November 22, 2010, 2:17 PM — Q&A: Abraham J. Twerski
With job loss still an issue for many, Pittsburgh psychiatrist discusses the psychic importance of being employed.
What happens in the psyche of a person who has lost a job? Several things happen when a person loses his job. First of all, of course, there is the financial worry. But that worry would exist if a person had quit his job. Being laid off adds a sense of loss of control of one's life. It is also a terrible ego blow to be unable to provide for one's family. One may brood, lose a sense of worth and become clinically depressed. A person may panic and lose a sense of good judgment. One may become irritable and angry and damage family relationships.
A person may feel helpless, or that the world is against him, and may not have trust in himself that he can survive and even prosper. One may resort to drinking to escape feeling depressed, or may try to get money by gambling.
How can someone who is unemployed for an extended period overcome the negativity in his own mind? A person must realize that one has great value as a husband, wife, parent, sibling. Indeed, one must know that one has value as a human being even if one is not able to be productive.
"Creative visualization," seeing oneself in favorable circumstances, may lift one's spirits and make a person more alert for job opportunities. Also, one may discover skills not noted when working 9 to 5. There are many accounts of success growing out of adversity. Grandma Moses' paintings sell for many thousands of dollars. She did not discover her artistic talents until her mid-70s, when arthritis precluded her doing needlework.
Exercising and practicing yoga can improve one's state of mind. Family bonds should be strengthened. Parents have more time to spend with their children. Mealtime should be enjoyed together. Make a list of things one can be grateful for even if one has no job. Make a list of the positive things one does, for the family and for others.
I saw people who lost their jobs watch the Super Bowl and cheer when their team scored a touchdown. Being laid off did not deprive them of the ability to enjoy things. One must look for things to enjoy, especially together with family and friends.