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Emotional Burnout, Recovery & Living Your Real Life, 2

June 23rd, 2015 · emotional burnout recovery

Can emotional burnout be an important part of your life journey?  How does emotional burnout recovery relate to our major life transitions?

emotional burnout recovery

When Everything Gets Like Volcanic Ash…

In my last post, we began looking at the anatomy of emotional burnout, and what it might mean to experience emotional burnout recovery. Now let’s examine burnout more closely as a part of the individuation process.

Emotional Burnout Itself as Major Life Transition

Often, the experience of emotional burnout can itself have the character of a major life transition. By this I mean that the actual experience of burning out, itself, and of emotional burnout recovery can have a kind of death and rebirth character. The individual may experience a complete loss of flavor and color in the things he or she is doing in professional life, and/or in other aspects of life. This may be accompanied by a complete loss of energy and motivation. Whatever zest or enthusiasm the individual may have had for the career or other life activity at some earlier point in their journey, it becomes apparent to the individual that that particular way of living is over and gone for him or her.


It becomes apparent to the person that some new way must be found. There must be a kind of rebirth that gives life value, enabling the individual to find energy for living. The individual will find themselves on a journey to restore the lost joy of life and zest in working. When the he or she does find it, there will be a strong sense of having been through a major passage.  Emotional burnout is itself the bridge from one way of being in the person’s life to another.

emotional burnout recovery

Emotional Burnout Occurring Alongside Another Major Transition

Yet, emotional burnout may also accompany any of a large number of other significant life transitions.  Below are only some of the other life transitions that can lead to emotional breakdown:

emotional burnout recovery

In addition to each of these, emotional burnout has a complex relationship to anxiety and depression.  A person who is struggling with pre-existing anxiety or depression may very well find that emotional burnout, with its sense of the loss of value and meaning, eventually becomes part of what they are experiencing.  And, from a depth psychotherapy perspective, that brings us clearly to the question of the relationship between emotional burnout recovery and the unconscious mind — more specifically, the shadow.

Emotional Burnout and Shadow

Shadow is the term that is used for all those aspects of the personality of which the person is unaware, and /or which they do not want to acknowledge.  People often assume that the shadow embodies all that is wrong, weak or morally deficient in a person, and, very often, there is truth in this.  However, it’s not the whole story.  There are many elements of ourselves that are in the shadow which we actually need to find a subjective sense of wholeness and completeness, and, often, to find a forward direction in our lives.

This can be particularly true in situations of emotional burnout.  It may well be that aspects of the burnout sufferer’s personality which have been unable to find expression through a certain career or series of life commitments are now simply demanding the attention of the individual, whether the person’s conscious ego likes it or not.  It may well be time to listen to this aspect of the self, even though it takes us into unfamiliar, unexplored territory.  As the Sufi poet Rumi puts it so well:



Sometimes, it can be hard to even visualize an alternative to the work world and commitment world that we have created for ourselves.  And very often, the work of psychotherapy is discovery that life-giving altenatives exist, if only we can be open to them.


Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

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© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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Emotional Burnout, Recovery & Living Your Real Life, 1

June 15th, 2015 · emotional burnout recovery

Emotional burnout can take the wind out of your life’s sails.  How do you know if you have it, and what can you do to foster emotional burnout recovery?

emotional burnout recovery

Here, we’ll look at what psychotherapy can show us about what burnout really is, and what it has to say to us about our lives, and why we need to respond to it, before it’s too late.  In the next post, we’ll look at how best to respond to the signs of encroaching burnout.

Professional, Yes, But Also Profoundly Personal

It would be a mistake to think that burnout is exclusively a professional matter.  It can afflict other, non-professional areas of life, just as profoundly.

Many people experience emotional burnout from emotionally demanding caregiver roles — another form of what Profs. Brotherridge and Grandey call “emotional labor”.  This can be true of those who have the responsibility for dealing with infirm or elderly parents; those dealing with children facing illness, emotional crises, or extraordinary needs; people living in communities struck by natural disasters; or even those in difficult, emotionally demanding marriages.

Depth psychotherapists know that emotional burnout doesn’t just happen all at once: you slide into it gradually.  So, how do I know if I need to think about emotional burnout recovery?  What are the signs?

A Key Element: Exhaustion

emotional burnout recovery


Physical and emotional exhaustion are the hallmarks of emotional burnout. We can be sure that you are starting to encounter this when you experience chronic fatigue, which begins with a lack of energy and general tiredness, and leads to a sense of absolute physical and emotional exhaustion and depletion. This is often associated with insomnia, which can start as struggling to fall asleep one or two nights a week, but can lead to a generalized inability to sleep. Impairment of concentration and attention are also characteristic, and can become serious enough that you simply cannot get through the demands of the day. Physical pain, shortness of breath, dizziness and headaches can all be signs, as can increased illness and loss of appetite.

Depression, including feelings of hopelessness and guilt, entrapment and feeling that the world would be better off without you can all be characteristic of emotional burnout. So, too, can serious angry outbursts. Anxiety of varying degrees of intensity can accompany emotional burnout, to the point where it interferes with your ability to work productively and to relate your personal life. If any of these symptoms occur with any intensity, seek professional help right away.

Loss of Enjoyment and Detachment

emotional burnout recovery

“The Joyless Winter Day” – Joseph Farquarson

Nearly all emotional burnout recovery will involve dealing with some level of loss of enjoyment around work and social relations, which, at its extreme, can lead to downright aversion.  This can be associated with genuine pessimism about oneself and the future.  It can also lead to dangerous levels of isolation, detachment and disconnection from others.

Weakness and Powerlessness, Real and Imagined

In the grips of emotional burnout, a person may experience a real loss of productivity, an inability to complete basic tasks, and a generalized sense of being powerless to “climb out from under” the burden.  As we saw above with depression, this can lead to a sense of apathy and hopelessness.  Not surprisingly the individual often finds that this is accompanied by a growing sense of irritability.

Questions of Vitality, Self and Meaning

From a depth psychotherapy perspective, what are we to make of emotional burnout and emotional burnout recovery?  Are there insights that can help with this very big issue?


In the next post, we’ll look further at emotional burnout recovery, its connection with major life transitions, what it might imply to take the self and its needs seriously, and the importance of all of this for the individual’s journey.

Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  DieselDemon ; FolsomNatural ; Irina
© 2015 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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