Better to be very emotionally invested in your PhD or maintain clearer emotional boundaries?

22-Jan-19, 12:39
Avatar for CadmiumRed5
posted about 1 year ago
I think it's really difficult - especially when you're conducting a PhD that you have designed and found funding for yourself - to not get extremely emotionally invested in your PhD. I'm always seeing the attitude that as a PhD student you have to throw yourself entirely into your studies and 'live and breathe' your work. The same attitude also often dominates at post-doc, ECR, lecturer levels and beyond. But with such high levels of mental health problems in academia, is this not an attitude that we should be striving to change?

In my experience, having such an extreme emotional investment in your PhD can be really detrimental to your overall wellbeing and mental health. It makes it nearly impossible to switch off and every trip along the PhD journey feels like a severe personal hit. So many people that I've spoke to agree, but what is the best attitude to adopt instead? Is it better to treat a PhD more like a job and maintain a greater emotional separation? Can you still excel in your PhD with that mindset?

I'm really interested in hearing some views about this! Do you treat it like a job? How do you manage to maintain boundaries? Or do you think that you absolutely should be extremely emotionally invested?
23-Jan-19, 18:34
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 1 year ago
I am massively emotionally invested and wish I wasn't. I find that the PhD work is far more interesting than a lot of other activities, so just become overly dependent on my work for gratification. I think that is the mentality of a lot of researchers, were we are paid to become obsessed over a specific area. Why worry about reality TV or large friendship groups when we can try and solve an interesting problem. It usually turns into me having an existential crisis while making a conference poster at 11pm but again it is far more interesting than playing FIFA (which I used to love). I think a major difference is that I enjoy thinking, I don't want to sit down and turn off, while academia/research is a huge source of thought provoking research

What I am trying to say is academia attracts a certain type of person that likes being mentally stimulated, in my opinion. And therefore we treat our PhDs like a drug and are addicted, in my opinion. If the rest of the world was just as interesting we would be fine.


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