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Alienation: We Have to Talk About It

Abstract image of different shapes and figures. Alienation topic. Mindletic blog.

Have you ever experienced a feeling of helplessness, feeling of being left out of the conversation, or that the world seems empty and meaningless? Have you felt all these feelings and noticed how they created distance from your work, family, or friends? Well, psychologists call it alienation.

Alienation is defined as a deep-rooted sense of dissatisfaction with one’s personal existence and one’s social physical environment or in oneself. It is a complex state that can affect many of us from time to time. We tend to lose connection with ourselves or our surroundings. It is like being in a room full of people and being unable to connect with anyone or barely start a conversation. Sometimes it is expressed as the feeling of loneliness, which causes uncomfortable sadness or anxiety. It can be truly difficult and discouraging, but we are here to help you to get acquainted with it and learn to recognize it.

Dimensions of alienation

Alienation as such is divided into four closely interlinked state-like dimensions.

Powerlessness – a perception that one’s behavior cannot control the personal and social outcomes.

Meaninglessness – a perception that one’s work does not contribute to the whole.

Isolation – lack of sense of belonging.

Self-estrangement – lack of personal fulfillment, identity.

Alienation at work

Alienation at work does not involve emotional investment and thus only causes dissatisfaction and withdrawal for the employee. The absence of rewarding tasks, lack of constructive feedback, and autonomy only generate powerlessness both in work and social life. Whereas, having space to decide on the details of one’s work, having the actual freedom from micromanagement and oppressive leadership strengthens the involvedness and the sense of belonging to the organization. A free individual within the framework of an organization surrounded by supportive co-workers cultivates positive self-realization that in turn has an impact on employees’ creativity and productivity.

Self - estrangement

Self-estrangement is closely interlinked with job satisfaction as it is one of the moderating factors. However, emotional distancing can also be caused by current pandemic restrictions, loss of social interactions, and the poor quality of interpersonal relationships. You may start feeling disgust towards yourself, despair, and a high degree of dissatisfaction with yourself. Researchers have even found a link between self-estrangement and psychological disorders or worse – suicide.

Alienation, thus, is a very important concept in our times, when we are filled with desires to establish ourselves properly in the world, gain an appreciation and succeed at work. In order to avoid the negative consequences of alienation, we can learn to recognize it.

How to recognize alienation?

.Root-cause of pain

Think thoroughly about which areas of life make you feel helpless, which situations make you feel trapped. Make a distinction between the areas which you can control and which you cannot. Perhaps there are some unresolved problems that have been worrying you lately? Alienation often comes from unresolved issues that we consciously tend to avoid, therefore, be honest with yourself and get to the root cause of your pain.

.Small steps are better than none

We often think that we are not good enough and immediately stop in our tracks when we need to make a difficult decision. It is more than ok not to know which is the right direction or right decision. There is no right or wrong. We are all sculptors of our own existence and whichever direction we will take, it will lead us somewhere. Willingness to take a small step back gives us the opportunity to know where we can go next. Therefore, the next time you feel unsure about yourself, do not stop, be gentle to yourself and ask what is the best thing you can do in this situation. Accept that the situation you are in may be difficult but try adding the tiniest positive aspect to it and see where it goes. We all have our doubts, but that is a very human-like experience we were given.

Exercises for coping with alienation

#1 // Take up a new hobby

When you feel like you do not belong somewhere, try to do something you have never done before, dive into sports or crafts such as knitting or painting. All sorts of crafts and sports allow a certain degree of expression and work therapeutically. This way you will be able to relax, focus on something else and clear your mind.

#2 // Seek support from your beloved ones

Sometimes opening up to someone helps more than holding all distressful emotions all to yourself. Try inviting your old friend for a cup of tea. It is wonderful what different insights can do to us!

#3 // Go forest-bathing

Originally called Shirin- Yoku means taking in the forest atmosphere during a walk. It is a therapy developed in Japan in the 1980s. Researchers have shown that forest bathing creates a positive calming neuro-psychological effect through changes in the nervous system, reducing the stress hormone cortisol and boosting the immune system. Read how can you practice forest-bathing here: https://www.growwilduk.com/blog/5-simple-steps-practising-shinrin-yoku-forest-bathing

#4 // Volunteer

Sometimes identity crisis directs us towards something exciting, why don’t you sign up for being a volunteer for a Red Cross or any kind of festival? Connecting to someone that is actively involved in volunteering can bring back your sense of belonging. You may create new acquaintances and let loose!