Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 2, Issue 35;   August 28, 2002: Down So Low the Only Place to Go Is Up

Down So Low the Only Place to Go
Is Up

by

The past few years have been hard. Some of us have lost hope. What do you do when you're down so low the only place to go is up?

The audience applauded much more than politely, Leanne thought. That was saying a lot, because Sixers Plus was a "tough room" these days. Sixers Plus (not its real name) is one of those networking groups of unemployed ex-six-figures-plus executives, entrepreneurs, senior managers, and technical wunderkinder. It sponsors training, networking, and occasional uplifting speakers, which was what had attracted Leanne.

Tragedy  — not comedyThat night's topic, "Living Your Dreams," had obviously moved them all, and Leanne was glad she was there. She had Cheryl to thank for that, so she turned to her right as they applauded, and thanked her with her smile and her eyes.

Cheryl did not look good.

The Q&A began, and a 40-ish man at the back asked: "What do you do when you're feeling so low, day after day, that you don't have any dreams you'd ever want to live?"

Cheryl suddenly stood up, sidestepped hurriedly past a couple of people to the aisle, and walked out the back door. Leanne knew without asking that Cheryl's tears had returned. As the speaker delivered what was probably a really good answer, Leanne waited a moment, and then followed Cheryl out the door, hoping to help somehow, if she could catch her. Leanne was a good friend.

These last few years
have been hard.
Some have lost hope.
These past few years have been hard. We've lost business, jobs, savings, homes, and companies, and on September Eleventh, many of us lost colleagues, friends, or loved ones. Some of us have lost hope. What do you do when you're down so low the only place to go is up?

Some things to remember:

Misfortune and tragedy hurt
Feeling bad after misfortune or tragedy is OK. If you hurt, that's good — it means the circuits are still working. Not feeling bad would be more worrisome.
Watch out for "should"
Telling yourself "I shouldn't feel bad," might make you feel bad about feeling bad, which is self-perpetuating. If you feel bad, you feel bad. That's all.
Feel how you feel
To deal with your feelings, feel them. You can't feel them if you deny to yourself how you feel.
Everything is easier with support
Get support from a friend, your spouse, a relative, a significant other, clergy or a therapist. Find someone who will steady you through the rocky patches.
Be open about psychotherapy
For many, psychotherapy has a stigma. Investigate it anyway. Find a therapist and just talk for a session or two. Then find another. Make no commitments until you feel comfortable with someone.
Practice happiness
Unhappiness can be a habit — a pattern of thinking or doing that you overuse. Habits don't die, but you can replace them with new habits, through practice. Do the things that used to make you happy, even if you're just going through the motions. Think of it as emotional aerobics.

If none of this works, call me — maybe I can help you find your Leanne. Go to top Top  Next issue: Some Causes of Scope Creep  Next Issue

Rick BrennerThe article you've been reading is an archived issue of Point Lookout, my weekly newsletter. I've been publishing it since January, 2001, free to all subscribers, over the Web, and via RSS. You can help keep it free by donating either as an individual or as an organization. You'll receive in return my sincere thanks — and the comfort of knowing that you've helped to propagate insights and perspectives that can help make our workplaces a little more human-friendly. More

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More articles on Emotions at Work:

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Begging the question is a common, usually undetected, rhetorical fallacy. It leads to unsupported conclusions and painful places we just can't live with. What can we do when it happens?
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The judgments we make at work, like the judgments we make elsewhere in life, are subject to human fallibility in the form of cognitive biases. One of these is the Focusing Illusion. Here are some examples to watch for.
The field of vision of a horseA Review of Performance Reviews: Blindsiding
Ever learn of a complaint about you for the first time at your performance review? If so, you were blindsided. Reviews can be painful. Here are some guidelines for making them a little fairer.
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Toxic conflict in virtual teams is especially difficult to address, because we bring to it assumptions about causes and remedies that we've acquired in our experience in co-located teams. In this Part II of our exploration we examine how minimizing authority tends to convert ordinary creative conflict into a toxic form.

See also Emotions at Work for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

A form of off road driving also known as mud boggingComing November 30: Avoiding Speed Bumps: II
Many of the difficulties we encounter when working together don't create long-term harm, but they do cause delays, confusion, and frustration. Here's Part II of a little catalog of tactics for avoiding speed bumps. Available here and by RSS on November 30.
Tuckman's stages of group developmentAnd on December 7: Reaching Agreements in Technological Contexts
Reaching consensus in technological contexts presents special challenges. Problems can arise from interactions between the technological elements of the issue at hand, and the social dynamics of the group addressing that issue. Here are three examples. Available here and by RSS on December 7.

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