During the month of November, The Lovely Grind’s messages of spiritual inspiration for workdays will focus on fighting emotional numbness that is brought on, either directly or indirectly, by the workplace. This numbness can come in a few forms, and I think that most readers are familiar with at least one of these forms. Do you recognize any of the scenarios below?
EMOTIONAL NUMBNESS WHILE IN THE WORKPLACE DUE TO EXTREME BOREDOM
This is no doubt a common condition. Many of us aren't working at our dream jobs, but even if we have jobs that interest us—even if we find our jobs stimulating much of the time—it is almost impossible to stay interested and engaged for eight-plus hours a day at any place of employment. Eventually we are asked to complete rote and mindless tasks or we are asked to be at a jobsite simply for the sake of being there. When boredom sets in, a certain dulling of the senses takes place.
EMOTIONAL NUMBNESS WHILE IN THE WORKPLACE DUE TO A CULTURE THAT DISCOURAGES HUMAN EMOTIONS
How do people feel about showing emotions where you work? Are you and your coworkers expected to be more or less even-keeled at all times: not too much laughter, not too much passion, and not too much personal interaction with clients or anyone else. There is a certain "human resource culture" that suggests workers should check their humanity at the door, and this can lead to emotional numbness for many employees.
EMOTIONAL NUMBNESS IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE DUE TO LACK OF PROFESSIONAL FULFILLMENT
Again, many of us aren't working at our dream jobs. Are you doing what you really want to be doing professionally right now? Have you really been living out your professional dreams at any point in your adult life? A lot of us suffer at jobs that are a million miles away from our true passions, and the reasons for that aren’t a mystery. We all need money to pay the bills, we all need insurance, and we all feel that we can’t be picky about how we get those things. However, our working life has to be about something more than just a paycheck and an insurance card or we will eventually suffer (and not just at work).
There is a Steely Dan song that says, “You do his 9-to-5, drag yourself home half-alive,” and unfortunately a lot of us are feeling half-alive (emotionally numb) because our 9-to-5’s have us dragging.
EMOTIONAL NUMBNESS USED AS A DEFENSE MECHANISM IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL OR PERSONAL LIFE
Have you ever gotten really excited about something at work—say a possible promotion or pay raise—and then gotten really disappointed because that something didn’t’ work out? Have you ever gotten really close to someone—allowed yourself to be emotionally affected by that person—and then gotten really hurt because you made yourself vulnerable in such a way?
Sometimes we get so wounded by disappointments at work or in our personal lives that we shut down in an attempt to not get hurt again. We shut down—we shut off our emotions and hopes for the future—because that seems preferable to pain and disappointment. We think that voluntary emotional numbness will be a better way to live because it will be safer than being vulnerable, but becoming a stoic or a cynic is no real way to live.
EMOTIONAL NUMBNESS DUE TO UNHEALTHY LIVING CAUSED BY WORK STRESS
Excessive work stress can lead us down a variety of unhealthy roads, either because we are trying to escape professional pressure or because we are simply too tired and confused to pay more attention to the details of our lives. We might take in too much fast food, too many cigarettes, too much alcohol, or too many prescription medications that are purported to help the anxiety and depression we bring home from work. When we get stressed, we might stuff ourselves with all the wrong things and end up numb. It isn’t uncommon, but it isn’t desirable, either.
A numb life isn’t a vibrant life, and it isn’t a way of living that is compatible with God’s spectacular vision for us. We weren’t created to just go through the motions of life as we wait for the clock to tick out on our existence. We are supposed to feel passion and happiness and excitement. We are supposed to feel love and anticipation, and there is even some benefit to feeling pain occasionally. However, feeling nothing is pretty much incompatible with our makeup (both chemically and of the soul), and if you have been feeling only half-alive lately, then I hope that my November messages of spiritual inspiration for workdays will be welcome medicine for you.
REMEMBER TO SIGN UP FOR THE LOVELY GRIND NEWSLETTER SO THAT YOU RECEIVE EVERY MESSAGE OF SPIRITUAL INSPIRATION IN NOVEMBER (along with the Lovely Living better-living ideas). Subscribers to my free newsletter will get a workday devotion delivered to them each and every Tuesday of the year, along with a variety of health, nutrition, and balanced-living tips.
I’ll see you in November at www.lovelygrind.com. The month's first message, PARTING THE DROPPED CEILINGS, will deal with finding inspiration in the midst of uninspiring work environments. I hope that you will enjoy it. Until then, take care of yourself and find small ways to make every day spiritual and lovely.
MICHAEL S. PRIEBE, AUTHOR OF THE LOVELY GRIND MESSAGES