Saturday, 23 April 2011

It's always nice to know someone is checking on you

I did a watercolour doodle in the back garden yesterday. I was lost in flow in the sunlight and it was bliss. My husband took a look at it declaring, 'I like to keep an eye on windows showing your state of mind now and then.' His verdict. No change. Phew - I'm stable.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

FoodCycle Norwich Launch

Last night the charity I am one of the project leaders for: FoodCycle

had it's official launch. We had TV cameras and newspaper reports covering us and overall it really was a great success.

However, one thing is niggling me. And here I express it....

Everyone assumes that because something is free, it must be aimed solely at those in need. The media assumed this and most people I talk to assume this. (The reality is that we only ever get a handful of 'those really in need' attend each meal. They are very welcome and it's great that they attend.) However, I have a suspicion that because getting things for free is so against our social conditioning and expectations - it is so unusual - that many people feel there should be an excuse for receiving - such as disadvantage.

It was a bit like when I tried to give away twelve pound coins to strangers. I didn't get on very well there because what I was doing was so counter culture:
You can't give it away...

When we hold our meals each Friday night, the buzz in the venue is always fantastic. Everyone appears to be genuinely touched and appreciative of the giving that is happening. And the people that receive do so in the way it is intended - with warmth. (Quite often people have a flicker of guilt for 'taking' that fortunately usually manifests in a need to offer themselves as volunteers for subsequent meals!) And for me, personally, this is a huge part of what FoodCycle is about: a blatant demonstration of 'giving' and if we can infect enough people with this bug - the world will certainly be an even better place!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Hard wiring

I remember thinking about the nature/nurture argument as a young teenager and concluding everything was nurture. I suspect this was because my inexperienced mind did not fully comprehend that other people were or could be different from me. I thought we all started with the same blank canvas and life painted its stuff all over it.

Then as I grew up with a natural fascination in people, my view became slightly more sophisticated. The blank canvas does not exist of course (der)! A person pops into this life with their own unique blueprint that life fiddles a little with. I think different blueprints would cope with the same life completely differently but different lives fiddle with the same blueprint less significantly.

So I'm very much a believer in 'nature' these days! Why?

1) I had kids and their blueprints were apparent long before they could talk.
2) I remember someone who had worked in mental health for years telling me how studies of severely abused children always demonstrated that about a third of these children grew up with no apparent impact of their terrible experiences. This was because this third had a blueprint that meant they could cope with all the horrible stuff people had thrown at them.
3) It's just obvious isn't it!

So now I look at evidence of people's hard wiring and I'm really jealous of some people - particular two types of hard wiring:

High agreeableness
(as in The Big 5)

People with high levels of agreeableness can seem to those with much lower levels as all-giving, selfless, mugs! But research has shown that those with high levels of agreeableness are generally much happier people. They are those people that never have a bad word to say about ANYONE and always assume the best of everyone. They simply don't see other people's darknesses or shortfalls. Or if they do, it's not a big focus or concern. 'They're a git, let's move on'. These people are wonderful in my opinion. I might be biased because I married one. I probably needed to!!!!

Low neuroticism
(also as in The Big 5)

These people are just not wired up to worry or experience as many negative feelings as those with higher levels. O.K. it can mean that they are completely blasé about taking risks but they are emotionally stable and naturally resilient. That must make life very easy!

And when psychologists talk about these two traits and try to suggest that both high and low levels bring strengths (i.e. we're all great), their arguments for the pluses of high neuroticism and low agreeableness never quite cut it for me! (Especially as extremely high neuroticism is linked to poor mental health and extremely low agreeableness linked to an increased chance of being a psychopath!)

I am not suggesting I am really low on agreeableness or high in neuroticism, but if I come here again, I am queueing up for my blueprint to be tweaked a bit!