I’m just days away from going on a three-month leave of absence from my demanding job. Here’s what the residents of my psychological house are up to.
Anxiety is the center of attention these days. She is worried about meeting deadlines before the leave starts, about whether we’ve adequately ensured that client needs will be met. She worries–with good reason–that when we come back from leave, some pieces of our job will have been transferred permanently to someone else, and she doesn’t know if we’ll like that. She feels we are on the brink of some kind of big change in our life but since we don’t know where that will take us, and she’s agitated by the uncertainty. And she can’t even look forward to the leave, because after all, it will involve going deeper in therapy, which is certainly Anxiety-provoking, plus what if we don’t make good use of the leave, and what if it goes by really fast and then we are back to the same old place?
Authenticity pops up a little more than she used to. She was one of those who first recognized we need a leave, so we could breathe and think and come back to our authentic self. She has also kept us (mostly) honest when talking to colleagues about why we are taking leave. Of course, Professional Q has often tempered the words, so I don’t say, “I can’t stand the pressure anymore and am inches away from quitting, in part because the CEO does not take care of his leaders but instead just piles on more responsibilities. Plus I’ve been slogging through a severe depression and sometimes feeling suicidal, which makes it hard to work at this intensive level.” Instead, Diplomacy turn that into, “it’s been an especially busy year, and it seems like a good idea to take some time to rest, restart my exercise program, and just slow down a little. But I’ll be back soon.”
Depression lies around moaning in the basement most of the time. Sometimes she crawls upstairs grabs the feet of the others, knocking them down for a day or two. Anxiety is worried that Depression may grow stronger for a while once there is more space for her and Professional Q gets a chance to rest.
Intuition is thin and weak. She’s been neglected for far too long. We’re planning to feed her and Creativity during this leave. For now, they sit in the corner and wait. Joy stays in her room at the end of a long hallway, making plans for the future, hoping there will be a time when she can take an active role in the house.
The girl, the little wounded girl who needs so much attention and care, she needs to wait too. But she doesn’t like waiting. She’s very agitated. She smashes books and other items around her room and kicks the walls. She throws herself against the furniture and hits herself, hard. For now, there’s a nurse staying in the girl’s bedroom with her, cleaning up her messes, washing her scrapes, and preventing more serious injuries. She just brought a rocking chair into the girl’s room to see if she might like to be held and rocked.
The Wise Woman usually tries to orchestrate events in the house. For the moment, she has stepped back a little, recognizing that Anxiety and Professional Q do have a lot to cope with these days. She promises to take the lead in October and try to help us all navigate whatever it is that lies ahead.
And I remind myself that it’s all right to have conflicting emotions.