“You start doing something and close your eyes long enough, you can’t imagine doing anything else.” a bartender explaining why he still works at a bar despite being an alcoholic in The Numbers Station (a forgettable John Cusack film).
My friends at General Electric would sometimes talk to me similarly. They were “institutionalized”.
Each had worked at GE for 20 plus years. They would discuss the “GE world” as if it is was everyone’s world. They would reference high level GE executives as if they are well known celebrities. Jack Welch, former CEO, left GE a decade ago. He is a genuine public celebrity. Recently departed CEO Jeffery Immelt is not. Those who are a notch below him are mostly unknown outside the business world. Yet, my friend in GE’s Fairfield offices would talk about the division heads of GE as if everyone should know their names.
That’s simply a symptom of institutionalization and not a big problem. The real challenge has been discussing life post-GE. They knew that GE was potentially leaving Connecticut for at least the last 3 years. But they stayed without making a post-Connecticut departure plan. Since these are friends and not career counseling clients, I did not push as I hard as I normally would have (perhaps I should have) to get them to imagine doing something else.
My career counseling work is now, in part, to help my clients develop their vision for doing something more fulfilling.