Dear Therapist: What if Work Interferes With My Therapy?

Dear Therapist What If Work Interferes With My Therapy

Since I started therapy, I’ve been trying to find a more effective way of balancing work, recreational activities, personal time, as well as therapy itself. It hasn’t been easy.

– by Anonymous Talkspace User

I have a job that requires a lot of mental effort. By the time I get home from work, I am usually feeling a little tired and somewhat wound up. But my day doesn’t abruptly end there. Like most people, I also have a lot going on outside of my job. So, when the stresses of my personal life are combined with the stresses of my professional life, I tend to emotionally shut down until I can process my feelings in therapy or on my own time. 

I find corporate culture to be great, but also complex and socially sensitive. There’s no denying that it’s getting increasingly harder to keep our personal lives separate from our professional ones. We are constantly on our phones, tablets, and computers; and we are almost always connected to someone we work with on our personal social media pages. At times, our peers as well as our superiors can get to know a little more about us than we’d like.

To cope, we may try to economize our emotions at work to remain composed, focused and on point. But that can unintentionally increase the likelihood of our colleagues viewing us as distant, less social, or unmotivated. As I am dealing with different kinds of personal issues, things I luckily haven’t shared on my social media pages, I realize that crafting a balanced work persona that is not reflective of them is something I haven’t entirely figured out yet. So muting my emotions at work has been my way of dealing with that so far.

Therapy, however, is about opening up and getting in touch with my feelings. This can pose a problem since my goal at work is to execute my job to the best of my ability, while maintaining a positive relationship with my colleagues. But because therapy is rather emotional and cognitively taxing, it’s often hard not to carry some of those emotions to work. And if I shut down on an emotional level to better focus on my job, I experience difficulty sharing my feelings in therapy. In other words, it’s hard to prevent one from influencing the other.

The problem, I believe, lies is establishing personal boundaries. My therapist and I have extensively spoken about their importance. So now, I have to decide how much of my personal life I will allow to cross over into my professional one. I need to learn to display the right (genuine) emotions at work, without accidentally unleashing all of the feelings buried deep within me. And I still have to figure out a way to maintain those same boundaries without distancing or alienating my colleagues. Hence the whole learning balance thing.

My therapist is very supportive, and I believe that I am making progress, albeit slowly but surely. Over the last month I have been able to stay focused on the work-related tasks at hand, while successfully accessing my emotions in therapy. But it’s definitely challenging, even though I am constantly reminded that therapy is a process; that it will take time and a lot of work on my part. It is absolutely true that I am not going to rewire my brain in a day, and I acknowledge that change is going to be gradual.

And although that’s completely fine and thoroughly understandable, what do we do if my work starts to interfere with the progress I make at therapy, and vise versa?

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