Barbara Killinger, Ph.D.

Barbara Killinger Ph.D.

The Workaholics

Achieving Inner Balance

"Internalizing - how to achieve inner balance"

Posted Nov 28, 2011

If your goal is to live a balanced life by choosing a lifestyle where you achieve success in your chosen field through determined effort and ingenuity, and at the same time manage to be emotionally fully present and genuinely involved in the lives of your chosen partner, children, friends and the wider community, then Achieving Inner Balance in Anxious Times is your guide.

As children, we naturally develop an external frame-of-reference. We are highly dependent on cues and feedback from our parents, and later teachers and peers, to signal when our behavior is appropriate and socially acceptable, and when our willful self-serving actions get us in trouble.

If your family-of-origin has a value system where children are highly rewarded for their achievements, and winning public recognition and accolades become overly important, then an external "doing-performing" value system becomes entrenched. Many workaholics come from such families, and/or have become overly-responsible early in life because of circumstances - unhealthy family dynamics, a divorce, death of a parent, sibling responsibilities, economic hardships etc.

In later blogs, I will focus on how perfectionism leads to obsession, and to increasing levels of narcissism. These inner dynamics of workaholism ensure that the "doing-performing" Thinking function part of the personality dominates, and slowly represses the attributes and values of the "feeling-being" authentic Self. These "Externalizers" indeed have learned to "see themselves as if through others' eyes." Gaining others' approval therefore becomes vitally important to their self-esteem.

A workaholic is a work-obsessed individual who gradually becomes emotionally-crippled and addicted to power and control in a compulsive drive to gain approval and public recognition of their success. As one man put it: "As flat and black as I am, there just aren't any feelings. I have to conjure up what I suspect would sound good." Eventually, workaholics cannot not work without becoming anxious. Control issues and power struggles develop in a tenuous effort to maintain their perfectionistic persona - the image they wish others to see. Self-doubt and anxiety surface to consciousness as things start to go awry. The resultant inner turmoil threatens to destabilize the workaholic and to affect family members and colleagues.

A major task in my clinical practice is to counteract the emotionally damaging loss of Feeling and the predictable character changes that ensue as a consequence thereafter. Because numb, flat affect signals this loss of Feeling, not only in workaholism, but also in obsession, depression, and anxiety, I developed a therapeutic process I call "Internalizing."

People who are Externalizers habitually go into their Thinking and second-guess what others want them to do, say, think, or feel. Based on these projections, which are their personal interpretations about the other's expectations or motivation, or that serve their own purpose, they then react and intellectualize a response.

In contrast, the process of Internalizing first focuses on gathering information about what is happening using both Thinking's sound analysis and good judgment, and Feeling's wisdom and compassionate understanding. The next step is to examine your own internal reactions to that person or situation, and to examine whether you are overreacting because of a layering of old feelings about past experiences or prejudices over present ones. The task then begins to develop the inner control necessary to be 100% responsible for your response and subsequent actions. The establishment of sound ego boundaries is all important in this process. Trying to "help" or "fix" the other person by problem-solving for them crosses the ego boundary. Staying in your own territory, and respecting the individuality of the Other, helps build trust.

Shared problem-solving on a peer-level begins with communicating your "position" - what you feel, what you think, and if appropriate, what your needs are. It is easier for the listener to hear you if you start by using Feeling's language and behavior. Then use Feeling's other-directed focus to reach out. Ask questions to seek out information from the other person about their opinion and reaction to what just happened, or who said what. Truly listening to each other's views and trying to understand someone else's different experience of the same situation is a good beginning to a mutually satisfactory solution.

Obviously, someone who is out of touch with their Feelings will have great difficulty with this process. The Journey my clients and I travel together to get back in touch with their Feeling function is described in my book, Achieving Inner Balance in Anxious Times. Stage 1, Awareness (Chapter 7) is about learning to know how you actually do feel and be able to name or label it. If you are emotionally in control, you may proceed to problem-solve. Stage 2 (Chapter 8) is about Rescheduling. If you are too upset or confused about how you actually do feel, you will need to reschedule to a time when both parties are able to communicate effectively. A number of techniques are offered to help you calm yourself down to regain the self-control necessary to problem-solve effectively. Stage 3 (Chapter 9) concerns Non-controlling Communication, and the use of the "I" message. In Feeling and Thinking Language and Behaviour (Chapter 10), you will learn to distinguish the difference in language and behavior between these two problem-solving functions.

It is not an easy journey, but the rewards gained through Internalizing change people's lives. Self-esteem climbs as integrity and compassion become all important. A new maturity and intimacy develops with family members, colleagues, and friends. Best of all, my clients know what to do about transforming their weaknesses into strengths. There is no need for the controlling behavior that once alienated others.

I have the privilege of watching my clients slowly transform, no longer trapped by the seductive lure of this addiction to power and control. It's like watching a butterfly emerge from its cocoon. Values change, and people and relationships become centrally important. "Thank you for saving our marriage," is an expression of gratitude that signals a new-found appreciation and humility.

McGill-Queen's University Press, 2011 - ISBN 978-0-7735-3844-3

Copyright 2011 - Dr. Barbara Killinger