Q. After everything I’ve given to my job, I’ve simply had enough. The constant politics and personal attacks are too much for me. Last year I took on a huge challenge alongside an older co-worker, someone with more seniority who had some views very different to my own and it was a disaster.

In my opinion I breathed new life into that flagging project, I gave everything to it and even exposed my family to criticism for the benefit of the partnership and the greater good, but in the end I was disowned. Everyone blamed me and I was ridiculed and rejected by people who had previously told me how much they respected me and liked me.

I returned home to my previous occupation and poured everything into it, into my old job and my family. However I still haven’t been able to get on with the things that are important, instead I’ve been hounded mercilessly by co-workers and outsiders who are still intent on bringing me down. I don’t take any of the complaints personally, but it frustrates me that resources have been spent on these attacks when all I was doing was trying to make things better for everyone. Can’t they see what they are doing?

Why couldn’t people let me be just to get on with it? And how do I get them to focus on the real problems instead of endlessly pursuing me and my family?

S.P., Wasilla, Alaska.

A. These are difficult questions, particularly since there is almost nothing for us to work with together here. As you have experienced, other people’s behaviour is often unfathomable and even more often, uncontrollable. All we truly have power over is ourselves, and we must begin there. Attributing the whole of a situation in which we are involved to the actions of others can be momentarily satisfying, but it leaves us with nowhere to go. At some point, especially when problems keep recurring, we have to ask ourselves; What is the common denominator here?

It sounds as if you have faced a great many personal attacks over the course of your career. I’m wondering why you don’t take these attacks personally when they seem so obviously personal, and when you are aware of the toll they have taken on you and your family. While attributing this hounding to powers outside of yourself and your own actions allows you to keep moving without the distraction of self-reflection, it may be preventing you from making sense of what’s happening. Perhaps more importantly, it may prevent you from sensible action.

I understand that “Why” is a tantalising question, S.P. We are meaning seeking creatures. However, if the situation is as you describe, ongoing attacks, uncontrollable hounding and time wasting, then “Why” is not the best question to ponder. “Why” leaves us standing like a moose in the headlights. No life-loving moose asks “Why?” when they are looking down the barrel of a gun. First, they take responsibility for their own life and safety and act to save themselves. They ask, “How do I get out of here?” Then, once safe, they may ask themselves “What” they did that landed them in danger and made them a target. Only later, when the time is right to ponder the big pictures, perhaps well outside of hunting season, they may ask “Why” people are the way they are.

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