These days, men and women feel a lot of pressure to succeed in the modern world. This undoubtedly creates a lot of tension, and therefore the drive to relieve this tension is unmistakably ever-present. This, unfortunately, results in a wide assortment of compromised forms of relief. But feeling better is not necessarily the same as feeling emotionally healthy. Let us explore of those compromised forms of relief more commonly knows as “burnout.”
Men and women who work really hard do so with the belief that there is a positive outcome at the end of it all. As destructive as excessive overworking can be, we fantasize that there will be a positive outcome. That fantasized outcome is that others will appreciate us for how hard we work for them. Sometimes this works to cover up the deeper pain and sometimes it doesn’t. Why? Because there is more going on. The mere act of fantasizing about others appreciating how hard we work, this anticipation of approval, reflects a deeper belief that their approval might not be forthcoming.
Attempting to deny that truth, we work hard, really hard, sometimes for days on end, weeks and months and then, exhausted and unmotivated, someone tells us that we are probably just burned out. So why did we drive ourselves into the ground? We will say that we were doing it for our family. Maybe inside we are still dreaming that someone will appreciate all our hard work. But in the emotional reality of human behavior, there is another explanation.
Pop psychology calls it burnout, and it’s easy to accept such a diagnosis with a certain degree of pride that we work ourselves to the point of exhaustion. This heroism deserves to be recognized, appreciated and rewarded, but it never is. The reason why burnout is never rewarded is because we created this opportunity to work ourselves into exhaustion in order to cover up some deeper feelings. The brain of other people know this and is not impressed.
The capacity for the human brain to protect itself by engaging in feelings and behaviors that distract it from the true feelings and nature of its being is simply a survival strategy designed to keep it working, to keep it productive, and to ensure its survival. Sometimes we grow up in families that teach us how to feel good about ourselves and how to feel good about others. And sometimes we grow up in families that teach us how to feel bad about ourselves and how to feel bad about others. But beyond the experience of family, there is the capacity for self reflection, which allows a balancing of our self-interest with the interest of others. This self reflection involves a comprehension of the social forces at work. This comprehension allows us to perpetuate a sense of balance, as well as a sense of control that allows us to feel secure.
Men and women who burnout by working themselves to exhaustion are simply continuing the fantasy that they can cover up their deeper needs for security. Sometimes this will work for a long time, upwards up ten years perhaps, but it can’t be done indefinitely.
Yes, you can physically burn yourself out. This is physical exhaustion. Then there is emotional exhaustion that comes from denying the truth about how safe we feel. Take the time to tell the truth. Self-denial is a survival strategy but taken to the extreme. Don’t ignore the voice inside you that may be telling you, “I know something isn’t right, but I’m just not sure what it is.”
I have over 15 years of experience working with professionals of all variety. If you’re experiencing this feeling of burnout and want to discuss it further, please visit my website:www.peaks-coaching.com or give me a call at 858-454-2828.
I am also available to speak at your group or organization.