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  • Writer's pictureDr. Michael Urban

Occupational Pain: When Goals and Systems Lead to Unhappiness

When we think of our everyday living, we often identify with a goal that we strive to work towards. This goal we have to ask, does it serve our greater good or are we serving someone or someone else’s greater good? If you can stand in your truth and state this goal is for you, no attachments or conditions, then you on are the right path. Sadly I would be that all of us, even myself cannot say this with 100% conviction.

This inability to say we live within a system that meets our true needs not our wants. Not our wants for a bigger house, new car, new phone, the next thing to show off to people how much success we perceive ourselves to have. We measure our happiness off the things we have, the titles we carry, the goals we are working to help an organization often function even it is slowly killing us.

Now you ask, why is he bring this up when we look at occupational pain. Studies have shown a correlation on the perception of higher pain levels and depression. When I would work with clients with the goal to return to work, I can recall one who had to care for his children when he was home recovering, He found this more meaningful than work, but new that he had to bring in some kind of income to support their basic needs. Because of this realization, he started to delay his return to work due to pain from his injury. The everyday task soon became harder to do, more painful, and the doctors, employer, and worker’s compensation manager was all convinced he was “faking” his injury by the time he came to me. Now you can say he was reporting higher levels of pain that did not match his actions, but the case and treatment we focused on was this perception of pain and his impairments. Was he faking his pain, he was actually not as this was something I was able to prove, but at the same time, I had a lot of work to do with him in a short amount of time for him to see the impacts of his daily occupations played on his pain levels. This is were I started to use the use the term and coined occupational pain.

Now I can do a whole talk on this case, but that is not why I am writing. The fact that is recovery derailed was because the systems he was functioning in, did not value him. Did not support his meaning to succeed based upon his own values and mission in life. Thus he could not meet his fulfillment to engage with family, strong friend relationships, and faith or personal care. His employer only looked at work and due to having not set formally hours, would plan meetings during child pick-up or even dinner time as business was more important than the individual. The employer would not admit fault or failure and place 100% of blame to issues on individuals rather looking at the shared responsibility. And still why do people stay at places like this when they are not truly happy. Often is that need to identify with a goal, a title. Working within a system that is effective and putting your priorities in order first, then the system will be reworded by your productivity and your happiness.

When are surviving in an organization or system that does not serve our needs, we find we are in a survival type mode. As we look to function thus devaluing our personal and professional worth, we willingly give up what is important to us to serve others but not in that meaningful and purposeful way. This our overall posture, quality of sleep, eating habits, and just overall functional movements lack the efficiency and quality to protect our body’s from occupational wear and tear with our everyday tasks. Thus the daily abuse we subconsciously inflict on ourselves generates those aches and pains which we passively treat never getting to the route cause of occupational pain. Our everyday lives impacts on our perception of pain is interrelated but our mental perceptions fused with the physical postures we use to engage in what we think we enjoy. If you doubt this concept, then think of a time you were tired and had discomfort. When you looked at that pile of dishes or laundry, any tasks that you do not value, did you willing want to jump in and do it or would you avoid the task. If you engaged in the task because it had to be done, was it done well, successfully, timely, pain free? ?If you now had a task presented that you loved to do, was that pain there?

Our mental health combined with the systems we function in we must maintain to allow for us to control the misperceptions of our occupational pain levels that will derail out quality of live. Our satisfactions with functioning in a system or systems that are not helping us attain our needs and not the wants in life. Occupational pain is not something you treat with a quick surgery or by masking with a pill, but needs a holistic approach to remodel your daily living to maximize your potential to engage in meaningful and successful was with daily activities.

If you want to discuss this further, contact me to schedule an assessment of your own personal remodel needs.

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