Thursday, 17 July 2014

Crook by Hook - Career Shame and Psychogenic Pain

In an earlier post on Early Retirement (Extreme), or ERE, I proposed that deep-seated emotional hooks surrounding dropping out of mainstream work and consumerism - not any real need for justification - spur defenses of early retirement.

All of us have emotional hooks. They are attitudes imprinted in our past that often cause us to react disproportionately to present day stimuli. A great example is how quickly religious discussions flow off topic. As if the crusades, paedophile priests, or 9-11 have anything to do with Christmas!

Hooks can also sink deep enough to elicit reflexive physical responses. We blush when we're embarrassed, get butterflies in our stomach when we're nervous, and shrink when we feel guilty. So too for chronic embarrassment, nerves, and guilt brought on by our hooks constantly being aggravated in daily life. This, believe it or not, is attracting medical attention, particularly well presented in the works of Sarno, John E, M.D..

I'll illustrate the subconscious power of our work/wealth/society hooks with myself. In the previous post I hinted that I was forced into early retirement. This is by chronic non-organic pain. When it started, I was financially secure enough - by practising ERE before it became mainstream (I'm so hipster) - as to be on a career break from a stifling several years despite a promising start in public computing.  However, the pain and stiffness continued and contributed to thwart any effort to resume high status careers in IT and Law. This pain corresponds so closely and contemporaneously to my declining career status that it is almost certainly related. My condition was accompanied by lack of motivation. I couldn't even be bothered to apply for disability benefits. The fact that they were unnecessary should have been a big clue. Skipping over considerable introspection and anguish, I have since realised that in fact my career break could be indefinite, and that maybe early retirement brought on the pain, not the other way around.

Is my illness a cause or result of frugality generated wealth? Did breaking the 'work-consume-sleep-repeat' cycle cause my disease, or did illness force me out of the rat race when I recognised I could escape it? I'd like to think the answer is 'both', and that there are probably more strong feelings - failure, envy, pride etc - in the mix. Occassionally I think that I have merely made the most of a bad situation, but without this mystery psychogenic pain I would not have fulfilled the 'R' in ERE. And the freedom of retirement is what it's all about, right? I would still be in the world of work, fear of scarcity blinding myself to the fact that I evidently hated it. So much so that I had engineered an early exit by foregoing the addictions and distractions - drinking, consumption, retail therapy - that made work bearable (and also necessary.)

This is a cautionary post and a hint at where to focus efforts at introspection. Our hooks lead us to over-react. Mine to such an extent that I punish myself for paths not taken, diminishing enjoyment of the path I'm on. Surely your hooks warrant attention from you too.

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