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.

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