It sounds like the title of a Dick Francis novel: Bonecrack, Knockdown, Smokescreen, Longshot. Burnout would fit right in.
On the Monday just gone I came to work and announced I was suffering from burnout and asked for some time off. It didn't come on suddenly, it crept up on me, like the lobster in water of steadily increasing temperature. For me the symptom was a kind of slowing down of my work rate. Here's a graph, where the line in yellow is how things should be, and the line in red is how they were actually going:
Interestingly I didn't feel that the quality of my work had decreased, it was just taking more and more of an effort to focus.
Anyway, my boss was excellent, and agreed that I should take some time off. I went to see the doctor, and she was really good too, pointing me in the direction of counselling, which I'm taking up.
Some things that I should mention: I like my job, it's not stressful, I'm doing the things I'd like to be doing and I work in an excellent team. On paper, things should be going swimmingly. My brain had other ideas though. Perhaps this is a case that shows that emotion always wins over thought.
For some reason, I've been drawn to Jung ever since I was a teenager. I've been reading him during this time off too. In contrast to my namesake John Locke who was an advocate of the 'blank slate' theory of human development, Jung thought that the brain already had encoded in it modules (called archetypes) for dealing with common elements of life. Here are some archetypes:
Birth, death, separation from parents, initiation, marriage, the union of opposites, great mother, father, child, devil, god, wise old man, wise old woman, the trickster, the hero,the apocalypse, the deluge and the creation.
The idea is that if you already had some things programmed in, this would give you an evolutionary advantage over your competitors. So where am I going with this? I'm not too sure, if I knew I'd be cured by now, but bear with me. According to Jung, the ego is the conscious part of the psyche, and it is in constant communication with the self, that has access to unconscious stored wisdom (archetypes and whatnot). The psyche is capable of regaining its equilibrium, involving the ego reconnecting with the self. That's my path to getting better.
The self communicates with the ego via feelings and dreams. My project while off work is to listen to my subconscious by:
- Writing down my thoughts and feelings each day in a journal.
- Taking note of my dreams (only had one so far, rubbish!)
- Meditating and observing my thoughts.
- Being open to thoughts and feelings in day-to-day life, without censoring them.
- Drawing things that might express an internal state.
It's quite difficult, and I realize it sounds that I'm obsessed with myself. I am! I've worked out that the things that are preventing me from listening to my subconscious are:
- Working on my many open source projects and ideas.
- Drinking alcohol.
- Watching TV.
But aren't you bored, and also boring? Yes, but this is part of resistance. There's a big danger in defeating the repression of unconscious content though, as Jung writes:
one can never be too sure that the weak state of the patient's conscious mind will prove equal to the subsequent assault of the unconscious
So, I haven't abandoned TV altogether and I'm staying in touch with my friends, and making sure I get enough sleep and eat well. I'm also reading books which are nothing to do with psychoanalysis. I like chic-lit and SAS type books (which I believe are termed dick-lit).
Well, I must get back to Joanna Trollope: