Maggie feels caught in the middle
The cliques and gossip in the office made Maggie nervous. She wanted to stay on the right side of management and not make any waves. She liked the manager at the Spa, who supported her efforts to bring in new clients. He was appreciative of her willingness to stay late and take new customers at short notice. But some of the other estheticians complained. They wanted overtime, they wanted more time in-between clients and they wanted a larger cut of the fees.

Maggie is uncomfortable having to take sides
Maggie was fond of her colleagues. She enjoyed talking to them one on one, and felt good about the confidences they shared. But when they all got together in the staff lounge and started bitching about the manager, Maggie hated it. She was uncomfortable hearing grievances from the others. She didn't share their sense of being underpaid or over used. She tended to keep quiet during these get togethers, hoping no one would notice her neutrality. No such luck. Suzie tackled her one evening as they were closing the spa together. "What do you think about us all getting more rest breaks in-between clients? You never say anything. I never know whether you are with us or against us."

Maggie's quandary erupts in an awful red skin rash
" I can see why you want more time in-between sessions, but it's not that bad" replied Maggie trying to duck out of answering the question. She felt Suzie withdraw and give her the silent treatment. She felt rejected because she had been disloyal to her colleague. She felt punished and wished she didn't have to put up with this pulling and pushing between management and staff. Maggie was so churned up, she broke out in large red marks all over her face, neck and arms. It was very embarrassing and made her want to hide.

Memories of having to chose between her parents return
It reminded her of her having to choose which parent she wanted to live during their divorce proceedings. Memories of having to hurt her mother when she picked a weekend with her dad, or vice versa flooded her mind. She would be covered in an itchy skin rash and be absolved of having to take sides. She became allergic to standing up for herself. When she was old enough she moved far away from them, hoping never to have to make such impossible choices again.

The pressure to chose makes the rash spread all over
Jeff the Spa manager asked to speak to Maggie as she started her shift the next day. He wanted to get the skinny on what was brewing among the staff. He trusted Maggie and let her know that her cooperation would be remembered and rewarded. Maggie wanted the ground to open up and swallow her whole. She didn't want to snitch, nor did she want to keep Jeff in the dark. He was good to her, and he was paying her salary. She tried to change the subject and talk about new ideas to improve the services of the spa. The phone rang just in time. She escaped, but the raw red splotchy rash covered her upper body.

Maggie is put on the spot
Maggie went through the day feeling like a pariah. Her colleagues wouldn't look at her or smile at her. They ignored her at their break times, and didn't include her when they ordered lunch from the local deli. Maggie was mortified. She found it hard to concentrate on her clients. She imagined the other estheticians talking about her behind her back, viewing her as the enemy. Maggie felt alone and fearful of her position at the Spa. The only one who spoke to her was Jeff, and each time he did, the others raised their eyebrows in disdain. She was given an ultimatum at the end of this interminable day. “Either be one of us, or go with management” said Suzie.

Maggie didn't want to be out of favor with her colleagues. She wanted to belong to a cohesive group of work mates. How could she stomach being ostracized while still working in the same environment? She couldn't run away from them as she had done from her parents.

Maggie hides from the conflict
Maggie’s facial skin erupted in huge welts just as it was time to go into the Spa next morning. There was no way she could go in looking like that, and she certainly couldn’t work with clients in this condition. She was off the hook. The rash bought her some much needed time. Focusing on the urgent needs of her body took her mind off the intolerable conflict she was facing.

Maggie finds her confidence in a therapeutic dialogue
After all dermatological treatments proved ineffective, Maggie reluctantly came to my office. She discovered that her adult choices didn’t have the power to hurt and destroy relationships as they appeared to do in her childhood. Maggie became more confident with voicing her truth. Her skin responded with gratitude. Maggie is no longer stuck on the fence. She is way out over it!

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Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Jeanette Raymond is a licensed psychologist in Los Angeles, who takes you from fear and frustration to fulfilling relationships. She helps people speak their emotions in ways that bring them satisfying relationships - allowing them to feel seen, heard and attended to. She helps them express their conflicts so that they can free up their energies for personal goal achievement. More at