On February 6, 2021 Seniors Today hosted its monthly counselling forum as part of the weekly Health Live webinar series. Dr Monika Dass spoke on adult bullying and addressed questions from the registered attendees. Dr Noor Gill captures highlights from the session
Dr Monika Dass is a Chartered Psychologist, a Chartered Scientist and an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society, UK. Professionally, she has counselled over 12,500 individuals in a span of 20 years and has published several papers in both Indian and international journals.
A trained pianist and vocalist from the Trinity College of Music, London, Dr Dass has influenced many lives with the joyful learning of music. She has been actively involved in several popular musicals such as The Sound of Music, Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and so on, with her expertise in developing children through drama. She firmly believes that any extracurricular activity can help tap into one’s potential and bring out the best in an individual.
The session started on a happy and peaceful note, trying to help everyone connect with themselves with Dr Dass guiding the attendees to close their eyes and be at peace with themselves.
Dr Dass said: “Some people try to be tall by cutting off the heads of others.” We’ve all encountered adult bullies at certain points in our lives. Be it a boss, a colleague, a partner, an unruly neighbour, a sales representative, a condescending family member, a conniving friend, social acquaintance and many more such abusive social relations.
o On the surface, an adult bully comes across as aggressive, demanding and domineering. Dr Dass says, that with the help of this webinar, with an astute approach and an assertive communication, you can turn their aggression into respect.
o The 3 Cs of assertive communication are:-
- Clarity (in what you have to say)
- Being controlled (in the way you deliver your message in a calm and controlled manner)
The moment you lose your temper, the moment you say something you shouldn’t say, you’ve given into the bully winning and you losing. This why you need to be assertive and yet controlled.
o Things you need to look out for in a bully:-
– Aggressive people try to domineer you. They speak loudly and in an overbearing voice.
– They are critical of you and your actions.
– They try to humiliate you in front of others.
– Domination, of course is the main aspect of bullying.
– They constantly interrupt you when you’re speaking. When you’re trying to hold a conversation with somebody, there will be a third person in the room who is constantly interrupting you when you’re speaking. You probably don’t think much of it, but it comes under the subject of bullying.
– The constant “you” statements are also something you need to look out for. For example- you were responsible for this. You have done this. This has happened because of you.
– Tempers being triggered very easily.
o Somethings that you can do to be safe:-
– We all have to learn to be safe in any such situation. For you to keep your distance.
– Learn to keep your cool and be assertive.
– You should talk about your experience. If you don’t voice your experience, it gets covered up.
Q. I frequently get bullied by my own children. I’m 61 years old and I find that even though I have been earning a fair bit and my children still survive on my money but they bully me a lot. They bully me about the way I work, the way I live, the clothes that I wear and everything. How can I control things?
Q. As I was growing older, my children also decided to have a joint account, so that just in case something happens to me, they can still manage the account. But now I feel that since they know how much insurance money, etc. is coming in, they know how much I have and I feel like I don’t have any control over my own money.
A. One of the main aspects here – cut yourself out of the situation. Please understand why you’re allowing yourself to be bullied. You may think that it is easier for me to say things, but it happens in all our lives. The point is how we handle this
- a) Ask yourself these questions- Why are you allowing a child to take over? Why are you allowing them to dictate terms? Why are you allowing them to say things that you’re meant to be saying/ doing? You have to think for yourself. Why are you allowing them to tell you what to do?
- b) If you are staying with them, and if this is a situation where you are by no means dependent on them- when you’re working, you’re independent; I’m sure you’re functioning well on your own. Ask yourself, do you need to stay with them? And if you’re not staying with them, you need to get them to understand that you too need space.
You can go back to the bank and you can get the bank account back in your own name. The basic thing is- you need to take control of your life, your money, and your accounts. You need to get back into action and tell them what you intend on doing. Have a lawyer and your chartered accountant with you, because you can’t do this without someone helping you out but get back to having and you managing your own funds. Your money is your money, how you spend your money is up to you.
The money will always be the power centre. Whoever controls the money controls power. Until and unless you’re in control of your finances how will you live in a dignified manner particularly when you’re in an abusive relationship? There is always a way to assert oneself without getting into an abusive tussle.
Q. Before the lockdown happened, I was very active and always on the go, doing various activities. But since the past one year, sitting at home, every time I walk out of my home, I feel tired and low on energy. Just want to know why this is? People have been telling me that sitting at home, one should have gotten lots of rest, it seems to be the opposite for me.
A. You have missed out on sunshine, you’ve missed out on fresh air. You’ve missed out on exercise also. One of the reasons why India is on a roll today, in terms of the pandemic, is because our immunity levels are very high. Since you’ve not been functioning at your full capacity, using your limbs, just being at home, sitting on a couch, maybe walking from one room to another, all this makes a difference. And going out makes a difference. You have probably not been getting that fresh air. You are going to feel tired, you need to sort out your vitamins and other supplements but apart from that, just take long walks in a park regularly, if you’re living by the sea,breathe in some fresh air. Try and doing your yoga and other light exercising outdoors than indoors. Meet up with friends. You will start feeling differently once you start get going.
Q. I’m 60 years old, my husband died last year. I have two daughters. I come from a conservative family. Would it be improper to marry again? My girls are very selfish, I talked to them about it, and they were very angry. I had a very miserable sex life and have now found a man who is 8 years younger and likes me. What should I do? I am also not very wealthy.
A. There are two things,
- You have to take your children into account, because if they are going to get upset, it is going to be difficult for you. In terms of, living with them. On the other hand, you need to live your life on your own terms, in a wholesome and happy manner.
- You need to figure out if you really want to get married even though you’re 60 and there is somebody who is 8 years younger than you? Is it necessary for you to get married? Remember that your husband has just passed away last year so I would strongly recommend that you wait for a year or 2. If this relationship sustains itself and if you feel comfortable, and in the meantime if you can perhaps get your daughters to meet and like this young man, you may find a subtle change in the relationship. But there is no point in you getting married right now, under these circumstances because you will have to deal with two angry children. You’re going to have to deal with a new marriage and that has its pros and cons. You’re going to have to deal with someone new in your life; not your husband, who you were used to. This new person will have his own demands. There are a lot of things to balance out and that would be a crazy situation to put yourself into. So I would recommend time, and see what you can do in bringing the girls closer to this person.
One of the attendees wanted to share their experience. He says, “I’m 72 years old, I had a very bullying daughter-in-law and I must tell you that the only way I could deal with it was by confronting her. I confronted her and my son. I called my son, took him out for a drink and I told him that this will not do. I think the only way one can deal with it is by telling them that this will not do. Take it on head on and don’t worry. Yes, there will be problems, there will be some amount of discomfiture that you will have but it will all settle down.
Dr Dass agrees with the attendees actions and adds that the only way to deal with a bully is to deal with them head on. Being nice and polite does not work 90% of the times.
Q. What are the legal provisions available for senior citizens in a scenario where they are bullied?
A. India doesn’t not have a set format in terms of legality, for an individual, an adult, a senior citizen. But they are also very clear that senior citizens need to be independent in terms of the way they are handling their finances. There are certain legalities you would have to follow. But there is no such thing as a senior citizens being looked after by the country, in the country that we are living in. It is a different scenario abroad, but unfortunately we haven’t reached that stage here. One of the main reasons is- we live very differently here in India. Our family bonds and family ties are very important to us and we take the adults and older people in our lives for granted. And that is one of the reasons why this country has not got any major legal coverage in that area. Secondly, this is not a welfare state unlike the U.K where the government takes care of them and sends them some money regularly. They have free healthcare facilities available for them. When you have a population of 1.5 billion, it is very difficult to have a welfare state.
– You have a right to have what you have and what’s yours, your children don’t.
– You can always make a proper will and you don’t need to discuss and disclose the details of the will with your children.
Your will, your ideas about how you want to manage your finances, the way you want to lead your life, the decisions you want to make. These are decisions you are entitled to make and that is the way it stands.
Q. Is it possible for me to draw my will? I love my kids but I don’t want them to know that I love them so much that I am giving away my entire property to them. Can that be kept a secret? Can the will be changed later on with ease? Who is the right person to go to for the will?
A. A good family lawyer and a trusted person. Nobody needs to know the details of your will if you don’t want them to. The lawyer will do that job for you once you’re gone. You don’t need to discuss your will with anybody. Its best not to discuss your will, reason being, it can causes friction. Greed is another thing it can cause. People will try to persuade you, as to why can’t you do it while you’re still alive and you will cave in, that’s for sure. In all fairness, 99% of parents do the right thing by their children. To write your will, you will require a good lawyer, 2 witnesses, trusted witnesses I would say, close friends of yours who will not divulge the details.
Q. I am a senior citizen, living with my daughter and her husband. Her husband is very nice and kind. I discovered that he was gay. I saw him in an embrace with a servant. My daughter has two children, both in their late teens. What should I do? Should I tell my daughter and ruin a well settled family or should I stay quiet?
A. I feel that your daughter needs to know this. Whether she believes you or not is a different thing. Most likely she won’t. But it’ll give her food for thought. And later once she has processed it and wants to confront her husband, she’ll do so. In all fairness, she’s got 2 children, in the same house where the servant is and sounds like a very unhealthy situation. That is something you need to consider and weigh its importance, sine the safety of the children outside and inside that home is what is most important. And that is your daughter’s decision to make.
Q. I’ve heard the entire session, I’m 80 years old. I just want to tell everybody and take Dr Dass’s view on the matter, in case of a problem you need to take it head on however you need to handle it with a lot of care. Kids need to be handled with kid gloves otherwise you will have problems all your life. In my case, I had problems when I was 70, but I needed the kids as much as the fact that they were bullying me. I needed the kids support so please handle it with care. You can’t just head on, you can’t just get into legal action, you can’t threaten them, and you need to handle it with care because you need the kids as well.
A. I have one question for everyone to think about- regardless of whether you are 60, 70, 80, why do you need to hand over your finances to somebody else to control, is it required? We all need our families, and we all need space. Your kids need space and so do you as much as they love you and you love them. The only thing that I object to is, why would you allow yourself to be bullied? There has got to be another way of asserting yourself so you’re allowed to live your life in a dignified and a happy way.
Dr Dass is also available for an individual hearing sessions. If you have any questions that you would like to be answered in private, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will forward the letter to Dr Dass and then you can take it from there.