Self-Abandonment Through Extreme Productivity
By: Karen
September 22, 2014

When is productivity destructive? Productivity is destructive when it is a need. There is a difference between doing tasks as they need to be done and the need to be productive. We all know people who describe themselves as “so busy” with a combination of pride and exasperation. These are the same people who introduce themselves by giving their name followed by a long list of what they do. Perhaps you are now or have been one of those people.


A few years ago I was in a group where women were asked to introduce themselves. When it was her turn, a new friend of mine gave her name followed by her job, her two side businesses, her volunteer work, and other activities which consumed her time. Her face was that of an expectant little girl as she waited for the affirming looks and comments from the group. I later asked her to tell me who she was, not what she did. The expectant little girl donned a look of confusion. From childhood she had been accustomed to valuing herself and being valued by others for what she did. As a result, she knew what she did but not who she was.

Self-abandonment through extreme productivity can serve several purposes. Can you see yourself in any of these?

  • Numbing. Keeping busy all the time allows us to ignore the pain or loneliness within. In fact it allows us to pretend it is not there at all.
  • Avoiding Intimacy. By always doing, we keep at bay the danger of becoming intimate with ourselves and others. That is, we are able to avoid knowing ourselves and allowing ourselves to be known. This protects against the ability of others to hurt us as they discover our vulnerabilities.
  • Isolating. Relationships do not go too deep if we make it clear how busy we are. Even our time with others needs to be productive. This rarely includes sharing of self. It often includes sharing tasks. This is likely a family of origin characteristic, handed down from generation to generation.
  • Pleasing. Productivity can be designed to seek the affirmation of others by doing things for them. This is a codependent characteristic which includes a tendency to do more than one’s share of the work. Also a family of origin issue, doing serves to appease the critical parent found in the codependent’s relationships.

sticky-worldRecovering from a history of self-abandonment through productivity takes time and determination. Some of the steps of this recovery process are:

  • Eliminate the fear of what will be found if one stops moving long enough to get to know herself.
  • Realize that the only way out of the pain is to move through it. I always look forward to the moment when a client understands the meaning and importance of sitting with their pain.
  • Honesty when identifying the level of codependence in relationships. Is responsibility for the relationship balanced?
  • Learning the difference between loneliness and being alone and…
  • Understanding that each condition has a place in developing a healthy relationship with oneself.
  • Differentiating the reality of who you are from what you do and how others see you.

Traveling from self-abandonment through productivity to embracing one’s self is a challenging journey. It is work that is well rewarded. There is great joy in reaching the destination… developing the ability to be still and know.