Picture a piece of cheese positioned nicely next to a mouse trap.
Hundreds of mice are stomping over each other to get first dibs of that rich piece of Swiss cheese. Unfortunately, none of them know their fate that lies before them, as one of them will probably succumb to its demise.
This image pops into my mind one day as a patient speaks of his ill fate in the computer industry as he slaves away 12-14 hours of his day, every day, for the hope of trying to be innovative, while keeping his head above endless deadlines (heck, forget validation for a job well done).
He fears getting nixed by his uptight boss who holds a strong reign over his hundreds of employees.
Forget mice, people are at the brink of “madness” as they will forfeit anything known as a balanced life for that of anxiety, stomach ulcers, poor interpersonal relationships, and exhaustion. All of this in order to stand out or be recognized by their superiors, or merely to keep a job in this economic crisis.
The thing is, if it was just this patient alone who I equated with intolerable working conditions or self-deprecating habits I might wonder about possible Axis II diagnoses (a personality disorder of some kind). However, it is not just this patient alone that shares with me his challenges of demanding work environments, “borderline” bosses, insurmountable pressure to succeed and the unstoppable competition to outdo a colleague, a friend, a spouse, you name it.
It’s like a Kindergarten class where the kids can’t stay lined up behind one another.
Everyone is fighting to be first.
This mad race to the finish line does not end in the corporate world. Oh, definitely not. I hear the conversations. Everybody is racing to get somewhere, but where are they really going? When people sit on my couch and throw words out like “happiness” and their never ending quest for it, I seem to always stump them when I ask “What does happiness look like to you?” It’s as if, I should know or something. But I don’t. Happiness is such a subjective word. It applies to many people differently. Your definition of happiness will most certainly look differently from your neighbor’s definition, and probably even your partner’s. Go ask them.
Women equally talk about the ambivalent feelings they have in childrearing.
Some women work and raise children and some women stay-at-home and raise children. Regardless, women from both camps express the trials and tribulations of managing a household, a spouse, and kids. Loving your child is not a question here. Most women truly adore their children. However, the frustration and exhaustion eats at them. The constant juggling act is tough.
Then, the interesting part of the conversation turns when women share with me that they better buckle down for the second, a third and maybe even a fourth child because that’s what their peers are doing, so they best keep in line with societal expectations. What? What’s happening here? To think you are going to have a second or third child because that’s what your friend is doing (like it’s some kind of fad) is incredibly worrisome to me. Luckily, I am a therapist. So, I get to challenge these types of dilemmas, in hopes of gaining some introspection about the things that motivate us in life and ultimately, make us truly happy. Before you race anywhere, know why you must race at all. Where are you going?
Francine Lederer, PsyD is a blogger for JenningsWire, a blogging community created by Annie Jennings.