The Great Resignation: Existential Reflections in the World of Work

According to the definition of the Career Development Institute (2017), “A career refers primarily to the sequence and variety of work roles, paid or unpaid, that individuals undertake throughout their lives; but it is also the construct which enables individuals to make sense of valued work opportunities and how their work roles relate to their wider life roles.” If we look at this definition, there is not a clear distinction between personal and professional life. Both inform one another and our work is connected to our wider life roles as human beings. 

The latest buzzword in today’s economy is the great resignation. The onslaught of a 2-year covid-19 pandemic was followed by the idea of a new normal in the world of work which manifested in a big wave of resignations. The concept of ‘the great resignation’ was coined by Professor Klotz, an associate professor of management at Texas A & M University, who predicted a massive wave of resignations following the pandemic (Clark, 2022). 

Reasons for the Great Resignation: Existential Reflections

Professor Klotz identified multiple reasons contributing to the great resignation, the first being work burnout, and the second reason is a build-up of frustrations staying on in jobs that they may not have continued staying on during a time of uncertainty and instability (Clark, 2022). 

However, the other two reasons allude to insights that were developed, and retrospectively realizing their needs from living in the pandemic. Existential concerns around the idea of one’s meaning of life and the purpose of one’s existence start to emerge when individuals spend more time at home and grow greater freedom and independence. While one may argue that individuals face more isolation at work due to increased virtual contact and the lack of an in-person presence at the workplace, individuals get to spend more time at home with their family, a privilege that may not have been accessible with the increased number of work hours spent before the pandemic, an increasing global trend. It is noteworthy that longer working hours of 55 hours and up increase the risk of a stroke and ischemic heart disease by 35% and 17% respectively, as compared to 35 to 40 hours a week, ultimately leading to premature disability and deaths (World Health Organization, 2021). Furthermore, with the added convenience of working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, work-life boundaries are increasingly blurred and workers end up working after hours.

Career Explorations: What This Means for Us in the World of Work 

If you find yourself struggling significantly in your current job, this is a great opportunity for reflection to sit with these existential concerns and explore these struggles and feelings a little deeper. With every challenging experience comes a time of deep struggle and we can either choose to stay curious and explore our anxieties and fears or avoid them altogether and push through them. Although avoidance offers some temporary relief, it does not usually resolve the issues and emotions. Some questions that you can reflect upon and process with your therapist include the following: 

  • What are your top three values in life and to what extent are they met in your current job?
  • What are the difficult emotions you are struggling with when you consider your current job situation?
  • Which are the biggest obstacles standing in your way of feeling more alive and satisfied or excited about the work that you do in your current job? 
  • If you stay in your current job, where do you see yourself now and in 5 and 10 years’ time?
  • If you are seeking new job opportunities, identify the most important job and employer qualities that can help meet your present needs and future dreams and aspirations.

The realms of work and career are complex, diversified, and connect with who we are as cultural beings. Apart from the basic bread and butter economics that jobs supply, employers globally are starting to recognize that beyond a salary, jobs need to grow to meet the needs of the complexities of the human condition within the culture that they are a part of. The pandemic has merely surfaced these complexities. 


Career Development Institute. (2017, March). Definitions: Career development and related roles. 

Clark, P. (2022, April 4). Commentary: Here’s what the man who predicted Great Resignation thinks is coming next. Channelnewsasia. 

World Health Organization, International Labor Organization (2021, 17 May). Long working hours and increasing deaths from heart disease and stroke.,related%20disability%20and%20early%20death

Written By:
Isabelle Ong, Ph.D., LCMHCA, NCC (USA)
Clinical Mental Health Counselor & Psychotherapist
SACAC Counselling

What to expect when life is impacted by changes – Helpful perspectives from “cycles of development”

Based on humanistic psychology, we continue to grow throughout our lives. This includes the times when we are influenced by changes, both those presented as positives such as a new job, marriage, child’s graduation and those presented as negatives such as injuries, separation, or pandemics like what we have been through in the past 2 years. We continue to develop as human beings even during those tough

The theory of ‘cycle of development’ originally describes the specific tasks for children: 1st stage of Being(-6 months), 2nd stage of Exploring (- 18 months), 3rd stage of Thinking (18 months- 3 years), 4th stage of Identity(3- 6 years), 5th stage of Skills (- 12 years) and 6th of Regeneration ( 13-19 years.) (Levin 1974)

Hay linked these ideas to understand our adjustment process to the changes as follows. (Hay 2009): (think of your recent change as you read through the stages)

stage 1; Immobilisation- We seem to do nothing, withdraw as we lack information about the new environment. We need time to absorb new reality.
– New environment is a shock. It is particularly so when the change was not our choice. We do not want to

stage 2: Denial- we act as if it has not happened and go on as we used to.
– We know we need to survive, so we try, but it does not work.

stage 3: Frustration- we know we need to change but don’t know how.
– We struggle but start to see different ways of handling the situation.

stage 4: Acceptance- we start exploring options that might be appropriate to the new situation.
– We become open to being skillful in new ways.

stage 5: Development- we develop our new skills and knowledge so as to become competent performers.

stage 6: Application- we apply our new skills within our new identity

We feel anxious when we do not know what is coming. Knowledge of what is expected helps to reassure us when going through changes, that we are behaving as most others would. With this knowledge, we will be more comfortable being self-compassionate and giving permission to ourselves to feel sad and disappointed, before advancing to being fully capable again.

Hay J. (2009). Transactional Analysis for Trainers. Hertford UK: Sherwood Publishing.
Levin P. (1974). Becoming the way we are. Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications. Inc.

Written By:
Rie Miura
SACAC Counselling

What are values and how can I act on them?

Values are freely chosen, are appetitive, are naturally rewarding, tell us about our interests and desires, can not be taken away, are not imposed on us, create a willingness to do hard things.

If we don’t use our values as a compass, there is a high chance of feeling empty, unhappy, having an identity crisis, and not feeling worthy about ourselves. We come to the realization that we have been living our life based upon the values of others. 

Living my life in line with my values will help me live an intentional life. It will give fulfillment, meaning, and direction to my life. Becoming aware of what my values are is the first step. 

What are my values? How can I get in touch with my values? Here are some questions to help you think about your values. 

  • What would you want someone to say at your funeral?
  • What are your top 3 peak life moments?
  • What are your 3 most painful life moments? What does the pain tell you about what really matters? What do you truly care about?
  • What important areas of life have you given up or missed out on?
  • What do you disapprove of the actions of others? How would you act differently in that same situation?
  • What do you stand for?
  • Who do you look up to? Who inspires you? What do you admire about them?
  • What personal qualities do you already have and which new ones would you like to develop?

How can I start acting on what really matters to me in life (acting on my values)?

  • What is the smallest, simplest, easiest action/step you could take, in line with that value?
  • What are larger actions/steps you could take?
  • If that particular action is not possible, what else could you do that would still be living this value?
  • What are short, medium, and long term goals in line with this value?

Written By:
Flo Westerndorp
Clinical Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

Emotional Dumping

As good friends and helpful family members, we tend to listen and attune to others’ misery. We want to support them navigate through their rough times and we want to show them that we care. However, such a task is not always easy.

Oftentimes, after we scroll through long text messages or sit through long phone calls, we feel more exhausted than usual with very little energy to ourselves. We notice then that we become the receiving end of the other person’s Emotional Dumping.

Emotional Dumping is the act of unconsciously sharing our feelings or complaints without an awareness of the other person’s feelings, emotional state, or needs. It is the immediate venting to someone without asking them if they are in the emotional space to listen.

The connection evolves around the person who complains- “Dumper”- emotional state, leaving the person who listens -“Dumpee”- energy drained and in a constant state of emotional exhaustion.

Emotional Dumping is very common and can be very addictive since it creates a temporary sense of connection to the “Dumpee”. The “Dumper” feels good, listened to, and is enjoying a false sense of connection to the “Dumpee”.

Whilst for many of us, our childhood evolved around Emotional Dumping. It created a sense of closeness and granted us the status of the BFF we thrived for. Yet as we age, we become more conscious and can begin to see this pattern within ourselves and/or in others around us.

True emotional connection allows an experience of shared emotions, honest feedback, and creates a space to find solutions through a two-sided communication, which the act of Emotional Dumping lacks.

Emotional Dumping is different from healthy venting. A person who engages in healthy venting is open to taking responsibility for whatever they’re venting about. They own up to their own mistakes and are open to hearing constructive feedback or advice. They are also respectful of others’ boundaries and mindful of their time when they call or text.

In contrast, someone who engages in Emotional Dumping has no accountability; they constantly play the victim, they are not open to finding a solution or to constructive feedback, and they do repeat the same issue over and over. Also, they don’t respect others’ time or boundaries, texting or calling them incessantly.

Therefore, it is very important to protect yourself by setting boundaries around Emotional Dumping.

In a kind way, you could let someone know that you sometimes feel overwhelmed by their expectation that you must be ready to receive their emotional state at any given moment, or that you feel like there is no space for you within the relationship.

You may say something like: “I understand you are hurt right now and I want to be there for you, I am just not in the space to listen right now.” Or “Now is not a good time for me, can we talk about this later?”

On the other hand, you may find out that you are the one quick to turn to loved ones to overshare or unload on them, and may not think to check in with them first.

Try writing your experience down and have a conversation with yourself first. You may need to check with a friend first before sharing it with them. Ask if they have time and the capacity to listen to you for a limited amount of time. Structure your sharing and stick to the main points. Be open to what they have to say. Also, you may seek professional help. Therapists are trained to listen to you, help you process feelings, and will not resent you for unloading.

Lastly, if you happen to have been emotionally dumping your burden on your friends or loved ones, thank them for listening to you and let them know that you would be willing to listen to them as well.

Written By:
Sanaa Lundgren
Counsellor & Collaborative Family Practitioner
SACAC Counselling