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The Center for Work Addiction Recovery

Frequently Asked Questions About The Power of Being as an Alternative to Work Addiction


In his breakthrough book THE POWER OF BEING FOR PEOPLE WHO DO TOO MUCH, psychologist Christian R Komor, Psy.D. shares a simple and powerful message: Our society has become acclimated to unhealthy levels of compulsive working, accomplishing and shoulding. In his book, Dr. Komor provides surprising insights into how this trend toward workaholism began, how we can tell the extent to which we personally have been affected, the possible physical, emotional, social and environmental consequences of compulsive approaches to living, and what we can do to heal ourselves. In so doing, he introduces us to what he calls THE POWER OF BEING and specific techniques for achieving it.

What exactly is compulsive doing?

In many ways it is just about the same thing as what other people are calling workaholism, "hurry sickness", Type-A Behavior, or perfectionism. Compulsive doing is the tendency to do what we think we should do instead of what we choose to do. Compulsive doing is a lifestyle in which the demands of our environment gradually take precedence over our internal feelings, needs, and responses. In the end, compulsive "shoulds" take over and we lose our ability to be spontaneous and uninhibited. In a sense our life gets turned inside out so that what is external to us becomes more important that what is internal.

Compulsive doing, as you describe it, sounds like a virtue. Why is it such a problem?

If we look around us at the way the world is currently, we see that what is happening is that both on the level of the individual and as a society we are hitting the ceiling in terms of the amount of stress that we can handle. Most of the major illnesses of our generation are stress related to one degree or another. Also, our environment is undeniably showing signs of excessive wear and tear. Excessive stress is the result of pushing too hard, over-running our physical and environmental coping resources and then reaching a point of exhaustion. That is what is happening today and it ought to scare the dickens out of us! Once our physical and environmental health is eroded, it's pretty tough to get back.

I really see it as the difference between being self-centered, and being centered in your self. If I am living out of my spontaneous being self I will naturally take action that enhances my life and the lives of those around me. That's part of the power of being and the reason it is so important now. If we are all more grounded in this aspect of living many of the problems we have would simply fade away.

How does a person know if they are really doing too much, or just being overworked by their job, etc.?

One of the most obvious ways is by looking to see if the activity and lifestyle we are involved in is coming out of a sense of choicefulness, or a sense of goal-oriented drivenness. Many of us have the idea that life is filled with things that we need to get done. The truth is that at its essence, life is entirely optional. Ultimately, if you think about it, we don't even have to stay alive if we don't want to. Yet so many of us live as if everything we get into is a should.

To recover our power of being, we first need to acknowledge the possibility of choicefulness in our life. The difficult truth is that even the most valuable task or endeavor loses it's inherent worth when done without a true sense of desire and spontaneity. Even things that are supposed to be "recreational", or just for "fun" can become part of the problem. There are many stressed-out "playaholics" out there with piles of toys and no sense of being.

Is there a test you can take to find out if you are a compulsive doer?

Well, as a matter of fact, there are several out there right now. The one that I offer in the book is called the Over Doing It Screening Test (PDF 58K). It contains a variety of questions which will give a practical sense for where an individual is at on the continuum from healthy being to compulsive doing. For me a good "test" is to look at whether my voice, laugh, and smile seem to be natural and spontaneous, or forced and dead. Another good indicator of compulsive doing is loss of enjoyment of life's basics such as sleeping, having sex, eating, and just being part of nature. If we aren't able to cry from the ecstasy of just watching the sun shining on the clouds, or a tree blowing in the breeze there is more being potential to which we have not yet awakened ourselves.

In your book, you talk about list making as one potential problem area.

Yes. The list making that many of us do is a good example of the difference between healthy choicefulness and compulsive doing. The critical questions is "Do I own my list, or does it own me?" Lots of us make lists of things that we want to do. The problem comes when that list becomes only a means to an end rather than an expression of our internal process of selecting options for what we would like to do and what feels most important to us. In so doing we externalize that list and give it a power over us that it shouldn't have.

You have suggested that the remedy for compulsive doing is something called healthy being. Could you describe more of what you mean by health being?

Healthy being is a way of living in the world. It is entirely experiential and different for every individual. The critical aspect of healthy being is what I think of as "spontaneous disinhibition." The world is constantly calling us to do, be, or say what we "should." Many of us feel guilty, or fearful about facing down those external shoulds and saying, "No. This is who I need to be. I have a right to choose. I have a right to be here." When we take up that challenge, we get ourselves onto the road of healthy being.

What can help us to make this jump from doing to being is the awareness that even a lifetime of material success and good works pales when compared to even a few hours of true beingness. When we are brave enough to face down our shoulds we make a contribution to the world that is as real as it is difficult to measure. When you think of the people who have most influenced your life or those you have felt most loved by, it is likely you will find that they had a strong quality of being about them. When we are into our beingness, wonderful things begin to happen to us and around us and other people benefit either directly or indirectly.

How does one get from compulsive doing to healthy being?

First of all it isn't something that you "get" to. Being is a quality which is already inside all of us right this moment. We are born with it. The real task, the journey that my book talks about, is getting beneath the layers of compulsivity and denial of self which we build around us. When we do, our power of being naturally emerges. Many self-help books are out there encouraging you to add something more to yourself My idea is that what you really need to be at peace with this life is inside you all the time. It's a question of discovery and uncovery so to speak.

Now there are some specific areas we can address and techniques which we can use to find our way back to our power of being. In the book I talk about a number of them, including such things as: using fear as a compass, centering, silent days, wandering, activity zones, relaxation boundaries, pacing, surrender, doing nothing, less as more, feelings, disinhibition, and of course, shoulds. So far I have come up with about 70 different techniques and I'm sure there are plenty more.

How did you become involved in this type of work?

Well, to me this is very sacred work and not something one signs up for voluntarily! Back in 1984 I was having a terrible time with the issue of workaholism in my life. At the time I didn't know the difference between compulsive doing and healthy being, or choicefulness. I still struggle in this area more than I would like. So this is a very personal thing for me.

As I have grown and worked with these issues, I have also become convinced that there is incredible potential here for many people and our world in general. As I have mentioned, if more of us were approaching the world out of our sense of beingness, many of our stress related and environmental difficulties would naturally resolve. I'd like to be able to share with everyone some part of this power of being.

No man ever followed his genius till it misled him. I love the wild not less than the good.
- Henry David Thoreau, 1854

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