“A man with a toothache”

Sigmund Freud once stated, “A man with a toothache cannot be in love,” meaning simply that the attention demanded by the toothache doesn’t allow that person to notice anything other than his pain.  In working with people going through job change, I often find Freud’s principle to be confirmed.  I see grown men who have lost their jobs ignoring their wives, hiding out to avoid seeing their friends, watching too much TV and eating foods that blunt their minds.  I see women embarrassed about yet another layoff who then stop going to church, spend money they do not have, read romance novels rather than inspirational material, and snap at their kids when asked an innocent question.  The “pain” of the job loss seems to mask the health, vitality and success they have in other life areas.

Yes, a crisis will scream for our undivided attention.  However, diverting your focus may in fact be part of the solution.  A couple of years ago I worked with a young man who had just lost $3.2 million in a business deal.  He was totally in the tank financially and in his career.  But rather than focusing on his career crisis I first suggested that he go to the YMCA each morning for 2 hours.  His intense focus there initiated the vitality, clarity and inspired thinking that allowed him to quickly spring back to success financially as well.

Going through an unexpected or unwelcome change in your life provides a great opportunity to take a fresh look at your success in other areas.  Don’t let other critical components of your life deteriorate as well.  Make additional deposits of success in your physical well-being.  The energy and creativity that can come from a sharp mind and body can generate the very ideas you need at this time.  Organize a pot-luck with a group of your friends – you’ll be surprised how many of them are going through a similar experience and providing one dish will cost you no more than eating your own meal.  Pick up a great book to read.  If you read only 10 minutes a day you can read a new book a month – and that can transform your insight and preparation for new options.  Stay connected spiritually.  You’ll realize that in the scope of eternity, this event is probably a tiny spot on the timeline.

What is the toothache in your life that is demanding your undivided attention?  How can you continue being “successful” in other areas of your life anyway?

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11 Responses to ““A man with a toothache””

  1. Marla Martenson Says:

    This is great advice. it is so easy to become down, frustrated and depressed when we have a setback. I lost my full time job a few months ago and had a lot of stress from my husband who was expecting me to get another job asap. My hair started falling out and I was drinking too much wine in the evenings while watching Nancy Grace. I finally got my behind out the door and hiking up the canyon for over an hour a day, attending a new church and organizing my closets. I have now been able to attract a few clients and start a small business from home with my new found confidence and enthusiasm.

  2. Dustin | Engaged Marriage Says:

    I love this advice and line of thinking! I actually wrote a post using the same quote as my starting point a few weeks ago, but mine was focused on marriage/relationships. If anyone’s interested, you can find it here: http://www.engagedmarriage.com/romance/a-man-with-a-toothache-cannot-be-in-love

  3. Jeff Grover Says:

    The heading caught me right away. Just a week ago I got a tooth pulled that literally kept me up until 5:00 am some nights. After getting it pulled it is amazing how I can think and focus on getting a job until my lawn service starts growing again in the Spring.
    Also can totally relate with average “lost of job joe” out there. Pursued Missionary work for 5 years then told can’t do it because of health, well I am glad Paul kept preaching even though it didn’t sound like he was the perfect health at times. Became down and depressed and not sure what to focus on next. Have found much encouragement through 48days and amazed on how God uses people’s careers for His glory.

  4. John Furlow Says:

    This story resonates with me. I helped start a small TV network a few years ago. We got it up and running – lived and breathed it into existence. We took it public and in an unforseen turn of events we lost control of several million dollars worth of capital stock, causing the company to fail. The protracted destruction of the company led to the death of my business partner and friend of many years on 1/14/2008. The last 2 1/2 years have been incredibly difficult, and I spent a lot of that time going over the end of the company trying to figure out what happened rather than moving forward. I gained about 40 pounds and could not focus on finding something fulfilling for work. Now, a couple years down the road I am finally moving forward again and have a project I believe can have a positive effect in peoples lives. I started working out again, and it has led to a renewed sense of daily accomplishment. Faith in and through adversity will lead to a newfound strength, and there is power in that as well.

  5. Carl McNatt Says:

    This post really came at the right time for me. I have worked with the same company for the last eight years. I found out yesterday that because of market changes and funding shifts they have decided to completely pull out of the area I work and close down my office. They have given me six weeks to find something different. I am still a bit overwhelmed and still trying to deal with the emotions of it all. But also trying to focus on what’s next. Thanks for the reminder to keep first things first.

  6. MotherOak Says:

    This so resonates! I call it “selective attention”. Look on YouTube for that video, “…The moonwalking bear”

  7. Mark harrison Says:

    natural remedy is best

  8. Dale Callahan Says:

    I council many people who have lost jobs looking for new opportunity. They call me to connect and find NEW jobs. But the conversations always seems to be dominated by their pain and their awful experience – so they can never move ahead. I leave with a bit of a “tooth-ache” myself.

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