Depersonalization

 

    The second part of burnout is depersonalization, which is the “psychological withdrawal from relationships and the development of a negative, cynical, and callous attitude” (Hartney, 2008, p. 11). Next, depersonalization will be further explored, as emotional exhaustion was, through the perspectives of philosophy, attitude, and passion that drives decisions and actions that result from beliefs and are influenced from a combination of individual and institutional philosophies.

Philosophy and attitude. Just like philosophy and attitude affected emotional exhaustion they also impact depersonalization. A philosophy of teaching or attitude of life offers a view of transforming beliefs through an imaginative creativity that justifies experiences, which can help an individual deal with negative and callous thoughts as a result from depersonalization (Kertz-Welzel, 2009, pp. 148-150). Philosophizing, as defined before, can also help depersonalization through the practice of reflection, by allowing an individual to inspect how thoughts, beliefs, and actions work together to impact relationships and interactions (p. 150). This lifelong learning reflection can also broaden interpersonal skills where an individual can merge self-awareness with the connection to others (p. 151). When individuals know themselves and their function in relationship goals and missions, they can come alive and improve a teaching situation, atmosphere, and institution, thus impacting depersonalization (pp.150-151). In addition, a personal teaching philosophy can also help direct vision and personal aims, such as a classroom goal, which can also effect classroom management and therefore the relationships within the classroom (p. 150). A main aspect of philosophy is “building a collective conscience” that supports students, parents, and administrators by strengthening those relationships that in turn addresses depersonalization (p. 152). This holistic philosophy or attitude can strengthen the bond and connections of students, teachers, and administrators to liberate the act of teaching from the mundane and confine older methodological and pedagogical ways, therefore increasing stronger relationships to address depersonalization (p. 155). Philosophy and attitude also help individuals define their role and place in society, which could help build the view that a teacher serves students and a community, thereby dealing with depersonalization issues (p. 156). More specifically, all these concepts can be explained in existentialism dealing with fulfillment and self-transcendence, which also attends to the issue of depersonalization (Tomic & Tomic, 2008, p 14).           

Existentialism. Depersonalization can also be affected by a philosophy of existentialism similarly to the effects of emotional exhaustion, but is more connected to the environment and relationships to objects and other people. There is a “correlation between existential fulfillment and pressure of work and burnout” when a person “is incapable of making a clear distinction between the self and the environment (self-distance)” in comparison to how life is lived, which reflects concepts of depersonalization (Tomic, & Tomic, 2008, p. 14). When an individual “fails to connect work with self-transcendence they may experience their work as a burden and may suffer from a lack of job satisfaction, exhaustion, and cynicism, (p. 14). This then makes existentialism an important philosophy and frame of mind in relation to depersonalization “based on self-distance, where one can transcend oneself – that is, enter into relationships with people and other objects, value them, and arrive at a fundamental feeling of harmony between the world and oneself” (p. 15). In addition, existentialism can heighten awareness of cultural changes, individualization, and the understanding of relationships to better function in society with less stress (p. 16). Specifically, Tomic and Tomic (2008) found that teachers and principals that demonstrate high levels of self-distance, self-transcendence, freedom, and responsibility were less likely to exhibit the characteristics of depersonalization (pp. 19, 22). Therefore, “the greater the existential fulfillment, the less people suffer from burnout” (p. 22). Similarly, passion also deals with behavioral engagement, which is connected to relationships between people and related to depersonalization.

Passion. Similarly, to how passion impacts emotional exhaustion, it also impacts depersonalization by affecting relationships and interactions of people. Passion as outlined earlier has two parts.  The first part is harmonious, which is described as flexible and not overpowering. This second is obsessive, which is described as controlling and pressured. Both parts have some impact on depersonalization. Harmonious passion is related to “relaxing, reenergizing, and socializing colleagues” and obsessive passion is related to “contingences to activity” and interpersonal pressures (Carbonneau et al., 2008, p. 978). Therefore, directing connecting to how a person relates with others in both parts of passion regardless if positive, like harmonious, or negative, as with obsessive (p. 978). However, the obsessive type of passion can be linked to neglecting other aspects of life such as family and friends, which could create more conflict in an individual’s life and therefore cause more stress (p. 978). Nevertheless, passion in general also creates energy toward the investment of others, for example, trying to find “more effective ways to reach students” (pp. 978-979). Passion is also associated to a person’s involvement and activity level through the support of creations of an autonomous environment, although the obsessive type can sometimes come across as being aggressive or competitive (p. 984). All and all, passion is closely related to intrapersonal and interpersonal outcomes that are connected to relationships and therefore depersonalization, which is also related to personality.  

Personality and management. Intrapersonal and personality traits contribute to a way an individual deals with an environment and organization (Kokkinos, 2007, p. 230). In particular, as stated earlier, neuroticism is associated to stress and burnout, but strongly related to depersonalization (pp. 231, 232). For example, neuroticism or extraversion coupled with the difficulty of managing students makes for a strong predictor of depersonalization (p. 238). In addition, “low scores in openness,” known as a buffer to most stressful situations, also correlated to higher levels of depersonalization (p. 240).  Although personality is a factor that affects depersonalization, the institution, environment, and relationships a teacher has with students are also found to have an impact on depersonalization (Davidson, 2009, p. 53; Kokkinos, 2007, pp. 238, 239).

Environment and Institution. An environment and institution, such as a school and classroom, can also affect depersonalization through relationships and interactions. Classroom demands as measured through the Classroom Appraisal of Resources and Demands (CARD) predicted symptoms of depersonalization, which includes teaching resources and the relationships between teacher and students (McCarthy et al., 2009, pp. 286, 297). Social conflict in student and co-worker relationships contribute to tension felt in the classroom, which are also tied to depersonalization (p. 285). In addition, school layout, interactions, and isolation also add to higher levels of depersonalization as the balance of demand and resources fluctuate (pp. 283, 285, 296-297). Goddard et al. (2006) also found that a teachers or administrators declining view of working environments such as involvement, role clarity, and supervisor and co-worker support impacts depersonalization (p. 870). The more innovative a teacher’s environment becomes the less likely depersonalization will take place (p. 868). Therefore, depersonalization is effected through a teacher’s perception of classroom demands, personal relationships, resources, and involvement that emphasizes interactions.

Relationships and interactions. Teacher-student relationships and interaction as defined as classroom management is strongly related to depersonalization as a defensive withdraw reaction (Kokkinos, 2007, pp. 238, 239). Kokkinos (2007) found “that low scores in openness (the proclivity towards variety, intellectual curiosity, and aesthetic sensitivity) predicted more feelings of depersonalization” (p. 240). Depersonalization is further impacted through not creating or taking opportunities, having support from administrators, not having materials or resources, having a positive climate, and knowing your colleagues (Margolis, 2008, pp. 295, 297, 298, 300, 307).  Furthermore, the combination of the above influences a teacher’s ability to manage a classroom and deal with student discipline, which includes student behavior and attitude that also has an effect of parent relationships and interactions (Davidson, 2009, p. 49). Therefore, demonstrating that depersonalization is effected by all relationships and interactions, connecting to each other in someway and effecting each other differently.

Many times the collaboration of an organization in decision-making through open interactions and relationships helps lessen the characteristics of depersonalization (Leech, & Fulton, 2008, p. 635). Through the act of empowering others, creating a supportive environment, and facilitating open reflection a deeper connection to vision and meaningful work is created and therefore impacts depersonalization (pp. 635-636). Also, the creation of networks and support structures within a school helps reduce isolation and promotes collaborative decision-making, which effects depersonalization (p. 639). An environment full of experimentation and risk-taking that is giving proper support empowers individuals and an organization to reach new levels of success, also decreasing the levels of depersonalization (p. 641). This type of support and empowerment, as it relates to relationships and interactions is similar to the practice of mindfulness, which is non-judgmental and thus reinforces the purpose of evaluation of those relationships and interactions through investigating the present moment.  

Mindfulness, meditation and awareness. The awareness of the present moment cultivated by mindfulness and meditation can also affect depersonalization by clearly understanding emotions, relationships, and the environment. This deeper understanding of the present moment will not only influence depersonalization, but also impact teaching and learning. For example, the practice of mindfulness and meditation improves the ability “to work through life challenges with increasing flexibility” by allowing a person to better assess the moment and influence the understanding of the environment, relationships, and interactions (Hall-Renn, 2006, p. 5). Mindfulness also addresses the desensitization and misinterpretations that happen in stressful situations by bringing attention to the body-mind connections through sensations, which can help an individual cope with depersonalization (pp.4-5). Many times these stressful situations of unawareness foster more problems by allowing unhealthy habits to form, such as, not fully understanding the present moment, including the environment and relationships (p. 7). Also, the flexibility gained through mindfulness will increase the ability to create new alternate and intentional interpretations to foster a clear understanding of the moment and thereby affect levels of depersonalization (p. 8).  A clearer awareness can also increase the ability to let go of the tendency of worrying, planning, or remembering, which can cause stress (p. 11). Another interpretation of the mindful awareness can be thought of as “learning to be with whatever experiences” happen to arise in the present moment and can help an individual be more flexible (p. 12).   

Having an improved discrimination of emotion through the practice of meditation an individual will have an increased sensitivity to a situation and have a better grasp on the environment, people, and relationships that an effect depersonalization (Nielsen & Kaszniak, 2006, p. 402). Furthermore, this is supported through the equanimous attitude strengthened through the practice of meditation (p. 403). The ability to take a step-back and see the larger picture of a situation through an equanimous attitude will help individuals engage in relationships that are free of misinterpretation (p. 403). In addition, mediation also helps interpret situation that might be difficult to understand (Grenard, 2008, p. 154). In doing so, meditation also helps individuals correct errors in judgment through the process of meditating on koans, which are similar to metaphorical puzzles (p. 161). Through this koan practice of meditation, an individual learns to let go, as normal rational thought cannot encapsulate or stimulate the correct answer, is also only answered and explained through the presentation by movement to a master (pp. 163-168). Therefore, the practice of meditation addresses depersonalization by increasing the ability to be aware of and deal with emotions by becoming more equanimous and helping an individual problem-solve in situations that might ordinarily increase stress.

“General awareness of the mind, body, and environment” can increases the ability to assess a situation, which can effect stress and help address depersonalization (Grenard, 2008, p. 179). Depersonalization decreases as a result of meditation and the ability to understand and accept the present moment regardless if it is pleasant or not (p. 183). Non-attachment awareness and acceptance of a circumstance within a situation allows an individual to better engage in relationships and work with people, which effect stress (p. 183). In addition, the acceptance of change and the “you are not your thoughts” approach can prevent an individual from misinterpreting emotions and situations that may cause stress (Baer, 2003, p. 127). In other words, mindfulness helps an individual “experience events fully and without defense,” which can ease stress (p. 130).

Depersonalization can also be effected through the act of teaching and learning by general Eastern philosophy including the understanding of oneness of self, others, and the world through the acceptance of those relationships, which foster stronger communication and interaction (Berard et al., 2009, p. 107). As a result, philosophy, attitude, personality, passion, environment, mindfulness, and meditation can all address burnout, especially depersonalization.    Mindfulness and meditation is not just an act or practice, but is something to help center individuals by decreasing stress and depersonalization through improving concentration and increasing a sense of accomplishment and success in life (p. 109). Consequently, the third part and area of burnout, accomplishment, can also be addressed through the same concepts as above including philosophy, attitude, passion, personality, environment, mindfulness, and meditation.



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