(This article was first written during Spring 2020, shortly after the lockdown began)
The deep collective shock, loss, chaos and fear that has arisen as a result of recent global events is indicative of how our identity, individual and social, has been shaken to a point of unravelling. One of the obvious, initial areas of impact is that on the fundamental sphere of work. So many of us have been forced to stop work and stay at home. Some have been able to work online, for others there has been a movement towards working online for the first time where this was not possible or desired before. For many it has meant an enforced break from work, with or without financial aid from the government. With the temporary cessation of what is one of our most all-encompassing activities, many people have been plunged into crisis as they face this void.
At many levels we are being challenged with questions such as
How do we work? How do we approach work, psychologically and emotionally? How do we use work? And what do we do when we are not working?
These are questions that we have rarely wished to ask ourselves as we have used work, and often workaholism as a means to avoid the reality of our deeper feelings, pain and struggles.
How much of our identity is built around work, what we do and how successful we are, however we define that?
This is especially true in the creative, media and corporate professions that are driven by the need to ascend and achieve.
Often, what started out as a passion early in life, becomes for so many dulled, mechanical and deadened as the individual struggles against deeper unconscious fears, beliefs and needs. Too often we chase success – or the image of success – whilst feeling and believing ourselves to be unworthy, inadequate, unlovable or worse.
We acknowledge the role of purpose in life yet purpose has so often become a need towards proving ‘myself’.
Why do we need to prove ourselves through work? Who are we even trying to prove ourselves to? On closer inspection, we see that we are still operating under early life family imprinting which is reflected in and reinforced by the wider cultural and social structure of beliefs and values. These structures communicate what is good, what is bad, what I should be or do and what I shouldn’t be or do, within the individual background for each of us. It is this that drives us mostly unconsciously through life, assuring we never have any peace – even when achieving the outward accessories of success.
Work has become for many simply a means of justifying one’s existence, a mechanical movement devoid of love of its own process. It has also become a means to avoid everything outside of work, how I relate to my family, my community and myself.
Lockdown has forced us into introspection, where this was absent before, and though this continues to be challenging for many it is a great opportunity for radical change. It poses the question – Is it possible to become free of the imprisonment of the old stories we tell ourselves, collectively and individually? To live simply, immediately, delighting in the play of life, moved by intuitive impulses towards that which feels harmonious and is loved for its own sake? Are we ready to release the need to maintain an inauthenticity where the most important thing to ‘me’ is the image I portray to the world, an exhausting attempt to inflate myself whilst deeply struggling against feeling deflated?
When we are willing to stop, listen, and feel what is real, the stressful striving for meaningfulness and achievement can begin to relax and open the way for the deep peace that is always there. You could call this being in the flow, free of the effortful and discordant trying of the fearful parts of ourselves. A place of graceful, easy and joyful meaninglessness that is actually also very effective whatever ones work and creative expression.
Life is now lovingly supporting us to see what is real and what is unreal. Our bubbles of illusions are being burst. This of course can be terribly painful and is creating much grief and anger in the world. Working with a professional therapist, coach, counsellor, healer or shaman can help guide us to navigate our way through the unravelling and deconstruction of the façade of who we thought we were. Desperation is a great opening as we arrive at the point of no longer having any choice in the matter…
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