Dealing with guilt, anger, non-productivity as a scientist

Sometimes I wonder, why guilt is such a common emotion. Being a scientist/researcher, it is always an inseparable part of your inner self. I strongly believe that we have guilt for everything like we are underperforming, oh I did not do much today. Oh I am not doing what I am supposed to do, I should be seriously doing something else, like I should not be writing this article, rather I should be doing experiments, assembling my experimental data, putting a good scientific story to get it published in a good journal. I read this statement written by celebrated American psychiatrist David R.Hawkins in his famous book “Letting Go: The Pathway of Surrender” that we all are knowingly or unknowingly subjected to guilt constantly. Eventually guilt leads to anger. On this level we go in to blame game, we are not publishing in high end journal or not addressing real problems that are troubling human healthcare system because of so and so.  And terminally this emotional chaos or clutter leads us nowhere and we enter into the zone called real non-productivity. I have closely experienced these patterns, and came out successfully from mind space of not being good enough.

World has been always changing dynamically, it’s not new to see youngsters as young as 25-30 years old being very successful, having smart business sense and eventually becoming millionaires. I agree it can be very motivating to see someone doing really good in their early days, simultaneously it can be very hard on lot of people and they can easily get entrapped in this self-sabotaging emotional chaos “oh really I have wasted my life”. Irrespective of whatever we feel, we need to bounce back and take charge of our own life. Moreover, excel in whatever we are pursuing.

  1. Try to have healthy conversation with your mentor:

It is easier said than its done. Trust it works, I genuinely think all mentors (expect few ones) are really willing to hear you out, if one is interested academically and scientifically. Even those mentors who are paying their senior postdocs less are readily interested in investing good amount of grant money, if they realize that you are working on interesting research problem. I observed once we start giving our research a new direction or new perspective, it can do wonder for us. A sense of gratification, a silent accomplishment nourishes our neurons in a positive way. In addition, we immediately feel that we are capable of creating something new by merely breaking the ice. This usually happens with researchers or postdocs who  havebeen working in the same lab for a long period of time and they feel stuck.

2. Reassess your decision:

If the feeling of guilt, anger and nonproductivity is constantly bogging you down then one should sit with themselves and ask why I am experiencing these emotions. What I am getting out of it? Is this is the type of life I want or there are some underlying hidden pay offs I am getting by experiencing these emotions. And I am pretty certain we all can get an answer. Even after giving our project a new perspective or talking with your mentor is not giving you peace, then one should reassess their career choice. And move on. It really helps.

3. Connect with good people:

Every day when we wake up there is this one world who is waiting for us, which is created by media. I am not saying whatever they are showing is untrue, it is certainly and it’s their job indeed. However, it’s our responsibility what we want to process out of it. Hope and happiness is a choice as famously said by learned human beings. It applies in every sphere of life, when I was struggling, I chose to believe that there are good people out there, I just need to find them and connect with them. To my surprise when I made this decision I realize there are beautiful human beings who are ready to help you. If you surround yourself with good people, goodness somehow comes in you, may be through osmosis. I do not know how, but you get it. These good people can be your colleagues (if you are lucky), bigwigs in your field (some good PI have wise intellect to guide you through tough times), neighbors, school friends, security guards, gardener, grocery seller. GOODNESS CAN COME IN ANY FORM.

4. Connecting dots/Interdisciplinary approach:

In general, researchers are subjected to feeling of boredom quite often if they are working in one particular area for a long period. Eventually it can lead to nonproductivity. I observed it is of much fun or interest if we try to mingle with other researchers. And that other person does not have to be from altogether different area. Let us say if you were evaluating how obesity or diabetes can impact reproductive biology, it would be interesting to collaborate with some fellow researcher who is investigating impact of diabetes on eye.

And never try for perfectionism, it’s a wild goose chase. We tend to become screwy and gradually a misfit in a journey to become perfectionist. In research, sometimes we meet perfectionists to realize that how unimportant and futile it is to become one of them. I sincerely believe we all are capable enough of finding our own portion of success, happiness, love and peace. I believe we can hardwire our brain to think more positively and by doing little act of kindness, celebrating our little accomplishments (oh I forget to mention I lost 10 pounds) can put you in a new space…..


Hey, Myself Dr. Isha Sharma. I am an avid food lover, not so voracious reader ( although I am enjoying recent addition of this hobby). I am a researcher by profession, but I feel deep desire to share what I have experienced. Really looking forward for enriching and insightful discussion with my readers. Love and Blessing: Isha sharma

Published by womenthecontriver

Discovering my self, science, Yoga, meditation, HIIT workout Lover. Avid reader.

39 thoughts on “Dealing with guilt, anger, non-productivity as a scientist

  1. Well done Dr. Isha. You have unveiled the untouched issues every researcher is undergoing and presented the problems with the possible solutions. These are those hidden feelings which are never discussed or generally ignored among scientific fraternities. I emphasize every reader to go through the article as it is not just a piece of writing. In my viewpoint, motivation is that catalyst which helps you not only to succeed the planned goals but the unplanned also. I think the article is a masterpiece and definitely a catalyst to motivate someone to get rid of inner guilt of underperforming.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So thoughtful….Do what is right, not what is easy nor what is popular..
    Just remember you are brave then you belive stronger then you seems and wiser then you think…..💐🙏👍🏻

    Like

  3. What an incredible writing Isha. Believing in oneself, not cowing down, and Also doing what is right are important characteristics to be firm and stand tall no matter what comes. The very fact that you have endured so far, is already telling the world that YOU ARE A WINNER. NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice post. Having a healthy conversation with the mentor is very important. The research matters, so do ourselves. Research mental problems are neglected by the majority. Do something you like is very important. Keep going.

    Like

  5. Having just transitioned from academia to industry, I can certainly relate to many of the emotions in this post. I was fortunate to have a pretty good experience in academia, but it’s nearly impossible to go through any academic career and not be exposed to the major issues that continue to manifest in that world.

    Like

  6. Yes, it is right, we have to take the charge of our own life. It is important to live life blissfully and without charge it is not possible.

    Like

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