Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Politics and Wellbeing

This is the column from The York Press on Monday, April 6th, 2015.

As the General Election looms, so the media is full of generalisations, or rather, the politicians are. The over use of ‘hard-working families’ has become irritating.  A generalisation is a word or phrase that means nothing, other than how the individual listener or reader is interpreting it. One person’s image of a ‘hard-working family,' will be different from another’s, but it sounds caring.

I have put together a statement from phrases and words I found in today’s newspapers:

Vote for me!  A politician who stands for ‘honesty’ and ’openness’. After this ‘period of austerity,' we have ‘a comprehensive plan’ looking towards ‘a better, balanced future’ for ‘hard-working families’ and ‘thriving local communities’ . With ‘a competitive tax regime’ and ‘business-friendly policies’, we will be ‘reducing crime,'  ‘investing in young people’ and ‘building a better health service’. Which brings me on to the ‘Northern Powerhouse’…
It’s waffle. It can sound impressive, but means little. Delivered with genuine passion, the words can raise emotions in the listener and reader and so influence their thinking. It’s the language of influence and used to great effect by politicians, media and organisations, especially the advertising industry. Without facts though, the words are empty vessels. As we know, it is facts, with which, politicians have most difficulty.

What has all this to do with wellbeing? Which, of course, is another generalisation. Therapy is full of generalisations, from both the client and therapist. People use emotional generalisations to explain a problem. Sadness, anger, loneliness, boredom, hopelessness, pain. Until some facts are provided to support the statements, finding solutions to problems can be challenging. Concentrating on an expressed emotion, a person can remain emotionally aroused, which prevents clear thinking and effective problem-solving. Examining facts can engage the logical brain, enabling a reduction in emotional arousal. This enables greater clarity of thinking and finding solutions.  The same technique can be used in workplace meetings, when the emotional temperature starts to rise. 

In the 1980s, Solution-Focused Brief Therapy introduced ‘The Miracle Question.’ This question can be asked in a variety of ways, but this is the gist: 

You wake up tomorrow morning and a miracle has happened overnight. Your problem has been solved. How do you know? What will be different?

If the answer is, “I will feel happy,' then more questions can be asked to elicit some facts about the situation. “What will you be doing?”  “How would somebody else be able to tell you were feeling different?” Then a goal may be revealed and steps to achieve the goal discussed.  Try it with a personal problem which appears unsolvable or use it to help a friend or family member.

Perhaps we should ask our politicians The Miracle Question?