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How are you feeling today?

I received an email yesterday, promoting a particular book (Kasey Edward’s Thirty Something and Over It, if you’re interested), which contained the following happy statistics:

– 98 per cent of people are unhappy in their jobs
– 26 per cent of women at the cusp of the most senior levels of management don’t want the promotion.
– One in 15 under-35s have already dropped out of paid work to pursue ‘self-improvement’, and half plan to do so in the near future
– Dr. Carson-Webb, who specializes in life-cycle dilemmas, said nearly 20 percent of her clients are facing a thirtysomething crisis, or thrisis, suffering from anxiety, depression and burnout.
– Larry Wentworth, a licensed clinical social worker who has his own psychotherapy practice in Chattanooga, said a thrisis is very different than a mid-life crisis. Rather than looking back on their lives and acting out with affairs, new sports cars and toupees, disenchanted thirty-somethings are looking ahead and worried about what will happen with the rest of their life.
– Gladeana McMahon, co-director of the Centre for Stress Management, knows the phenomenon only too well. “I work with a lot of highly successful, driven people,” she says. “By their mid-thirties, a lot of them are tired. They’re sick of life and they wonder what it’s all about. They start questioning their values and what they’re doing.”

I guess the statistics didn’t surprise me too much, at heart. But it did make me wonder: how do people keep going? Are the temporary fix’s, the quick magic pills, of cheap television, two cars in the driveway and cartons of beer enough to keep people steady? Why is there not more expression of this disenchantment?

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Rjurik Davidson is a writer, editor and speaker. Rjurik’s novel, The Stars Askew was released in 2016. Rjurik is a former associate editor of Overland magazine. He can be found at rjurik.com and tweets as @rjurikdavidson.

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  1. The cartoonist Hinze has a drawing showing a man visiting the doctor and pointing to his heart: ‘There’s a nagging ache, just about here…’
    The doctor hands him a bottle of beer. ‘Take six of these every night for the rest of your life.’
    The thing with the kind of general disenchantment you mention is that most people have no idea what to do to combat it. Clive Hamilton writes somewhere that, even though conspicuous consumption leads to unhappiness, it also presents itself as a cure. You feel miserable surrounded by all your stuff — so you go out and buy more.

  2. I cling to the last few shreds of my ideals and turn them into vast melodramas in my head. Usually with the assistance of drugs and alcohol. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone else but it keeps me alive.

  3. Is there any information on the socio-economic backgrounds of those involved in the studies. Might this just be upper middle class whinging by those who can afford to ‘drop out’ of ‘paid employment’ to ‘self improve’?

    Recaptcha : 56-year-old stead

  4. Maxine, those are all the details given in the press release, so I’m not really sure. Still, I do seem to know a lot of people from all sorts of backgrounds (working class, lower-middle class, upper middle-class, etc) who suffer from various forms of “unhappiness”. But they are all definitely inner-city people. So perhaps that categorises them in a different, geographical, way.

  5. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there should be a freeze on unhappiness for those above a certain income bracket. It’s just that the recent ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ cult, in which privileged people (a category in which I also count myself) vocally bemoan the unhappiness caused by early lives of consumerism and then jet off to find themselves in third world countries or self-funded artistic cocoons totally does my head in…and I wondered if this might be a similar thing.

  6. Yeah, I think without an obvious political alternative, people are bound to look for personal solutions, or versions of escape, as you say. I think while that obviously in some way ameliorates the general alienated condition (and I think this amelioration is something the left has generally refused to acknowledge, to its detriment), it’s still only that – a response to rather than a solution of that condition.

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