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  • Individual Therapy, Overwork & Workaholism


    There is a real difference between overwork and workaholism, and it makes a real difference to the issues that arise in individual therapy.  Both of these things are way too prevalent in our culture, but they are not the same.

    • Differences Between Overwork and Workaholism

    Workaholism has an obsessive-compulsive, addictive character.  Workaholics often think continuously about work, and often use work as a way of avoiding pain or hardship — or intimacy — in other areas of life.  But someone may be subject to overwork, without any of these things being true.

    • Workaholics Overwork; Overworkers May Not be Workaholics

    Workaholics do overwork, in terms of hours and/or effort put into work.  They are part of the general epidemic of overwork in our society.  In our culture, an increasing percentage of people work themselves into sickness, premature old age, even death, through work related stress.  Both the workaholic, who feels an inner compulsion to work, and the person who works harder and harder out of fear of job loss, form part of this picture of ever-increasing overwork — both often need individual therapy and burnout treatment.

    • Workaholism and Overwork May Feel Productive, but Actually Aren’t

    Often those compelled to overwork in short bursts for specific goals feel that their additional work is effective and productive.  Workaholics may also feel this, but we know that they are wrong.  It may feel like more is getting done, as endless hours that are put in, but studies show clearly that, with increasing hours, productivity is declining.

    • Both Overwork and Workaholism Can Keep Life From Being Meaningful

    Work is ultimately only meaningful and satisfying if life overall is meaningful.  Both the self-imposed, compulsively avoidant working of the workaholic, and the oppressively imposed burdens of the overwork culture can deprive life of much of its real meaning.  From a Jungian perspective, the goal of life is to find those things in life that are genuinely meaningful to the unique individual.  To acheive that requires a life in which there is meaningful work life balance in combination with other vital endeavours that each person’s unique being requires of him or her.  Often Jungian case studies can play a key role in assisting the individual to reach this point.

    What does genuinely meaningful work really mean to you? I’d welcome your comments.

    Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist & Jungian Analyst | Oakville, Burlington and Mississauga Ontario



    PHOTO: © Yuri Arcurs |
    © 2011 Brian Collinson
    2238 Constance Drive, Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)


    1. jamenta


      July 22, 2011 at 2:55 pm -

      One of the big mass psychological problems of our time I feel (IMO) – overwork. A good part of the cause is society has placed its values in economic systems that are increasingly serving the few while exploiting the many (labor). These values are then maintained by those benefitting the most from their positions of power via their wealth. Mass media compromised by the wealthy via corporate control convince the mainstream masses that working is the one and only value to pursue. Greed becomes more important than quality of life.

      I also believe Brian that it has reached a neurosis level and we are witnessing – at least here in the States – some of it coming to a head. As the values of work & profit at any cost are now on a self-destructive course, willing to crash the US economy and maybe even the world economy – to increase profit at any cost, as if it is the only goal in life.

      Those of us who are aware of the work neurosis must have the courage to act. I think the first act of courage is to believe life is fundamentally meaningful and not to go along with the societal neurosis – even if it means some sacrifice on our parts. Brave enough to fight and face the consequences. Because the consequences of spending your entire life working, working, working – and never having anytime to live – is far worse in my opinion.

    2. Brian C
      July 22, 2011 at 5:11 pm -

      Thank you kindly for your insightful comment, John. I fully agree with you that we are in a culture that emphasizes living to work much more than working to live. However, I also agree with you that there is a great need for individuals to take responsibility for their working life, and for the place that work occupies in their lives, and to take the steps necessary, wherever possible, to humanize the demands of work.

      From a psychological point of view, this requires taking responsibility for the psychological forces in us that pressure us to work more and more, and lead us to feel that it is “never enough”. I agree with your last remark fully also: to live to work, and never to have any time for your own real life — surely this is tragic. We each need more.

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