23 Aug
Unemployment comes with All The Feels.

We live in late stage capitalism. And that means our time is monopolised by work as a means to earn money to meet the needs that come with being human. As work is attached to how we meet our needs, work also finds its way deeper into our humanity insidiously becoming an identity marker we glean value from. With that said, looking for employment means much effort as extreme as a total of 200+ applications and still no ideal outcome such as the highly coveted letter of appointment email screenshots, we see on social media. Therefore, seeking for employment means likely dealing with endless rejection while on the perpetual roller-coaster of emotions like feeling hopeful one minute, discouraged the next, exhaustion only to gather energy to make an effort once more. Rinse repeat. 

It is valuable to direct attention to the significance of knowing how to identify feelings as they come up as a result of unemployment. One such emotion I have identified is shame, which Brené Brown classifies as the place we go when we fall short.  We may feel like we fall short due to job application outcomes. Shame can come up as one may realistically fall short regarding money. Shame is defined by Brown’s research outcomes, as the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging and connection. Personally there have been moments were my being unemployed has resulted in feeling like a burden, even just regarding the conversations I need to have with people in my life about my current reality. Which speaks to feeling unworthy to experience the connection that comes with honest and vulnerable conversation. Which can then lead to feeling lonely and isolated. SHAME is that deceitful.

Another important emotion to be able to identify and name is regret, some of us have made decisions that were necessary and sensible like leaving behind employment that compromised wellness. Regret shows up to question the logic of those decisions to the point of introducing unproductive narratives we cannot afford to get consumed by. Brené Brown refers to regret as the place we go when things don’t go as planned which makes perfect sense in this context. The according to plan of it, maybe the timelines one hoped they would be able to find work within, and that not being the case likely brings up regret. It therefore becomes important to have a way to process this feeling because much like all other feelings it is temporary. Furthermore, reflecting on my experience with regret it discounts the harm of the experience that lead to the decision to leave. Regret introduces the belief that maybe the decision was not valid or sound. Regret is not useful.

I think these two examples are enough to capture the benefits of learning to identify and name emotions as you feel them. I have kept intentionally to these two examples because they have come up repeatedly for me, however there are many more feelings that have been felt at this time I must state, plainly. Marc Brackett, Ph.D in his book Permission To Feel lays out a useful approach on how to manage our emotions. He named the approach The Ruler Skills. 

R: Recognising Emotion 

U: Understanding Emotion

 L: Labelling Emotion

 E: Expressing Emotion 

R: Regulating Emotion

Brackett asserts that emotions are information, useful information we should get curious to explore so we can express ourselves to those sharing and doing life with us. This is good to know particularly when navigating the season of unemployment. The practice of emotional awareness and intelligence for a long time was not considered a worthy subject matter even in psychology until schoolers Peter Salovey and John Mayer introduced the first formal theory of emotional intelligence to the scientific literature only in 1990. Salovey whose work dates back to the 70’s when the prevalent idea was that humans have emotions but they didn’t predict anything important, a premise he just couldn’t buy into. Motivating him to study emotions to show they mattered in a positive way. Salovey wanted to show we have an emotion system that helps get us through life (Brackett,2019:24). It’s precisely this premise by scholars Salovey and Mayer that I think it is a worthwhile to have conversations regarding the complex emotions that come when job seeking while unemployed. This helps us get through the experience with the right perspective on a daily basis. Going back to the r-u-l-e-r approach to emotions, I have recognised and understood these two emotions of shame and regret not just once. I have thankfully been able to label them because of the information I have learned through books. I have expressed them in journal entries and in conversation in suitable spaces with suitable people. And ultimately have been able to regulate myself anytime they come up, as it is not a once of experience. Thus, I wish everyone currently experiencing unemployment the tools that enable resilience and perspective. We need everything that is useful and healthy that aids in our pursuit to cope.

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