Are you in a job you hate? You are not alone. At some point we have all had jobs we have disliked. I worked in a supermarket when I was a university student. On my first day, I got the shock of my life. Staff members walked into the dressing room, ready to change into their uniforms and to start their shift. Most were cursing angrily about the day ahead.
This was the first time I realized that some people hate the work they do.
I had never heard my parents complain about having to go to work. They had demanding jobs that were at times very stressful but never did I hear them complain about having to work.
I had had quite a few not-so-great jobs as a teenager and student. One summer I spent two weeks picking strawberries. My back hurt and my fingers were sore. The pay was not great. I shovelled snow on early Sunday mornings before church services for several winters. The pay was better but the job was not enjoyable. I cleaned a pizza restaurant for some months in the early hours of the morning. I quite like cleaning but not that much. Then, I worked in a clothing store with a toxic environment and never got my last salary. That was the worst job I have ever had.
Despite not enjoying these jobs I never remember being angry at having to work. Cursing has never been my thing, anyway.
However, I have lived a privileged life. I never had to work as a teenager or a university student. My life was easier because I worked but it was not a must. I also knew that none of the jobs would be my job for life. These jobs motivated me to study and aim for a qualification that would allow me to have a job that was meaningful and rewarding.
Is it possible to stop hating the job you hate?
Most of us spend our best hours of the day at work. If you hate what you do, it will inevitably start seeping into the rest of your life. Even if your job is one that you detest, one that does not lead to a better life, do not sacrifice your happiness for the sake of the job.
You are not your job.
How much energy do you want to give the job you dislike? Do not allow it to have power over you.
Create space between your narrative and your emotions
Emotions are thoughts with energy behind them. We feel our emotions in our body. Strong negative emotions feel very real and can feel threatening. Also, they may feel like they are fixed and non-negotiable. When we try and pull away from our distressing emotions, the stronger their hold is on us.
However, we can create space between ourselves and our emotions. We can also find movement and fluidity in our emotions. The story you tell yourself about your work, is fed by the intensity of your emotions. Let’s see what happens, if you create some space between the job you hate and your emotions about your job.
Use the following technique to widen your perspective and decrease the intensity of your emotions.
Step 1. Exaggerate your pain
Firstly, start by feeding the strong negative emotion or emotions that you associate with your job. Tell yourself the story of how much you hate your job. Allow yourself to really wallow in your dislike and dissatisfaction and feel the emotions in your body. Exaggerate! Make the job worse than it is. Make your negative emotions more intense than they are. Go wild and big.
Step 2. Drop the narrative
Take a deep breath. Then, drop the story that you are telling yourself. Allow it to go.
Shift the focus of your attention from the narrative to your breath. Allow your mind to rest. If your mind wants to return to the story, be principled and bring your attention back to your breath.
Rest and breathe here for a moment.
Step 3. Widen your perspective
Take a deep breathe in and raise your gaze. Look at the horizon whether it is an actual horizon or a figurative one.
Breathe. Observe your emotions now. What are your emotions like without the story? What is left of your emotions?
Be disciplined and do not go back to the story. Stay with this wider perspective.
Step 4. Explore what is left
Finally, take a deep breath in and an even longer breath out. When you separate your narrative from your emotions, the emotions lose control over you. They soften and may even become something else.
By telling yourself a story about your emotions, you get stuck in your negative emotions about that story. The emotions can solidify and feel non-negotiable.
Next time when strong emotions take a hold of you, amplify the narrative, then drop the story and raise your gaze to the horizon and observe the emotion without the story.
Download our free 10 step program to a better relationship with your work.
Matleena Vanhanen is a licensed Counselling Psychologist with over 20 years of experience working in Europe and the Middle East. She has a practice of couples and individual therapy at the MapleTree Center in Dubai.