F – Job Loss: If I Lose My Career, Who am I?
“I get angry a lot lately,” F. age 56 said, “and it’s getting more frequent and more intense. That just isn’t me.” F had worked for the same employer in progressively more responsible positions for well over 20 years, and had risen to upper middle management. Yet, 8 months before, he was laid off. “I know it’s part of working today.” he told me, “No job’s secure. You can’t be wedded to one employer.”
F had quickly used his business sense and people skills to land another job -– no small feat for a man of his age in today’s competitive, youth-oriented work world. But his outwardly calm attitude didn’t stop his fists and jaw from clenching every time one of his former employer’s truck fleet went by. Nor did it stop his feelings of rage and devaluation when he had to interact with employees of his former company. F also had disrupted sleep, and his relationship with his spouse was deteriorating.
It became clear that there was a whole other level on which F was reacting to his job loss, which, at first, his business training told him, was “soft” and sentimental. He had lost benefits and pension that he had been relying on, requiring him to stay in the workforce for several years longer than he had planned. And his new job meant more difficult working conditions for less salary. Worse still, F’s job loss had taken away his identity.
F had genuine pride in the position that he held in the organization. He was seen as capable, and respected by his peers in a firm from which his father and his uncle had both retired. F’s trips to his father’s office as a boy had made him proud of his father’s role with the firm. It now felt almost as if he had lost a parent. And after giving 110 per cent through endless nights and on weekends, F felt deeply betrayed.
F worked with these feelings for some time. Through artwork and dreams, gradually a deeper sense of self emerged, an identity that was much more than just his work role. F began to find his own answers to questions like, “What do I really want?” “What do I really value?” and “Who is really important to me?” F developed new interests and new passions and found ways to begin making them part of a full, rich life.