Focusing Tip #763 – When passion and urgency for a cause can lead to burnout

Focusing Tip #763 – When passion and urgency for a cause can lead to burnout
August 4, 2021 Ann Weiser Cornell
What if you're so driven by working for a cause that you lose your sense of balance?Read on...

Focusing Tip #763 – When passion and urgency for a cause can lead to burnout

What if you’re so driven by working for a cause that you lose your sense of balance? Read on…


Elinor writes:

I often wonder how Focusing can help to work on such issues as environmental justice, inequalities in vaccinations, indigenous reconciliation, etc. Sometimes I feel my own sense of passion and urgency can get me out of balance and lead to burnout.

How do we stay “fresh” on these issues, in ways that help us engage?

Dear Elinor:

Feeling passion about working on such important issues is great, and there’s every reason to feel urgency as well, since justice has waited too long already.

However, when our actions become driven by Parts rather than being undertaken by our whole Self, we can get burned out and we can also become less effective in the very areas where we need to be most influential.

How do you recognize this is happening? And what do you do then?

When actions come from the whole Self there is a calm, spacious quality, even when matters are urgent. We have a wider perspective, like we’re taking the longer view. This particular initiative might not work — and we’ll do our best. If it doesn’t, we’ll fight another day.

But when a Part has taken over, actions have a driven quality. There’s an anxious, “gotta gotta” feeling. A Part feels the immanence of failure and loss as a personal threat. From this unbalanced state, we can work too hard and forget to treat others with respect and curiosity.

What I’d recommend:

Start by acknowledging the Part, using the language of “I am sensing something in me feeling [angry, sad, desperate, exhausted…].”

Or: “I am sensing something in me saying (for example) ‘I can’t do this any more’, and something else that says, ‘I have to push myself.'”

Now say a compassionate Hello to that Part of you, or each of them if there’s more than one. One at a time, imagine you are sitting next to it, to listen to how things are from its point of view. You are the compassionate listener. You are the space where each of your Parts (and feelings) can be the way they are.

If you’re working with a friend/colleague, this would be a great opportunity for a Focusing partnership. I predict you’ll come out of it more balanced and able to do more… from a balanced place.

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