Tuesday, 29 May 2012

On the psychiatrist's couch…

I've just had a session with an external consultant (two of my favourite words) as part of the School's programme of extending 'coaching' (slogan: 'To turn experience to Wisdom') opportunities to staff. I told the consultant that I'm active online, so she'll assume that I'll be blogging this process, won't she?

Being the end-product of a thousand years of suspicious, repressed Catholic Irish bog-trotters, the ingrained response to any question is to respond with another question. For instance, to me, the correct response to 'where do you see yourself down the line?' is 'why do you want to know?'. I stopped going to Confession and don't particularly feel the need to replace a slavering priest with a professional nosey-parker at this stage. If I've got anything to confess, dear readers, it will be to you. I've already told you that I like Tiffany's 'I Think We're Alone Now', but that's quite enough of this soul-bearing. I'm not Woody Allen, you know.

Talking of Tiffany:

However, despite my cheerful cynicism - and the horror at discovering that 'consultant' actually means 'occupational psychologist' (I'm not mad: my personality is a rational response to the rest of you), I can see some advantages to this set of fortnightly encounters. I could assume that she is acting for her paymasters and use her to communicate my slightly truculent views on the institution while running the risk that this is some kind of liquidation selection exercise (she says not); I could assume that everything's on the level and talk openly and frankly about my 'career' (sorry, there's no way it deserves to lose the quotation marks), professional life, aspirations and limitations, or I can think of each session as real Live-blogging: she's got to sit there and listen to my opinions for an hour.

The first session was terrifying enough, alright: invited to describe myself and my future, I found myself doing the classic humanities thing of querying the terms of the question. She did quickly work out that I like a good sardonic rant, so she knows her onions. We discussed my current job, where the joys and frustrations are and whether I blog and tweet too much (not that I needed a professional to confirm what you've all been telling me). I've been invited to keep a running journal of my activity to identify where the pressure points are too - although this time of year isn't exactly representative. We discussed my lack of academic confidence (my contribution to openness) and agreed to think of ways to talk about this.

I have one very major reservation about this. The deployment of a psychologist implies that management believes every obstacle in the institution is personal, the fault of the individual rather than structural or managerial. I think this is ideologically loaded and deeply sinister.

Despite myself - and the invitation to write a poem, draw a picture or make some jewellery reflecting my psychological state - I'm actually tempted to break the habit of a lifetime and be emotionally open, free from reserve, facetiousness and cynicism. You know I can do it. Don't you?

Anyone else done this stuff?


X said...

Bah. My experience teaches me that this can only go one of two ways:

1. They take down everything you say and use it against you.
2. They take down everything you say and do nothing useful with it.

However, every time I try to believe that *this time* it'll be different, and they will use what I tell them to support beneficial change. There is a glimmer of hope. Cynicism turns to optimism. Then 2 happens, things get even worse and eventually I find a new job.

Good luck.

Historian on the Edge said...

Whenever I come across a phrase like 'To turn experience to Wisdom' or -worse - Einstein's 'all knowledge comes from experience' I am moved to quote that admittedly horrible reactionary Frederick the Great: 'A mule who carried pack for ten campaigns under Prince Eugene would not be a better tactician for it.'

The Plashing Vole said...

Thanks for that. I'm definitely not opposed to psychological assistance when required - but it feels very coercive when management plucks names from a hat, doesn't mention the word 'psychologist' and - doubtless - would apply a black mark to the personnel file of anyone who declined.

I love the Frederick the Great quote.