By David Braucher, L.C.S.W., Ph.D.
Many of us literally bring our work home with us, as our smartphones and other devices plug us in 24 hours a day. But there may be a more insidious, figurative way of bringing our work home with us: When we apply the thinking and problem-solving approach of our particular profession to our private lives, we can ignore or neglect important aspects of our emotional lives, that would be considered irrelevant in the workplace.
We may, in other words, be using the wrong tool for the job.
Emotional sensitivity and self-reflection are critical for developing and maintaining close, satisfying relationships with the people we love. Our professional skills are often less useful—or even undermining—when applied to these same relationships.
There is a common expectation among friends and family that many of us will bring work home in this way. After people learn what I do professionally, they often ask, “Are you analyzing me now?” (The answer is no.) Alternatively, they launch into telling me their problems. At first, I found this surprising, but it isn’t really—we aren’t taken aback when a lawyer is argumentative. We expect accountants to be exacting. We assume artists to be interesting and creative, and actors to grab our attention. We live in a country where people are identified with their professions.
The problem is when we expect our professional skills to be applicable to our personal lives.
David Braucher, L.C.S.W., Ph.D., is a Candidate at The William Alanson White Institute. He has lectured at the NYU School of Social Work and written on relationships. He is in private practice in Manhattan.