Saturday, February 15, 2014

We are emotional animals

It's been a week of emotional turmoil this past week. Nothing bad happened, quite the opposite, but all the same the effect has been draining.

Back before Christmas, I applied for another position in Government, and was called for a written assignment and an interview in January. Last week I was told they wanted to make me an offer.

All good news. This was a position I was interested in, it represents a step up, and it sounds like a great fit for my experience.

Being a logical and analytical person, I was prepared to weigh the pros and cons and practicalities and everything points to this being the right move for me.

I was totally unprepared for the rush of unfamiliar and unexpected emotions to follow.

There were the obvious suspects: elation at winning (when I'd more-or-less resigned myself to bad news) balanced with fear of the unknown, and feelings of "am I doing the right thing?" There is still anxiety about leaving behind so much familiarity (I've been working in the same building for over eight years), but relief at the prospect of leaving behind the accumulated baggage of eight years, and sadness at the people I'll be parting from.

But the overwhelming sensation was of being adrift, of not belonging either here or there. I sat in work meetings, suddenly feeling cut off and disengaged like the topics at hand were no longer my concern. The sensation of suspended animation was heightened by anxiety that it wasn't yet entirely real. It was a couple of days before I had a chance to sit down with my new boss to discuss the offer, then I informed my direct colleagues, then waited for a more formal communication to be emailed out. All this time I felt like I was adrift between two worlds and that events had suddenly taken a life of their own. There will be more of that to come, as I start to hand over my duties and begin to move into my new role.

Meanwhile, I started to feel better yesterday when I finally found time to sit down and start making notes to hand over. That simple act gave me a much-needed compass bearing for my nervous energy. And I started to feel excited by the possibilities and what I hope I can bring to my new team. That has got to be a good sign.

The lesson is that, much as we like to think we are rational and in control, that is a long way from the truth. Like a dinghy in mid-ocean, while the waters are calm and the wind is steady we can choose our heading. But when the storm rises, the best we can do is cling on and hope to stay afloat. The illusion of control is shattered.

We are, by nature, emotional rather than rational animals. When we get a gut feeling, we may try to rationalize it or argue against it, but all we are really doing is trying to fool or persuade the emotional being at our core that is really calling the shots. And that rarely works, because it is evolutionarily older and wiser than our rational selves.

And that emotional self has been well and truly at the helm this past week.


  1. Congratulations on the new job.
    I had that same feeling of suddenly being in a bubble when I decided to retire. I was no longer interested in what I was doing at head was divided between being excited about retiring and worrying about if it was the right thing. Why do we do that to ourselves?
    This is a great opportunity for you and you are going to be fantastic in your new role. I'll bet your family is excited for you.

  2. Hi Ian .. so pleased you got the job and yes that transition within an organisation can be a wandering experience .. like the jet-stream methinks ...

    But so pleased the fit seems better, and your experience will suit too - good luck as you transition across .. in a few weeks you'll forget all this uncertainty was going on ..

    Cheers and hope you're having a great weekend - Hilary

  3. Congrats on the new job. New directions hold challenge, but if you trust yourself, the paths you choose always turn out for the better.

    Nice job!

  4. Delores, I had similar feelings years ago when I knew we were packing up and emigrating. I'd forgotten how that felt. I can imagine impending retirement being similar.

    Hilary, I'm sure I'll settle in and it will become my new home. I'm not so worried about the work itself, but the transition and unknowns are hard to handle.

    Diane, that is what I'm hoping. This is a big change for me, but I've gone through bigger changes before.

  5. Congrats on the new job!

    I know what you mean. I spent the better part of two years in similar suspended animation while I was at university.

    Even though I knew I was being illogical, I couldn't truly help the feeling I had.

  6. Misha, yeah, feelings have a habit of disregarding logic.


I love comments. Please feel free to join in the discussion.

I also try to respond to comments. I usually do so during the early evening (Pacific time) which may be many hours away from now!

So if you leave a comment and return some time later and I haven't responded yet, please don't think I'm ignoring you. I'm not. Honest.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...