I had a nice talk with some friends tonight, re PAL and a few other topics. One fellow’s take on the PAL idea is that lazy people will not be willing to admit that they are lazy. Instead, the typical lazy person is a master of blame-storming. He also suggested that I might be able to find allies among churches or religious-based charities. He seemed to think that PAL should not even be an independent organization. Rather, it might make more sense for me to just look for a niche in an existing organization that already serves the … uhh … lazy. (I had to laugh when I wrote that last phrase!)
While I appreciated my friend’s observations about “denial” being a major stumbling block, I think there are sometimes more layers to the story. I would agree that denial is the approach that most lazy people take at the “top-most” psychological self-justification level. For example, if you ask someone (who seems like they might be lazy) what they do for a living, they will typically blame the the “economy” for their unemployment or under-employment. This is particularly true if the question is being asked in a social setting where more than one person is listening to the answer. Sometimes the blame-it-on-the-economy answer is accompanied by a brief rant about the corrupt government and/or business policies “that got us into this mess.” After that, non-verbal queues leak out as if to say: “let’s change the subject to something more comfortable.”
But what happens when that same line of questioning occurs but without the audience listening to the answer? (It is funny, to see how a person’s answer to a question will change – depending on who is listening!) I have conducted several interviews along these lines. My non-scientific observations are as follows: When a person (who is probably lazy) is in a comfortable, one-on-one setting, and you ask them whether laziness has had an impact on their career, then they will usually respond in one of two ways. Let’s call them Responses A, and B. (In any case, PAL interviews are only designed for people who have already, on their own, admitted that laziness is part of their problem.)
Response “A” is basically to dig in his heels and re-enforce reasons as to why it makes sense to blame others. “A” people are happy to offer a litany of reasons as to why the system is rigged to force failure on “the little guy”. “A” people are usually indignant if they hear the suggestion that laziness may have been a factor in their career problems. An “A” person might even deny that laziness exists, period. I mean that they may even deny that the concept is even a meaningful idea. One fellow tried to convince me that the concept of “laziness” was invented in the 1700′s as a way to maintain racial hegemony. (I know that that doesn’t make sense! I am just telling you what he told me.)
And what about Response “B”? This kind of person plays the same blame-game as “A”, but the enthusiasm is not there. As the interviewer probes more deeply, the “B” person reaches a point at which a change occurs. The “B” person discovers something about himself that he was not fully aware of before. It is an exciting time, because, when it happens, there is hope. But there is also an element of grief, confusion, disbelief, anger, rapid vacillation and the sense of fear. But there is hope, and that is a beautiful thing to see. Now that we can better see the real cause/causes of career pain, there is hope for a cure.
Our next segment explores the details of the mixed up emotions that “B” feels. (Combined with hope.)
Grief, confusion, disbelief, anger, rapid vacillation and the sense of fear
What is the grief? The thought is: “Oops … I messed up … it looks like my self-justification support structure is faulty, after all … now I can see that I have been fooling myself by blaming other people for my career failure … I feel kind of naked … how could I have done this to myself ???”
What is the disbelief? The thought is: “I cant believe that I have really been so wrong all of this time … this PAL counselor is probably just a slick sales person, who knows how to manipulate the customer … maybe I am correct to blame forces outside of myself for my career problems … or maybe not …”
What is the anger? The thought is: “I am angry that my parents, and my society, and my friends who let me get away with this for so long … and in many cases they actually lied to me by telling me that I was the victim of forces outside of myself … and by telling me those lies (which I was actually eager to believe), I ended up really missing out on a lot of what life has offered me … and I am angry at myself for believing stuff that I (sorta) always knew was untrue.”
What is the rapid vacillation? The thought is: “I am going back and forth in my mind between my old beliefs and my new beliefs. A paradigm shift is occurring … there is no clear foundation …”
What is the fear? The thought is: “Work is painful. Will I be able to handle it? Am I making a mistake? Will people laugh at me?”
How can the PAL Counselor Help?
There have probably been studies done about the mental and emotional gyrations that occur when someone abandons a long-held belief, and moves to a new paradigm. What is that dynamic called? For example, when people in the USSR decided to abandon communism, or when someone is (unwilling) forced to the conclusion that their spouse is being unfaithful, or when someone undergoes a religious conversion. So “B” people are going through this destabilizing and disorienting experience as they recognize the role that their own laziness has played in their lives.
The important question for the PAL counselor is: How can I help my client to solidify these new beliefs?”