PhD problem with supervisor

posted
03-Dec-17, 10:36
Avatar for suji_menon
posted about 9 months ago
I was doing my PhD under a supervisor who would constantly demotivate me, threaten me and expected me to work all round the week including sunday. Even while working under this supervisor, I tried coming with many novel ideas for my research. But my ideas will not be approved by my supervisor and my supervisor expected me to do some random things for the supervisor's benefit and which have not contributed to my research. After few years with this supervisor, i became constantly stressed and which affected my personal / family life. It also changed my mindset to be in constant fear and stress. At one point, my supervisor crossed limits in stressing me and finally i took up the issue and changed this supervisor to another supervisor. Now eventhough i changed my supervisor, i see my previous supervisor daily in my lab where my previous supervisor comes to visit other students. And whenever i see my previous supervisor in lab, my heart beat starts to pump more, experiencing the trauma, have butterflies in my stomach. Because of this sometimes i will even leave the lab to have a coffee break and will only come back after 30-40 mins so that my previous supervisor would have left the lab by that time. Is there any way i can overcome this fear of seeing my previous supervisor ? Has anyone experienced similar situations ? Would like to get your advice and suggestions. Thanks
posted
04-Dec-17, 15:11
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 9 months ago
Hi suji_menon

Good for you for making the change. Is it going well with your new supervisor?

I kind of know what you mean - my experience wasn't half as bad - but when I see the name of my ex supervisor I do feel sick.

Hope someone will have some advice for you. I'm wondering if perhaps therapy might help you, or perhaps reading up on it? It is unlikely you'll find examples like yours (i.e. about a supervisor-student relationship) on general websites, but there might be some strategies and advice about dealing with, for instance, when you bump into an abusive ex partner. That could be applied possibly?

All the best.
posted
04-Dec-17, 22:42
by tru
Avatar for tru
posted about 9 months ago
Hi, suji_menon,

First of all, I would like to congratulate you for finding courage to walk away from an abusive PhD supervisor. It is not easy, and you have done well seeking help and getting out of that situation.

It is normal to feel stressed when you see your abusive ex supervisor, especially if you just left his lab. Yes, having a coffee break is good to avoid him (we all need a break anyway). Otherwise, maybe imagine him as a tiger wearing a pink tutu for a laugh?

As time goes on, your stress level will drop gradually and you will learn to ignore his presence, especially when your current PhD runs at full swing. Know that he cannot hurt you emotionally anymore and continue to recover and grow stronger as the days go by. As part of your recovery, would you consider mentoring other troubled students, at your uni or maybe through online forums like this? It is quite therapeutic actually.

Good luck to your current PhD. Learn from the past and march forward. You will be fine now...
posted
04-Dec-17, 23:05
by tru
Avatar for tru
posted about 9 months ago
One last note, you may wish to change the title of your post to "EX-PhD Problem With EX-Supervisor". Your problems were in the past after all... Let go and move forward. =)
posted
05-Dec-17, 01:07
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 9 months ago
Quote From suji_menon:
I was doing my PhD under a supervisor who would constantly demotivate me, threaten me and expected me to work all round the week including sunday. Even while working under this supervisor, I tried coming with many novel ideas for my research. But my ideas will not be approved by my supervisor and my supervisor expected me to do some random things for the supervisor's benefit and which have not contributed to my research. After few years with this supervisor, i became constantly stressed and which affected my personal / family life. It also changed my mindset to be in constant fear and stress. At one point, my supervisor crossed limits in stressing me and finally i took up the issue and changed this supervisor to another supervisor. Now eventhough i changed my supervisor, i see my previous supervisor daily in my lab where my previous supervisor comes to visit other students. And whenever i see my previous supervisor in lab, my heart beat starts to pump more, experiencing the trauma, have butterflies in my stomach. Because of this sometimes i will even leave the lab to have a coffee break and will only come back after 30-40 mins so that my previous supervisor would have left the lab by that time. Is there any way i can overcome this fear of seeing my previous supervisor ? Has anyone experienced similar situations ? Would like to get your advice and suggestions. Thanks


Yeah I used to be like this until I learned how to "ghost" people. I pretend they are not in the room by focussing on something else and always making sure when I move about that I do so with purpose. The first time I did it, I thought my heart would explode. Within a few days it was as though these people were simply dead to me. If your brain is fully somewhere else when you walk past them you will stop looking and feeling awkward. It's maybe time for you to learn how to daydream when walking about. BTW I would leave the lab when this person was around if it was an issue.
posted
12-Feb-18, 09:53
edited about 23 seconds later
Avatar for Hopeful75
posted about 7 months ago
I am so sorry for what you have experienced, but I also congratulate you for finding the courage to change supervisor and hope that it has been working out for you.

As for your current dilemma, it's normal to feel apprehensive having to see your former supervisor, rather like running into an ex after you have broken up, yes? I have been exactly where you are, and this is an unfortunate inevitability. The first few times that you run into your former supervisor can be awkward, but as you move forward with your progress your stress and apprehension will decrease in time.

Give yourself some time and eventually try and be courteous by nodding in acknowledgement at their presence. You are not under any obligation to be friendly or warm towards this person, as you do not owe them anything. However, you do owe it to yourself to be better and be professional. When I have been asked by others what happened between me and my former supervisor (who bullied me to the point my hair started to fall out) I simply state "conduct not becoming of a PhD supervisor". But I make clear my boundaries that this is not for discussion. Concentrate on yourself and your research, take charge of your thesis and you will have taken back control over your life away from this person.

Best of luck!

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