New Year: 4 Insights Into Stress in the Workplace, Pt 1
The post holiday New Year is prime time for stress in the workplace: what insights can /a-midlife-transition offer to help us hang onto ourselves as we “go back”?
Specific techniques for managing stress in the workplace are useful, but particular insights that bring us to greater conscious awareness can be even more important.
1. Complexes Get Activated in the Workplace
After working in quite a variety of workplaces in my life, I’ve learned that one thing work places will invariably do is activate our “stuff”. In other words, as a /a-midlife-transition approach to anxiety and complexes would see it, the work environment can really get complexes going.
How? Well, all of us are subject to complexes. University of London lecturer and Jungian analyst Christopher Hauke reminds us that Jung saw complexes as the main content of the personal unconscious. These clusters of intense emotion profoundly affect our reactions to situations in our lives. This happens on a conscious level, and, what is even more significant, they “get to to us” even more profoundly on an unconscious level. So what does this mean for us?
Example. Jenny has boss trouble. Things went well with her previous boss for 3 years at the environmental consulting firm where she works. When her current boss was promoted, things went well for several months. Now the relationship is tense, and at times, unbearable. For reasons Jenny can’t fully explain, her boss makes her anxious, defensive and angry, seemingly at the drop of a hat. Jenny will ultimately realize, months from now, that her boss, even though female, evokes a complex in her that echo the frustration and pain of dealing with a perfectionistic, dismissive father, who never really listened.
Complexes affect us in ways we’re simply not aware of — often leaving us completely at their mercy. Even if we make the intellectual connection between the complex and the life situations where they “hit” us, that doesn’t mean we’ve dealt with the complex. To do that, you have to explore the associated feeling; looking at dreams and other factors can help you to become aware of the ways in which the complex impacts you unconsciously.
2. Shadow and the Workplace
Some readers might be wondering, does my workplace have a shadow? The answer is yes, even if you work for the most apparently benign organization in the world.
There are always aspects of an organization that those who are in it, or who run it, don’t see or acknowledge. It’s very important thing to know this about your work environment!
It’s important to know, for instance, where the organization you work for just doesn’t “walk the talk”. An organization may proclaim that “our people are the most important thing” or “we’re actively working to embrace change”, when its behaviour shows that they’re committed to no such thing — or to its opposite. It’s important, for your own stress level, to try and realize where an employer is prepared to look at its shadow, and where it just isn’t. Forcing an employer to look at its shadow when it’s violently resistant to doing so isn’t just stressful — it’s potentially dangerous.
Now, you and I also have a shadow side. There are aspects of ourselves that we’re unaware of, or don’t want to acknowledge. Encountering your employer’s shadow can often be a sure fire way of getting your own shadow activated — often through our complexes (see above). Understanding all you can about your employer’s shadow, and how it triggers you, can be a powerful way of learning a great deal about yourself, and managing stress.
This post centers on two key insights based on workplace stress and the kind of issues that bring people into depth therapy. In the next post, I invite you to examine two more.
Brian Collinson, Psychotherapist and Jungian Analyst
PHOTOS: © Daniel Lobo
© 2014 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)