is rewarded with a day off. It is a time to celebrate the social and economic
achievements to the American worker by letting go of the stress, strain, and
demands of being an American worker. The American dream is the notion that
success and prosperity is attainable, regardless of socioeconomic status or
current circumstances, through sheer hard work.
Labor Day and the American dream are connected by the theme of
hard work. The way in which we define “hard work” can change over time and
across situations. One new concept of hard work for many American’s has emerged
over the past 15 years because of the technology explosion. Lap tops, I-Pads,
and especially smart phones have made it increasingly difficult for many people
to relax and disconnect from work. But this contributes to our current and
conflicted definition of hard work. Many people define their hard work not only
by the hours spent on the clock, but now by the hours spent off the clock. As a
result the line between “off the clock” and “on the clock” is becoming less
defined and blurry. Countless people are “enjoying” today’s break from work by
barbequing with friends and family. But the ever present stranglehold of work is
too tight. 20 years ago people only had to contend with their own thoughts
pulling them away from the barbeque and reminding them of work-related tasks.
Today, we still have those same thoughts preventing us from really enjoying our
day off and causing stress, but now we also have more stress in a hand held
The cell phone has changed the way we do business, the way we
gather information, and the way we play games. In many ways the cell phone has
made life easier, simpler. But in many ways the cell phone has changed the way
we experience anxiety. It has made life more complicated and more stressful. I
wrote a blog a while back about letting go. It has been one of the few entries
to receive comments (Again, I encourage comments for clarifications, questions,
and general discussion.) One concrete strategy in the difficult task of letting
go is to disconnect from the cell phone. In therapy I will often ask to hold the
clients cell phone. This is usually met with uncomfortable compliance. I use
this request as an example of how we tend to hold onto the distractions that
prevent us from letting go whether it is a thought, behavior, feeling, or a cell
phone. In order for therapy to be effective, both the therapist and the client
need to be focused on the therapy. The thought of a new email, text,
facebook message, tweet, or phone call can interfere with
treatment, even if the cell phone never rings or vibrates. The cell phone is a
huge distraction, but it is also a metaphor for the distractions in our head.
And today that cell phone will prevent many of us from enjoying the
moment and the company of those important people in our lives. Most people
claim to want to enjoy today and forget about work for a while, but that is
difficult to accomplish. Why not keep that cell phone in your pocket, leave it
on your bedroom, or, god forbid, turn it off.
The two ironies of this blog are:
1. I am spending valued time on my day off to focus on this blog which is work.
2. You are reading this blog on your cell phone, lap top, or I-pad. And if
you read this today, you are doing so on a day in which you should
be letting go of all of your stress and worry. However you are glued to
a device that also reminds you of the very things you are trying to let go of.
Many of you may have already seen this youtube video, but I felt compelled to share because it captures the message of this post.