Workaholics And Eating Disorders

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The loss of empathy and compassion has serious consequences
not only for workaholics, but for those who live and work with them. The dynamics
that occur when obsessive thinking dominates the psyche of workaholics is
similar to those who struggle with eating disorders, their concentrated
energy is narrowly invested in a single-minded fixation on work-related issues.
The subsequent repression of the feeling, intuition and sensation functions has
serious consequences. No longer does wisdom and invaluable input
that these functions provide adequately inform the workaholic’s judgment. The
ability to make sound and wise decisions that fully consider the impact of
their actions on others is seriously damaged. The same behavior occurs for
those who experience disordered eating. The effects on others, being a lack of
empathy and disassociation are similar as well.


Empathy is a “joining with” experience, an emotional yet
objective attempt to understand what another person might be experiencing.
Psychologist Carl Rogers defined empathy as “the ability to accompany another
to wherever the other person’s feelings lead him, no matter how strong, deep,
destructive, or abnormal they may seem.” It is important however to acknowledge
that the objectivity necessary for true empathy is only possible if the observer
respects has the insight and respect necessary to be able to differentiate and
honor the separateness and uniqueness of each person’s experience. One must
therefore refrain from projecting, second-guessing or making assumption about
the other person’s reasoning, behavior or motivation. Workaholics rarely take
the important second step of asking that person questions to learn more about
his or her actual experience and reactions to the situation.

Good listening skills dissipate when workaholics become
emotionally-crippled. As the breakdown progresses, burned-out workaholics even
find it necessary to second-guess themselves. Many no longer know how they do
feel, or indeed how they should feel, especially when faced with emotionally
charged encounters. Ask these stressed out individuals how they feel, and they
will tell you what they think. Feeling language and behavior becomes
increasingly foreign in their left hemisphere thinking world where the focus is
on usefulness, and figuring out the concrete practical means-to-an-end to get
from goal A to the next even more ambitious goal.

Compassionate understanding is expressed through words and
deeds that show kind and thoughtful emotional support and encouragement.
Genuine offers to help are guided by the other person’s expressed needs and
wishes. Workaholics, on the other hand, are the ultimate “fixers” who act on
their own assumptions and problem-solving skills for others without
consultation. Most have the expertise to solve problems, but frequently lack
the insight and wisdom to know when “help” is an invasive gesture. This is
especially true during the breakdown when so many things start to go wrong, and
their self-esteem and confidence are under threat. Self-absorbed, arrogant
workaholics fail to realize that problem-solving and giving unsolicited advice
robs others of the opportunity to find their own unique solutions and thus
succeed in building up their own confidence and self-esteem. The loss of
empathy and the ability to show compassionate understanding affects family
members greatly. One must feel in order to be able to express genuine emotional
support. Feeling language and behavior does this best.

Self-centeredness replaces empathy, and intolerance destroys
compassion. Narrowly focused stressed-out workaholics build up resentments that
poison relationships. They neglect or refuse to acknowledge the rights and
dignity of others. Trust and respect are pillared as a hurry-hurry, rush-rush attitude
leaves little time for working things out together and solving unfinished
problems, or even gaining insight into another’s needs and wishes. Too often deadlines
win out over the time, energy, insight and other-directed wisdom necessary to
develop and share the precious attributes of empathy and compassion.

Have you experienced
an eating disorder and symptoms of workaholism?
How did you reconcile
the two?
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