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Research Companion to Organizational Health Psychology

Edited by Alexander-Stamatios G. Antoniou and Cary L. Cooper

This timely Research Companion is essential reading to advance the understanding of healthy behaviours within working environments and to identify problems which can be the cause of illness. Containing both theoretical and empirical contributions written by distinguished academics working in Europe, North America and Australia, the book covers leading edge topics ranging from current theories of stress, stress management, and stress in specific occupational groups, such as doctors and teachers, to the relationship of stress with well-being. It provides systematic approaches towards practical actions and stress interventions in working environments and a solid theoretical framework for future research. It will be an essential companion to research on psychology and medicine as well as stress.
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Chapter 38: Unconscious Influences on the Choice of a Career and their Relationship to Burnout: A Psychoanalytic Existential Approach

Ayala Malach Pines


38 Unconscious influences on the choice of a career and their relationship to burnout: a psychoanalytic existential approach Ayala Malach Pines Burnout is the end result of a process in which highly motivated and committed individuals lose their spirit (for example Freudenberger, 1980; Maslach, 1982; Pines and Aronson, 1988). It characterizes people who entered their careers with high hopes, ideals and ego involvement and is experienced as a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion (Pines and Aronson, 1988), lowered sense of accomplishment and depersonalization (Maslach, 1982). Different conceptual formulations were offered in an attempt to explain the etiology of burnout, including psychoanalytic theory (Fischer, 1983; Freudenberger, 1980), Jungian theory (Garden, 1989; 1995), social comparison theory (Buunk et al., 1994), social exchange theory (Schaufeli et al., 1996), equity theory (Van Dierendonck et al., 1994). The present chapter proposes a psychoanalytic existential perspective that can both explain the etiology of burnout and serve as a foundation for an effective approach to treat it (Pines, 2000a). According to the existential perspective, the root cause of burnout lies in people’s need to believe that their lives are meaningful, that the things they do are useful, important, even ‘heroic’ (for example Pines, 1993). This perspective is based on such noted theorists as Victor Frankl (1976), who believed that ‘the striving to find meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man’ (p. 154). Ernest Becker (1973), in his Pulitzer prizewinning book The Denial of Death, wrote that people’s...

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