Laid Off: Change your GPS
Are you losing sleep over the prospects of being laid off from your job? Are you anxious about your peers outperforming you? Is your competitor about to eat your lunch? Are you ashamed to declare to your family that you are unemployed? In short, are you in conflict with yourself? If so, there is nothing new about your problem. The roots of the solution to your problem however can be traced several thousand years back.
In the midst of the battle of Kurukshetra, Arjuna lays down his bow and arrow and pleads with Krishna:
My heart is overpowered by grief, pity and shame;
My mind is confused about whether to fight or give in?
Tell me decisively what I should do.
I am your disciple. Instruct me for I have taken refuge in you.
If you are distressed and seeking professional advice from a veteran counsellor, your plight is no different from that of Arjuna. Much like yours, Arjuna’s thoughts were guided by his mind’s GPS system: grief, pity and shame. The ordinary mind is a composition of thoughts plus feelings. Thoughts are like brick and feelings are like cement. Together they create the illusion of a concrete structure of reality. This concrete structure can be described as a mental model. When a mental model is guided by those shifting moods of grief, pity, and shame the world appears to be a bleak and hopeless place.
Arjuna is not unlike a high performer who is about to lose his job. Like him you have to navigate the corporate world through entrenched emotions that cloud your vision and distort your awareness. Fear of the boss, pressure of deadlines, grief over job loss, long hours of separation from your family, self-pity and shame resulting from underperformance—all of them can paralyze a person at work.
See how Krishna plays the role of a counsellor. He lightens up Arjuna’s burden by challenging his mental model:
You grieve for those who should not be grieved for:
The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead.
Arjuna is grieving for his dear ones against whom he has to take up arms. Krishna points out that Arjuna’s compassion is misplaced just as his attachment is illusory.
Arjuna is attached to a rush of sensory stimulus from the world outside that is creating waves of grief pity and shame. As a result he is experiencing not just emotional upheaval but negative mental chatter. Krishna quietens Arjuna down in the middle of the battle. When his senses are quiet, Arjuna’s discriminating intellect begins to surface. Krishna explains:
Look Arjuna! Every physical body comes from worldly elements
And returns again to these elements at death.
So why should you lament?
Think of the corporate body that that that has laid you off from your job? The body of a corporation consists of many roles—one of which you were required to play. When the role is over, your return to your self and take up another role. The role in office is over, but you still stay on. A role is a dead concept. The self is the living content within the role. By distinguishing the role from the self, Arjuna is able to reclaim his life from the cesspool of sorrow. Krishna makes Arjuna realize that the core of his self, his soul, is imperishable:
Souls cannot be slain Arjuna, by any man or thing.
Why then do you grieve?
Krishna points out the futility of grieving over a job loss which is nothing more than dropping off a role. Arjuna’s vision is muddied by his faulty GPS system. He confuses his role with his self. A role is a temporary arrangement, while the self is timeless. Krishna persuades Arjuna to look at reality with greater discrimination. What helps Arjuna is a counselling conversation of 700 odd verses that gives him a helicopter view of a flood situation. Distance from the din of the battle gives him the right perspective. The floodgates of emotions that made up his faulty GPS are replaced by a clearer vision of reality. Arjuna is on the right track as now begins to distinguish the real from the unreal.