David Smallwood is the Treatment Director at One40, over the coming weeks we will be featuring some of the highlight excerpts from his new book.
Have you ever been so busy at work that you skipped lunch? Maybe you made do with a packet of peanuts at your desk, and a sour coffee from the vending machine – in which case you probably felt pretty crap by the end of the afternoon.
Perhaps you worked into the evening because there was so much to do, and by the time you left you were exhausted? If this happens to you on a regular basis, then it might be a clue that your relationship with work isn’t quite as healthy as you think it is. Even if you’re a high achiever – in fact, especially if you’re a high achiever.
In the course of my work as a therapist, I often hear the phrase ‘hard work: hard play’ – usually when somebody is trying to justify the fact that they spend half their life getting drunk. You’ve probably heard phrases like this yourself, and know that they mean: ‘I work hard, so now and then I like to let off some steam’, or ‘I work hard during the week so I like to party at weekends.’ There’s no harm in that, eh? Or is there?
Well, there’s nothing wrong with having a strong work ethic – far from it – but the interaction between work and addiction is farmore complex than you might imagine. You may be surprised to learn that work can become an addictive process in its own right, and it’s capable of fuelling other addictions.
Working is a behaviour that can have a distinct mood-altering effect on us. It might not make us stagger around, in the way that being drunk does, but the impact it can have on our self-esteem is very profound
If you have an addictive nature, however, your relationship with work might end up being completely different. If you have a predisposition to anxiety (something from which I believe all addicts suffer), at some point in your life you’re going to adapt your behaviour in an attempt to alleviate your discomfort. One way you might try to achieve this is by doing something that’s mood altering – and work can seem like the ideal vehicle
The process of gaining self-esteem through hard work usually starts at an early age, particularly among high achievers. Let’s say, for example, that in childhood you do well in school. When you get good marks, it wins you praise and attention from your teachers or parents, which feels good. Nothing wrong with that – after all, it’s natural for parents to want their children to do well at school. You enjoy the experience, so you work harder, and maybe, as a result, you do well in your final exams. The subsequent applause and affirmation feel even better. People start to praise you, and a place at university beckons. You think to yourself: I like this. I feel clever and this is what I’m meant to do
There are many outlets for addictive behaviour, and they’re not always obvious. The common factor is that the process is often fuelled by low confidence and low self-esteem, and sensitivity to emotional stress. To the outside world a person might seem affluent and successful, but inside they can be hurting like hell.
These negative feelings can trigger excessive drinking or drug taking – or they might manifest themselves in other ways. Some people start having affairs if they latch onto sex in an attempt to boost their self-esteem. They hate themselves for it, and they may have loving partners at home, but just like overworking, it becomes a compulsion that they cannot easily control
To read more go to Amazon to order your copy or contact us directly at ONE40 at firstname.lastname@example.org. This is David’s Twitter Handle: @DSmallwoodMSC Facebook Page link:https://www.facebook.com/pages/David-Smallwood/747815968591931?ref=