Job Loss Depression: 4 Insights on Coping & Moving On, 2
How can job loss depression be meaningfully transformative? As we started to examine in my last post, a lot hinges on the meaning we assign to the experience.
There is a great deal that depends on the story that we tell ourselves about a job loss. It matters a lot whether we accept the kind of collective messaging around job loss that is prevalent in the society around us. Or, do we see job loss in the broader context of our own journey, and of becoming the individual that we most fundamentally are?
Beyond Negative Messages Around Job Loss
Commonly, those who are subject to job loss depression have been subjected to some very negative, often extremely hurtful messaging and labeling at the time the individual suffers job loss. This can come in the form of comments from the employer or from coworkers. There are also very powerful negative collective messages that our society gives about those who have lost jobs, or who are unemployed. Psychotherapists know that this kind of messaging disparages the character, motivation or competencies of the person who has lost their job.
The sad truth is that this kind of labeling often serves to protect the labeler from fear or anxiety. If I can convince myself that someone whom I label is deficient in character or work ethic, and convince myself that I do not share these flaws, then I feel safe. I feel reassured that I do not have to fear losing my job. Whereas the reality for many people in 2015 is actually that employment is uncertain and precarious.
In most cases, when someone is let go from an organisation, it is not because they are incompetent or morally defective. Yet the individual who loses their job can often become focused upon, and obsessed with, such negative messaging. The individual can allow it to erode his or her sense of dignity and self esteem.
To find healing in a situation of job loss depression, it is essential that the individual develop a more complete awareness of identity beyond the work role. The fact that an employer sees the individual’s identity in narrow and diminished terms does not determine who the person actually is. A key role of good case studies is to help maintain a psychologically healthy sense of identity, which is of immense benefit to our society, as this Globe and Mail article recently pointed out:
Often a secure sense of identity requires individuals to loosen the identification between who they are, and the job that they do.
What Does the Job Loss Mean?
One way of looking at the realities of job loss is to see it as a rite of passage, the movement from one phase of our lives to another. Our forebears, and those who belong to indigenous societies understand the importance of major life events, and the way that human beings come to terms with them. They understand that there is a three stage process that is involved in the a major change in the identity of a human being like a job loss, and they use ritual to integrate the change into the psyche, and to adapt to a new reality. We could call this an archetypal process, in three stages: 1) death to the former working identity; 2) a liminal or “in between” stage; and, 3) re-birth into a broader and more individual sense of identity.
Retelling the story of job loss from the perspective of rite of passage can have a genuinely healing effect on job loss depression.
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst