Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Are men who lose their jobs just "addicted to success?"

Stuart Schneiderman: Reverse sexism in the Wall Street Journal:

Psychotherapists may be short on practical experience, but they are supposed to be masters of empathy. If you have been traumatized, they will be at-the-ready to feel your pain, to offer you comfort and consolation.

Unless you happen to be a man who is out of work, whose thirty-year career has just vanished, who is lost and adrift, suffering both a loss of income and a blow to his identity......

In today's Wall Street Journal Kevin Helliker writes that the sad sacks who have lost their careers, their income, their social status, and their identities are suffering because they were "addicted to success" and were over-identifying with their work. Link here.

This is guilt tripping at its best. Dripping with contempt Helliker analyzes their anguish: "The deepening recession is exacting punishment for a psychological vice that masquerades as a virtue for many working people: the unmitigated identification of self with occupation, accomplishment, and professional status"...

Now that you have seen the way psychologists want their male patients to process trauma, imagine these empathy-mongers facing a woman who had been sexually harrassed. Would they tell her that she was suffering because she had over-identified with her sexual being? Would they declare that she is suffering because she had not spent enough time with her family? Or would they declare that her anguish is simply evoking unprocessed childhood traumas?


You know, it's no wonder men are reluctant to go to psychologists. I read recently that more men are going to treatment since they are losing their jobs at higher rates than women but I have to wonder if they are really getting the help they need or just being blamed for being "addicted to success."

54 Comments:

Blogger DADvocate said...

Having grown up around psychologists, I would have to say that psychologists are as guilty or "unmitigated identification of self with occupation, accomplishment, and professional status" as anyone. This is not necessarily a bad thing unless you become an overbearing boor which some were.

Psychology has the trap of the psychologist believing they have some insight or knowledge beyond the grasp of ordinary people. Some psychologist revel in this belief. Others are actually normal. Psychology also had the ability to twist anything, howver normal it may be, into a pathology which is what the psychologists in this article do. I wouln't be surprised if they believe they have special insight and knowledge too.

4:58 PM, February 10, 2009  
Blogger br549 said...

Having been in the position stated in the first two paragraphs of your post, Dr. Helen, all I have to say to say to Kevin Hellicker is kiss my ass, that I dearly hope it happens to him, and his new occupation - once found - has absolutely nothing to do with what he is trained for. Let's see Mr. Superior live on half his former income until he again makes himself worth enough to live on.

It's not easy for anyone to have to change almost everything about the previous 30 years of their lives (and previous 10 years of their kids lives) and move a few states away and start all over.

Wow, really pushed my buttons, eh?

5:19 PM, February 10, 2009  
Blogger reality2008 said...

Nothing more than just another 'side swipe.' Taking pot shots at men because they are easy targets... completely leaving out the fact that men are the productive ones in society while the rest are parasites feeding off their misery(such as therapists).

EVERYONE thinks they are a psychologist today- but it's always that 'pop' psychology that isn't even the real thing based on actual research- more like Lucy at her stand- 5 cent psychiatry..

Psychologists are worthless- I used to date one. She would make me 'feel' better about my problems but would never suggest anything to actually solve them! That is the benefit to being male- we can just ask our male friends for advice to actually SOLVE THE PROBLEM- so it goes away. Women are bizarre- they don't really want to solve the problems they have- just talk about them! That in and of itself is a mental illness.

Psychology is for women. They are the ones with the luxury of time to go nowhere- do nothing. Knock yourselves out, ladies.

5:48 PM, February 10, 2009  
Blogger reality2008 said...

Nothing more than just another 'side swipe.' Taking pot shots at men because they are easy targets... completely leaving out the fact that men are the productive ones in society while the rest are parasites feeding off their misery(such as therapists).

EVERYONE thinks they are a psychologist today- but it's always that 'pop' psychology that isn't even the real thing based on actual research- more like Lucy at her stand- 5 cent psychiatry..

Psychologists are worthless- I used to date one. She would make me 'feel' better about my problems but would never suggest anything to actually solve them! That is the benefit to being male- we can just ask our male friends for advice to actually SOLVE THE PROBLEM- so it goes away. Women are bizarre- they don't really want to solve the problems they have- just talk about them! That in and of itself is a mental illness.

Psychology is for women. They are the ones with the luxury of time to go nowhere- do nothing. Knock yourselves out, ladies.

5:48 PM, February 10, 2009  
Blogger Matthias said...

This strikes me as borderline psychological cruelty.

I think about this in relation to another thing that deeply depresses men: a divorce.

I once attended a meeting for divorced men and they exhibited many of the psychological qualities of men who have lost their jobs. A deep sense that they have "failed" at one of the basic aspects of life, a huge loss of purpose, and the "how did things ever get this way" look in their faces.

But what competent psychologist would suggest that a man who takes pride in his marriage is addicted to good relationships? Such a position would be rightly regarded as absurd. It is completely appropriate for a guy to strive for excellence in his job... and completely appropriate to have a period of grieving if he loses his job.

The whole article strikes me as basic anti-materialist nonsense. The idea that reaching for success is somehow a character flaw is pretty absurd.

6:24 PM, February 10, 2009  
Blogger br549 said...

I don't know about all that. I prefer he just kiss my ass.

6:40 PM, February 10, 2009  
Blogger JG said...

There should probably be sympathy for the loss (from someone), but then the men involved may want to set a broader view of life, or think about non-attachment in the Buddhist sense.

And they shouldn't go to a psychotherapist if they don't want to get screwed up.

7:30 PM, February 10, 2009  
Blogger JG said...

Almost all of this is "Schadenfreude". When this particular brand of person (not just men) is UP, they are poking their meaty index finger in your chest, telling you how important they are. When they are DOWN they are staring at the ground, depressed at the momentous tragedy that has befallen them - that no one else has ever experienced in the history of mankind.

Or something like that.

First empathy for them (which I personally can't really muster) and then ... growing up so that they aren't reacting like a snotty debutante girl.

7:33 PM, February 10, 2009  
Blogger JG said...

By the way, in some of these cases, the wife is also going to leave if it becomes clear that the man is not going to return to his prior level of earning.

That can be a real growing experience if he realizes he was married to not much more than a hooker and if he realizes he doesn't want that again for the next relationship.

7:51 PM, February 10, 2009  
Blogger Master Doh-San said...

No offense to you, dear lady -- as you appear to be the exception and not the norm -- but we have long held that psychology is 20% observation and 80% speculation.

8:40 PM, February 10, 2009  
Blogger JohnAnnArbor said...

The article seemed to mix up a few things that should be kept separate. It talked of ever-rising bonuses, etc. as part of "status" and mocks guys who lose that as part of losing their jobs. But certainly many people don't work for that kind of thing--they like what they do and like accomplishing things at work. Mocking them for THAT is wrong.

10:55 PM, February 10, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

Schneiderman is a student of Lacan, the French post-modernist psychoanalyst. Just those last four words say so much!

Schneiderman is an interesting person, and worth a google. He makes his living marketing himself as a life coach for people who have "Had Enough Therapy."

I question his objectivity and neutrality, myself.

Trey

11:21 PM, February 10, 2009  
Blogger Francis W. Porretto said...

Are psychologists who reflexively find mental health problems in persons unhappy about their situations "addicted to diagnosis" -- ?

Not all unhappiness and dissatisfaction is a consequence of a cognitive or emotional defect.

4:46 AM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger JG said...

If you were trying to impress other people - if you were spending most of your $10 mil a year or whatever on stuff - if the commonality with your friends was stuff you had bought, stuff you are buying and stuff you are going to buy, and that was the only topic of discussion, if you bought a sit-at-home wife who can paint her nails and put on makeup expertly, but who would have no clue as to how to generate money, she can only demand it, and if you haven't saved a good chunk of $10 mil a year (WTF?) ... then ...

... you are going to have problems.

If, on the other hand, you were very grateful for a high-earning job, but knew that it may end, if you have lived comfortably but with no eye at all towards trying to impress other people, if your friendships are based on something other than mutually impressing each other with money, if your spouse is a true partner who not only knows how to generate income, but also knows about ups and downs in life and doesn't demand something from "daddy" that she herself could not do, and if you've saved most of the money you've made ... then ...

... you're not going to have much of a problem at all.

-----

If your identity is wrapped up in impressing other people, or constantly trying to show that you're better than other people, then life may throw you a curve ball. It's just like young people who say that THEY will never get a divorce.

In the final analysis, these people will have enough to eat, they'll still have nice clothes and a nice place to live. What they are losing is the mechanism for being able to poke their sausage-type fingers into other people's chests and explain how they are "better". Maybe that's not such a bad loss - it may help their maturity.

7:20 AM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger JG said...

I think, frankly, that Wall Street wives are impacted much harder.

In days gone by, the wife of a Wall Street guy would have a few guys "on deck" in case something happened to the husband. The network was upheld by continual light flirting or sometimes sleeping with them, but keeping them at a distance.

If the husband lost his job, the wife could then instantly jump to the "on deck" boyfriend, and her shopping would not be significantly impacted.

With the mass layoffs on Wall Street today, sometimes BOTH the husband and the on-deck boyfriend(s) lose their jobs. Many wives are forced to get the shopping money from their fathers or others before preliminary settlement money can be obtained from the husband in family court, and there are frequently delays before a new boyfriend/husband with adequate prerequisites can be lined up. It's not pretty.

8:59 AM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger JG said...

Since the government is giving bailout money ANYWAY, I would like to suggest, as a stimulus, that these Wall Street wives be given a few mil each for the gap before the next husband/boyfriend. The money WILL be used for consumption not savings (and will therefore stimulate the economy) and you have to consider that the wives have no possible source of income before a preliminary transfer of assets from the ex-husband or the new payments starting with the new boyfriend.

9:04 AM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger Scout said...

Everyone needs someone to talk to from time to time. I call them friends and it doesn't cost me anything! :)

10:31 AM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger Peregrine John said...

Actually, what I'm addicted to is food. It's really sad how I can't go for more than a day or two without having to have some. By that time it's about all I can think about. I need help, I know.

My habit of daily hauling my carcass across town to a cubicle is just to support that addiction.

I'm too ashamed to do more than mention my addiction to oxygen...

10:31 AM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger The Non-continental said...

Um, note to Mr. Helliker: men need money to get and keep a mate. For a man, a good job is the only way obtain sex and companionship. By and large, this isn't true for women. Maybe Mr. Helliker is less guilty of ignoring the facts of the job market but more guilty of applying female standards to male social roles.

10:46 AM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger GeorgeH said...

I wonder how Hellicker would react to his ticket being pulled for some reason? Would his anguish at losing everything and having to start over in a new profession be the result of an 'addiction to success'?

12:05 PM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger rightwingprof said...

I don't see a shrink. I have a father confessor, and we get together weekly. It works for me, and last I heard, psychologists weren't claiming to be good for one's soul.

12:18 PM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

"Are psychologists who reflexively find mental health problems in persons unhappy about their situations "addicted to diagnosis" -- ?"

Good one!

Trey

12:57 PM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger BobH said...

I often wonder if a lot of therapists don't enter into their profession partly because they like the satisfaction of telling other people how to run their lives. Being able to manipulate other people's opinions and behaviors, while being able to avoid manipulation of our own opinions and behaviors, seems to be an important marker for being socially dominant and achieving social dominance seems to be a pretty important drive among humans.

2:37 PM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger Evan M. Thomas said...

I remember being told that all my success to pull myself out of poverty came only because I was a white male.

I guess by this logic, my failure would be as well!

2:59 PM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger Sad_Dad said...

After I got divorced, lost my home and my children, and recieved all my ex's debt on top of my own and living in my car, eating out of vending machines for a month. I was depressed and sought help, there wasn't anything any of them could do for me. There was no medicine that could help my situation, and they said there was nothing they could do to help me. What a waste of time that was.

3:17 PM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

Interesting how the male breadwinners are told to "buck up" and "stop complaining", but everyone else gets a bailout.

3:25 PM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger Roman Wolf said...

While I may be young still(probably the youngest here at 21) I did have some encounters with school psychologists when I was very young. Let's just say, that these early encounters made me right out hate the profession for a while. However, I have since seen that most other professions are filled by substandard people as well. So while there are tons of idiots within the field of psychology, there are some good people too that try to do good work.

Helliker is one of these idiot professionals that think he knows far more than he does. Basically, he doesn't know his own limits and therefore doesn't truly understands himself. And if you don't understand your own identity and humanity, how can one try to help another with such questions?

Oh and on a final note, I do think that most Americans over identify with their career, however, when one has just lost his job you don't tell them to suck it up. You listen to their concerns and allow them to get their anxieties off their chests.

5:33 PM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger Thom said...

If men are addicted to success, then it's the psychologists who are to blame. Remember how it's not healthy for children to fail? We must always build their self-esteem rather than hold them to standards. They're told they are special, and that they are winners for even trying in the first place.

So after force-feeding them that crap for nearly two decades, should we be surprised if they are unprepared to deal with actual failure? They have no coping mechanism. And when they do reach out for help they get kicked in the teeth by the very people who took away their chance to develop coping mechanisms.

5:35 PM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

BobH wrote: "I often wonder if a lot of therapists don't enter into their profession partly because they like the satisfaction of telling other people how to run their lives."

In psych grad school we had some discussion about typical motivations for going into the field. Some people like helping others, some like knowing about how people work, and some want to get their own emotional needs met by being superior to the people they work with. Well, that is what we came up with.

It sounds like you see the same thing Bob, with a focus on dominance and power needs.

Thankfully, not all of us are like that. But basically you get to be a psychologist by going to a lot of school and passing a licensure test. Not much there in the way of screening out personality disorders at all sadly.

Trey

6:56 PM, February 11, 2009  
Blogger Mike Wilson said...

Disclaimer: Didn't have time to read the comments.

But this type of deconstructionist bullshit makes me crazy.

Is nothing actually HEALTHY?

An interesting tidbit. Herr Helliker is a journalist. The "Addiction" he describes in his piece seems for all the world to be a conclusion entirely of his.

Meh. Journalists. Their primary use is to complete the puzzle kit I got for Christmas. I've already got the rope and the tree.

*twitch*

12:20 AM, February 12, 2009  
Blogger iconoclast said...

If a man loses his job, or keeps it but suffers a major career setback, then in 70% of cases his wife will act in ways that greatly increase the stress he is already feeling. Even if he was working hard and doing an excellent job and was the victim of industry-wide or economy-wide problems, his wife's rage will be directed at HIM.

I know one guy who suffered a devastating financial failure and whose wife stood by him. He is incredibly grateful and loyal to her now. This is not common: In general, the man who fails to deliver, in terms of money and status, is considered disposable.

Men often marry with the idea they are getting a companion who will stick with them through hard times. More usually, she will make the hard times worse.

There ARE women who are loyal through hard times, as in the example I gave above, but it's not easy to tell in advance who they are.

12:21 PM, February 12, 2009  
Blogger Bolie Williams IV said...

That's quite a stretch to assume that all men are successful and love their jobs... even men who are working just to earn money to pay the bills and/or support their family most likely get depressed if they lose their jobs. Does that mean they are unhealthily addicted to paying the bills? Or feeding and clothing their children?

I guess what they are saying is that being unemployed and on the dole is perfectly acceptable and that wanting a job is a sign of mental illness?

12:52 PM, February 12, 2009  
Blogger Blue@9 said...

JG said:
"If you were trying to impress other people
*********
... you are going to have problems.

If, on the other hand, you were very grateful for a high-earning job,
*********
... you're not going to have much of a problem at all."

I'm sorry, but this is utter pap and you're no better than the other garbage pop psychologists mentioned in that article.

I lost my job last year. I have friends who lost their jobs. Most of us are responsible, well-grounded people. But losing my job was a psychological bombshell. You can't take away the fact that for most (responsible) men, working, earning a living, and providing for your family is one of the most important roles you have. Take it away and you, well, you feel like crap.

My family was financially fine because we'd saved plenty, but I still felt like crap, like I was letting my family down and not doing my primary job. Working isn't just about ego-inflation and putting meat on the table--what you do is very much tied into your self-identity and your feeling of worth. To deny that is foolish.

8:37 PM, February 12, 2009  
Blogger Blue@9 said...

Also, can you imagine saying something similar to a woman who has lost her children? "You'll be fine. You just have an unhealthy self-image because you've been addicted to your role as a mother." You'd get a punch in the mouth, and for good reason. These aren't trivial things, these near instinctual feelings to fulfill our roles and responsibilities.

8:42 PM, February 12, 2009  
Blogger Cappy said...

It beats the crap out of being addicted to failure.

8:45 PM, February 12, 2009  
Blogger RebeccaH said...

Having retired five years ago, I can testify to the unexpected loss of a part of my identification. Yes, I have a family, and hobbies, and interest in the world, but I also invested part of myself in my job, because I felt that I was contributing something practical to the larger world. And all I did was retire, I wasn't laid off.

I sympathize completely with career men who are thrown out the door, especially the older ones. Kevin Helliker is guilty, not only of malpractice, but sheer malevolent ignorance.

8:58 PM, February 12, 2009  
Blogger 信次 said...

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9:00 PM, February 12, 2009  
Blogger john said...

All true, and leadenly affirmed by your commenters. I hold no brief for the psychiatrist featured in this morality tale, but I must say that it is in fact true that much of the suffering induced by being laid off after 30 years on the job, is caused by the identification of self with job.

Were there no such self identification, there would be much less suffering. There would still be the economic suffering, but there would be far less psychological suffering.

If, as a counselor, one desires to guide towards an alleviation of suffering, and an effective attitude going forward, it would behoove one to steer towards eliminating the suffering caused by attachment to a person's means of livelihood.

11:20 PM, February 12, 2009  
Blogger Alex said...

Try telling a composer that he can't compose anymore because he's deaf and expect him to be happy? Of course a man's self-image is mostly caught up in his profession. The way it's always been and always will be. Only idiot psychologists think otherwise(Dr. Helen excluded).

11:24 PM, February 12, 2009  
Blogger geoffrobinson said...

Based on a few interactions, I always suspected psychologists as going into the field to figure out what was wrong with themselves. Just a hunch and a crass generalization.

12:19 AM, February 13, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

Geoffrobinson wrote: "I always suspected psychologists as going into the field to figure out what was wrong with themselves."

I know more than a few like that myself.

Trey

9:48 AM, February 13, 2009  
Blogger TMink said...

Cappy wrote: "It beats the crap out of being addicted to failure."

Now that is my idea of a perfect post. Short, pithy, and accurate. Bravo!

Trey

9:50 AM, February 13, 2009  
Blogger Melissa said...

During my divorce, I learned a lot about associating behaviors with my ex's job and money fluctuations. Thankfully, I had an ADR lawyer who knew the correct way to mediate our divorce. I read up on his method and found these successful techniques at J Richard Kulerski's site. He also has a book titled, Divorce Buddy System. It shows you the flame-free way to address your spouse's financial concerns, whether you are going thru divorce or not.

1:39 PM, February 13, 2009  
Blogger Surfergirl54 said...

It was hard to figure some of the comments here especially JG who said a whole lot of what I see as "nothing".

Whilst I know nothing about the men on Wall Street who have lost their jobs, I can identify with the crisis and the loss of self-worth.

First of all, I have lost my own job on several occasions - even walked out of some jobs. My biggest feelings of loss came with the end of a public service career that was no more than 10 years duration. Getting a certificate that was all about "efficiency" - even though I took a redundancy package was a blow to my self-esteem and self worth. In the end a male psychologist did help me to come to terms with a lot of employment issues. Most of my issues related to other female employees and female supervisors.

Second, I identify with those men who have lost their jobs because my husband who was working at executive level for an Australian airline company was retrenched. It took effect 16 January but they wanted to make it take effect 15 December.

Yes, I had a lot of anger, directed at the company concerned, and yes sometimes directed at my husband. He was attempting to make decisions without full consideration of my needs - nothing to do with pampering but everything to do with medical needs. He had a company car on a novated lease. We had to go out and buy a new car to replace that car.

I have never seen my husband at this kind of breaking point in the 30 plus years of marriage. We have had our share of arguments and this has been the toughest time of all. He has never felt so uncertain in his life. He has had paid employment since the age of 16 or younger. Not once has he faced this situation in the past. At his age, that is age age 55 it was a whole new ball game for people to tell him that he was too old to be employed in a full time role. It is funny but I have heard all these excuses and more in the past, so I was no stranger to that kind of thing.

Since he was getting a subastantial pay it really was a body blow to be thrown out of work in this way. What was worrying him more though is the state of the economy. He had offers for work. He has contract work. He even had a job offer for a full time role, but really the package just was not good enough. He had to consider the alternatives and make a decision. None of it has been easy for him.

In this situation the man has been in a panic about the future. He feels uncertain about the future. He does not really know what direction he will take. The outplacement person was probably just a real joke, not all that helpful in the short term. That person gave advice but probably not always the right advice.

For any psychologist to put down a man in those terms just because the men have been on Wall Street, and probably somehow offends the person making the sour remarks, is in my opinion very unprofessional.

As for the remarks about the women married to these men on Wall Street, well I wonder how much is sour grapes and a shade out of touch with reality. I cannot vouch for the women involved, but I think that it was a very vulgar swipe at the integrity of any woman married to men who have jobs on Wall Street.

1:25 AM, February 14, 2009  
Blogger Dave Cornutt said...

Blue@9, I know exactly what you are talking about -- not having work is a psychological blow independent of your financial situation. I've never been laid off, but there have been several times when I found my way out of the tunnel just before the train came through. Once, about 12 years ago, I screwed up: I quit a job based on a verbal promise of a job offer from another company. The offer never came. For two months I was miserable, even though we had insurance and money in the bank for at least six months. I eventually took consulting work, as much to get out of the house and be doing something useful as to make money. The consulting gig covered me for three months until a full-time offer on a good project came along. And I was fortunate to have a devoted and loyal wife who supported every decision I made. (We're still married, going on 16 years now.)

Trey, it was my observation when I was in college that a high percentage of the psych majors were pretty screwed up people. They all thought that going into the field would enable them to fix their own problems. However, I don't think many of them had the necessary capability for introspection that might have given that strategy at least a small chance of working. Too many of them seemed to think of psychotherapy as verbal pharmaceuticals -- magic words that'll make it all better.

2:02 AM, February 14, 2009  
Blogger JG said...

"It was hard to figure some of the comments here especially JG who said a whole lot of what I see as "nothing"."

--------

I guess I can't write clearly - I heard the same thing the other day when I visited my farmer friend Jim.

Jim has a pig pen. Every day, the farmer comes down the path with a huge bucket of slop. Almost all of the male pigs, and some of the female pigs, start pushing and shoving and elbowing other pigs out of the way to get more slop than the other pigs (these are pigs specially bred to have elbows and to speak English). A lot of the female pigs lay in back in the sun, rolling around in the mud, and wait for a male pig to bring her her slop. Then she lets him hump her. The male pigs who bring back the most slop, who can elbow most effectively, get the fattest female pigs.

So I happened to mention to one of the male pigs that there were other things in life than pushing and shoving to get the most slop, so you can bring it back to a fat pig, hump her, go to sleep and do it all again the next day, day after day after day, until you are slaughtered.

The pig couldn't understand it - who wouldn't want slop, who wouldn't want to hump a fat, lazy pig? He then eyed me suspiciously - I didn't seem to have any slop, nor a fat pig. I said I liked to eat other things than slop, although I used to hump a fat pig. My silly talk of other things beyond the fence of the pen was just stupid. He could see there was no slop over the fence.

Human males, similarly, don't have to follow the route society lays out for them. Independent, freelance and self-employed work can sometimes bring you far more than working for the man. Bringing home the bacon to the house pig is also a topic. The way you live, the attitude you have towards life etc. could be vastly different than some people think.

4:37 PM, February 15, 2009  
Blogger Sad_Dad said...

Surfergirl154

Try going through that 6 or 7 times in 25 years, reinventing yourself 5 times, and doing jobs that were unspeakable, just to survive. I feel he has been lucky because it could have been much worse.

1:20 PM, February 16, 2009  
Blogger Sad_Dad said...

I have no saving, two divorces, I lost two homes and my children because of the job market.

1:21 PM, February 16, 2009  
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2:10 PM, February 19, 2009  
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