Change is Up to You / Sometimes You Need a Professional
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I started a new job about eight months ago and I am very unhappy. I feel annoyed and sad all the time and I wonder if I hate my job because I am unhappy in general, or if I am unhappy because I don’t like my job. I want to get a better job, but I have lots of bills that I have to pay. I feel trapped, and that makes me unhappier. I’m really not sure what to do.
Dr. Hurd replies,
Carve out time to look for a new job. I know that it’s hard to summon up the energy to do this when you’re unhappy, but it’s the only way anything will ever change. Schedule appointments with yourself to check for jobs online, and keep those appointments. It’s a different way of looking at your time: Usually, when we think of appointments, we think of things like job interviews, doctors, or things we do with other people. However, a key principle of time management is to treat your time as a commitment that is just as important as a job interview or a doctor’s appointment. Block out certain hours to check job listings, call potential employers, and do all the things you would do if you were unemployed.
Some people say never quit a job until you have lined up a new one. There is of course economic truth in this approach. But from a psychological viewpoint, it might have diminishing returns. If you’re so miserable in your job that it’s sapping all your emotional strength and energy, you might actually find a new one sooner if you just got rid of the current job altogether.
Either way, you’re not trapped. You found this job, and you can find another one. Listen to your self-talk. If it’s negative and self-defeating, “talk tough” back to yourself by pointing out the positives. As for knowing if you’re unhappy in general, you’ll find that out once you have the new job. If you’re unhappy for other reasons, you can tackle them once you have this hurdle out of the way.
Find a skilled therapist in whom you can confide, and with whom you can maintain perspective. And by perspective, I mean viewing yourself as objectively as you can—like you would view other people—without having your conclusions colored by emotional clutter. You could benefit from this approach of learned optimism. It takes time and practice, but with some effort and maybe a good therapist, you will get there.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
My sister is always willing to baby sit my dog when I travel for work. That’s really convenient. However, no matter what I tell her and how much dog food I give her, she feeds the dog the wrong things. Things like spicy fried foods. And it makes him sick. After being with her, he returns with gastric upset— not a pretty thing when dealing with a canine. I really appreciate her taking care of him, but she will not listen when I tell her what to feed him. “But he seems to like it,” she says. Of course he does. He’s a dog. Is it time to take him to a kennel?
Dr. Hurd replies,
Doggie day care has come a long way. Shop around. Or consider a different person to help you. Do this searching and planning when you don’t have an impending trip, so you’re not rushed or pressured. This abuse of your poor dog has to stop.
I cannot imagine why your sister won’t make your life (and hers) easier by doing what you ask. Whatever the cause, she does not seem open to reason and persuasion. So don’t waste the energy; just let it go.
There are enormous advantages to having a friend or family member help with pet sitting, child care, and things that involve trust. But there are also advantages to hiring a professional. With a professional, there’s no baggage. The professional has a reputation to maintain. The professional does it for money. Short-sighted people turn up their noses at such a motive, but most of the time money’s a good thing. You want someone who’s helping you with an important task to be motivated. And as such, money is one of the prime motivators. Everyone needs and wants money for all sorts of reasons. So when you hire someone who has a good reputation and good references, you can be reasonably sure you’re getting a motivated person.
One plausible explanation for your sister’s behavior is passive-aggressiveness. In other words, she does not want to do this favor for you, but instead of telling you openly, she’s telling you indirectly (passively) by making obvious mistakes (aggressively) about how to feed the dog. While it can be worrisome to hire a kennel or pet sitter, it might be advisable to explore that rather than leave your beloved pet with someone who’s passive-aggressive. Even if she’s not, something’s not right. Life’s too short to metaphorically bang your head against the wall or continue down a dead-end street. Make the needed change for your dog’s sake, and move on!
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office can be reached at 302-227-2829. Email questions or comments to Dr. Hurd.