Monday, 22 April 2013

Are Ya Playin' Yaself?

I haven't started with a video in a long time, so first of all, this is a great track - Ya Playin' Yaself by Jeru the Damaja - and a cracking video:

To me, the message of the song is keep true to yourself, and don't "play yourself" - i.e. at the end of the day if you start looking outside yourself for validation too much, then you are at risk of playing yourself or deluding yourself. As the lyrics say

"Knowledge, wisdom and understanding brings long life and health
 Think anything else and ya playin' yaself "

So, what's this to do with politics? Well, I like the Libby Local series of posts on LibDemVoice - the well meaning intention, is, I believe, to show the actions of a fictional, first time council candidate as they campaign, and examine and understand the process.  I like the series and think I understand the spirit it was meant in - not completely perfect, but an idea of what's involved.The most recent installment really set me thinking: Episode 15 - vile politics.

Having read it, I was struck how poor Libby, having just been insulted terribly by Mad Max's literature intentionally slurring her for being overweight, but without mentioning her by name, did a few things - none of which I would have thought conducive to improving her self-esteem about her weight - though they may have made her feel better they didn't really address the issue of her agreeing, internally, with Max's insult.

Libby pointed out to her opponent that she had more support in the pub (external validation) and then went on to "work harder" (which deserves a post of it's own!) and then significantly, encountered a wave of positive external validation about her campaign from the bus driver and passengers, which must have been lovely, but had nothing to do with her negative beliefs about herself that Mad Max tapped into....... Essentially she was avoiding the problem......

I thought this was fascinating and discussed with some others: whatever motivations people have for getting into politics (i.e. often to "make things better") when subjected to negative personal attacks, what are we doing with that hurt? Are we feeling it? Are we working through the negative beliefs about ourselves and addressing them.... Or, are we attempting to mend our self-esteem through action outside of ourselves? It's worth thinking about.

I started to wonder if that was a more regular situation for activists than I thought - that activists and candidates may be attacked on their weak spots (and are probably likely to be) but then go on to suppress, ignore or counter those emotions instead of feeling them?

Let's look at what Libby chose not to say to herself about Max's insult - Not "I'm fat and I don't care" Not, "He's an idiot and I don't care what he says" Not "I may be fat, but I'm funny and attractive and I like myself". She internalises the insult, agrees with it, and THEN seeks to make herself feel better by concentrating on other people loving her.

That, I think, is the dodgy bit. No, it's not all bad that people love her. What is interesting is that that appears to be all she cares about rather than her relationship with herself. 

Plus, I think it's bound to create a few problems along the line. The people love her because they think she's the best choice for Libbyshire, they don't know about all this internal angst, and that can create problems in any relationship - and as discussed before I think there is a relationship between politicans and the electorate

If you look at politics as making the world better, and oneself as a conduit to that through people's needs and wants and you as a mechanism for achieving them in government, then being called fat is your personal issue (and should be resolved as such, by paying attention to your self esteem and your emotions)

It's not for you to link your self esteem to your success in elections and especially not to avoid your emotions and "squash" them by the thought that "these people love me" . I think it may actually be dishonest - to yourself and to the electorate who think you are the best person to fix their potholes, they aren't out to make you feel better about your personal issues.

And what happens if she doesn't get elected - that's a double whammy isn't it - she has to suffer personal attacks AND she finds out the electorate don't "love" her?? Surely that's going to feel twice as bad, plus she may link the two and feel they didn't vote for her because she is fat and feel really, really bad.....

If she does get elected there is still an unresolved issue, she's been hurt by this guy and her self-esteem wounded.....

And finally, when does she actually fix the self-esteem issue in this? When does she realise there IS a self-esteem issue?

So, to come back to the beginning, let's try and be sure we're not playing ourselves?

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Osborne, Thatcher, crying & emotions

My dad liked Margaret Thatcher. Quite a lot. I don't think he'd mind me saying this cos he was fairly unashamed about it whilst she was in power when i was growing up. Yes, am giving away my age a bit, but I was born a few short weeks before she came to power....... My mother, not so much of a fan.

I also grew up in a pit village - my father wasn't a miner but plenty of the families around us were. So when the miners don't seem to have a lot of sympathy for her, I remember why - there wasn't a lot of effort put into retraining them or helping their self-esteem - a point that would probably have engendered scorn from both themselves, and Margaret Thatcher herself, but then things were an almost another age ago.

In fact the time where she came to power, was certainly in the States, the dawn of a new age of psychological literacy, as outlined by M Scott Peck, in the introduction to The Road Less Travelled:

"Had The Road been published twenty years previously, I doubt it would have been even slightly successful. Alcoholics Anonymous did not really get off the ground until the mid-1950s (not that most of the book's readers were alcoholics). Even more important, the same was true for the practice of psychotherapy. The result was that by 1978, when The Road was originally published, a large number of women and men in the United States were both psychologically and spiritually sophisticated and had begun to deeply contemplate "all the kinds of things that people shouldn't talk about. " 
I've started reflecting recently about my thesis that the lack of genuine emotion shown by many politicians is at least in part, the reason why people are becoming less interested in what they say. I believe there are other reasons, of course, such as a more issue-led form of politics rather than a tribal one born by allegiance to a political party, and also media training such as "answer the question you wish had been asked" which just annoys people.

I've been wondering about how much is down to our country's culture of hiding emotions, or even better, taking action to avoid emotions and conflict, but other countries show similar trends of disengagement.

So today's post is about two kinds of emotions and the reactions they appear to produce in people. Both Thatcher and Osborne seem to be criticised for a lack of compassion tho I don't really want to comment here on that, as it's been dealt with more than adequately elsewhere.

But there seems to be a logical fallacy that because they, by others standards, don't seem to demonstrate compassion, they are to be ridiculed or judged as not having emotion (implicit assumption, that it must be fakery or crocodile tears). Much of the media reaction to Osborne's grief and sadness over Thatcher's death, especially seems to be one of ridicule - child-like bullying which seems to just be *Nelson from The Simpsons voice* "HA HA - he's crying". 

What's ludicrous about this appears to be that, through marking them both as fair game due to a lack of compassion, it's therefore OK to have a lack of compassion towards them. 

A second point is with regards to leadership. Throughout my career I've had well-meaning advice that women shouldn't cry in an office. Sheryl Sandberg tho, thinks the opposite, and all power to her - a particularly apt exhortation, you'll hopefully agree....

"Look, I'm not suggesting that the way to get to the corner office is to cry as much as possible. Nobody is going to publish the next Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and say that crying is one of them. But I am saying that it happens. It has happened to me. It has happened to me more than once. It will happen to me again. It happens to other women. Rather than spend all this time beating ourselves up for it, let's accept ourselves. OK, I cried, life went on. And I think that's part of the message of Lean In, like we are human beings, we are emotional beings and we can be our whole selves at work."
As ever, what's sauce for the corporate goose, I'm unsure why it can't be sauce for the political gander.

In conclusion, we're more psychologically literate now, the hiding of emotion and pretending to be something you're not, seem to belong to an age a long way away from us. It harks back to the playground to ridicule people for crying, but there is always someone up for doing it. When will we all, collectively, grow up about our emotions? My generation is the the generation below Thatcher's, with more psychological understanding - when will we begin to see this in our politicians, or in the reaction to them?

Update: It appears the public agree with me - by a large majority.