Krishna Kumar offers some tips on how to cope with being served the pink slip.
Losing one’s job is like disturbing a beehive, leading to a swarm of emotions crazily flying all around and which sting us
Every moment we feel as if we are on a rollercoaster of emotions.
Anger. Pity. Helplessness. Weak. Grief.
Anger: Towards your company, manager, team — ‘i gave my time and energy, prioritised work over personal commitments and this is what I get in return? How dare they do this to me!’
Pity: ‘Oh I am worthless, I am useless, I am not smart enough…’
Helplessness: ‘Why does this happen only to me?’
Weak: ‘I am not strong enough to face this, others are much better in handling this…’
Fear: ‘What will I do now? How will I pay my bills? What will happen to my family?’
Grief: ‘It’s as if I have lost my all…’
Why do we feel the way we feel?
The answer to this lies in two simple words: Identity and Routine.
First, let’s understand identity.
Just as we have been giving/telling stories to others, so also we have been giving/telling stories to ourselves.
Over a period of time the stories we told ourselves became our identity. These stories we have built and re-built over a long period of time.
What we were told about ourselves and how we interpreted that for ourselves.
What we saw in others and how we interpreted that for ourselves.
This telling and observation has several ingredients:
The education we had.
The school/college we went to.
Money we earned and spent (no one sees what you have saved, so that is of no use).
City and area we live in.
The type of house, car we have, the holidays we indulge in.
Who is in our social network, events that we attend and parties that we throw.
All these we have used as signals to tell ourselves and others about who we are and how we should be looked at. In the process we built an identity for ourselves.
On losing our job, our identity is now destroyed, killed, annihilated.
Until yesterday we thought we were God’s gift to mankind. Solving problems that made a dent in the universe, and today we are nobody. The removal of access to the corporate network feels like unplugging oxygen while on ventilator.
Now let’s understand routine.
Getting up in the morning after five snoozes.
Rushing to get ready.
Driving to office in a traffic snarl.
Sitting in that small 6×6 place, that we decorated with drawings from our kids and awards from the offsite.
Sipping latte and chatting about the next Web series.
Attending those useless meetings where you think all your colleagues are dumb and your boss a moron.
Driving back home in the evening in one of the worst traffic jams.
Calling up your spouse/partner and strategising dinner plans.
Crashing on the sofa with a thought, ‘Ah… what a day, I helped make the world a better place.’
This routine is now gone and its only when it is gone the emptiness of not having it is felt.
How much ever we cry, crib and curse the daily grind, fact of the matter is, that daily grind provides us with succour which we got when we were in our mother’s womb, but now the umbilical cord is cut and we have to be on our own. Scary!
Identity and Routine were the two crutches on which we learnt how to walk, but now those crutches are gone and we have to face ourselves truly naked and try stand on our own feet. Painful!
Understanding and accepting the play of Identity and Routine is the first step in dealing with the crisis.
Also, one should realise that the play of Identity and Routine is deeply ingrained in us and we cannot extricate ourselves from it, simply by attending a few meditations sessions in a retreat with dim light and fragrant candles. Ratherm such retreats will only further exacerbate our suffering.
There are no cookie-cutter 7-point ways to deal with this misery, everyone has to navigate his/her own path.
Nonetheless, let me share from my own experience a few things that has helped me navigate my journey.
Socrates said, know thyself, knowing oneself (reasonably) is one of the ways to live a good life. But then it’s not that easy, given that we have built our identity (mask) over a period of time.
Let this crisis be the trigger point to start the journey of self-awareness, self-discovery and self-introspection, on these lines.
What are my drives, motives and ambitions and why?
What makes me happy and why?
What makes me sad and why?
Why do I behave the way I behave?
What habits and behaviours do I need to cultivate?
What habits and behaviours do I need to give up?
Can I see the play of emotions and the way they are manipulating me?
Do my emotions follow some kind of cycle and if yes, what is it?
How do I become a good human being?
What matters to me and why?
Am I kind to myself, my family and my friends?
To all those who lost their job in the corporate firing squad, I say one thing, this is the gift of time to you, seize it to shed and come out of the old identity.
Most of you will go back to the job world and you should, but when you go back don’t carry the same baggage of the past, this time let the real you whom you know, go to work and, most important, don’t re-build that false identity.
Second, get close to your family.
Your spouse, your kids, your parents and your siblings… these are the only four sets of groups for whom you matter, for the rest you are merely a way to their means.
Build bonds of relationship with them. Go and cry in your mother’s lap, hold your father’s hand and grieve as much as you want. Tell your kids what has happened, you are their hero and you will always remain one, there is no shame. You haven’t committed any sin or crime.
Third, re-boot your lifestyle: All these years you ran on the dopamine-induced hedonistic treadmill of seeking spend-led happiness, this is the time to get off that treadmill. Self-introspection will anyways unfold the meaning and source of real happiness, let it grow now.
These are the only foundational things that one has to do to manage grief.
Before I end, let me share a few things that you will be told, but (usually) won’t work.
Be Positive: There is no way you can be positive, don’t put up a false face. To those who tell you to be positive, ask them to get you a job and, trust me, all your suffering would end if you get one.
Pursue Hobbies: This is the time to take a break and do all that you wanted to do — sorry, it won’t work.
Gardening was on your bucket list, let it be there, this is not the time to do that, distractions from the core doesn’t solve the problem, just as burying its head in the ground doesn’t save the ostrich from its hunter.
Start Your Own Venture: Yes, there are some who thrive on adversity, if you are one, then maybe you can give this a shot, but for most it will be worse, because you didn’t want to be an entrepreneur, you were happy being an employee and you will be happy being one.
So again, don’t trick yourself into doing something that you don’t want to do.
Hear everyone but listen only to your soul.
If you feel whatever I have shared in this article is BS, simply ignore it, after all it’s your pain, your suffering and your grief, and only you know how best to deal with it.
In closing, may the force be with you.
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