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In a couple's counseling session, Dolores accused her husband, Perry, of workaholism. His immediate response was, "Yes, I'm a workaholic." Joyce and I were surprised at the actual pride revealed in his voice. He continued, "I'm a creative man, an entrepreneur. I thrive on juggling many projects."
Dolores countered, "Yes, Perry does many things, and provides plenty of money for the family, but he's gone practically all the time. And when he's home, it feels like it's just his body that's home. The rest of him is still at work, even on the weekends. We had one three-day vacation as a family in a whole year, and he was on his phone most of the time. He wants to have sex with me, but I just can't. I don't feel like he's with me. I can't go on like this anymore."
Before smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices, people used to work hard at their jobs, but then come home to relax. Farmers, for example, could put in very long hours, but when they were home, there was no more work to be done. And when they were away from their farms on vacation, there was nothing to do but be on vacation. Same with most kinds of work. Workaholism has always existed, but now in the communication age, people can now work from anywhere, night or day. The problem seems to have escalated.
Working Hard or Workaholism?
So what's the difference between working hard and workaholism? When does hard work become pathological? The answer lies in understanding addiction. Workaholics think they are in control of their lives, but their lives are actually out of control.
Work, like any addiction, is an escape or distraction from feelings. Workaholics don't take proper care of themselves or their families (and no amount of money can make up for this). They don't know how to rest or relax. The compulsion to work can even be deadly. A Japanese government study found one fifth of the Japanese workforce is at risk of death from overwork. It's not much better in the U.S.
Joyce and I travel internationally each year for our work. I remember once a German workshop participant was incredulous about the typical work habits in the U.S. He was sincerely worried about Americans who seemed to be working all the time and not taking proper care of themselves. And we were amazed at the standard German annual vacation allotment of six weeks, at the time, compared to one to two weeks for many Americans. And Germans have two full days off each weekend, compared to one or even no days off for many Americans.
Although workaholism is not yet recognized as a medical condition by the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it can be crippling. And here's a surprise. A recent summary of the existing research into workaholism by the University of Georgia showed that workaholics are less productive than colleagues with a healthier attitude and approach to work. Their stress levels are higher and their quality of work is often lower.
Work: Compulsion or Pleasure?
Work addicts do not really enjoy their work. Work is more of a compulsion than a pleasure. In other words, they work because they feel like they should be working. When they are not working, they feel anxious or depressed. Work, like a drug, merely covers up this anxiety or depression.
Of course, workaholism is a spectrum. It ranges from mildly to severely disabling. But, as often happens with addiction, it can be a slippery slope, and progress to a more severe form before you know it.
Family members and loved ones, like with other forms of addiction, are often the first to notice the problem. I remember when our kids were little, Joyce and I had divided roles. She spent most of the time with the children and I spent most of the time in my office, which was about twenty minutes' drive from home. I recognize now my symptoms of workaholism. I was spending more and more time in the office, and enjoying it less and less. My working was becoming a compulsion, and my family was suffering because of it.
Finally, after missing many dinners with my family, Joyce put her foot down. Actually both feet. She was fed up. She gave me an ultimatum, "Barry, the next time you are going to miss dinner, don't come home! You can spend the night in the office."
And that worked like a charm! I never missed dinner again. It was a wakeup call for me.
Joyce could have been the codependent match to my addiction. She could have said, "Barry, I understand how hard you're working. Me and the children will be patient and take however little we can get from you." That would only have enabled my addiction, and it probably would have gotten worse.
How To Overcome Workaholism
So what's the solution to the problem of workaholism, in addition to having a loving spouse with healthy boundaries? Here are some suggestions:
1. Admit you have a problem.
Unlike other addictions -- like alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, and eating -- that are kept secret because of shame, workaholics can be even proud of their "hard work ethic." Like any addiction, work addiction is multi-faceted, and must be approached in a number of ways. The important thing to remember is you often cannot heal addiction by yourself.
2. Find a good therapist to uncover and heal the underlying issues.
In the counseling sessions with Joyce and I, Perry made the important connection between his father's insistence that he would never amount to anything, and his compulsion to work. He was working to prove his father wrong. He is now attending Workaholics Anonymous meetings. And Dolores understood her own codependence and lack of healthy boundaries. She is now standing up for herself in the relationship.
3. Participate fully in Workaholics Anonymous.
With growing awareness of the problem of work addiction, new groups are sprouting up more and more. Group support is just as important as individual support with a therapist. They are more effective combined.
My own recovery depended on my understanding my unconscious need to try to earn love by working harder. I needed to learn that busyness does not equate with meaningfulness.
Knowing that I am loved for who I am rather than what I do, has made all the difference. I no longer need to compulsively work. Gradually I am becoming a human being rather than a human doing. I am learning how to get things done in the office without sacrificing my health.
Book by this Author
To Really Love a Woman
by Barry and Joyce Vissell.
How does a woman really need to be loved? How can her partner help to bring out her deepest passion, her sensuality, her creativity, her dreams, her joy, and at the same time allow her to feel safe, accepted and appreciated? This book gives tools to the readers to more deeply honor their partners.
About the Author(s)
Joyce & Barry Vissell, a nurse/therapist and psychiatrist couple since 1964, are counselors near Santa Cruz, CA. They are widely regarded as among the world's top experts on conscious relationship and personal growth. They are the authors of The Shared Heart, Models of Love, Risk To Be Healed, The Heart’s Wisdom, Meant To Be, and A Mother’s Final Gift.
Here are a few opportunities to bring more love and growth into your life, at the following events led by Barry and Joyce Vissell: Feb 12-17, 2019 — In-Depth Couples Retreat at our HomeCenter; Jul 21-26, 2019—Shared Heart Summer Retreat at Breitenbush Hot Springs, Oregon; and Sep 24-30, 2019 — Assisi Retreat, Italy. For further information on counseling sessions by phone or in person, their books, recordings or their schedule of talks and workshops. Visit their web site at SharedHeart.org.
Two New Books (2018) by the Vissells:
To Really Love a Woman
by Barry and Joyce Vissell.
How does a woman really need to be loved? How can her partner help to bring out her deepest passion, her sensuality, her creativity, her dreams, her joy, and at the same time allow her to feel safe, accepted and appreciated? This book gives tools to the readers to more deeply honor their partners. Although these writings refer mostly to heterosexual women and men, there is a wealth of information for LGBTQ. Our focus, after all, is how to deeply love another person, whether it be a man or a woman.
To Really Love a Man
by Joyce and Barry Vissell.
How does a man really need to be loved? How can his partner help to bring out his sensitivity, his emotions, his strength, his fire, and at the same time allow him to feel respected, secure, and acknowledged? This book gives tools to the readers to more deeply honor their partners. Although these writings refer mostly to heterosexual women and men, there is a wealth of information for LGBTQ. Our focus, after all, is how to deeply love another person, whether it be a man or a woman.
More books by these authors
Binding: Kindle Edition
Format: Kindle eBook
This book not only touches the heart in a very powerful, poignant, and joyful way, but reading it was life-changing for me. In writing this book, Joyce and Barry Vissell, and their children, mentor us through an experience that many of us were afraid to even think about it. Louise looked at death as her greatest adventure. So should we all. The title of this book is indeed A Mother’s Final Gift but, in truth, this story is an exceptional gift to every person who will read it.
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- Joyce Vissell
- Barry Vissell
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Does love at first sight only happen in the movies? Not according to relationship experts Barry and Joyce Vissell, who have long believed in the miraculous nature of love.
In Meant to Be, a collection of true and truly extraordinary tales, the editors demonstrate that the hands of destiny are at work behind the scenes of romantic love, yielding stories of unexpected and heartwarming connections.
"We believe there is a strong, largely unseen energy of love guiding us every step of our lives," writeS the Vissells. "This guidance brings us to the right relationship at the right time. The sometimes amazing stories in this book show the magnitude and intelligence of this guiding power."
Dramatic, surprising, and unforgettable, these tales of miraculous meetings, reunions, and endings will fill readers with awe, hope, and joy. Meant to Be is a classic in the making, celebrating the mysterious and eternal power of love.
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Brand: Brand: Conari Press
Studio: Conari Pr
Label: Conari Pr
Publisher: Conari Pr
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With thirtyfive years of marriage and twentyfive years of clinical experience, popular workshop leaders and columnists Joyce and Barry Vissell have helped hundreds of people break the cycle of failed relationships by showing that a relationship is an opportunity to grow as an individualto connect deeply not just with another person but with your own heart as well.