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The Importance of Emotional Support for the Unemployed

This is the written form of a speech I presented at an ICT conference in December 2015.

Good morning. Last May I spoke at the ICT reboot-camp about the emotional highs and lows of the job search and compared my experience to the Five Stages of Death.

I discussed how as part of the unemployment situation, we all go through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression, but should never accept the situation. I told the audience to persevere.

I was asked to speak once again about emotional experiences of the unemployed. While researching a topic for this talk, I chanced to come upon a column by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Jacobson.
After reading the column, I realized it alluded to a crucial emotional factor I had left out of my previous speech; something you must all utilize during your job search. I’m going to read an excerpt from that column.

By Rabbi YY Jacobson: A Doctors advice

Two people went to the doctor's office. After one received a checkup with the doctor, the physician called the other person into his office alone. He said, "Your partner is suffering from a very severe stress disorder. If you don't do the following, he will surely deteriorate and die.

"Each morning," instructed the doctor, "fix him a healthy breakfast. Be pleasant at all times. For lunch, make him a nutritious meal. For dinner, prepare an especially nice hot meal for him, and have it waiting for him when he comes home from work. Don't burden him with chores. Don't discuss your problems with him; it will only exacerbate his stress. No nagging is allowed. You also must compliment him at least five or six times a day, telling him how brilliant and talented he is. And most importantly, never disagree with him.

"If you can do this for the next 10 months to a year," the doctor said, "I think your partner will regain his health completely."

On the way home, the person who had been examined by the doctor asked his partner, "What did the doctor say?"

The response was "He said you're going to die.”


If we were to reduce the doctor’s advice to one sentence, it would be “Support your partner.”

According to the dictionary, to support means to “give assistance to, especially financially; to enable to function or act.”

While the dictionary I used says “especially financially”, I think “especially emotionally” would read just as well, maybe even better for the unemployed. Because “emotional support” is the factor I did not mention during my previous talk. In my case, it was the support of my dear wife. During my year and a half unemployment, she certainly supported me financially, but she also reminded me how I had skills, knowledge, and experience. She pointed out how the system is flawed, not my “self.”

Emotional Support gives us the strength us to persevere. It’s the Power Bar or 5-Hour-Energy drink that keeps us going during the tough and depressing times. I’m sure many of you have experienced a day you did not even want to get out of bed to face a cold, impersonal world that had seemingly abandoned you. A smiling face, a warm hug, and words like “go get ‘em tiger” can go a long way.

Unfortunately, not everyone supports you. Consider the partner in the Rabbi’s story. We don’t know why he or she reacted in that way. A typical reaction to the story is to view them as evil, but is that a valid conclusion?

My own answer is to recall how during my unemployment some good friends and even some relatives didn’t seem very supportive. Some people told my wife “he’ll never get another job.” One relative told me how I was embarrassing my family by mentioning on Facebook that I was unemployed.

They weren’t bad people, certainly not evil. But, they were bad for me, and they are bad for you. They don’t spread joy for the season; they don’t lift your spirits, and after you speak with them, you feel emotionally drained. Avoid them. Surround yourself with people who emotionally support you.

The importance of support hasn’t always been appreciated. For example, at my high school, Boston Latin, new students---seventh graders---were once welcomed to an auditorium in which the head master directed us to “look to your left; look to your right. In six years, two of you won’t be here.”

Over time people realized this negative approach wasn’t the best one. So, today, new students are welcomed with, “Look to your left; look to your right. Let’s support each other so in six years we are all here graduating together.” I have been told by school officials that this new approach resulted in a higher graduation rate.

Support is a powerful tool. It can save lives and change the world. It’s why we are all here today--- Ofer who started the ICT, all the counselors who donate their time, David Blustein our keynote speaker, and yes, each of you. You recognize the value of support.

So, in closing, I ask you to look to your left…Now look to your right. I ask you to commit to supporting your friends, your family, and your fellow LTU. Remember---It is this support that will enable all of us to persevere.

Thank you.

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