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To define who you are by your work or relationship has its dangers

To define who you are by work or relationship risks a loss of a sense of self

We’re reaching that time of year when the winter is almost but not quite over, we’re feeling bedraggled and we need a holiday.  Easter time is nigh! Thus lots of us are now heading off to various climes with a good book or a well-stocked Kindle, miscellaneous bits of kit for activity long missed, plans for conquering distant hills and vistas, and with maps, guides and packets of tea. The sense of adventure and new horizons stimulates a tired brain and brings new life.

Whatever it might be, spare a thought for those who are less able to take a break, are short of cash, have used up their leave in visits to the doctor (it does happen), or who just don’t take holidays. Yes, some people don’t use their annual leave, or not much or it, and prefer to work. Rather than leaping to thoughts like “How sad”, it might be worth pondering on how attached we get to our work. In fact not a few think you have to drag yourselves away from your work to have a much-needed break. There are those who define who you are by your work, where it gives you a sense of who you are, an identity. You can notice it when away, where there’s for example a sudden sense of anonymity. After all when you are introduced to a stranger, an immediate question often is, “What do you do?” Imagine therefore the problem some have when they get to retirement and feel bereft.

It’s important to get what you’re attached to, that you hold on to and which gives you meaning but which might not serve you. Your job can be all-consuming, is undertaken perhaps during anti-social hours, keeps you up late, makes you constantly busy and can even feel like it fills your world. Similarly a relationship can do the same thing. You might believe that your partner is your world and your life. Your connection makes you feel, lets say, secure and comfortable and you feel cared for. In fact, you no longer talk about your partner and you, you speak only of “us” and “we”.

Thus we can get very confluent in such a situation, where there’s no clear boundary between our own sense of self and that which we are caught up with. The sense of self is in a way merged with that “other” and the latter comes to define us.

Therefore, when for some reason it comes to an end, we’re confronted sometimes with a terrible sense of loss. This happens for people who lose jobs and/or partners where they’ve had the kind of relationship just described. The journey then becomes one of re-discovering an authentic sense of self, who you really are, as opposed to a confluent identity.

So, as you go off on holiday, you might not be quite in relationship with your job as I have described, you might still perhaps reflect on how attached you get to it and how much you might need to create and sustain something that isn’t just “work”, as in our example.