Dr. David B. Adams – Psychological Blog

Psychology of Illness, Pain, Anxiety and Depression

Default Decisions

default decisions


“A child may say that s/he does not like to read, does not like science or math, and that playing ball is boring. The reality may be that the child has difficulty learning language arts, cannot concentrate sufficiently to perform numerical calculations and/or lacks the coordination for sports. S/he has learned to denigrate and avoid that which does not come easily even though there may be developmental disorders that better explain the learning difficulties.

If a class of 5th grader class was asked which careers each would most like to pursue, few would immediately respond with:

  1. Roofer
  1. Hanging sheetrock
  1. Forklift driving
  1. Assembly line worker
  1. Road crew member

For most of the other labor intensive jobs in which adult workers are injured.

When your concept of an occupational decision is:

  1. “I don’t want to work behind a desk.”
  1. “I want to work independently.”
  1. “I want to be outside.”
  1. “I want to set my own hours.”
  1. “I do not want to be tied to one job or one locale.”
  1. “I don’t like paperwork.”

these default work decisions imply semi-, and oftimes, unskilled work in the absence of a career plan or career path.

Such “default-decisions” do not require education, nor do they assure job security. Labor intensive work eventually takes its toll upon the body, and in most cases, there is no pay when there is no ability to work. These are not career paths with retirement planning and health maintenance as integral parts.

The probability of injury increases in proportion to physical demands, dangerous settings and an aging body. Once injury occurs, the worker who had no concept of savings, retirement or health care needs during the course of job performance, now sees no alternatives for his/her future.

More importantly, if derailed from this default occupation, the worker has no transferable skill set that can be used if there is a permanent and partial disability.

When psychologically evaluating an injured worker, it is important to know not only the educational level but the academic difficulties s/he encountered and whether work-preference has always been tied to specific task avoidance. Often what we interpret as resistance-to-return to work is simply a longstanding fear of failure.

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