Go students! But in solidarity

UK Uncut Demonstration 041210 by ucloccupation via FlickrThe ethics of Gen Y

I am puzzling over the ethics of our youth.  That’s not unusual, of course.  By an accident of history, I am a typical Gen Xer.  I drink water and carry a laptop. I’m highly independent and anyone not quite ‘up to it’ receives a glance of disapproval that is the hallmark of my generation.

Gen Y’ers elsewhere

I’ve also lived in a country where the Gen Y’ers clashed  magnificently with the old guard who reminded them constantly of history. “We fought for your privileges”, said the old guard.  “Toughs”, said the youngsters, “give us more. And NOW!”

Little emperors, indeed.

Student action in UK November 2010

The student action along Oxford Street of the moment are interesting.  So many students are not there.  We look around our universities and wonder.  Not even self-interest can get them out.

But self-interest has got some out.  Are they really ethical though?  Are they pouting because they have been excluding from the loot and pillage of the economy?  Or do they really care about a well run society and are they prepared to run society well in exchange for a fair and decent wage?

Solidarity is the ethical test of politicians

The test is in solidarity.  Let’s see what alliances are formed and let’s see how easily they are bought off.  How many of the leaders would join Top Shop tomorrow if given a graduate management position?

The test is in solidarity and I am hoping (against hope) that they will take the lead in mapping the issues that face the UK today.

But beware: Politics is about results not motives

But then an old politicial science professor said to me once: In politics motivation doesn’t matter.  Only results matter.

Unless students have a clear ethical position and  a map of the alliances they want to forge, they will find their energy quickly coopted to other causes.

It happened to other generations who were smug and complacent. It can happen to them too because that is politics.

We are waiting to see.  Hoping but waiting.  I hope their political science professors have taught them well.

The deep challenge for an ethical positive psychologist

.  .  .  this is all, this is perfect, this is it .  .  .

Words from my friend Anand Raj .  .  .

I had a great sense of relief when I read those words.  But in other times and other places these words would have driven me to suicide.  They would have heightened my panic.  I found the place unacceptable and any conversation I had with anyone needed to begin from that sentiment.

Positive psychology and despair

Because I’ve had these soul-destroying moments in past lives, I have deep doubts about some aspects of positive psychology.

I suspect the best that a positive psychologist can do when someone is deeply miserable is to AVOID theorizing.

I suspect our theory is little more than our distaste for someone else’s misery.  So our garrulous ways add to the alienation and horror felt by our companion.  And thus, is unethical if not immoral.

We need to walk-the-talk and keep the conversation on every aspect of the situation that is positive.   Gradually, we might be able to help a person out of their dark place.

Leading when life is dark

And when life is dark for us too, maybe the best we can do is to exercise leadership.

It is not helpful, IMHO, to deny that we are in a dark place.  We need to walk-the-talk, pay active attention to real threats, and take active steps to protect ourselves.  We need to focus on positive aspects – not to cheer people up but because of the genuine merits of those things – and highlight whatever is under our control.

From that appreciation, we may be able to move forward.

But leadership must be active and sincere – even from a psychologist working for money.  It’s not enough to talk about the people we lead.  We must share the journey.

The post I had planned for this morning is more cheerful.  I’ll post that this evening!

What psychologists can learn from social media

Still rapt

Image by bowbrick via Flickr

Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion

I was trained as a psychologist and I ultimately trained thousands more in the same tradition.

To qualify as a psychologist, in most jurisdictions, we are required to master the art of the “lab report”.  I had done A level Physics, so the format wasn’t unfamiliar to me.  Indeed, the whole rigmarole was based on 19th century physics which psychologists were copying madly.

I don’t think it is bad thing to learn to write a lab report.  I studied Latin too.  Disciplined methodical thinking is important and if you learn how to follow one method, you realize that you can learn to follow any method.  And it is much much easier for students to write up experiments and surveys than handle qualitative studies which are usually too demanding for the 20% 6 month load that most students have allotted to the task.

Holistic Thinking

That said, we have to unlearn a little too.  Psychology leaves us two unfortunate ways of thinking. We are analytical – we break people into parts.  And we are trained to believe that what we are studying is separate from us – a thing.  Most unfortunate when we are talking about people.

A few years after we qualify, we generally stumble over the insight that we have to retrain ourselves to look at a set of data, not as data, as but as a person with hopes and fears, history and future, and most of all a purpose and morality that is not a reflection of our purpose in the interaction.

Even harder to do, is to understand that we are not separate from the person we are “testing”, “counseling”, or “coaching”.  We have our own stories, yes.  But why should ours be sacrosanct or privileged and totally unaffected by the person with whom we are working?  And, can that ever be?  Can it ever be that two people in the same room, or reading a blog post written by another, don’t share some past and importantly some future?

What psychologists can learn from social media

We are affected by our clients.  In the realm of social media, marketers are struggling with the same idea.  I found this excellent quote:

“To succeed in Web 2.0, your site cannot be an optional layer added to people’s lives.  It must be inserted directly into the lives of the consumer.”

If we we are in their lives, how can it be that they are not in ours?

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“we” and “they” in psychology

A good way to test a psychological theory is to ask: does it “do something to you” or does it help you to find “your place in the family of things” (Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese)?

UPDATE:  I saw today a post on what we type into Google.  It seems that when we type “is it wrong to”, we are making a personal decision.
When we type “is it unethical to”, we are talking about nothing in particular.  Or at best, what other people should be doing!

Today I wrote a post about your psychologist being 100% on you side.  Make sure they are!