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  • Christie Pearl, LMHC, LPC

Is work your drug of choice?

Updated: Oct 24, 2022

Many people I have had the privilege to work with are surprised to learn that the issues in therapy we are working on that bother them about work are the same ones that impact their satisfaction in their personal lives. It’s as if we all pretend when we go to work – whether that’s leaving the house to go to an office or leaving the bedroom to go to the dining room table – that we somehow miraculously change our typical patterns of perceiving others and ourselves. That we are somehow separate people at home and at work. It’s understandable. Many of us who grew up in homes with addiction or other family dysfunction learned early on to cope by switching parts of ourselves off when we left home every day. It’s what we had to do to get through the day. As children, we excelled in school despite what was going on at home. We enjoyed a sense of security, connection and accomplishment that we never felt at home. We thought of ourselves as different people inside and outside of our homes because, well, we were. So it’s no wonder we grew up to be adults who think it’s normal to ignore and overly compartmentalize our feelings and expect ourselves to perform at work no matter what. And it’s no wonder we use our work as one of our primary coping mechanisms – a defense mechanism against the pain of insecurity or low self-worth. A defense mechanism against the pain of feeling out of control. We humans are really good at getting our emotional needs met. And if we don’t get them met through healthy means early in our lives through loving, nurturing, secure attachment from our caregivers, then we find ways to get them met later on. Except the ways we find later on don’t really meets the needs after all. But part of us thinks it will. So we work to feel good about ourselves. We work to give ourselves a feeling of control. We work to feel excitement and pleasure. We work so we don’t have to feel whatever it is we would be feeling if we sat still for a minute. And for a little while this strategy is effective. Until it isn’t. Then we need more. Just like an alcoholic needs more drinks over time to get the same high, we need more accomplishment, more recognition, more intensity, more busy-ness, more control. For many of us, work becomes our drug of choice. This can be especially true if you own your own business. If you are an adult who grew up in a home with addiction or other family dysfunction and you own a business, there are even more opportunities for old emotional patterns to replay and repeat. I’m here to tell you it doesn’t have to be that way for you. You can be a successful business owner AND feel worthy despite how much money you’re worth. You can be a successful business owner AND feel grounded without running yourself into the ground. You can be a successful business owner AND feel in control without being controlling. You don’t have to continue repeating old emotional survival strategies that you learned in your family of origin. In the coming days I am going to share a new tool I’ve developed to help you begin to think about this, but for now… My blessing for you today is that the chains of Too Much would fall off your feet so you can dance on the ground of Enough.


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