Monday, 30 November 2009
While driving last Friday, I was listening to a phone-in on workplace bullying. Something all too common. I reflected on various experiences through my varied working life.
I never experienced any bullying on the maternity unit, but I'm sure hospitals are not immune. As they are now managed as businesses by business managers, I feel sure that there will be more problems than there were 30 years ago.
I first came across serious bullying on the shopfloor in retailing. One particular young department manager was only able to assert his seniority in nasty ways. A particular method I remember well, was when he would wait for the section manger to leave the shop floor for lunch, give them time to go upstairs and order food and then ask for a tannoy announcement to be made for them to come back down to the shop floor. It was so predictable you could set your watch by him.
I was told that, as he was my senior I had to respect him. I said that he had to earn my respect. I was then told that he had difficulty with me, because I had a posh voice! Bullies have feelings of emotional inadequacy. They certainly lack emotional intelligence.
But the real eye opener into bullying in the workplace came when I worked as a psychotherapist in the occupational heath department of a large local authority. (Not York)
I was employed to work once a week for a month, to see a few of the long term sick. Due to the efficacy of the Human Givens approach (www.hgi.org.uk) I was able to help the majority and in turn, they returned to work. Good results meant that I was asked to see more people and I ended up working two days a week, seeing all levels of staff and the occ. health nurses themselves.
As someone who chose never to work in an office environment if I could help it, I begun, over the months, to put together a picture of how certain problems developed. I put it to the Health and Safety Manager that a pattern was emerging. When I described it, they agreed with me.
1. Someone was over promoted to a management postion. This was either because they had been in the office for a long time or there was some personal favouritism. They received little training for their new position.
2. The common denominator was that for various reasons, these particular members of staff were 'out of their depth', but couldn't admit it or ask for advice.
3. They started to feel pressure from above and the waterfall effect occurred. They dumped their stress, on whoever was junior to them. It may have stopped there or gone further down.
4. Someone junior to them would commit a minor misdemeanor. Instead of a gentle talk about the incident, the manager jumped in immediately with a disciplinary action. Because they were not well trained, they had no idea of what ball they had started rolling...and once rolling they couldn't stop it.
5. The person on the receiving end was in shock, if not traumatised, at the consequenses of the severity of the action and 'went sick'.
6. Short-term sick became long term sick and the authority started to look for ways to dismiss them.
I slowly realised that HR wanted the long term sick to leave, preferbly worn out by the hoops they were being forced to jump through. I had put a spanner in the works, by not only helping the long term sick back into work, but now wanting to highlight the problem of lack of training for mangers. I was told, in no uncertain terms, to just see the people and not question anything.
I couldn't stand by and keep quiet. This was not well received and one day, the notorious HR bully found an excuse to take me aside and give me the 'treatment'. This consisted of being given no notice of a meeting and being wrong footed by false accusations. Some of the people I had seen in the clinic were traumatised by this type of action. After my meeting, I could understand why. There was an independent witness, but they had their job to hold on to.
Through the meeting I remained composed outwardly, but was screaming inwardly. As emotional arousal can cause stupidity, I knew better than to 'lose it', however much I was being provoked. The next day, the HR manager called me. "We were impressed how you held it together." "You *******", I thought, "you tried so hard to make me collapse like the others, but I wouldn't."
I am of the belief that we can and should learn from all experiences, good and bad. It certainly can be grim at the time, because it can be very unfair. It's a cliche, but that's life isn't it? Hearing adults saying, "it's not fair" in a whining voice, always makes me wonder about their emotional development. The last time I heard those words about to come out of my mouth, I stopped!
I certainly have learnt that many managers/bosses, who are emotionally immature due to life long feelings of inadequacy, can cause mayhem in the workplace, however clever they may be. The knock-on effects are low morale, loss of productivity and loss of a great deal of money to the business /organisation.
There is also too little knowledge of how the brain learns, which leads to unrealistic expectations from those learning new processes.
The horrible meeting experience certainly held me in good stead when, some time later I found myself in a similar position, but in a different environment. This was more of an unannounced kangeroo court. Again, I remained as composed and adult as I could be on the outside, but screaming like toddler at the unfairness of it all, on the inside. The main interrogator gave themselves away when they said, " We don't understand why you are so confident", (despite their bullying manner).
I had learnt and learnt well. It did knock the stuffing out of me for a time, but, as I was told 25 years ago in Waitrose, the greatest quality a manager needs is resilience. I thought it strange at the time, but don't now. It's resilience against other people's immaturity.
I would suggest that that greatest quality a manager needs is emotional intelligence.
Friday, 20 November 2009
My parents are in nursing homes. Due to getting divorced 45 years ago, my father is in London and my mother is in Dorset. Thank goodness I have a sister to share the care.
My 91 year old father was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago and given a six month prognosis. Somehow, he is still going, with the deterioration being more physical, rather than mental (other than a troublesome lifelong religious obsession). Though there have been recent signs that mild confusion is setting in.
My mother is soon to be 89. Her deterioration has been the through the slow onset of dementia over some years, probably triggered by a head injury she suffered, after a fall.
Sitting with both parents over many hours and also observing other residents, has given me plenty of time to observe differing and changing behaviours. It's been interesting to note where the brain cell damage appears to have occurred and what emotional reactions come to the fore.
Neuroscientific findings on the ageing brain will provide the finer detail, but the increasing inability for the brain to hold short term memories, while holding on to the long term ones is well documented.
Often the expression used to explain some behaviours in old age, is 'second childhood'. Certainly, in relation to physical needs, life appears to go full circle. As someone once said to me, " I used to be a daughter, but I'm a mother now and I don't like it." Increasing physical dependance is well known in the sick and elderly, but what really interests me, is when I see old emotional behaviour being played out. If my mother is describing a pleasant childhood memory, she does it in a little girl's voice and language that appears to reflect the emotion felt the time. Fortunately, while sometimes repetitive, it is not difficult behaviour to manage.
My father, on the other hand, is known to have a filthy temper. He can get angry when frustrated. As he increasingly loses control over his life, the frustration increases, as do the shows of temper. But for decades, I have called his outbursts 'temper tantrums' , because that is how I see them. It isn't just about shouting and sulking, the outbursts are physical too. It's about throwing, hitting, slamming, etc:
In recent times, this has led to nurses and doctors, not knowing the history, wondering whether the cancer has spread to his brain. There is no evidence as yet. But I have had to explain to the nursing home staff, that his outbursts are lifelong and have suggested that they are the temper tantrums of the spoilt, indulged, only child - which he once was.
Last weekend, a new staff nurse told me that father had got cross when she had reminded him to take his medication. A book was thrown across the room at her, together with the loud instruction to "get out". Not knowing what I had told the other staff, I reassured her that whilst not pleasant, this was not unusual. She then admitted to me that she had stood her ground, said she wasn't going anywhere and that he was behaving like a spoilt child.
Spot on, I told her.
As I regularly watch the other residents in both homes, I am fascinated by the emotions and behaviours on display. I feel sure that a way into the psyche of a demented person and thus into understanding and helping fulfill their needs, could be through the emotions they show. So many people, whether demented or not, are judged, rather than understood. A great many people showing distress are spoken to, as if they are 'in the present', where I strongly believe that finding the small child, they once were, may hold some clues into how to understand and manage them.
The seeming randomness of confusion could be understood better too, if there was a greater understanding of 'waking dreams'. I have seen my father wake up and believe that whatever he was dreaming about was real. While this is something known in psychosis as 'dreaming realitity' , I'm not sure how recognised it is in elderly care.
This week my father was concerned about a cake he had put in the oven. So I entered his reality and checked it's progress for him. As he continued to express concern about the cooking time, I went out of the room, then returned telling him I had taken it out and it was cooling on a rack. He was happy. At lunch he told another resident that he had made a cake. Then he stopped, looked wistful and said, " I think I made it in my sleep".
Spot on, I think.
For at least ten years I have been forecasting a future problem with increasing cases of dementia. The subject is now finally hitting the headlines and seen worthy of government discussion.
What I haven't seen in print, but may have missed it, is the concern I have expressed about the ageing brain and the use of drugs from the 1960s onwards. I hope I'm wrong, but while we already know about alcohol induced dementia, I don't think we've even begun to see the damaging consquenses of drug use on the developing brain.
Thursday, 19 November 2009
A new book has been published. ‘Never Kiss in a Canoe: Words of wisdom from the Golden Age of Agony Aunts by Tanith Carey. It is a collection of some of answers given by agony aunts over the last hundred years.
From the distance of years, the letters make for mostly amusing reading, but tinged with sadness. The advice was what was thought best at the time and by people who hoped they were helping others. It’s no different today. So, in decades to come, will today’s problem pages be laughed at? If my own thoughts recorded here ever surface, will people laugh at my opinions?
From Modern Woman, 1929.
Q: Do you believe that petting a child is bad for it?
A: Yes, decidedly I do. a child gets very much attached to Mother (or Nurse) who feeds and baths it. It should be the mother’s aim to prevent the child getting too attached to her and fondling the child too often has the opposite effect.
The child who gets all the fondling is always looking for it in everybody and it is miserable without it.
The adult who is always recounting his ills and looking for sympathy is the outcome of too much cuddling in childhood. That is why psychologists say too much mother love is harmful.
We can find it amusing to read, but there's a serious side to this advice. With over 40 years of experience, children who are 'looking for fondling in others', are doing so because their fundamental need for affection and touch has NOT been met within the close family. Quite the opposite to being met too much.
We can laugh (or cry) at how outdated this advice is. Is it? Last year I attended a family conference with social workers and foster parents. The discussion was of how inappropriate an 8 year old boy's behaviour was with the temporary foster mother. The foster mother, who was of a slim build, reported that the boy wanted to sit on her lap and snuggle into her chest. I was horrified as the discussion continued. I suggested that as the birth mother had a capacious bosom and the boy enjoyed cuddles with his mum, that he was in fact, in his confused state, looking for some comfort from his foster mum. Not that his behaviour meant that he should be put on a sex register. The conversation stopped. The 'professionals' looked at me. It was obvious that no-one had even considered this as a possibility. There was a shuffling of papers and the discussion moved on. I feel that there is something crucially missing from their training.
There is another side to the argument though. Those children who may have had their needs met, but in a more 'unhealthy' way, can have difficulty adjusting emotionally as adults.
It doesn't take too much of a leap of imagination, to see what may happen if these unmet childhood needs are carried into adulthood. I've taken this subject a little further on the website www.yorkhumangivens.co.uk. Click on Chasing Rainbows - Audio/Text 12. Relationships.
The audio/text is not about my thoughts of male and female or those readers who may be wondering what I might be suggesting, yes, I do think for the majority, the adult problem will be about needs for affection and love either not met or met unhealthily as children. The emotional growth has been stunted as a result, maybe through a level of trauma to the brain. Of course, as in most behaviours, there then is the interesting matter on why some people who have experienced trauma appear 'damaged' for life and some are not. My thoughts on that subject are for another time.
Advice on the treatment of medical and psychological disorders changes over the decades. Treatments that were considered 'the latest cure' are shown later to be highly dangerous and life limiting. It's the way of the world, but it doesn't mean that those who can, shouldn't question the maintream and shout out a little louder than the rest. This is what I'm trying to do in a small way and so are the people in the Human Givens Institute. (www.hgi.org.uk)
So often it's many of the 'intelligensia' that don't like being challenged, especially in the world of psychology. They appear frightened of stepping out of line. When homes and jobs are at risk, it can be understandable. But often it's do with vulnerable egos. For most medical experts, it is a given that they should be aware of the latest developments in their chosen field. Sadly for psychology, it isn't so. The profession is tightly controlled by the pharmacutical companies, as well as using some practices that are well past their sell by date.
Tuesday, 17 November 2009
IQ - Intelligence Quotient
EQ - Emotional Quotient, also know as EI - Emotional Intelligence.
We live in a world where IQ rules. Babies are encouraged to 'show off' how bright they are, toddlers are sat in front of educational DVDs that are supposed to increase their intelligence and children are judged on their work, as soon as they get into school.
EQ/EI is a newer understanding of brain function and it's significance in human behaviour is still underestimated, undervalued and undertaught. As too many elements of society appear to stay infantalised and increasingly unhappy, this needs to be addressed.
By the time a child reaches their teenage years, they will have a well developed belief as to whether they are 'intelligent' or 'stupid'. This belief will have been formed on the information they have received from their teachers, parents, siblings and peer group. It may well be in conflict to the reality. Many people, who are on paper 'intelligent', think they are stupid and many people labelled 'stupid' have an inkling that they may not be. Lives are spent battling with beliefs well past their sell by date.
What they do with this belief as they chronologically, physically and intellectually grow up into adulthood, will all depend on how well they emotionally grow up.
A classic story I often tell, comes from a workshop I held in Australia in 2004. At the end, a middle aged man with depression, said, " Now I understand. When I was at primary school, a teacher would stand behind me and say, "Collins, you are slow, but sure. Slow to learn and sure to fail". As a result whenever I've looked at starting anything in life, I've always thought I'd fail, so didn't attempt anything." No wonder he'd had life full of depression up to that point.
I don't know what Mr Collin's IQ was, but I am sure that he was capable of achieving something that would give him satisfaction and use his innate resources. I do know though, that his EQ wasn't all it could be. Some of his emotional brain was stuck as that frightened small boy in school. As an adult he hadn't learnt to stop being emotionally hijacked by the childhood memories and 'grow up'.
I will be returning to this particular angle of emotional maturity over the weeks. I have mentioned it today because of two very different news reports.
1. Dr Edward Erin has been imprisoned for poisoning his pregnant lover, in an attempt to induce an abortion. At 44, Dr Erin was a hospital consultant, a lecturer, a clinical research fellow and ran a multi million pound property empire with his wife.
Dr Erin probably possesses a high IQ.
The judge said, "the trial process has exposed you, stripped off your flummery, as a liar, a cheat and a predator. One part of you is a doctor caring for his patients. But the other part is self centered, vainglorious and irresponsible. It is no surprise that in addition to your chaotic emotional life, your clinical research is under scrutinity as lacking depth and validity. You are clever, but also devious and dishonest. You inhabited a fantasy world"
I suggest that Dr Erin possesses a lower EQ than IQ. It may or may not have anything to do with it, but Dr Erin's father is a leading chest consultant in Wales. Is Dr Erin an intelligent adult, but emotionally a little boy at times? I think so.
2. A well known anonymous call girl, with the psydonym of Belle de Jour, spent many years writing a blog called ' Diary of a London call girl'. Such was the fame of this blog, that there was a memoir published and a TV film made. No-one knew who she really was. Her blog was full of tales of a variety of sexual activities with hundreds of men at £300 a time.
Until this week. Belle de Jour has owned up to really being 34 year old Dr Brooke Magnanti, a neurotoxicologist and research scientist. Dr Magnanti says that as a medical student she decided that rather than get into debt, she would earn money as a call girl.
I suggest that Dr Magnanti possesses a lower EQ than IQ. It may or may not have anything to do with it, but Dr Magnanti's estranged father used drugs and call girls and introduced some of the girls to her when she was a teenager. Is she an intelligent adult, but emotionally a little girl at times? I think so.
Monday, 16 November 2009
It's not often that a news story reduces me to tears. We become hardened to scenes of death, violence and hardship on TV, unless we have a personal attachment of some sort. Then our emotional brain is triggered in to action.
Last night, just before I went to bed, there was a story about the children taken from England to Australia, between 1930 and 1970, as part of the Child Migrant's programme. The reason was for a supposedly better life than the one they were experiencing in the UK, but in the majority of cases it led to a life of abuse, neglect and abandonment.
One woman, aged between 50-60, was interviewed. She was extremely distressed and begged to be able to to afford come to the UK and meet family. With tears streaming down her face, she exclaimed that she just wanted to know she belonged and was loved. My tears flowed too.
I immediately though of the list of emotional needs we need to have met, in order to not only survive in life, but to thrive. These needs form the foundations of the Human Givens psychological approach, that I studied ten years ago eg; The need for love, attention, security, fun & friendship, sense of achievement, control, community and meaning and purpose.
As a child, the Australian woman and so many thousands of other children hadn't had their emotional needs met and in that adult woman's voice, I heard a child crying for help to get her missing needs met. To belong and to be loved.
I went to bed and reprimanded myself for watching the news before bedtime. Something I had stopped doing in order to get a better night's sleep. I lay in bed and tossed and turned for over two hours. Old memories had been triggered and I couldn't get the images out of my head.
From 1967 -1969, I trained as a nursery nurse in a children's home for the under 5s, in Windsor, Berkshire. It was a respectable place and very well run by the Church of England Children's Society. There was one babies section of the home and two toddler/children sections. About 30-40 children in total. The children were well cared for and I have plenty of photos of smiling, well dressed and clean, boys and girls. The trainee nursery nurses were loving and caring.
Over 40 years I've often wondered what happened to the children, but until the small hours of this morning, I had never really given any thought to the fact that those children spent the first five years of their life having some of their fundamental needs unmet. The staff changed every few months, as we moved around during the training and we were all dressed in nurse's uniforms. There were also very few men around.
The odds are that some of the children will be drawn to uniforms, in getting their adult intimate needs met and they won't know why. Many will be trying desperately to get their unmet childhood needs met, but failing - over and over again. Again, will they really know why?
As memories flooded my wide awake mind, I was taken back to the early 50s. My mother had to go away with my grandmother. My sister and I were left in a 'holiday home', run by the best nannie's college in the UK. Norlands in Chislehurst, Kent. A posh children's home in fact. I stayed when I was 2 and 4 years old, just for a few days each visit.
Even though I was so young, I still hold a few images of playing in the garden, seeing a nurse with my baby sister and walking in a crocodile line, but don't remember anything unpleasant happening at all. Nor do I think I've repressed anything, but would I know? What I do know, is that I didn't like watching through the window, as my mother walked away. But years later, at 17 years old, I steadfastly refused to even entertain going to Norlands for nursery nurse training and even now I still have a frisson of totally irrational dislike, if I hear the name, Chislehurst.
If that was my reaction, I can't help but wonder how many of the Windsor home's children have been able to grow up emotionally after their experiences? They may have succeeded in different fields, but how many may still be searching for what doesn't exist? Was I looking for something when I chose childcare as an occupation?
As for the Australians, even if they do manage to get over here and meet family, they will never ever get their childhood back. Maybe an obvious thing to say, but too many people will be trying to do exactly that and wondering why they feel so let down and disappointed afterwards.
Sunday, 15 November 2009
On Radio York I was asked to comment on the news item about nurses, who will have to take a three year degree to qualify. My heart sank at this news.
In my maternity nursing days, there were nursing auxilleries doing the domestic tasks on the wards, SENs (State Enrolled Nurses) who undertook limited nursing duties and SRNs (State Registered Nurses), who were fully qualified nurses. SENs were removed some years ago and as a result a whole strata of care and I mean 'care' was removed from the wards. Nursing auxiliaries became nursing assistants and were meant to do more of the SEN's work.
It was obvious to many who worked in hospitals that standards of care would drop for two reasons. 1. Not enough nursing assistants 2. Too many SRN nurses, who wouldn't do certain tasks they felt 'beneath' them. Perhaps I should add that top heavy management and removing the matron, proved to be unhelpful too, but that is slowly being rectified.
Why did my heart sink at nurses having to take degrees and what has it to do with emotional maturity?
Despite the reassurances from the RCN (Royal College of Nursing), I maintain there will be too many nurses, who have slogged their way through a three year degree, who will not be willing, if necessary, to attend to the patient's/ward's needs, if no-one else is available. It would challenge their feelings of self worth, which are built on emotional maturity.
I am also concerned that the higher qualified person, if inwardly not very confident and hanging on to immature feelings, may also not want to admit that they may be wrong in certain situations. In hospitals this can lead to life threatening decisions. The statistics for deaths in hospitals are way too high already. It happens already and is likely to get worse. Unless these nurses receive training in emotional intelligence as well as all the academic subjects.
This behaviour occurs in many different workplaces, not just hospitals.
I always find the weekend papers a rich source of examples of emotionally immature behaviour. Sometimes it comes in the description of someone by a journalist and sometimes from a person's description of their own behaviour.
It has been widely reported over the years that Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester Utd manager is a bully. Bullies are emotionally immature and should be confronted. I know this is easier said than done if threatened with violence, loss of job etc:
It would appear that Alex Ferguson's alleged bullying of referees has finally reached the point, where the referees have had enough and have stood up to him.
I liked what Piers Morgan wrote about it today's Mail on Sunday:
" Then the men in black finally stood up to him and punched him back...Their fear's gone, so has their respect..."
" Wayne Rooney's been moaning that Colleen won't let him change nappies. If Sir Alex keeps chucking his toys out of the pram, perhaps Wayne can change the gaffer's."
Says it all.
Friday, 13 November 2009
At 8.30am on September 23rd, I suddenly remembered I hadn't filled in the Radio York events form promoting the York Ebor Soroptimist's Water Aid stall. I was due to leave for London, but as Radio York is in same road, I decided to make a quick detour.
The young woman who answered the door turned out to be Jonathan Cowap's producer, Katie. After some small talk about the plinth, because Jonathan had been on it on July, she asked whether I would be interested in being a 'Weekender' on a future Friday's programme.
Two weekenders, one man, one woman join Jonathan for a chat about the week's events over 40 minutes. I told her that I would be interested.
And that is how I spent my time between 1 -2pm today. Can't believe how many subjects we covered in that time.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p001d7g3 About 1.50pm (110 mins on tape) Available until 19th November.
Without overdoing it, I managed to mention of the human givens approach, the York practice, impulsive behaviour, actions and consequenses, emotional arousal preventing clear thinking and inappropriate prescribing of medication.
Slowly, slowly...this is just the start.
In 2004 I wrote a blog for my website: www.yorkhumangivens.co.uk. The blog was a report on a speaking tour in Australia I undertook with a friend and colleague, Sue Hansich. I thought about continuing it back in the UK, but never got round to it, though I did write and broadcast podcasts.
Two events this summer meant that I started serious blogging again in August.
1. I was chosen to be part of the 4th plinth project in Trafalgar Square on September 26th.
2. I am renovating a cottage with my husband, Adrian and he was away working in Australia, so it was a good way to keep him (and the family) to keep in touch with progress.
I have mentioned podcasts. These are called 'Chasing Rainbows' and can be found on the website and Itunes. They are on the theme of adult emotional maturity or why do adults sometimes behave like children?
It has always been my aim to publish a book on the subject, but family events have intruded into my time, so no book - yet. Though I have got as far as having a proposal to send out to interested parties.
So why have I started this blog this morning?
Well, at 1.15pm I am due to be on BBC Radio York, to take part in a general discussion on the week's events. At 9am I discovered that my website link was down. As I started to sort that out, I realised my Google information was out of date and when was I updating that, my mind turned to a blog and here I am...