Winter of Our Discontent: Winter & Burnout Treatment 2
In my first post on winter burnout treatment, I emphasized the possible connection between burnout and the experience of “winter blues”.
In this post, I examine some of the energies within us that might move us beyond burnout, to a new stance in our lives.
Winter, Burnout Treatment, and the Restoration of Yearning
It’s true that burnout certainly does kill our passions. And they are central to the feeling of being in our lives.
Dr. Herbert Freudenberger, originator of the term “burnout”, actually defined it as “the extinction of motivation or incentive [italics mine], especially where one’s devotion to a cause or relationship fails to produce the desired results.” So, the extinction of motivation where one has previously been devoted is a key aspect of burnout.
An important part of the restoration in burnout treatment will often be to find and connect to the individual’s real passion.
Vacation, All I Ever Wanted
In mid-winter, many people look to that staple remedy for mid-winter “blahs”, the winter vacation, as a cure for depression and uptightness — the kind of outlook you might find in a Jimmy Buffett song:
“Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes”
Sometimes yearning for sun in February just amounts to escapism, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it won’t help the individual get beyond burnout in any fundamental way. But it could be that this kind of yearning represents something at a much deeper level. Perhaps our yearning is not so much for a “vacation” or a “trip”, as it is for a journey, which is something entirely different than mere escapism.
Symbolism of Journey
The archetypal theme of journey runs deep in the human psyche. It’s closely related to another symbol / archetype, that of the path or the road, wonderfully evoked in Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting Winter Road:
The image of the journey is fundamental to our understanding of what it is to be human, and to live a human life. To be on the journey is to be engaged, to face and move forward into what life brings. It is the opposite of the stagnation and apathy that characterize the lack of motivation in burnout. Could a yearning for “vacation”, at its deepest level, be a yearning for journey?
Burnout Treatment and Genuine Inner Journey
The journey most fundamental to burnout treatment is the journey of soul work. It is the journey of taking the self and its needs seriously, and listening to the voice of the inner person, as we move along the path of life.
Can the process of rediscovering our passion through burnout treatment be a genuine journey into our inner life, through compassion for ourselves, and through living as if our selves and our inmost needs and yearnings are things of great worth? It’s in accepting our value in this sense that burnout treatment offers the opportunity for inner journey, when viewed from the perspective of /a-midlife-transition.