Are You Burned Out?

Today I wanted to return to very recent blog (Now Over 1000 Posts...) and the insight I had about work and feeling the weight of this intensity of providing direct services to a very trouble population.  I suspect all jobs are intense in their own way and that providing counseling to addicts is not any more intense then teaching school, working at the New York Stock Exchange, or being an elected official in Washington D.C. 
What is unique in this work is the very personal nature of my interactions with often very troubled individuals.  Almost daily I get a glimpse into the horror stories of their childhood or feel the trauma and anxiety they carry with them.  I am very sensitive to the energy and emotional states of those I work with because I show up and am fully present.  I don't know how to be present and not feel for my clients. 

Those I work with feel I am fully there for them because they can sense my open and compassionate heart.  They sense my listening is more then just hearing their words.  In the moment I share in their struggles as I assist them in trying to find a way to a better place.  This kind of intimate contact invites growth and healing to take place in my clients.  The difficult part for me is that at times their stories/energy impact me and I am unaware at the moment when it does.  I need to get better at not carrying any of their load while still caring deeply about their journey. 
My intention is to be fully present with an open, compassionate heart.  This is what I feel all those who work closely with others in the helping professions need to be able to do to be effective.  This work offers great rewards in the form of actually seeing people break from cycles of pain and suffering, seeing them take back their lives from substances that once totally controlled their existence.  Along the way however, we the helpers may pick up some extra baggage.  This accumulation of emotions/energy is true for those who care for people including counselors, case managers, nurses, physical therapist, Detox workers, etc. and include caregivers of family members.  Self-care is so important if we care for other.
I understand I must explore new and more effective ways for self-care.  Working out daily and sometimes a second time lightly discharges built up physical energy but maybe not the emotional energy.  Mindfulness reduces mental build-ups but may not tend to the psyche that feels bombarded.  I will go in search of other ideas from my supervisor at work, other professionals, and it may come down to the idea that time away is the only thing that works well.  I will let you know what I discover about taking care of self when doing important and compassionate work with those in need. 

Letter #17 For A Peaceful and Better World

Dear Mr. Obama, 

These are difficult times as you well know.  There is a great restlessness amongst the people.  The sources of such unrest are two I can see: first is the fear mongering by those who gain power and manipulate others by keeping others afraid and second there is the plain and simple truth that our government is a mess and we the people are no longer represented.

The system is breaking down and you have a mess on your hands.  Please reign in our participation in any wars.  The people are being killed in war, the people’s needs are being left out of real healthcare reform, the planet and all people are loosing out to the foes of climate change reform, the people are being fed misinformation by the media, the people are being used for huge corporate agendas, and so much more is not working. 

That is so much to do, please get us all involved in finding a better way.

Be Peace,

Joseph Bernard, Ph.D.

If you feel so inspired, join me and send President Obama emails at: