The 1944 French novel “Huis Clos” (trans: “No Exit”), by existentialist Jean Paul-Sartre, was required reading in many French (and English) college curricula. The play essentially reminds us that there is no greater hell than being trapped with other people and entrapped in our own mistakes.
The play takes place in the afterlife, in which three individuals, guilty of sins within their own lives, are now trapped in a small room…together for eternity. Each learns that hell for them is not physical torture, but it is the eternal damnation of being placed in endless and inescapable proximity of our own failures.
Each character in the novel deals with the struggle to see oneself as a flawed object of our own design.
We have an analogue with prison. Individuals are punished by being confined to an institution, quite often with others that would never be of their choosing. And if their behavior further deviates from the norm, they are placed in solitary confinement, where their only company is themselves, their fears and their longings.
In our own lives, this is not unlike being admitted to a hospital for surgery. We relinquish many rights. We have no independence. We are relegated to what we wear, where we stay and what we eat, while being reminded of our financial obligation and the mandate that we comply with orders. We deal with this by reminding ourselves that it is only for a little while, it will pass, it will become a dim memory, and on the other side of it all, we shall feel better.
Many injured workers are placed in a “No Exit” situation. Choices of daily living are reduced by financial and physical limitations. They make few choices, feel unsupported by former coworkers and often by family. Emotional resources are strained. Satisfaction becomes infrequent or non-existent. There are unkept promises of physical improvement, frequent uncertainty as to the physical cause of their suffering, and often no assurance that there will be improvement suffient for them to return to normal work.
There is often no exit from injury into new work. There is no exit from debt. Conflicts within the household may not be resolved. Relationships become brittle and abrasive.
Choices are made for the injured worker, not by him.