Many people ask how I became a specialist in stress. Believe me, I've earned my burnout merit badge! Years ago, exhausted from spinning my neurons over a social work dissertation topic, I initiated my first close encounter with virtual reality: I went into psychoanalysis three times/week. But, I did maintain some grip; it was budget analysis with a psychiatry resident. Of course, some colleagues and family members believe the results show I got what I paid for. Nonetheless, analysis led to a "peak experience" and helped me discover "the pass in the impasse." From a mystical-like moment, I created a visual and verbal model or map of self-actualization.
Except, truth be told, my dissertation pursuit - writing about a model and an experience that transcends words - was a bit off the academic wall. But I wasn't going to let that irrelevant fact or those conservative voices of authority stifle this budding talent. Okay, perhaps I was going through academic adolescence, and my intellectual testosterone was raging out of control.
Still the "zeitgist," that is, the spirit of the times called for challenging conventional paradigms. Maybe my model was a bit rebellious and immature; hey, so I could only break out into a "zitsgist." But once and for all, I would prove to all of them (whomever those "thems" might be) how unique and talented I was. I was definitely egoal-driven. I now was moved less by my conscious goals and vision than by old insecurities and insatiable ego needs. Alas, I could only bang my hard head for so long against that academic wall. I eventually knocked myself out of the doctoral program. I now refer to those defiant days of "marching to a different drummer"..."when academic flashdancing whirled to a burnout tango!"
Still, there were silver linings. First, it's a good thing that I did burn out because, with my ego and pride, I'd still be working on that damned project. Second, independently pursuing my creative instincts and energy was vital; I couldn't go back to writing dissertationese. And finally, there was professional lemonade to be made from this academic lemon: I did become an expert on stress and burnout!
Just remember...Practice Safe Stress!
Mark Gorkin, "The Stress Doc," Licensed Clinical Social Worker, is a nationally recognized speaker, workshop leader, author and psychohumorist on stress, reorganizational change, anger, team building, creativity and humor. His motto: Have Stress? Will Travel! Reach "The Doc" at (202) 232-8662, email: Stress Doc@aol.com.