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New Year: 4 Tips for Dealing with Stress in the Workplace, Pt 2

January 19th, 2015 · stress in the workplace

In my last post, we examined some central insights related to dealing with stress in the workplace; in this post we look at some key insights concerning our particular individual identity and workplace stress.

dealing with workplace stress

In Part 1 of this post we saw how our complexes and our shadow can impact our relationship to work.  Now we look at work much more closely in the light of who we really are.

I am Not My Work…

stress in the workplace

One of the biggest difficulties for many people in our age and culture is to become conscious of the fact that the work role is truly not one’s personal identity.

We all need a social mask and a pattern of response to our work environment to maintain appropriate boundaries and the integrity and solidity of the self in the work place.  It keeps us from losing our identity at work, and is what Jungians would call a work persona.

Yet the individual may become so actively identified with the work role as to have no real awareness of individual identity beyond work  He or she runs the risk of becoming lost to the things that really make her or him who they are.  Such identification opens up the floodgates to potential stress, because any sense of self-worth or self-esteem comes to hang completely on success or failure at work.  We haven’t even mentioned job loss or retirement: to such a work-identified individual, it can feel literally like complete loss of identity and social death.

A variant of this theme, common in our time, occurs when an individual has so much demand and so many out of control expectations thrust upon them by the work place, that they literally have no time to think about or do anything personally meaningful, other than work.  The individual doesn’t choose to be identified with work: rather, he or she is thrust so deeply into the demand of work that there is no psychological space or energy for any other identity than the work role.

In either situation, however hard it is, the individual needs to get out from under the work role, and discover his or her fundamental identity.  The stress burden is overwhelming, and the self is at stake.

…And My Ultimate Vocation is to be Myself

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTO:  Attribution Share Alike  © Steve Jurvetson ; Daviddje ; Wonderlane   
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

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New Year: 4 Insights Into Stress in the Workplace, Pt 1

January 12th, 2015 · stress in the workplace

The post holiday New Year is prime time for stress in the workplace: what insights can depth psychotherapy offer to help us hang onto ourselves as we “go back”?

stress in the workplace

Specific techniques for managing stress in the workplace are useful, but particular insights that bring us to greater conscious awareness can be even more important.

1. Complexes Get Activated in the Workplace

After working in quite a variety of workplaces in my life, I’ve learned that one thing work places will invariably do is activate our “stuff”.  In other words, as a depth psychotherapy approach to anxiety and complexes would see it, the work environment can really get complexes going.

How?  Well, all of us are subject to complexes.  University of London lecturer and Jungian analyst Christopher Hauke reminds us that Jung saw complexes as the main content of the personal unconscious. These clusters of intense emotion profoundly affect our reactions to situations in our lives.  This happens on a conscious level, and, what is even more significant, they “get to to us” even more profoundly on an unconscious level.  So what does this mean for us?

Example.  Jenny has boss trouble.  Things went well with her previous boss for 3 years at the environmental consulting firm where she works.  When her current boss was promoted, things went well for several months.  Now the relationship is tense, and at times, unbearable.  For reasons Jenny can’t fully explain, her boss makes her anxious, defensive and angry, seemingly at the drop of a hat.  Jenny will ultimately realize, months from now, that her boss, even though female, evokes a complex in her that echo the frustration and pain of dealing with a perfectionistic, dismissive father, who never really listened.

Complexes affect us in ways we’re simply not aware of — often leaving us completely at their mercy.  Even if we make the intellectual connection between the complex and the life situations where they “hit” us, that doesn’t mean we’ve dealt with the complex.  To do that, you have to explore the associated feeling; looking at dreams and other factors can help you to become aware of the ways in which the complex impacts you unconsciously.

stress in the work place

2. Shadow and the Workplace

Some readers might be wondering, does my workplace have a shadow?  The answer is yes, even if you work for the most apparently benign organization in the world.

There are always aspects of an organization that those who are in it, or who run it, don’t see or acknowledge.  It’s very important thing to know this about your work environment!

It’s important to know, for instance, where the organization you work for just doesn’t “walk the talk”.  An organization may proclaim that “our people are the most important thing” or “we’re actively working to embrace change”, when its behaviour shows that they’re committed to no such thing — or to its opposite.   It’s important, for your own stress level, to try and realize where an employer is prepared to look at its shadow, and where it just isn’t.  Forcing an employer to look at its shadow when it’s violently resistant to doing so isn’t just stressful — it’s potentially dangerous.

Now, you and I also have a shadow side.  There are aspects of ourselves that we’re unaware of, or don’t want to acknowledge.  Encountering your employer’s shadow can often be a sure fire way of getting your own shadow activated — often through our complexes (see above).  Understanding all you can about your employer’s shadow, and how it triggers you, can be a powerful way of learning a great deal about yourself, and managing stress.

This post centers on two key insights based on workplace stress and the kind of issues that bring people into depth therapy.  In the next post, I invite you to examine two more.

Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst

PHOTOS:  Attribution Share Alike  ©  Daniel Lobo 
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)

 

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