Leadership Skills: How to Work Through the Blues

Here are some tips for you to think about if you or a teammate suffers the blues as a result of ongoing economic changes or changes in your company.*

First things first: it’s natural to experience the blues when things change. Congratulate yourself for being human and having feelings! Such blues have a name: “anaclitic depression.”

Identified in 1946 by psychiatrist Rene Spitz, anaclitic depression originally referred to children who became depressed after being separated from their mothers.

Since these children had no one to “lean on” for comfort, Spitz coined the term anaclitic (leaning upon) depression.

In the last decade, management scholars like Jerry B. Harvey (see resource below) have identified similar symptoms in adults who become separated from ideas or relationships that are very important to them.

Want an example? Layoff’s may throw an entire work force into anaclitic depression due not only to being separated from the belief that “employment equals security” but also from the people with whom they identify.

If you or someone you know suffers the anaclitic depression blues due to being rudely separated from dearly held ideas and relationships by the economic downturn or by terrorist attacks and other traumatic events, here are some tips for working through those blues:

1. Possibility Thinking
Television evangelist Robert Schuler coined the term “possibility thinking” — and it’s good advice anytime you are knocked off your game.

To tap into your own considerable resources, the first resource to claim is a sense of possibility for your future.

Create a new or renewed sense of possibility. Nominate yourself as CEO of your life and challenge yourself to seek clarity about what you want. Ask yourself what the most important ideas and relationships are in your life, and how you can design your life around those.

2. Acknowledge This New Point In Time
If you believe (as media and government leaders tell us to) that your world has fundamentally shifted, then acknowledge this “new point in time” you are experiencing.

Acknowledge that you were deeply accustomed and even reliant on the “old way” and that you wish it hadn’t gone away. Mourn its loss, then boldly choose to live in the present. Form new ideas (vision, mission) and relationships (values and plan).

3. Consider That Perhaps Nothing Has Changed
This may sound cynical — it isn’t. For those open to the possibility, it can be quite expansive and empowering. If you are open to it, consider that little has really
changed except you’ve come to face a reality that always existed.

Acknowledge that you were hoping or pretending that a surging economy could last forever. Admit that everything happens in waves, and that anything surging will eventually wane. Also acknowledge that you were only pretending you were safe from terrorists or layoffs, and that the very same thing could have happened last year or in last decade…they just didn’t.

How does this help? It increases your ability to respond by opening your eyes to what “is” so you can deal with it instead of deny it.

4. “FEAR” Stands For False Evidence Appearing Real
Remind yourself that most of your fears are imagined. The negative possibilities we make up in our own minds are usually far worse than what we actually face.

For instance: check the statistics on whether you are safer in an airplane or in your car driving to work. If you are worried about losing your job, remind yourself that the possibility has always existed.

In fact, remind yourself that at one time, you were far less prepared than you are today to find a new and better job, or to start that small business, or to go back to school. Or to leave that unsatisfying job because you were just reminded that life is way to short…

5. Ask “What’s The Very Worst Thing That Can Happen?”
And keep asking until you get to the end and realize you survived. When you get there, you discover that it’s not so bad and that it’s also not terribly likely.

Example? Some of your business is going away. So what’s the worst that can happen? Well, the very worst that can happen is…

  • You might have to ask your family to cut expenses.
  • You might have to give up your planned vacation or not buy that new car or get rid of a car.
  • You might have to renegotiate with your mortgage company.
  • You might have to discover a new occupation.
  • You might have to grow your own vegetables.
  • Your children might get to experience firsthand how necessity truly is the mother of invention.

Wow! Sounds kind of exciting. Life is full of possibilities.

Get Started With This 5-Minute Practice Tip

Identify someone you know who has experienced anaclitic depression blues and consider what deeply held beliefs (or relationships) have been destroyed.

How can you assist in mourning the loss and developing new possibilities?

(*This is not meant to be clinical advice or therapy. If you or someone you know is having serious problems coping with life or suffering from depression, please see a trained professional for treatment.)

Resource: How Come Every Time I Get Stabbed In the Back My Fingerprints Are On The Knife? And Other Meditations on Management by Jerry B. Harvey.

Harvey devoted a whole chapter to anaclitic depression. These are first-rate musings about taking responsibility for our own experience at work (and elsewhere). Whatever Jerry Harvey writes, I read. He displays awesome mastery in first observing and then reflecting in beautiful, plain language about what happens for each of us in our groups and organizations.

Leaders and coaches: Get Christopher’s best team building and leadership strategies collected over two-plus decades of solving teamwork problems for smart people. Attend the acclaimed Creating Results-Based Teams workshop, or get this FREE Special Report while it lasts: The Five Flawless Steps to Building a Strong Executive Leadership Team.

Christopher Avery, PhD, is a recognized authority on how individual and shared responsibility works in the mind and an advisor to leaders worldwide.

Posted in Collaboration, Leadership, Teamwork on 10/03/2013 01:57 am
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