The objective of this paper is to help companies understand why it is important to invest in mental health, what type of culture they should try to implement and why psychoanalysis is the best tool to achieve that, all this from a business angle to alow them to see the value on it.
Meeting in a London office, 25 people from different type of backgrounds and ages in a mental Health training workshop. This is a real workshop which took place in Accenture. The trainer explains why she collaborates in the efforts of the company to reduce the stigma around mental health. She tells a personal story and prompt the others to do the same. Many people share their story: the manager who suffers from anxiety, the girl who struggles with food disorders, the intern whose friend took his own life… A group of people who had gathered to talk about an alleged unknown topic and… actually, almost everybody has something to say.
39% is the rate communicated by the press to talk about the incidence of mental health in England: this study published by the NHS in 2016 establish that 39% of adults in England suffers from a mental health disorder -treated or untreated-. (Coming up from 24% in 2007).
However, this 39% gives the impression that mental health disorders touch only a group of people, not even half of the population. That reality seems to be very different from what happened in the meeting in that London office.
Mental health disorders are not a minority issue. Most of the employees are touched (directly or indirectly by them). They can impact greatly their quality of life.
In 2017, Accenture made a survey (2170 men and women in the UK) to understand what is the impact of mental health on the population:
– 9 out of 10 people suffer from mental health disorders in one way or another.
– 39% have suicidal thoughts.
– Women are more likely to report mental health disorders and with more severe symptoms.
– 93% of millennials have suffered form mental health disorders. They are three times more likely to admit that mental health is more important to them than physical health. They actively take care of their mental health (mindfulness, ypga…) However, they feel less comfortable than the rest of the population talking about it.
It seems like the taboo which has long surrounded mental health has begun to break down. However, despite the progress, talking about this topic is still diffciult.
A safe supportive culture changes the game for employees and makes a positive for employers. However, change in the corporate world is being very slow. This slow pace of change makes little business sense. Every year, the poor mental health of employees is costing businesses around 40 billions pounds in the United Kingdom: There is a REASON for investing in Mental Health.
On top of that, for Millennials, a job is not just a source of income, but a part of their social and active lives. They prefer to work in safe supportive cultures or in social impact companies than having a higher salary.
What are the characteristics of a supportive culture?
– Work – Life balance
– Disclosing mental health challenges wouldn’t impact employees career nor promotion
– Mental health challenges are not considered a weaknesses and are supported
How employers can help employees be at their best? Taking a holistic approach to their employees wellbeing, putting mental health at the centre and with a psychoanalytic approach.
Why with a psychoanalytical approach? Only around 10% of our health is determined by the healthcare we receive while 90% is determined by lifestyle choices and social determinants. All in all: a mindset, something we can influence and change.
Psychoanalysis is the only scientific discipline with a unique listening for each case, for each person, it is the only discipline which does not pathologize the difference.
Only discipline that embraces differences and sees value on them. It is the best tool to build diverse and inclusive cultures where people can be themselves, different from each other, being able to grow freely and transform themselves.
Let’s begin by the beginning: Psychology and psychiatry don’t take into account the unconscious mind, only the consciousness. Psychoanalysis focuses on the unconscious mind. According to psychoanalysis, the unconscious mind is at the center of our psychic lives: the conscience is generated by the unconscious mind and it is misleading – like feelings and other senses.
Why is this so important? Let’s see it with an example: If we look at the sun during the day, we will think that the sun goes around the Earth. But thanks to Copernicus we know that is in fact the Earth who goes around the sun. We are too rationalists.
Perception of the reality through the eyes is equally misleading as perception of reality through consciousness (or through a feeling). Unconscious mind is the only way to access reality but by definition –> Unconscious mind is the knowledge unknown. We cannot see the unconscious mind, it is nowhere. We can only see its effects.
Why was Freud interested in the dreams? Because they are an effect of the unconscious. Freud had been criticized to have discovered the unconscious working with his hysterical patients. So to prove his discovery of the unconscious mind (and generalize the theory), he used the dreams, why? Because we ALL dream: healthy and sick individuals.
Other effects of the unconscious mind are slips and jokes. Also… symptoms! Only way to access unconscious mind and hence reality (and truth) is by interpretation.
That is what the psychoanalyst does in the session: the person associates freely and the psychoanalyst interprets the unconscious mind of that particular individual. If we don’t interpret our unconscious mind we will be managed, determined by it.
If we don’t know how to read reality properly, if we don’t use the right tools, we will suffer from our unconscious mind but won’t be able to change it, because with the tools we have at the moment, with rationality (and traditional theories), we can’t understand it.
Let’s see how psychoanalysis is a tool which can help me read reality properly:
– Psychoanalysis helps us to think differently and be more creative. How many times we can’t remember the name of a movie, we begin to do something else and 30 minutes later … boom! It appears on my mind. The sentence: “sleep on it!” Sometimes we have to make an important decision, we sleep on it and when we wake up we see everything clearer. It is not magic, it is the unconscious mind working on the background. These are both examples of psychoanalytical thinking. We all have great talent on us, are creative and smart but we have been educated in a way that we became too rationalist, we trust what we see, our conscious mind and… thanks to that example of the sun, we have seen the conscience is not the right tool to see reality properly. We are mistaken. Our education, morality, prejudices prevent us from trusting our unconscious mind, psychoanalysis helps us remove those blocks, enabling us to think differently and connecting the unconscious to the conscious mind. It frees us from ideological and moral prejudices. Psychoanalysis is like poetry: it opens up possibilities. It helps us to build things which were not there before. It helps us to read reality properly.
Why is it so important to have the right tool to read reality? According to Freud all affects are different colorations of anguish. In our day-to-day lives, we need to be able to manage to affections: anxiety and guilt. Otherwise… they trouble us a lot: According to Jacques Lacan: “Before doing something, anxiety: after having done it, guilt”.
– Anxiety: We all have had an anxiety attack or have a colleague who is stressed all the time, no matter if it is Monday morning or Friday evening. It is shocking but we need to understand that anxiety is not a disease. Anxiety is necessary. However, it should not be painful nor cause any symptoms nor sufferings in the body. Anxiety warns us when we are in danger but… people who are stressed all the time… It is not real, we are not in danger all the time. That is a pathology. For these people who are stressed all the time, it is very difficult to manage uncertainty. They have a very negative / pessimistic view on life. Why? Because for them is easier to imagine that the worst thing will happen rather than waiting to see what actually happens. For them, is better the certainty of the worst case scenario than waiting. Psychoanalysis can make you happier and more relax, it can help you deal with uncertainty. We all need to learn how to deal with anxiety to grow in life: every time we begin a new project, a new relationship, when we move countries, jobs…
– Unconscious guilt. Why is it so important that a psychoanalyst can read, interpret reality for us? Reality is not what it seems. Which one do you think is the main cause of failure? Laziness? We are not talented enough? We are ugly, not lovable? We don’t want to be happy? You might know people (yourself) who try and try to progress at work, become healthier, have more friends, social life…and despite their efforts… they are not doing well. In 1916, Freud wrote about this “phenomenon”: “Those wrecked by success”. It sounds unbelievable but main cause of failure is… fear of success! For the human being is more difficult to tolerate success than failure. Failure is a punishment that calms down our unconscious guilt. Why do we look for punishment? Why do we have the need to be punished? From the unconscious guilt we can only see its effects: the punishment, the failure. Failure of many types: unhappy marriage, losing a job… Example: I have this so important job interview that I have been looking forward and… I get sick. I win the lottery and loose the ticket. You cheat on your boyfriend and you cc him in the email. Psychoanalysis can make you more successful (at work and in your personal life). It can interpret your unconscious guilt and help you tolerate success.
– Finally, Psychoanalysis can make you healthier: Since very early in the history of the human being (Hippocrates) emotions and affects (jealousy, ambition, passion, sorrow, laziness…) have been related with sickness in the body. Emotions are also very related to the capacity of resistance to infectious illness: it has been observed that soldiers from the defeated army were more sensitive to infections than the winner ones. People who are stressed, anxious and depressed get disease. Today the impact of mental health on chronic disease the link is quite well known:
– Cancer and infections are preceded by depression.
– Chronic diseases (specially autoimmune) such as IBS, gastric ulcer even multiple sclerosis are preceded by long term anxiety.
More and more we hear about celebrities who suffer from strange disorders, like Lady Gaga, who suffers from fibromyalgia: fear to fear. There is no lesion in the body but the person suffers from unbearable chronic pain. Traditional medicine can’t explain these diseases. However, according to psychoanalysis we could think that the underlying structure is hysteria and hence… it could be cured.
Psychoanalysis goes beyond healing, it is a different way of living life. It is a new health. How can employers and employees learn to think psychoanalytically? In an ideal world, we should all have therapy. Maybe at this point, this goal is to
o… ambitious. However, there are many thinks which can be done in the workplace: online content, workshops… It would be very helpful psychoanalytical coaching. Main challenge for business is not access to qualified talented employees. Main challenge is lack of collaboration and team work, accepting than others will benefit from our work. Psychoanalytical interpretation includes unconscious psychic processes and helps understand how working in the collective interest allows better results and more sustainable in the long run. It sets up limits to narcissisms and maximize psychic energy.