Wisdom From Books

Am I a hostage of circumstances?

Posted on: March 9, 2010

“The highest performers see possibilities, not limitations”


Those who emerge from tough times are winners who make no excuses. They refuse to be seen as victims.

Consider the following everyday situations in which people allow themselves to be taken hostage.
• While you are in your car on your way to work, another driver cuts you off. Immediately you feel angry and hostile toward the “jerk” in the other vehicle. This feeling can linger, keeping you in a negative frame of mind for a good part of the day.
• Your boss criticizes you, and in response, you defend yourself or even attack her, causing the situation to escalate. The conflict stays in your mind, resulting in a feeling of distrust
between the two of you.
• You are going on a business trip and, because you are leaving, your child cries. You then rush out the door feeling guilty and telling yourself that you are a terrible parent. For the remainder of the trip, you feel down and even depressed.
• You say hello to a colleague as you walk by, but he does not respond. You begin complaining to others about your colleague, your work, and the company. Soon you start thinking,
“Nobody cares about people around here.”

People enraged by another person, a traffic jam, missing luggage, a lost job, a delayed flight, or even the weather—any set of external circumstances beyond their control—are allowing themselves to be taken hostage. Without realizing it, how many of us let an external event control our lives? Have you ever been upset because your holiday was ruined by bad weather? Have you ever been put into a bad mood by someone else’s negative attitude? Have you ever said to someone, “You make me so upset!”

If so, you have allowed yourself to be taken hostage.

The book: “Hostage at the table” identifies ‘hostage’ behaviour and provides some practical solutions.

Many people cover themselves with facts, figures, and details at the expense of the emotions, feelings, and motivations of their coworkers. Even the terms hard facts and the soft stuff used in business imply that data are somehow real and strong while emotions are weak and less important. I have seen examples of overdomineering leaders inflicting untold pain and misery on employees through their need to control both people and situations.


To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour (Excerpt from Auguries of Innocence,
William Blake)


1. A hostage mind-set involves feeling trapped, helpless, powerless, disconnected, and unable to influence and persuade.
2. The brain is hardwired to survive by looking for danger and pain. We can override this instinctual aspect of the brain to look for the positive and for ways to act with personal power.
3. Learned helplessness and lack of control of our mind-set causes people to be powerless. Recovering our power to choose a reaction to the events in our lives is possible for anyone who has become a hostage.
4. Know what you want and maintain a mind-set of “everything is possible.” If you do not get what you want, find the positive in not getting what you want. Either way you win and will never feel like a hostage.

We will see more ideas from this interesting book by George Kohlrieser in coming days. You can listen to one of the interviews of the author at Malaysia from here:


Would you like to share your thoughts on the above?

Would you like to share your experience on becoming hostage ‘mentally’ and your tip to avoid such ‘attack’ of circumstances?




1 Response to "Am I a hostage of circumstances?"

Hostage! What I feel is that being hostage to circumstances is when we “React” instead of “Act”. We have had years of training, formal and informal, in how to react to certain situations. Thus there is also a fear that if I don’t call the driver (who made a wrong a turn in front of me) a jerk, I will be considered a coward.

Same applies for the child whom I left at home and the child was crying and since I left a crying child for job, I MUST be bad parent.

This explanation applies to all situations above.

So I feel that we also need to desensitize ourselves, by standing apart from ourselves and doing not what people think we should do, but by doing what is right!!

Have a great day.

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