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    Competitive stress: is this a new middle class addiction?

    Middle class people are always talking about how stressed they are. Our lives seem to get increasingly busy and sometimes it feels impossible to get everything done, to please everybody and to live up to our expectations. We often end up talking about how we’d love to have the time to see our friends more, spend more time with our children or just to sit and read a book.

    Recently at my place of work we experienced an unavoidably stressful situation, which required everyone to work excessively, long hours under a lot of pressure. It was during this week at work that I noticed people seemed to be using their stressful lives almost as a badge of honour and everyone seemed to be trying to out-stress each other.

    When talking about how difficult the week was going to be for us all, everyone seemed to be claiming that it was worse for them. As one person said, “Oh no, I was supposed to be taking the children away for the weekend.” Another person would trump them with, “Surely you can go another time? It’s a nightmare for me, it’s my mother’s 60th birthday and the party is at our house! How am I going to organise everything now?” Such frivolous problems were out stressed with more serious ones such as, visiting a mother in law in hospital. All however were out stressed by the person who was actually moving house on the day when the work stress would be at its peak.

    Whilst all this was going on, I couldn’t help wondering if people were actually proud of how stressful their lives were - as if somehow the more stressful the life, the more worthy the person. It might seem harsh to say it, but I suspect that a lot of the people concerned would, finding themselves with nothing to do, immediately set about finding another load of tasks. Perhaps it’s a new and very middle-class form of addiction?

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    Reader Comments (1)

    It's a modern, MC form of Stockholm Syndrome.

    Working hard and turning in a good job within your contracted hours no longer cuts it. At the same time as they've been freezing our salaries and withdrawing most of the rights, perks and unofficial plus-points that conscientious employees could once expect for a job well done, employers have succeeded in convincing us that - unless we've also got the driven, "giving it 110%" work ethic of a 22-year old "Apprentice" contestant - we're not pulling our weight. Standard issue MC guilt - plus a big dose of Recession-generated fear - does the rest.

    And the best of it is that we all reinforce it collectively. It's false consciousness. Middle class workers of the world, arise...from your desks at 5pm, then go home, have a nice glass of M&S rioja, and don't give your job a second thought until the alarm goes the next morning.

    May 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichardB

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