Did you wait home for the choice of your heart with a five-star dinner, did you pay all the checks, but still find some small reason to grumble and throw up in your eyes that you forgot to buy the cat food? It can have a long-term toxic effect if we can never be good enough.

A Canadian psychologist researcher, dr. Lindie Liang studied the leadership style she called abusive with a sample of 200 people over 4 months. The figure of the hair-splitting, the all-encompassing boss may be familiar to many: no matter how we perform the task entrusted to us with the utmost care and to the best of our knowledge, he will always find something to complain about in him. Although the dynamics in the workplace are, of course, completely different from a romantic relationship, the lessons learned from research in the workplace can be applied to relationships.

The researchers looked at the possible effects of being subjected to constant criticism. Their analysis is based on the idea of ​​‘interpersonal justice’: it is akin to a belief in a just world when we trust that man gets what he deserves and vice versa: he deserves what he receives. Similarly, we tend to think that the energy we put into one relationship is the same as what the other adds – this has been called fairness in research by psychologists.

Lack of respect can also cause depression

If we live in this belief, it is really hurtful, even unfair, to constantly find something objectionable about us. For the most part, it is not stated, but as part of fairness, we are expected to treat ourselves with courtesy and respect – just as we do with others. In the early stages of a relationship, everyone shows their best face, but it happens to wear out of the relationship over the years. In the workplace, everyone is expected to adhere to contact norms, but in private, perhaps excessive proximity has destroyed them. Either way, unfair treatment, constant tearing of hair, and dissatisfaction can lead to a number of negatives: from tipped mental balance to burnout, depression, or emotional exhaustion. If we are in the unfortunate situation that whatever we do is never good enough, we may have already discovered these symptoms in ourselves.

What is online voodoo good for?

Canadian researchers have used a specific method (not incidentally rewarded with the IgNobel Prize) to examine how our sense of justice can be restored in such a situation. Dr. Liang created an online voodoo doll that allowed study participants to vent their anger – instead of actually putting themselves in trouble by sending the disgruntled boss to a warmer climate. It was found that both the release of repressed anger and the restoration of a sense of justice had a positive effect on the physical and mental health of the participants in the experiment. Unsurprisingly, Dr. Liang has come to the conclusion that changing corporate culture takes precedence over anger at voodoo babies: if it is a workplace where the abusive, hair-splitting, critical tone is not rewarded.

But how can we use these results in our relationship if our partner’s behavior is sometimes like that of a bad boss? First, let’s notice, be aware of, and express how this kind of behavior affects us. Abusive leadership styles put up with employees both physically and mentally, so if you have a long-standing similar situation in your relationship, you may experience similar symptoms. Don’t ignore it if our body or soul indicates that these remarks are destructive to us!

A sense of justice is restored

While it can be tempting to attack in a similar style, it rarely leads to success. It is unfortunate to adopt the same behavior that we just want to correct or eliminate. It is far ahead to start a conversation calmly: our sense of justice and our belief in fairness can be restored, especially if we can agree to have conversations in a less hurtful tone in the future. So you don’t have to make voodoo, but it’s important not to swallow and stifle your bad feelings.


I'm a content writer and writing for 5 years for multinational companies.

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