Caring for life

Are you a caring person? Would your friends describe you as ‘touchy, feely’? It would be entirely predictable for the answers to these questions to be ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

Does that mean you are deluded? No. It is simply the difference between your self-image and your behaviour (which dictates how others experience you). Typically our self-image is how we would like to be seen. Understanding how others see us takes a lot of hard work, without which our self-descriptions are unlikely to be very accurate.

This article about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test makes the point. It quotes the iconoclastic British psychologist, Kevin Kingsland, who points out that the MBTI is not designed to measure anything …

“… (it) does not tell us about peoples personalities. It is a force-choice self report questionnaire that tells us about an individuals private preferences … We learn nothing about what they are like. … the questionnaire’s answers may have little relationship to behaviour.”

This distinction came to mind as I listened to a discussion about problems with the NHS on this mornings Today programme. The thrust of the interview was that nursing qualifications have become too academic, with not enough emphasis on ‘caring ‘qualities’. This is not new and was the subject of the Care Quality Commission Report last year, but, clearly, comprehension is missing.

Kingsland’s Spectrum Theory is a profound, multi-perspective, fractal theory of the person. One aspect of it clarifies between those of us with a stronger disposition towards Cognitive development, those towards Affective development and those towards Behavioural development (Thinking, Feeling and Doing).

It seems obvious that a bureaucratic, Oxbridge educated civil-service with a cognitive perspective, will believe that ‘better’ qualifications translates into ‘academic’ qualifications. This would be a natural conclusion for them. Add in selection processes based on tests like MBTI and you have a recipe for disaster.

Just the kind of disaster that leads to the obscenity of elderly people being left to lie in soiled beds or be attacked while in care. Today’s Independent exclusively reports on a finding that basic errors by medical staff in the NHS are killing over 1000 people a month – that’s right – over 12,000 a year.

These are not institutional problems – they are human problems. The individuals in charge are people – but are they there because they care or because they think they care; or perhaps because it’s just a job? Have we become too remote from each other? Do we have time to care?

As a society we live in fear, change our way of life and spend hundreds of billions of pounds protecting ourselves from supposed external threats like terrorism. Yet the UK’s independent reviewer of terrorist threats finds that we are more likely to die from a bee sting than a terrorist. Which has always been the case.

Given the Independent’s report, it looks like the NHS is an infinitely greater threat to the UK population than al-Qaeda.

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