The Exhausted Individual

According to John Makransky and Brooke Lavelle (Tricycle blog, 1 Feb 2016) we live in an age of exhausted, burned out, rugged individuals, and nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in the social service professions:

Forty- to fifty-percent of teachers quit their jobs within the first five years of teaching. Nurses, doctors, and other medical professionals report increasingly less satisfaction in their work. Suicide among social workers is on the rise …

They continue:

Many in social service are led to believe that exhaustion and burnout come with the job. Taking time for oneself can be seen as selfish, and requesting help from others can be interpreted as a sign of weakness. 

But these assumptions are holding us back. Being cared for is what drives our ability to care for others. Without being open and vulnerable to receive care, our ability to care for our children, family, patients, students, and others is built on a fragile foundation. …

We live in a highly individualistic culture that tends to view compassion and other contemplative trainings as techniques to make a person more kind and caring. This frame places the burden of healing and transformation solely on the individual’s shoulders and misses the deep relational framework of Buddhist and other ancient spiritual traditions from which many of our modern contemplative programs are drawn.

Think about your own social network. If you are like me, all kinds of people may come to mind: members of my family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, and on and on. I ask myself, What are the emotional exchanges, the give-and-take, that sustains my network, that makes each person in it feel valued, appreciated, cared for, and loved? Does my sense of happiness, belonging, and self-worth a product of my own efforts, or is it the product of the exchanges and connections that sustain my network?