It’s only a flesh wound

I’ve been ‘let go’ three times in my career.  Only once was it an actual redundancy but in each case my role was terminated and I wasn’t needed any more. I thought I was probably a bit unlucky but not particularly exceptional. I mean, it’s just a fact of business life, isn’t it?

I didn’t make a fuss. I just picked myself up, dusted myself down and carried on as best I could. That’s what we do, isn’t it. Of course it hurt, I felt rejected but, stiff upper lip and all that, no time to wallow in self pity and blame. After all, nobody likes a cry-baby.

Besides, we’ve all heard those stories where someone tells you that, although it was horrible at the time, on reflection it turned out to be the best thing ever happened to them. Everyone assumes you’ve banked the redundancy money and gone straight into a better job. Or that, now you’re out of the corporate rat race, you are following your dreams. Of course, it’s not really like that but, hey, no-one wants to hear how miserable and upset you are.

So you put on a brave face, nod and smile when they say how much they envy you lying in bed and missing the daily commute and laugh along at their jokes about working in your pyjamas all day and forgetting how to tie your shoes up.

Then you carry on as best you can.

The thing is, being ‘let go’ is a major psychological event. Redundancy is like going through a divorce. Leaving corporate life is like moving to a foreign country. This is a big deal.

This is not something we should be trivialising, ignoring, trying to brush off. That’s not down-playing it, that’s denying it. As a Brit, I love our sense of understatement and talent for self-deprecation but it is not appropriate in this case. This is deadly serious stuff that needs an equally serious response.

Only I didn’t do that. I ignored it, made jokes about it, pretended it wasn’t a big deal. Like most people do.

“It’s just a flesh wound” says the Black Knight in Monty Python’s film “The Holy Grail” after King Arthur has chopped both his arms off, and then proceeds to call Arthur a chicken because he’s stopped fighting. The absurdity of someone suffering such wounds just to support their ego and ridiculous sense of machismo makes us laugh (well, it makes me laugh every time I watch it). Of course, we don’t behave like that when we’re ‘let go’, do we?

“I’ve ‘ad worse” is his response when his first arm is chopped off earlier in the sketch. Imagine if, after being made redundant, we tried shrug it off by saying something like “It could have been worse”? How ridiculous would that be?

When you have a shock, you feel it physically, emotionally, mentally and even spiritually. If that shock was obviously physical, like breaking a leg, would you try and laugh it off? No, you’d get treatment, you’d take time for rest and recuperation, you would learn exercises to rehabilitate yourself. But because this shock is firstly psychological, we consider it less serious and fail to treat it. How does that work?

So let’s stop being like the Black Knight about this. It’s not ‘only a flesh wound’, it’s a serious trauma, so let’s give it the attention it deserves and get the help and support we need.

Laughter is great medicine, so start you treatment here by watching the sketch:



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