Rachel couldn't understand why Tom couldn't stay put in one job. She had a good-paying job as a teacher, but as the children grew and their financial needs increased, she needed Tom to "settle down" and produce a more reliable income. She was frustrated at his continued attempts to jump from one job to another, from one "financial opportunity" to another. He always had great plans for how this next thing was going to solve all of their financial challenges.
The problem was, as soon as Tom would start it, off he would go on another tangent and never complete what he started. This was becoming a real problem in their marriage, and she wanted Tom to address it.
Tom came to The Center after starting and stopping counseling with three other people. But his wife had threatened divorce, and Tom realized he was running out of options. In therapy, Tom came to realize he was running out of options. In therapy, Tom came to realize how damaging past emotional abuse had been. Growing up, Tom could never seem to get the approval of his father. He tried endlessly to find something he was really good at in order to force his father to give him the attention and validation he so desperately needed. He tried sports, music, school clubs, and other extracurricular activities. And he tried to find a subject in school that came easily.
Trying something new became second nature for Tom. Once he started an activity, the fear that he wouldn't be able to measure up with this new thing grew and grew. Soon it escalated to a panic stage and Tom could no longer tolerate continuing in the activity. Terrified, he would run away to the next planning stage, the next activity. He carried this pattern of behavior into adulthood, producing a sporadic, uneven, hectic employment record that made finding a decent job even more difficult.
Over time, we worked with Tom to understand the seeds of this behavior and work toward redefining success in a job. We helped Tom learn to relax and not panic. He came to trust himself more and listen to the whispers of his childhood emotional abuse less and less. His employment situation didn't fix itself overnight. Tom started at a job he had always considered "beneath" him and through it learned consistency and dependability. Then he began to advance within the corporate structure.
Can you relate to Tom?
- Is it hard for you to get and keep a job?
- Do you choose jobs that are "safe," where too much won't be expected of you?
- Are you working in a job you dislike?
- If you dislike your job, are you afraid to leave?
- If you leave your current job, do you assume no one else will want to hire you?
- Are you afraid you won't live up to the expectations of others?
- Do you view a promotion at work with fear -- as a risk that could lead to failure and demotion?
- Do you feel taken advantage of by your employer?
- Do you feel undervalued or unappreciated by your employer?
When persons have undergone significant emotional abuse in the past, they have learned that actions have negative consequences. As adults, then, they can have difficulty making decisions and taking action. Often these are highly capable people who have developed the misconception that they are doomed to fail or that success is attained only through perfection.
Since perfection is virtually impossible in their eyes (or more accurately through the eyes of their abuser), failure is assured. It is only in the "planning stage" that success is a possibility. Therefore, either they will remain stuck in the "planning stage," endlessly planning for the future with no action, or they will choose ill-thought actions and jump from thing to thing, hoping to find success.
My victory comes by building my self-esteem higher than the effects of emotional abuse. I confirm that each day I will rise above the abuse and choose actions that show I am able to love myself.
2013 Gregory L. Jantz, Hope and Healing From Emotional Abuse, Revell.