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Unemployed status and its impact on the meaning of human life
Unemployment in our country is perceived as an absolutely negative phenomenon. Becoming unemployed, a person cannot fully realize himself as a citizen, as a member of the family, as a person as a whole. Sociological studies show that unemployment is not declining, reaching significant sizes especially in rural areas. For example, statistics show that in our Kinel-Cherkasy region the unemployment rate does not tend to decrease. Naturally, this caused some concern among the district administration, and the thought came up: to try to find psychological means to identify changes in the level of social optimism of residents, similar to how economists measure the degree of social welfare of the population.
Starting a psychological study, we believed that the status of the unemployed to some extent should affect the processes of sense formation and mental health of the residents of our area. One of the deepest mental formations of a person’s personality is the meaning of his life. The question arose: how does the status of unemployed on its vital meaning? We believed that this influence depends primarily on the attitude of a person to his new status. But, on the other hand, the previously established meaning-and-life orientations to some extent should also influence this attitude. Thus, it was to be expected that there is a relationship, a mutual influence between the person’s attitude to the status of the unemployed and the meaning of life.
The objective of our study was to identify changes in the content of the meaning of the life of a person who acquired the status of an unemployed, and his attitude to this status.
The work was carried out on the basis of the Center for psychological, pedagogical and medical and social assistance to children and adolescents in the framework of a special agreement on cooperation with the district population employment service in 2003.
The search for ways and methods of research has led us to cooperate with the Psychological Institute of the Russian Academy of Education, where under the guidance of V.E. Chudnovsky regularly conducted research and organized symposia on the problems of the meaning of life.
The initial assumptions of our study were the theoretical principles formulated in the works of V.E. Chudnovsky, according to which "the meaning of life is not just a certain idea, learned or developed by a person, but a special mental education, which has its own specifics of occurrence, its own stages of formation" (1995, p. 16). The peculiarity of this phenomenon is that “arising as a result of a complex interaction of external and internal factors, it, at the same time, is emancipated from both and begins to act as a“ buffer mechanism ”, as a system of checks and balances that does not allow one-sided submission to the external and at the same time preventing the transformation of man into a slave of his own needs, drives, his immediate short-term interests ”(ibid., p. 19).
It was important for us to find out, on the one hand, to what extent the meaning of life, being a “buffer mechanism”, in conditions of unemployment, will help a person maintain social optimism, and on the other hand, how to organize counseling in order to overcome the negative effects of unemployed status on processes of sense formation, which could lead to the loss of vital meaning. Thus, the study acquired an applied character. This left an imprint on the choice of research method and tool.
As a research method, we used questionnaires. Our choice was due to the fact that the questionnaire, which included questions about the meaning of life, in addition to diagnostic pursued psychotherapeutic goals. When a person begins to think about causal relationships in his life, many events change their “weight”, which is important for building life prospects.
Creating our research tool, we took as a basis the questionnaire "On the meaning of life", developed in the research team of the Psychological Institute. In drawing up the questions, we took into account the particularities of the status of unemployed and the need to study the relationship of a person to his status. We give the full content of our profile.
1. What, in your opinion, is the meaning of life? Please state the meaning of your life.
2. What is the meaning of the meaning of life for each person, and for you in particular?
3. To what extent did you manage to realize yourself in the past?
4. Does the meaning of life change with age and how?
5. Have you changed your understanding of the meaning of life in recent years? What kind?
6. Has unemployment status affected changes in your meaning of life?
7. What are the positive aspects of being unemployed?
8. What are the negative aspects of being unemployed?
9. What is more at the moment in your life: optimism or pessimism?
10. What do you expect to do to realize your meaning of life and what results to achieve?
We give an analysis of the results of the survey in accordance with the questions posed.
1. Meaning of life orientation of the unemployed: family well-being (44 people out of 63, 70%), living for children, taking care of them, educating (36 people, 57%), work (26 people, 41%), home, family hearth (9 person, 14%), to be a Person with a capital letter (7 people, 11%), health (6 people, 9.5%), live (5 people, 8%), live for yourself, at your pleasure (4 people, 6%), in money, material prosperity (3 people, 5%), find your place in life (2 people, 3%), in love (1 person, 1.6%).
Thus, the unemployed see their meaning of life primarily in the family and children. Comparing these data with studies carried out in previous years, we see that, as their authors noted, “caring for the family and children remains a reference point for the spiritual growth of a person, the meaning-forming basis of his life” (Weiser, Goly-sheva, 2002, p. 291).
2. The unemployed note that the meaning of life has a certain meaning for them: big (18 people, 29%), not the last (3 people, 5%), huge (1 person, 1.5%), like a dream (1 person, 1.5%).
Unemployed people differently assess the degree of their self-realization in the past: there is still enough time to realize themselves, still ahead (19 people, 30%), worked (studied), studied (16 people, 25%), partially , half (11 people, 17.5%), succeeded completely (3 people, 5%), at a minimum (5%).
Basically, the majority of respondents are inclined to believe that in their personal lives they have sufficiently realized themselves, and in their professional activities, in work, they either have not realized at all, or have shown themselves to a minimal extent.
4. Considering the peculiarities of age development, the majority of the unemployed noted that the meaning of life changes with age (44 people, 70%). However, a significant part of them nevertheless claimed that he remained unchanged (13 people, 21%), and only a few people (3%) found it difficult to answer this question. We emphasize that they associate changes in the meaning of life with difficulties in the country. Their justifications are as follows: with age, life seizes, the personality of a person who at the moment has to think more about the material side of life, lands.
5. A confirmation of the foregoing is the statement of more than half of the subjects that changes in understanding the meaning of life have occurred in recent years (32 people, 51%), but at the same time, 33% of the respondents noted the lack of influence in recent years (21 people) .
6. It is interesting to note that the influence of unemployed status on the meaning of life was noted by about half of the survey participants (29 people, 46%), and about the same gave the opposite answer (27 people, 43%). Additional conversations showed that among the latter were unemployed up to 30 years old, who had not yet had time to feel the “taste of work”, did not feel the hardships of unemployment, because they were used to earning income in another way, adapting to new living conditions.
7. 8. The answers to questions 7 and 8 were especially important for counseling, as they revealed, on the one hand, the respondent's attitude to his status, and on the other hand, his awareness of the specifics of his life meaning in the new conditions. The following positive aspects of the status of unemployed were highlighted: a lot of free time (17 people, 27%), I am more involved in raising children (16 people, 25%), I pay more attention to the family (12 people, 19%). However, almost a quarter of those who came to the Center did not find any positive aspects in it (15 people, 24%). It was with these people that it was necessary to conduct an in-depth psychological consultation in order to lead them to an understanding of how it is possible to realize the meaning of one’s life in the circumstances.
The following negative aspects of the status of unemployed were highlighted: not enough money (27 people, 43%), I feel the scum of society, hopelessness, uncertainty, dependence (8 people, 13%), little communication, narrow circle of friends (7 people, 11%), there is no way to realize oneself, there is nowhere to show one’s professionalism (6 people, 9.5%), there is no work experience (2 people, 3%). We note another small group of respondents who found it difficult to give an answer (6 people, 9.5%). Obviously, it was necessary to conduct individual interviews with respondents aimed at understanding each of them ways to get out of the situation, depending on the degree of its importance and, therefore, on the possibility of stressful conditions.
9. It is noteworthy that the level of social optimism among the unemployed is quite high: a significant part of them noted that they have more optimism than pessimism (45 people, 71%); pessimism prevailed in the group four times less (11 people, 17%). This fact, in our opinion, is not accidental. Thus, the opportunity to engage in personal subsidiary plots on a large scale gives optimism. This applies primarily to young people and middle-aged unemployed. Among the pessimists were primarily people of pre-retirement age, who fell under reduction 2-3 years before retirement. Despite solid experience, it is difficult for them to get a job, it is difficult to adapt to new living conditions. It is this group of the unemployed that experiences a sense of hopelessness and pessimism, since they have devoted their whole life to work. Having undermined their own health, wasting their strength, they now turned out to be unnecessary to the society for the benefit of which they worked.
10. Interesting answers were given to the question about the prospects of activities for realizing the meaning of life: finding a job (34 people, 54%), giving children an education (11 people, 17%), surviving to retirement (5 people, 8%), finding a job by profession and advance in service (4 people, 6%), achieve a lot (3 people, 5%), study (2 people, 3%), live in prosperity (2 people, 3%), relax (2 people, 3%), arrange personal life (1 person, 1.5%). It is very important that in the conversations the unemployed confirmed: “Yes, we want to find work that is highly paid.” And then they added: “But even if we don’t find it, we won’t be lost, we must live, teach children, we will work in greenhouses.” This once again testifies to the high optimism of the residents of the Kinel-Cherkasy region, which, in our opinion, is no coincidence. Indeed, in our region, conditions have been created for the manifestation of people's abilities, their initiatives, and the desire to maintain high life meanings and optimism even in the most difficult circumstances. This was well said by the head of the administration of the Kinel-Cherkasy region, V.V. Altergot: “People themselves must take part in solving many issues. Just the initiative of people should be directed in the right direction. In difficult times, in the early 90s, when many enterprises were closed, people were not taken aback, they began to grow tomatoes in greenhouses. For many residents of the region, growing vegetables has become a major source of income. In the end, for 19,000 families — 23,000 cars is an indicator ”(2001, p. 55).
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