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Chained to the Desk (Third Edition)

Chained to the Desk (Third Edition): A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them

Bryan E. Robinson
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: NED - New edition, 3
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 271
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  • Book Info
    Chained to the Desk (Third Edition)
    Book Description:

    Americans love a hard worker. The worker who toils eighteen-hour days and eats meals on the run between appointments is usually viewed with a combination of respect and awe. But for many, this lifestyle leads to family problems, a decline in work productivity, and ultimately to physical and mental collapse.Intended for anyone touched by what Robinson calls the best-dressed problem of the twenty-first century,Chained to the Deskprovides an inside look at workaholism's impact on those who live and work with work addicts - partners, spouses, children, and colleagues - as well as the appropriate techniques for clinicians who treat them.Originally published in 1998, this groundbreaking book from best-selling author and widely respected family therapist Bryan E. Robinson was the first comprehensive portrait of the workaholic. In this new and fully updated third edition, Robinson draws on hundreds of case reports from his own original research and years of clinical practice. The agonies of workaholism have grown all the more challenging in a world where the computer, cell phone, and iPhone allow twenty-four-hour access to the office, even on weekends and from vacation spots. Adult children of workaholics describe their childhood pain and the lifelong legacies they still carry, and the spouses or partners of workaholics reveal the isolation and loneliness of their vacant relationships. Employers and business colleagues discuss the cost to the company when workaholism dominates the workplace.Chained to the Deskboth counsels and consoles. It provides a step-by-step guide to help readers spot workaholism, understand it, and recover.Bryan E. Robinson, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a psychotherapist in private practice. He is the author of over 35 books, includingThe Smart Guide to Managing Stressand his debut novel,Limestone Gumption. He hosted the PBS documentary,Overdoing It: When Work Rules Your Lifeand has appeared on20/20, Good Morning America, WorldNews Tonight, NBC Nightly News, andThe Early Show.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-7069-6
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: Glorification of an Illness
    (pp. 1-10)

    Recording artists have always known something about the work world that the American workforce still doesn’t get. Cyndi Lauper sang it: “When the working day is done, girls just wanna have fun.” Michael Jackson crooned it inOff the Wall: “So tonight gotta leave that nine-to-five upon the shelf and just enjoy yourself.” And Dolly Parton warned us about working nine to five: “It’ll drive you crazy if you let it.”

    And Dolly’s right. It will,if you let it. But you don’t have to worry about nine to five workdays anymore. In the twenty-first century, we have 24/7 workdays...

  5. Part I: Work Addiction:: The New American Idol

    • 1 Who, Me? A Workaholic—Seriously?
      (pp. 13-28)

      There was a time when I needed my work—and hid it from others—the way my alcoholic father needed and hid his bourbon. And just as I once tried to control my father’s drinking by pouring out his booze and refilling the bottle with vinegar, the people who loved me sulked, pleaded, and tore their hair out trying to keep me from working all the time. Every summer, for instance, just before we left on vacation, my life partner, Jamey, would search my bags and confiscate any work I planned to smuggle into our rented beach house on the...

    • 2 How to Spot Work Addiction
      (pp. 29-48)

      As a sixty-five-year-old physician, I was forced into retirement by multiple health and legal issues, and I surrendered my medical license in the fall of 2009. When I look back, it’s clear that the seeds of my work addiction sprouted in childhood. I mowed lawns in junior high, became a construction laborer as soon as I could drive, waited tables in college, and worked two jobs, seven days a week, every summer. I had little if any free time.

      In medical school, I worked day and night three days straight in the hospital by choice. As an intern at the...

    • 3 When Work Addiction Hits Home
      (pp. 49-66)

      For years I lived with loneliness, disappointments, broken promises, anger and chaos, created by my husband’s addiction to work. Nobody can ever understand my pain when they see the million-dollar house I live in or my beach house, the cars, boat, clothes, travel. I have luxury that some people don’t even dare to dream about, and most importantly I have my dedicated husband who works so hard for the family.

      I’ve been living like a single mother for my three sons, watching my husband’s work addiction run out of control. Hudson is competitive, seeking perfection in everything he does, killing...

    • 4 Inside Your Workaholic Mind
      (pp. 67-84)

      When I’m honest, I realize there have been workaholic patterns in my life as long as I can remember. On the positive side, I had worked my way to a top senior management position in an international role by my mid-thirties. I was one of the few working females in a male-dominated industry. I had gotten there by sacrificing everything else. I worked Saturdays (if not Sundays, too). Although I enjoyed it, I made it a habit of only socializing with work colleagues.

      I did my MBA part-time, which focused on a work project. I was fully consumed by work....

    • 5 Childhood and the Making of a Workaholic
      (pp. 85-100)

      The first time I spoke with Gloria Steinem, we both said, “I feel like I know you.” Although our lives were very different on the outside, the way we experienced them was much the same on the inside. The following accounts of the childhoods of two self-professed workaholics, Gloria Steinem and me, illustrate the connections that can lead two adults of different genders, ethnic backgrounds, and geographic regions who have never met to say, “I feel like I know you.”

      I, Bryan, could have been the workaholic poster child, living in an alcoholic home where I was caretaker of a...

    • 6 Spouses and Partners of Workaholics
      (pp. 101-118)

      The simple fact is that my husband’s work addiction was stronger than anything else in the family. And we’re now an unkept statistic. My children and I carry the oh-so-common legacy of pain that lies in the wake of every soul-destroying obsession. For Ron a normal workday lasted eighteen hours, six days a week. Sunday was only a twelve-hour day. In the busy season, there were twenty- to twenty-four- hour days for weeks on end. Ron’s need for sleep has been his lifelong enemy. It’s amazing he hasn’t had a heart attack yet or an accident.

      My eyes were opened...

    • 7 Children of Workaholics
      (pp. 119-138)

      My father had two loves: work and bourbon. He also, of course, loved his two children but we learned at an early age that being close to our father required entering his world of ambitious interests and endless cycles of working, drinking, sleeping. Our house ran on our father’s energy. When the phone rang, as it frequently did just as we sat down to an already delayed, late-evening family dinner, it was usually a graduate student or colleague calling for my father. “Oh, damn!” he’d say, jumping to his feet, racing from the dining room into his study. Sometimes I’d...

    • 8 Risky Business: Work Addiction in the Company
      (pp. 139-160)

      I got my first job at fourteen, not out of necessity but out of want. I went to school to finish my senior year in the morning and at noon to work in a grocery store, where I worked for forty hours a week. I bragged about what a great work ethic I had, but little did I know that that was just the beginning. I went to college and found myself studying and usually working some kind of job—always busy, working too many hours.

      The real workaholic came out when the pace I kept landed me in my...

  6. Part II: Recovery from Work Addiction

    • 9 Your Workaholic Brain
      (pp. 163-178)

      Like many workaholics, my battle began in childhood. I was born in the rural South, the youngest of four children. My father, who was twenty years older than my mother, became severely handicapped from a stroke when I was five years old. My strong-willed mother had to take care of my father, her three teenage children, and me, insisting that we rise above our rural environment and become successful in a more sophisticated world.

      My siblings were victims of my mother’s tenacity, insistence on perfectionism, and relentless criticism when the highest results were not achieved. But I was more defiant...

    • 10 Mindful Working
      (pp. 179-194)

      In March of 2011, just after my forty-seventh birthday, I was driving to the office as early as I could get on the road. I’d made it my habit to get to the office before anyone else so I could “get ahead of the game” and organize my next accomplishment. During the drive there wasn’t anything specific causing stress in my mind—no major project looming or big meeting I was preparing. Halfway through my short twenty-two-minute drive I began experiencing a rapid heart rate, extreme chest pain, and a panicky feeling—somethingwas wrong. While driving I used my...

    • 11 Your Work Resilient Zone: Finding Your Positive, Compassionate Self
      (pp. 195-212)

      From the time I was eighteen, I stuffed into my hip pocket each day a worn week-at-a-glance. It became my bible and scorecard, dictating every hour of devotion to my disease, ensuring I wouldn’t forget an appointment in my daily frenzied pace. Its margins were crammed with lists of tasks to accomplish between meetings and before going to bed. As long as I was working, thinking about work, or lining up work in my notebook, I felt in control, important, powerful. When I recall it, the fearful, shameful, guilty self of my childhood seems like someone from another planet.


    • 12 Work-Life Balance and Workaholics Anonymous
      (pp. 213-228)

      I was the only daughter born to first-generation southern European immigrants. I grew up in a family that subscribed to the American dream of hard work, toil, and sacrifice. Both my parents were workaholics. I don’t remember my family relaxing in the living room and talking among ourselves except when guests came over. And that experience was hardly soothing because “La Bella Figura” (Italian for a way of living that projects good image, proper behavior, beauty, and aesthetics) kicked into high gear.

      As a child, I was recognized only when I excelled academically or musically or had some kind of...

  7. Appendix
    (pp. 229-238)
  8. Notes
    (pp. 239-252)
  9. Index
    (pp. 253-261)
  10. About the Author
    (pp. 262-262)