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A Bank Holiday muse on Fads and Mockers

Hello there,

Fads and mockers

Hands up who has heard of mindfulness? Emotional intelligence? The learning organisation? Complexity theory? The psychological contract?

Any one of these could be - and indeed is for many - a lifetime's work and mission. As a practising psychologist I am interested in theories and especially their application, but I am also increasingly fascinated by the trends in the attention to, and awareness of, these ideas.

What often goes along with new ideas are gurus. When I worked in a very corporate environment in the eighties, we were shown videos by Tom Peters who wrote In search of excellence. Lately, I keep seeing reference to the Dalai Lama and other teachers and leaders taking a very different stance from those in the go-getting boom years.

How do you distinguish between a lasting idea and a fad? All of the above are very much still going strong. In that sense, none of them are fads. But in terms of how much media coverage they get, the take up by people and organisations and the book sales (and probably now twitter comes into it), they all come and go in our collective consciousness.

In their wake there is often a backlash - maybe counter-research disputing some of the claims, or a disappointment that high expectations were not met. The gurus turned out to be normal human beings and the theories are not always a bite-sized answer to your problems after all. Effectively applying the latest ideas is harder work than we thought or hoped it would be. The whole trend can easily fall off the pedestal and become a thing of mockery.

But in the real world, these things are not either/or. I personally try to incorporate and build on theories over the years to knit together my take on them, and find ways of applying them for myself or clients that makes sense to me (and them). Maybe it would offend some devotees of particular approaches, but I suspect that many of these theories and Next Big Things are all trying to tap into similar urges to understand the world a little better and to make our own experience of it more meaningful, enjoyable and successful (however we define that).

The element I struggle with most professionally is riding that wave of popularity of a concept. Mindfulness is a good example. Both professionally and personally I have been practising mindfulness and reading about it for a couple of years. I am going to see Mark Williams speak at the forthcoming Cheltenham Science Festival and have also booked to attend a course that Michael Chakalson is running about bringing mindfulness into coaching. There is growing evidence for the effectiveness of this practice in relation to mental health, and there is also an explosion of interest in the world at large. This almost certainly means there will be a backlash or fizzling out when another trend appears. The challenge throughout is about finding the useful and meaningful middle ground for those of us who are not claiming to have a business based on mindfulness, but instead can see how it can be a useful element of a business involved in helping people make sense of work and look after their well-being.

And in other news...

I have had enthusiastic responses to my initial call for women over sixty to either write to me or come forward for interview/conversation about their reflections - and I'm getting excited about those conversations that are now in my diary, and more to be arranged. Please do invite any such women you know (or if you are one) to get in touch if they are interested. I can send out more details or you can download more information here.

I've also written a  recent blog post reviewing Jane Shilling's book The Stranger in the Mirror (a memoir of middle age).

So - to Jubilee or not to Jubilee - that is the question for anyone in the UK this extended bank holiday weekend. We're going to make some cakes. Some with red, white and blue and some with a more revolutionary design (yet to work that one out). Some might call this sitting on the fence, but we like to think it's an inclusive excuse for cake and getting together with a few neighbours.

Or - being a Bank Holiday theme - you might be out with the Mods and Rockers (get it?).

I'll stop now.

Best wishes,

Sarah (Dale)
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