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Marlise Karlin Headshot

Unemployed? You are More Than Your Work

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COPE WITH UNEMPLOYMENT

Anger, exhaustion, depression and denial - they're not only stages of grief but what happens when your identity is defined by what you do. If you are one of the 9.1% of people without a job today, and your world is not the same as it once was - your indignation could be justified - but will that help you get back to work?

The harsh glare of a Newsweek headline, "The Beached White Male", tells a story of the devastating pain many men live with today; fatigue, drinking, fights with their wives, low to no sex drive threatened by the loss of their manhood. What are these tried and true breadwinners meant to do in an era where destiny's knock sounds like a futile comeback call to geese who have already flown south for the season -- and who might never see the return of jobs they once took for granted?

It doesn't stop there. The number of people, men and women unemployed for at least a year, is five times higher today than after the dotcom bubble. Their symptoms of stress appear in night sweats and shame-based idleness when too defeated to even make a move, night or day.

Is just getting a job the cure? And how can you get one if your world is spiraling down with visions that you'll have to live with a crushed ego and take less than what you are worthy of, just to tread above the line of survival.

Finding a job could bring temporary relief, but it won't cure these symptoms. Life as we have known it is changing in the 21st century. Is there anything we can glean from this situation that will bring greater security in the years ahead?

The most difficult challenges can bring the greatest rewards if we look for them. When I was 30 I lost my job, my home and my car. I was the owner of a store in Beverly Hills and I literally had to walk away from every dime I put into it, because of a relationship that went south when a partner suddenly got involved with drugs.

With no income from the store I was running out of money to pay the mortgage on my home; I had two months left before losing it to the bank. I sold it in the final hour but had to walk away again with none of the money I had invested. The final blow came when I put an ad in the paper to sell my car and it was stolen when taken for a test drive.

Devastated isn't a strong enough word to tell you how I felt - all of this loss was a huge blow to my identity. The thoughts running through my head when I woke each day were as bleak and dismal as I felt about myself.

I wasn't a homeowner, a storeowner, or a person who had accomplished anything - now that I was losing everything -- who was I? It was beyond humbling, it was a crisis of great import, and, what it gave me was a way to view my life that has served me every day since that momentous time.

The suffering so many men and women are experiencing today can become an opportunity -- to recognize what is of greatest value in anyone's life.

You are not what you do, or what you own. When I understood this, I realized that I create how I feel on any given day -- because I choose to feel that way -- not because of the images of success or failure that surrounded me.

The trappings we design are an illusion that can collapse overnight. The façade that creates our image can crumble in an instant and for any number of reasons besides the loss of a job; your car crashes into a tree and your secret life is exposed, the CEO of a major corporation who is the envy of his peers, discovers overnight his throne has become a prison, where loss of life is better than living without feeling successful -- even if it's all a fraud.

If our identity comes from what surrounds us, we will always suffer the fear of losing it. Knowing who you are, regardless of your circumstances -- could actually save your life one day.
When you have gained the wisdom that never leaves you, because it's based on true power -- who you are at your core - regardless of what you own, wear or drive -- then you will be able to weather any storms that arise.

Consider that a confident frame of mind from truly believing that you have value -- just being you -- is everything to finding a job and to having a life you love when you're working and when you're not.

What's interesting is that when you really understand this, you magnify new possibilities into your life. Maybe it's time to find a new vocation. Maybe you now have the time to play in a world you never would have before because you were always too busy.

Joe, a highly skilled technology consultant, recently went through a period where he couldn't find work for over a year. During that time he continued applying for jobs while giving him the gift of doing what he always dreamed of but never had the time for before.

Joe used his talents to produce stories on video that helped people to express their newfound work. It didn't earn him a lot of money but he found satisfaction in it, and recognized how much value he brought to people through his skills and talent.

He looked deeper into his spiritual life, spent time in introspection and stillness, and devoured books that brought him a new perspective and enriched his overall vision. Joe's kids got to know him better, the time he spent in reviewing his life allowed him to be with his kids and his family in ways that were more loving and accepting than he had previously been. While he shared that his spirits weren't always high, for the most part they were, and in time when he got a new job, he approached it from the new understanding he had gained in the last year.

Joe had been burnt out and had not wanted to return to his previous line of work, but now he discovered through his new way of viewing life, the people and the work became so much more enjoyable.

What can happen to shift our perspective, to be able to handle all the rough terrain of a world that is changing faster than our intellect can keep up with? Maybe it's the loss of a job that can turn your whole life around. How you look at it -- and what you learn from it is key -- not only for getting a job but also for having a life you appreciate more each day.

Around the Web

How to Cope with Unemployment - wikiHow

Stress-Taking Charge: Coping with Unemployment

Coping Well with Unemployment

Coping With Unemployment - The National Career Development Association

Coping with Unemployment