risk for thinking that this does not matter.  In her book, Nice Girls Still Don’t Get the Corner Office, Dr. Frankel’s statistics indicate that women still have a long way to go to earn the money and the power that men have. Over the past few years, I have helped numerous clients transform his or her own image to deal with a multitude of environments.  I continue to convey that having a strategy that aligns your personal and professional goals is as necessary for your career as it is for your personal life. Women are the first to say they don’t want to play games.  Unfortunately, in both areas, if you do not play, you likely do not get what you really want and if you are a solopreneur or in a freelance/creative industry, isolation can quickly kill your career.

What is troubling me today is the naïve idea that if we simply tell our stories that the world will change. While building a community is helpful, statistically we have known for years that between 40% – 60% of women in the workplace have experienced behavior that is classified as sexual harassment.  These numbers do not highlight the additional smaller percentage of men who are experiencing it as well.  What the #metoo campaign did well was show men how close to home the problem was but in lacking a further goal, the #metoo campaign also scared a lot of the men that are capable of supporting women.

#MeToo is just a start.  We need a new definition of masculinity.

For a problem that is so common and widespread, the underlying issues will need to be addressed over the long run.  In my opinion, the biggest reason why such behavior is so frequent and common is related to the fundamental lack of respect for relationships in general and a complete lack of communication skill across the board.  Further, we have a culture that teaches men that masculinity is related to how many women you sleep with.  If you want to better understand what is wrong in our workplace, look at the dating industry where young men still pay obscene amounts of money to pick up artists to learn how to sleep with women.  Or visit a high school and listen to the stories of dating violence and bullying.  The behavior starts at a young age and we are doing very little to circumvent it.

Where are All the Good Men?

Over the past five years, I have heard stories from women about why they left their firm to start their own practice or set out to become an entrepreneur.  Most of the time the story highlights a man who made them feel uncomfortable at work and didn’t want to deal with the drama anymore.  Yet, I have also worked with amazing men who are now living with high levels of anxiety about NOT sexually harassing women and are scared that women will misinterpret their behavior if they are friendly towards them.  These men have experienced women in their personal life who have given them feedback that their behavior is in some way inappropriate when they were in no way intending to harm them.  While they take the feedback seriously, they find themselves confused and hurt choosing to avoid contact rather than risking offending another woman.

These men are hiding themselves both personally and professionally at a time when we really need them to step up beside us not behind us.

There has been story after story of fathers who do not know how to address this topic with their daughters or whom think, because they are not a woman, that what they should say does not count.  Silence now sends the message to all the women that their experiences have been trivial.  If you are one of these good guys, it is imperative now that you figure out why you are staying silent.  Women need you more than ever.  Daughters need you to lead and these perpetrators need to know what masculinity really is.

To move the #MeToo conversation forward, these are recommendations we all should consider.

  1. Encouraging people to simply report sexual harassment may put them at risk if they are reporting in an environment that does not value relationships or a healthy work culture. Workshops to train men and women about how to navigate their own work culture prior to making a report will give men and women the tools they need to take a step forward with confidence.
  1. Immediately respond to sexual harassment by saying no and asking for it to stop. This can be verbal or written.  Do not feel ashamed if you realize that certain behavior was sexual harassment at a later point in time.  Simply ask it to stop when you realize what is going on.
  1. Men need to take a hard look at themselves and commit to ongoing personal growth and development. This may mean learning more about relationships and communication at a young age and making the conscious choice to stop using women in their personal lives as validation for their masculinity.  Our culture needs to help men redefine what masculinity is and give our young men choices to find themselves.
  1. Women need to take a hard look at why they often give up their power in both their personal lives and their work lives while trying to find “the one.” Women are so willing to give their power to someone else that it is little wonder why we think men have all the power – they do because we gave it to them.  Books like The Rules are basically manuals on how to be assertive and know your worth.  We have a self-esteem crisis among women in this country and it needs to be addressed now.
  1. Most women feel ashamed that they did not say no right away especially if they have been victims in the past. We have an epidemic of sexual assault and domestic violence in this country and we need to start paying attention and funding the programs that we know work to stop the violence.
  1. Women need to consciously build relationships and create a support team to call upon in times of crisis. Women in relationships are more likely to have no support team outside of her spouse. We need to support everyone in building their team.  Women always do better when they seek legal counsel immediately. Hire a therapist or a coach for a few sessions.  Sometimes even the right career coach can help you navigate this situation.  DO NOT GO IT ALONE.
  1. We are in a dangerous place if we simply focus our attention on the men that commit horrendous behavior and do not validate the men that do the right thing. Individuals and organizations should start to find ways to highlight those people who embody the values and the ideals of company culture.  When we focus on the positive and ignore the negative, everyone’s behavior changes for the best.
  1. We need to focus on social skills and assertiveness training of our for both young men and women starting in middle or high school. Training young women to just get your education without giving attention to the social skills they need to handle future difficult situations will mean that women will stay at the bottom and be scared to assert themselves when needed later in their career. Training men to “be a man” does nothing to give them the skills they need to communicate with women.
  1. Organizations need to start getting smart about using holiday parties and corporate retreats to begin to train men and women about appropriate conversation and respect – and no I don’t mean more of those horrible sexual harassment videos. The biggest issue I see is in the inability of men and women to read nonverbal body language.  The easiest way to teach these skills is to hire a well-trained social dance instructor with psychology training to come and give a lesson.  You may be surprised how easy it is to spot problematic people by watching them lead in a dance lesson and having them experience what it is like to be a follower.
  1. Women need to mentor other women and encourage them to participate in the office politics and help them strategize their career from day one.
  1. Women in their 20s need to realize that dating is a wonderful opportunity to practice boundary setting, negotiation, and relationship skill building Avoiding all dating because you are focusing on your career means less opportunity for practice and a decreased opportunity in better understand men in general. Mindfully cultivate a group of people in your personal life who are supportive and be quick to eliminate anyone who does not meet your standards.
  1. Women need to hire mental health experts to help them deal with their emotions and learn skills to manage their anxiety. Anxiety and fear is often what hold women back whereas men are more likely to simply move forward even if they are scared.
  1. Women need to learn how to think like a detective. Documentation, keeping a journal, knowing how to write emails to collect data etc… go a long way to making a woman feel empowered to take ownership of how she responds to sexual harassment.  Most women do not know how to write effective emails or understand that emails can form the basis of documentation.
  1. Women need to monitor their social media profiles and be active in their industry. Relationships make it easier to find other work if you really need to make a change.  Do not get complacent in your current job.  Always be interviewing.  You will feel more powerful always knowing you have options.
  1. Women need to learn to waste a little time and learn to work smarter, not harder. I can’t tell you the number of women who sacrificed their entire life for a project only for that project to be taken over simply because her boss did not respect her as a colleague.  Boundaries make you more powerful and respected.  Men do not give up their poker game for a date or a business meeting.  You shouldn’t give up your exercise or hobbies.
  1. Money gives women credibility and power.  Be assertive with negotiations and with what you are worth.  If you are in a helping profession or a creative field, do not think that you must be poor to help people.  Money is the tool that will help you help more than a handful of people.  It is why it is the Time’s Up campaign is so powerful.
  1. Invest in learning how to manage your personal image with your hair, makeup, and clothes. I recently gave feedback to a 35-year-old man that he should be wearing a blazer to meetings since he was not the engineer on the project but rather than an attorney. A few weeks later he did it and was shocked with how much more respect he received. Women need to do the same and invest in their appearance as an assertiveness tool.  Men are inherently visual – if you want to give them something to look at, make sure it is your face so they listen to what you say!  In fact, men often dress this way to convey their power.  If you do not match it, you leave yourself vulnerable in some industries.  Learning how to use your dress for different environments is also a powerful tool.
  1. Build your personal life around your core values and value your personal time.  You will need these outlets to cope with difficult work situations.  Life should exist outside your work.  Take the time to focus on your passions – you never know when you will need them or who you will meet participating in them.

So much of what I see in my clinical practice is being experienced in the work environment.  Both men and women need assistance in navigating the new realities of their work and personal lives.  If we all begin to focus on the research that indicates that healthy relationships are vital for our wellbeing and happiness more and more men and women will act more assertively to make change in line with the research. If we also actively reward the women and men who are treating everyone with respect, we can finally change our culture.

Relationships simply make or break our lives.  It’s time to treat them with the respect they deserve.

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes

Licensed Psychologist | Founder of Rapport Relationships | Founder of VAR

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes is a relationship expert and licensed psychologist.  She provides dating strategy, consultation, and date coaching services to clients all over the world.  Dr. Rhodes is a frequently sought media expert on the topics of seduction, sensuality,  dating, divorce, and relationships.  In addition to Rapport Relationships, Dr. Rhodes is the founder of Visual Arts Reimagined (VAR) where she provides services to visual artists interested in entrepreneurship and leadership.