Keep Your Sanity Clear in Our Technological World

In one of the families I worked with lately, the father, a very successful director has been working about 18 hours a day and was abroad once a month, leaving the mother alone to cope with their two babies. After two stressful years the company he worked for collapsed. He was subsequently depressed and kept asking himself whether it had been worthwhile being away from the family, and investing all this time and these efforts in work.

In general, most of the large companies we encounter in the market today can’t avoid falling into the common trap of an unbalanced chasing after ‘achievement’ and ‘progress’. This is because of market instability and competition that harm the quality of lives of adults and children. We are all in the same boat. The organizational way of thinking and organizational climate is of major importance to us as most of us work in these companies. Sometimes these companies offer company shares (options), luxuries and even special kindergartens for kids inside the company’s campus, but make no mistake! By undertaking these actions they actually bring about alienation between the members of the family. Another negative byproduct is that they place a great burden on the emotional ties in the family which are crucial for a healthy life.

We may consider as an example the small grocery store. Forty years ago it was usually operated by the owner, who could allow himself to close at noon for a break as well as early at around 7 p.m., as well as during weekends and one afternoon a week. Nowadays, many of the small old grocery stores are gone and instead we have co-operative supermarkets that are open until late at night and during the weekends too. The balance we used to have is gone probably forever. The people who operate the store can no longer come home and relax and their children receive less attention. The example I gave is not related to technology and industry but still gives an impression of the processes in hi-tech and low-tech companies. In these companies, the workers and managers all have to work overtime because of the difficult competition in the market, with resulting major flaws to the psychological balance and the quality of family life.

The paradox of a technological society is that on the one hand life has apparently become easier. You do not need to squeeze orange juice any more to prepare your morning juice and greetings for a friend’s birthday can be sent electronically. You don’t need to actually talk to your mate anymore in order to wish him or her a happy birthday! On the other hand our emotional lives have become much more complex due to the ability of technology to connect us anywhere. From a psychological point of view one can also elaborate widely (perhaps in a different article) on the transformation of relationships within the family that were once much more “psychologically nutritious”(e.g. family members would sit and have a family dinner together regularly almost every evening). Due to these transformations family relationships have become less “nutritious” because of less available time and work preoccupation of the parents. An example would be adolescents who sit each one in a different room with his or her own computer, playing and eating a snack instead of supper while the mother is talking on her cell-phone with her work colleague and the father is abroad for work.

I would like to suggest several ways to keep our sanity in this technological world, small things that sometimes might make a significant change.

In ongoing counseling sessions many times very special relationships are woven. I think to myself many times what are the factors that exist there, within the counseling setting, from which we can learn and use in order to improve our emotional ties and attachments to our beloved ones. Here are three useful keys to think about as a start: The first one, if you’re in a meeting with someone important to you, a spouse, a child or a friend, is that it’s better meeting him or her for a shorter time interval and only in the break after the meeting receiving your message and answering them. Keeping the cell-phone open would usually spoil and contaminate your precious mutual time together. Indeed, therapists usually limit the time of a meeting and take a fifteen minute break which enables them to catch up on missed messages.

It is a known and accepted practice in counseling that achievements will not happen in non-stable, non-predictable and non-consistent settings. Important psychological functions such as a good capacity to be in relationships and to love are built when the meetings are both predictable and constant. Make the meetings with your beloved ones on a weekly basis. If you unexpectedly cancel a meeting with your counselor you would probably have to pay him or her the price of that meeting. You should probably find a substitute mechanism that will help both parties learn how to respect satisfactorily their precious mutual time in your close intimate relationships.

Decide mutually and fairly whose time it is today. Am I the “patient” or the “therapist” today? and give yourself feedback about how was I in this role. If I’m the listener today, how well did I do it? Can I improve something? Did I feel okay in this role? If not, what’s the source of the difficulty I felt etc.