The Psychology of Working: A New Perspective for Career Development, Counseling, and Public Policy

The Psychology of Working: A New Perspective for Career Development, Counseling, and Public Policy

The Psychology of Working: A New Perspective for Career Development, Counseling, and Public Policy

The Psychology of Working: A New Perspective for Career Development, Counseling, and Public Policy

Synopsis

In this original and major new work, David Blustein places working at the same level of attention for social and behavioral scientists and psychotherapists as other major life concerns, like intimate relationships, physical and mental health, and socio-economic inequities. He also provides readers with an expanded conceptual framework within which to think about working in human development and human experience. As a result, this creative, new synthesis enriches the discourse on working across the broad spectrum of psychology's concerns and agendas, and especially for those readers in career development, counseling, and policy-related fields.

Excerpt

Most American adults spend a third to a half of their waking hours at work. Yet work finds relatively little place in the ways that we think about our lives. When it comes to psychological theory about the influences that shape our personalities or contribute to our happiness or unhappiness, the primary focus tends to be on human beings as the product of their childhoods. Thousands and thousands of pages have been published on the impact of early childhood experiences. Far less has been written on how the context of work shapes our lives. Yet, by the time most of us breathe our last, we will have spent far more hours being workers than being children.

This is not to disparage the importance of childhood. The habits, perceptions, and inclinations that characterize our lives are clearly powerfully shaped by the experiences of our early years. Moreover, those experiences have, we might say, a double impact in that they skew the kinds of later experiences we have, so that the later experiences are not random but are themselves a function of what the earlier experiences were (Wachtel, 1987, 1997). It is also the case, nonetheless, that the very meaning of being alive is that we live in response to events. The psychological structures that evolve over the course of development are not rigid structures that simply inhere in some “internal” realm. They are structures of response, ways we learn to respond to and make sense of what actually happens to us—and what actually happens matters!

One of the most important things that happens to most of us is that we get a job. Although some people stay in one job for many years, some change jobs frequently, and many spend at least a portion of their lives—often an especially painful portion—looking for work, work tends to be a common denominator for almost all of us. Yet we tend to view our time at work almost purely in functional terms: Do we “have” a job? How much money do we make? Are we “getting ahead?”

If we are to truly understand our lives, however, we need to understand both the experience of working and the meaning of working in our lives. Ours is a consumer society, and that fact has distorted our perception of work to an . . .

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