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Everyone feels dread from time to time. There's a familiarity about the dread at the start of new term,  at the first day back at work after the holidays. There may be occasional workplace dread ahead of a big presentation, a promotions meeting, an interview or a significant meeting. It would be unusual if we didn't feel those things - after all very few people go to work and have no emotional investment in that part of their lives.

What starts getting more interesting and worth noticing however is when there starts being dread on a Sunday evening, on many or most Sunday evenings; and especially when there is dread in the morning or in the evening on many or most workdays; and when that dread starts to seep into the everyday enjoyment or carrying out of normal life- maybe it affects sleep or appetite.

Dread is literally a word that means "great apprehension of something that will or could happen" it is probably more closely aligned to awe and terror than fear and has a quite existential feel to it. There is a sense of scale-  in the archaic sense to dread is to regard with awe. The thing that is dreaded is often uncertain, existential, massive, beyond comprehension and certainly beyond being affected by us humans...

What's happening is that dread suggests helplessness. It stops our resourcefulness - e.g. what's the point if we can't change anything anyway....  Fear is useful (run away or fight), awe is a reminder of the scale of things and the immense beauty and scale of the  universe of which we are part - but dread? Dread has a numbing, paralysing effect. We tend to actively try to avoid feeling dread as much as possible.

So when clients tell me they feel dread, especially around work, I  pay attention.

Dread tends to be negative anticipation ~as opposed to savouring  the positive anticipation of good things to come. Unfortunately our feelings are asymmetrical - we really go to lengths to avoid dread far more than we want to anticipate good things. So assuming most people don't enjoy a visit to the dentist for a root canal - I think most of us would just get it over with today than wait a fortnight for the experience. We'd grab that sudden cancellation with both hands. think about it what would you choose if you phoned up and booked an appointment for two weeks but they called back to say "There's been a cancelation- the dentist can do it now"...

When Clients Dread going to work there's a tendency to assume they need to leave or make changes pronto- and often that's absolutely the right thing to do. But what is really going on may be harder to unpick- why do they feel helpless, that things are out of their control? Does this happen elsewhere in their lives too? and is the slightly panicky, hasty, moving-away-from that sense of dread actually going to solve anything?

What will they move towards?   but sometimes- probably most often- we are so overwhelmingly set on moving away from dread that the quiet feeling of the direction, the new idea that's  gently calling cannot be heard. Sometimes, often, with dread we need to organise some respite, some time out in order to be able to hear that new and emerging call.

So when people talk about feeling dread, I pay attention- and I'll usually suggest taking time out. Step out of the storm, into the quiet for a bit- to stop - and listen.

Then if you have to step back in for a bit - at least you know where you are heading. And knowing where you are heading is to have a plan. And with a plan you are empowered and no longer helpless.

"There is a voice that doesn't use words. Listen."


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