During this difficult time of financial austerity, cuts and the impact of this global recession, what becomes clear in terms mental health is the intense impact it is having on many people. And no area seems greater than the deeply involved question and pressures of employment. These are often very real pressures of money, of time, of sacrifice and these cannot be explained away easily, in terms of the ‘pop’ positive psychology dictum just ‘think more positively right now’!
There seems to be a great influx of clients who are facing so many difficulties in the worklife. This is a concern that seems to ensnare people like a trap. What I’m certain of is that if I wrote about work stress, burn out, grievances and conflict at work, existentialists questions about finding meaning in meaningful work, such polemics could fill countless books and there’d be an endless discussion of countless experts all proclaiming they have the ‘miracle’ answer! To my mind, life is never that simple as one size does not fit all!
In my private practice in Manchester city centre, I see the real intense psychological conflicts and struggles with the fears, the intense inescapable worries caused by work, the feelings of being completely debilitated and not having a flexible work and personal life.
Of course each situation is so unique for each client. And yet there seems to be the overlaps and similarities of how self-persecutory, how frustrated and how pessimistic clients can become about not only that their current work situation but about their futures.
I am seeing the real impact of the recession in terms of people feeling coerced to stay for much longer hours for less pay, the threats of redundancy, the criticism in the workplace, the frustrations of managers and their morale which often moves down the hierarchy, or whether serious grievances and perceived abuse are worth pursuing because of the nature of having to make a stand against organisational bodies or individuals.
In terms of an intense pressure for people who have recently lost their jobs the process of applications is an extraordinarily testing and painful time if rejections are faced. Of course it is an extremely human response to take this very personally, to find this effort and pressure very demoralising. I also see many students wondering is this why want to do or people newly in their career thinking can this possibly be it? And so my heart goes out to all people suffering in these ways.
I hope my approach can give people the relaxation, the inquisitive challenge, the chance to sit still with emotions and also how to discover ways to not feel so dominated by the seemingly inescapable worries. The physical symptoms of migraines, irritable bowel syndrome the stress-related anxiety that is held in the body seems so overwhelming to so many people I have seen recently. It is not only a cognitive distortion in terms of catastrophizing, but sometimes in these sentiments there is a real loss in hope and such bewilderment and despondency. It’s that example when we are so sick of thinking about something, but it seems inescapable… similarly our personal relationships, perhaps with friends or partners are dominated by our feelings about work and it feels that you cannot switch off no matter how much you would like to.
Essentially there seems to be a great disconnect between how people see themselves and see other people they work with. In terms of the group and it psychology there are often many transactions, scripts, games, and conflicts (in terms the transactional analysis theory). In perpetuating these, it is so understandable when people feel outside of a group and fall victim to the processes of poor communication on all levels and sometimes feeling that they are not being heard or respected.
In terms of schema therapy there are basic defence mechanisms and strategies being elicited where due to how individuals have been bought up. There can be many pervasive messages that becomes so debilitating because they are driven to try and protect the individual (within an evolutionary perspective on avoiding, surrendering to or overcompensating against threats).
However in the difficulties of the workplace often schemas that are being elicited are about, perfectionism, abandonment/instability, mistrust/abuse, emotional deprivation, and defectiveness/shame. The capacity for inward self-torture is exacerbated.
Rather being able to from an evolutionary to keep us away from an undesired or threatening object, the workplace means we often have to override protection and sometimes out of necessity go to places that threaten us the most. Yet often due to the nature of these schemas we are seeing things that are distorted by our worst fears and doubts about ourselves and others. In feeling so vulnerable at times and so involved in own suffering the sense of importance of many issues can often be exaggerated to such an intense level.
I take from schema therapy teachings, the necessity to challenge clients so they can be more emotionally aware of their thinking patterns and traps in that take them into deeper and more despairing contexts. Also, the approaches I’m becoming fascinated with are the mindfulness approaches and also the self-compassion focused approaches.
In terms of what is called acceptance and commitment therapy the context I hope that is very beneficial to clients is therapeutically assisting them to be able to be aware of and respond to rather than try and avoid the difficult experiences. Avoidance, overcompensation or surrender of important emotions often leads to further psychological fallout and pain by not discovering the resilience in being able to sit with current experiences. The therapeutic journey is often to gain understanding and insight on the importance and natural aspect of these difficult feelings rather than the desire to run from them and make them more threatening.
In terms of resilience, being able to look at a concern that is bothering us often allows us to grow and develop in ways that doubt and fear prevent us from doing. To avoid the threats of the mind we might drink, overeat, take substances, sit watching TV devoid of feeling connected to ourselves, lacking energy and sleep or feel ruled and run down by the fear and threats of our perceived experiences, or feeling unable to control persistent thought that run wild by any natural means.
Many people are seeing the benefits of going to meditation classes or Yoga classes after work. Yet I suspect when depressions and anxiety deepens then sometimes there is a greater need to have that dialogue with somebody else to explore what is manifesting in this stress in terms of deep fears and feeling disconnected from other people.
I am also inspired by Victor Frankl, who looked at finding meaningful aspects to discover how to proceed in our past forwards and in finding hope and fulfilment in everyday things. Of course we do not live in a utopia where all our dreams can come true but what I find with people who are experiencing such intense depression and anxiety at work, it is so easy for them to have lost all their hope or belief in themselves or find moments of contentedness.
And so it is the goal of my combining psychotherapy, counselling, mindfulness work, visualisations and hypnotherapy, in helping people come back to their truer and freer self. In this world I believe that we are all in this together even though sometimes it’s hard to remember that! That even in times of difficulties and distress within difficult work situations, I hope that I can assist people who are lost in the malaise to come back to their own belief in themselves and their chances to grow and move forwards.
Here I would like to offer just a short meditation to give an example of how I work, asides to hypnosis or other psychotherapies.
This self-penned meditation is called S.L.O.W. It is a simple meditation under 8 mins, to go in accepting our thoughts, to soften our experience, to offer ourselves and others a sense of loving kindness and to find some possibility in the sanctuary and wisdom of our stillness.
1. Click to open, press download & save.
(Never drive meditating, listening to this!!)
With my best wishes… & keep on keepin’ on! x