Concept of the Month -- April 2012

A Burden or an Opportunity?

A criminal on probation worked with another contractor engaged in various tasks such as house painting, carpentry jobs, and cleaning different properties. This fellow was seeing me for counseling. He complained that his co-worker was lazy, that he was doing the lion's share of the work. He was getting increasingly frustrated and complained to me about his situation. Fortunately, rather than just festering inside, he told me about his thinking. There was considerable self-pity as he thought, "Why do I have to get stuck with all this?" There then followed other thoughts about telling his co-worker off or just quitting the job entirely.

There were several problems with his thinking which were indicative of long-standing patterns:

1. Because something seems unfair, get even or quit.

2. Chronic dissatisfaction when things don't go his way.

3. Anger when he was not in control of a situation (including self-pity).

4. A loss of perspective.

What helped get this man on track was to point out that, whatever the minuses to his situation, he was far better off than he would be either without any job or in prison. He had a job to go and was being paid. He could talk with his co-worker calmly about the situation or speak with his supervisor. His job offered him an important arena for change, a place where he could learn to be a problem solver and develop self-discipline. If problems could not be resolved (after making an effort), he could always look for a different job in his spare time (not quitting the current job).

In other words, instead of seeing his current situation as a burden, it actually provided an opportunity for him to learn to handle things differently and institute changes in his thinking and behavior. Or, if he so chose, he could react in typical fashion which was to become self-righteous, angry, self-pitying and quit. It was his choice!

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