The pleasures of work
The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, by Alain de Botton is a beautiful little book exploring this facet of life, that in many ways, dominates our time, social interactions and even who we are. de Botton considers the love-hate relationship that many people have with work, and points out that the jobs that a majority of people have were chosen years before by their much younger and inexperienced 16 year old selves.
The Book of Life, an online ‘book’ published by The School of Life, de Botton’s brain child, has an entire chapter on work – finding it, losing it, ‘misemployment’, unemployment, why work is easier than love, and the pleasures and sorrows associated with it.
On the pleasures of work, The Book of Life explores the deeper, more meaningful Good Sides of Work:
“We’re used to thinking about the good sides of work purely in terms of money and status, and tend to forget a raft of other benefits that work – however modest it might be – can bring us. We went around the world to interview a diverse range of people at their jobs, in order to tease out some benefits of work independent of purely material gain.”
The Book of Life suggests there are at least eight of these benefits, including:
1. Helping Humanity – even in just small ways, making the lives of fellow humans better
2. Identity – finding a route to who we are
3. Sociability – connecting with others
4. Control – feeling like the master of our domain
5. A better self – putting the best of ourselves into what we do or make
6. Meaning – increasing the pleasure or decreasing the pain of another human
7. Dignity – finding respect, contributing to others and having a role in a community
8. Growth – engaging our intelligence and exercising our cognitive faculties
Each of these benefits are illustrated by wonderfully produced short clips like the one above; glimpses into ‘a day in the working life’ of a diverse range of people – from the hairdresser in Seoul, a newsagent in Birmingham, and a brain surgeon in Texas, to a baker in Mali, a cattle herder in Cameroon, and a taxi driver in Istanbul.
A buffet of SIMs
Watching these clips, it struck me that the good side of work provides SIMs in every category – the things we hear, see, smell, taste and touch, the things we do, the things we say, the things we think and believe, the places we go, the people in our life and the things happening in our body.
The eight (but there are so many more) benefits listed by The Book of Life are compelling reminders for clinicians and therapists that there is a potent, therapeutic buffet of powerful, context rich SIMs available through work.
Get a blast of the latest and greatest neuroimmune science, DIMs, SIMs and The Protectometer at a NOI course in 2016 – Combined Explain Pain and GMI courses in Townsville April 29 – May 1, and Noosa June 17-19, and Pain, Plasticity and Rehabilitation in Adelaide 14-15May.
When you can say you’ve never worked a day in your life you only have a great hobby, then you have cracked it….The knowledge emparted by NOI has transformed my profession into a hobby and removed my clinical problems transforming them into solutions. A win win situation all round…..
How about unemployement wouldn’t the SIM turn into DIM? Those 8 points might as well represent as positive things one doesn’t have…
That’s very insightful, fysio – you’ve highlighted the problem with conditioned happiness. Only unconditioned happiness has no opposite, since it’s not an emotion as such.
In everyday life, random events can turn ‘meaning’ into ‘meaninglessless’, ‘control’ into ‘powerlessness’… and so on, for each of the points listed. The big one, the one that can really hurt, is that ‘growth’ will turn to ‘decay’. The body will grow old, become increasingly dysfunctional… and die. Now what? The thing is, if you rely on growth for happiness, then you will necessarily suffer when growth ceases and turns to decay.
SIMS are good in that they can be used to bolster self esteem, and thereby maintain a level of vigour and health. But they are basically just what we do in life anyway. SIMS are simply our wants, our desires. We want to feel safe, we want to feel pleasure and we want to feel important.
The best therapists I have studied have moved away from relying on SIMS to feel good. They have recognized that the natural state of the Self itself is in fact happy without reason. This cannot be realized with the intellect. In fact the intellect can often function as a major obstacle.
Thanks for dropping by.
For me, that’s exactly the point – there are powerful SIMs on offer through work that can assist with recovery and rehabilitation. This should be at the forefront of the minds of therapists who are treating people through a Workers Compensation system, and especially the doctors who are writing fit for work certificates. I’ve spent many years in a workers compensation environment, in various roles and working on ‘both sides of the fence’. One of the biggest issues (in my experience and in my reading) seems to be the the somewhat back-to-front notion that the best way to get someone back into work is to certify them unfit for work until their pain has gone. Given the potent SIMs available through work, and the subsequent DIMs of being workless (more on unemployment in a moment), this approach is very likely to fail.
From a broader perspective, there is very strong evidence that worklessness (whether through injury or unemployment) is very, very detrimental to health. This then positions unemployment as a health issue, not just an economic one. So yes, people who are unemployed are possibly missing out on these SIMs (although they can all potentially be accessed in other ways – volunteering, community work, involvement in a group/club etc), but this adds to the imperative that legislators, businesses, employers of all kinds and society as a whole see employment as more than a means to financial ends, but as way of improving public health and wellbeing.
This is all largely predicated on an individual being employed in safe work (although being workless is more unhealthy than even the most dangerous job – see the work of Professor Sir Mansel Aylward) and being employed in appropriate work – The Book of Life has a very interesting section on “misemployment” that’s worth reading.
The list of “positive things that one doesn’t have” is possibly infinite, and in many instances when an individual is completing a Protectometer and filling out DIMs, this line of thinking can occur and many DIMs will flow out. At a certain point, it is of benefit to shift the focus from listing all of the things one does not have, to looking at the things (SIMs) one does have, and identifying the DIMs (missing things) that can be realistically accessed to turn these into SIMs – not easy, but the Protectometer framework can allow fro some powerful reframing in this regard.
Reblogged this on jointhedotssite and commented:
Lovely thoughts on the beneficial impacts of work from noijam.
I’m reminded of a client I began treating 2 weeks ago for chronic headache and LBP. She has been unemployed for a few years (admin type work, which is abundantly available in my city).
At heart, she is well aware of the benefits of work without me telling her. I think most lay people are aware. The deeper question is why has it been so difficult for her to secure it. Over the course of 3 treatments, she has felt free to tell me very detailed descriptions of her relationship with her parents. A small example: “my mother has always told me I’m fat”. There’s a huge amount of more nasty stuff which I’m not going to reproduce here. But one can just imagine the shame and fear she’d feel in a job interview situation. And if I had blasted away with “you know what? Research says having a job is good for you and might reduce pain!!”…. how well would that have worked?
Depth and subtlety are required. I have to find out what’s really going on. Whilst the details of her personal life are of no interest to me, the process by which these factors lead to pain are of great interest (it’s fun for me to piece it together).
A graduate therapist might read this and think it’s ok to start asking about home life, relationships and social situation…. it’s not!! Such questionning is probing and invasive. All it does is trigger ego defenses. The therapist has to simply provide the right environment for the client to SPONTAEOUSLY unburden herself without my prompting. When clients start blurting out their deepest, darkest issues *without prompting*, that’s when you know you’re providing a safe therapeutic environment.
When the psychological drivers have been discovered, the process is then one of reframing/reorganizing. I usually do this as ‘background conversation’ whilst applying a bit of physical treatment.