I am being forced to write this blog post by a friend who has suffered through an 8 week series of self-help workshops with me. I hope she is grateful.
We have endured seven weeks of trying to be a good sports. Seven weeks of googling every time the instructor said “in this study I read”, “according to a prominent thought leader”, and other things without concrete references, to see what Wikipedia page it was from.
There is still one more week.
The seventh workshop focused on gratitude. Five minutes in we were so far into Oprah territory with blessings and positive energy that I was expecting someone to run out with free copies of The Secret for the audience. Overall an odd experience for the middle of the work day, made tolerable by attending with a friend.
Said friend and I spend half the time texting snarky observations to each other on our iPads. The other half of the time is spent dissecting the “partner sharing exercises” we are supposed to be doing. Between the two of us (she has a psych PhD) we have been there and done that with the content they are presenting, which is, based on the nature of the series, simplistic.
They are very big on small wins. Formerly known as low hanging fruit (you can explore other business speak at a favorite website). So we are encouraged/assigned tasks which will help incorporate the “learnings” into our week and beyond. These are called “minis”.
I have to say I agree with the value of the stress management they are preaching and have used versions of these self-awareness techniques myself with clients. In private.
However. I fail to see the value of a) sharing feelings and personal stories in this casual way at work, b) why it always has to be packaged in nature based spirituality, and c) why they are promising that this simplistic stuff will make someone feel less stressed.
What if it doesn’t? What if people at work have no idea about the horrific crap going in your life that WILL NOT BE FIXED by platitudes? Does that make you a loser? I saw a woman cry after one of these exercises. There is something that feels vaguely like quasi-group therapy in these sessions that pings my professional ethics.
So week seven, a different kind of mini. We are told that practicing gratitude for ten minutes a week — why not 14 minutes so you can do 2 minutes a day? 10 divided by 7 is just irritating. Anyway, that 10 minutes of gratitude a week supposedly creates “micro, micro dopamine flow”. To which I said (in text) “bite my ass”.
A crude, yet simple reaction caused by the second micro in that sentence. If only she had stopped at one. Being grateful probably does activate your reward system. Maybe you can even create that feedback loop by faking it as we were encouraged to do. Maybe we really are stressed because we choose to be stressed. Maybe we are missing our bodhisattva moment by being closed minded.
I’ll give it a try.
I am grateful that there is only one more workshop in this series.
Damn. I do feel better!