When Work Related Stress Turns Into Major Life Transition, 2
As we saw in the first part of this post, a work related major life transition can involve a very great amount of work related stress.
In this part, we’ll look at more at what’s involved in traversing such a transition. As we will see, such transitions can have an enormous impact on the personal and interpersonal levels, and even on the dimensions of meaning and spirituality. As we saw in Part 1, such major life transitions related to work can emerge from:
- Merger or Takeover
- Change of Leadership
- Long Distance Moves and Transfers; or,
- Termination of Work
The effects of such things are often deep and complex, and they are often much more profoundly personal in their impact than you might initially think. Perhaps surprisingly, there may well be elements of these experiences that give significant opportunities for growth towards wholeness.
Work transitions can profoundly impact relationships, both inside and outside the work place. There are a significant number of employees in workplaces for whom work-related relationships are very significant connections, and work-related stress can lead to profound anxiety and be profoundly disruptive of these relationships.
Work relationships often assume great emotional importance. We’re familiar with the expression “work spouses” — referring to people in the work environment who often have formed a close, even dependent, relationships. Any of the events we’re describing can result in disruption of these key relationships, deeply affecting the involved individuals.
When long-standing work relationships fray, or are pulled apart by a changing work environment, individuals may face profound questions about priorities far beyond the workplace, leading right into the heart of life. Relationship is a fundamental part of what gives life meaning and colour. When work-related major life transitions disrupt relationships, they raise deep questions about where and how we find meaningful relationship in our lives.
A profound change in the work environment leads to deep questions around priorities. It may take us to the question, “What truly is of lasting importance to me?”
For many today, work easily becomes the central priority in life. Its demands can supercede the importance of key relationships, and the other strongest and greatest values of our lives. When a work crisis takes on the form of a major life transition, it can call into question the whole set of priorities by which a person lives his or her life.
A work-related major life transition can confront us with deep issues around priorities of meaning and spirituality. Here I mean not so much organized religion as the whole question of over-arching and transcendent values — what we fundamentally want our lives to stand for and honour. Viewed in this light, our work as a spiritual endeavour.
Similarly, fundamental questions of identity can be stirred by work related stress that amounts to a major life transition. Often at times of deep crisis we’re moved much closer to the central question of “Who am I really?” This all relates to what Jungians refer to as individuation, defined by Jungian analyst Andrew Samuels as
A person’s becoming [him- or her-]self, whole indivisible and distinct from other people or collective psychology (though also in relation to these).
This may take us into shadow work, examining the parts of the self that the individual would rather not acknowledge. As an individual goes through a major life transition related to work, she or he may come up against fundamental questions of identity, that take the form of unpacking and recognizing the difference between passive acceptance of who my work role tells me I am, and who I am really. Jung puts it starkly:
The more [someone’s] life is shaped by the collective norm, the greater is [his or her] individual immorality.
..where we may think of immorality as “not being true to, or living out, my own fundamental and unique identity.”
Individuation and Work Related Stress
In /a-midlife-transition, when the individual is in the grip of work-related stress that is intense enough to be regarded as a major life transition, the goal of the work is to create a safe environment or “container” where the individual may examine the impact on his or herself of this momentous transition, and hopefully also begin to sort out and hear the voice of the true self.
Brian Collinson, Registered Psychotherapist & Jungian Psychoanalyst