Ash’s story – Case study

Playing By New Rules: Ash's Story

By most people’s standards, Ash had led a pretty amazing and successful life. He started life working in insurance, left to join the armed forces for 10 years.

He then reinvented himself as a management consultant and led an international team on high value projects.

Ash was married, and mainly happy and secure in his relationship. When he came to see me, things had become tricky at work.

His new boss seemed to be increasingly undermining, unpredictable and unsupportive. But this contrasted with immensely charming affirming behaviour too.

She’d engineer situations which would show Ash up in front of his team or peers. She’d ask for reports and then deny that she had, or pass them off for her own work.

Then she would single him out for special praise.

Confusion And Distress

At first Ash was mystified. He did all he could to build the relationship but at increasingly felt hopeless and angry. He’s learnt a lot of resilience and skill in his career. Nothing seemed to help.

When we met, he was on the point of resigning but wanted one last roll of the dice to see if it was something about him that was the issue.

As we identified that is boss’s behaviour was not only bullying but narcissistic, a whole new perspective on his life opened up.

Recognising Childhood Patterns

Ash noticed how his boss really got under his skin. All his worries about being found out, not meeting the grade or being a fraud were stirred up. He lay awake at night, riven with anxiety.

Soon we made the link, between his boss’s inconsistent behaviour and his mother’s. She would blow hot and cold. When he met her needs and expectations peace reigned. But any deviation was met with coldness, withdrawal and passive aggression.

He started to realise that alot of his drive in life was down to trying to get his mum’s attention and approval. Inside, he felt terrified of being found out. Of truly not being loveable for who he was.

Grief And Anger

As Ash started to come to terms with the reality of his childhood, there was a great outpouring of grief and then anger. He didn’t know what to do with that and we worked to help him experience it safely and to turn it outwards, rather than descending into the depressions he’d experienced through his life.

Stilling The Inner Critic

Later, he started to notice how self-critical he was and that the young part of him was continually bracing himself against attack. It was near impossible to relax or feel secure in himself.

Finding ways to quieten that voice, and to start to hear and then trust his intuition and deeper sense of himself were transformational.

In all areas of his life, he began to be able to say no, without being crippled with guilt. He started to listen to his body, choosing foods, clothes and exercise that felt right, rather than those which his mother or partner might approve of.

Finding Power And Freedom

Finally, he felt free enough to decide this boss and job, were not for him. But he wasn’t choosing from a place of fear, anxiety and shame. Now he was choosing from a place of power, realising that neither his boss, nor his employer deserved him.

He also started to listen to deeper dreams he’d had as a child, to work outdoors. He took a Mountain Leader qualification and started to lead tours in the UK and further afield. He stopped paying as much attention to his family’s negative judgments and even to his own. His life, at last, was his own to lead.

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