Tuesday, 7 June 2022

The Power of Projection

 

This is the Queen’s year, as far as I’m concerned, even if the Platinum Jubilee celebrations are done and dusted.

 

Twelve months of keeping Her Majesty in mind seems a small thing to do when you’re talking about a 70-year reign dedicated to her country.


The festivities have clearly given us time to reflect on her role and her position in our lives, regardless of whether or not we’re monarchists. It’s been extraordinary to watch the people of the UK – and the world - come out to take part in a four-day event to celebrate the life of a 96-year-old head of state. How amazing is that! And what wouldn’t other national leaders give to have such support? 

 

The Queen seems to have perfected the art of being what a queen should be. She started off as the beautiful young princess of fairy tales who married her handsome prince, had two beautiful young children and was set for a life as a happy naval wife living in sunny splendour in Malta.

 

Tragically, that all ended too soon with the early death of her father. The young monarch was enthroned and, unlike in other fairy tales – I’m thinking Frozen here – she accepted her role with good grace and seems to have done it unflinchingly ever since. Seventy years in one role. It’s an impressive achievement.

 

Perhaps the Queen’s cleverest achievement is remaining almost silent. We hear her speeches at public events but, until recently, we were unlikely to hear her talking unscripted. The microphones were turned off when she appeared, by royal command. Now, we hear a little more as times change and her Bond and Paddington appearances reveal her sense of humour, but this is new. Mostly, we have seen much but heard little. And that must be the way she likes it.

 

It is remarkable to reflect how so many of us imagine we know  the Queen when, in reality, she is really known to very few. Rather like Diana, Princess of Wales, we have seen so much of her that we imagine we understand how she is feeling. In Diana’s case, we adored her when she joined the royal family, rejoiced with the children’s births and were saddened when the marriage failed. It was like a failure in our own lives and we empathised, imagining how she must be feeling. When she died, we were distraught; it felt as if it were a loss of a beloved family member.  

 

That was never the reality. Diana appeared to have magical powers (fairy princess tales again) in connecting with the ordinary person but she never was. She was born the daughter daughter of an earl and her life’s trajectory was far different from what most of ours was ever likely to be.

 

And so it is with our Queen. We sometimes see her in person but mainly we watch her on television and we imagine what’s going on in her inner world. When she smiles with her face lighting up in a way that reveals the girl she once was, we imagine we know what’s pleasing her. When she’s looking glum (she has a naturally solemn face in repose which does look quite stern), we imagine she’s upset and worry about what might be making her so. We might be right, we might be wrong but that’s not what’s important. What matters is that we have taken her to our hearts and we feel for her, even though we have no real knowledge of the person inside.

 

Actress Helen Mirren, in a recent interview, revealed she had been very concerned when she was first offered the part of the Queen because she knew so little about her subject. Strangely, she found it didn’t matter in the end because of the way people behaved around her. 

 

She told how she remained who she was but those around her started to treat her as the monarch, with the decorum and respect such a role deserved. As a result, Helen found herself evolving into Elizabeth, our Queen. She didn’t need to work on her acting skills, she just needed to be. The rest followed.

 

I believe that might be our monarch’s greatest achievement and one any future monarch would do well to follow. We don’t really need to know much about them, we just want to imagine we do. That way, we can become emersed into their world as we imagine we can draw them into ours. They become part of our extended family. We feel their pain when one child misbehaves or disappoints; we are overjoyed when we experience the delight in their achievements and all the time we can appreciate what we have, even while becoming aware that it may be drawing to a close.  

 

The Queen and her family represents a sense of stability that many of us long for, especially when it goes missing within our own lives. We are convinced she – and they – are there for us in times of trouble when some of us long to feel safe.

 

It doesn’t matter whether it is true, it matters that many of us believe it to be true and that brings us comfort. We are herd animals and we prefer to live within a group. Our Queen is the head of our herd and we party and celebrate as we acknowledge the role she plays on our behalf.

 

Her silence reveals nothing but allows us to believe we know all. And that is the secret of her success and what the power of projection is all about. 

 

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

A Cautionary Tale


 

I was recently told about an incident in which a woman and a young child were assaulted while in the car.

 

The assault was on the car, rather than the persons, but I’m told it can be classified as a criminal assault.

 

I’ll give a brief description: The driver was driving down a one-way street in a London residential area and stopped to tell the driver of another car travelling the wrong way down the street of his mistake. It was just after 12 noon. So far, so uncontroversial.

 

Now’s the worrying bit. To the original driver’s surprise and shock, a passenger jumped out of the car in the wrong, started screaming obscene insults and verbal abuse and telling the female driver to “F*** off” out of the way. He was also holding what looked like a giant electric screwdriver and was gesticulating with it as if he were about to use it - perhaps thrusting it through the partially open window.

 

At this point, the female driver froze. That was the amygdala part of her brain doing what it’s supposed to do - reacting purely emotionally to an unknown threat. This is a natural response to those who are aware of the “flight, fright or freeze” response we all of us will have when confronted with something threatening. What’s really of interest is how each of us do respond in reality. We may think we know what we’ll do. We rarely do. 

 

That’s why people in conflict zones are trained in how to cope with a particular situation. The idea is that, if they are forced to confront the situation enough, it will become second nature. Their amygdala/reptilian response will thus be partly controlled by the hippocampus (which deals with memory of past events) part of the brain to allow their instant reaction to be bypassed.

 


In this case, it didn’t happen. As the woman froze - and therefore did not instantly drive away - another man leapt out from the back seat of the car and hit the top of the car violently with another menacing and unknown electrical tool. At this point, the woman’s brain seemed to get back into gear and she drove off. 

 

She later reported feeling shocked and unnerved about the whole episode but proud of the fact that she had kept her feeling sufficiently under control to keep her child passenger calm. She accepted the car was damaged but said it could be repaired. All that mattered was that both human beings were safe.

 

The incident was reported to the police and she managed to get CCTV camera footage of the car involved, although not the actual attack.

 

The CCTV information came from a local nursery and the staff there laboriously trawled through the video footage until they found what was required. They didn’t need to; they were just being good citizens. They also explained that the crime level in the area appeared to have risen in recent months and talked about there being an “increased sense of danger out there” as one (male) member of staff put it.

 

He wondered if it was another unimagined consequence of lockdown. Even though lockdown laws and rules are no longer in place, it seems there are still fewer people out and about than there were. And some of those who are resuming their normal lives remain fearful to a certain extent, even wearing masks outside on occasion.

 

That may be a trouble with imposing draconian measures and making them law. It’s hard to reverse them when you decide you want people to get back to normal. Those who obeyed the rules will worry that Covid has not yet gone away and may remain fearful.  

 

Conversely, those who took no notice of lockdown may have been emboldened by the empty streets and it could be we are seeing the consequences of that lack of fear. And then fear breeds fear and so it goes on.

 

There is no moral to this story. It’s just sad. It seems to indicate we need to be careful to speak only to those people we know or recognise. Even an attempt to be helpful might be misconstrued. And that’s not a satisfactory way of living. We human animals need to connect and remain connected, as this painful pandemic has shown. We need adventures and fun and we need to take risks if we’re to have a life worth living. Closing down has not been good for us.

 



PS: I’m adding a small postscript to the story and that is the police have yet to come back to the woman who was the victim of the crime. She’s been told it’s unlikely they will because they are forever short staffed and don’t have the manpower to follow such incidents up. 

 

She did argue that most criminals started small and got bigger and brave the longer they did the work and got away with it. She felt she was unlikely to be affected by the same crime twice but worried that the four young criminals she’d come across might, if not stopped soon, become even more violent in the future. 

 

One police officer did assure her someone would come back to her and collect the USB which records the evidence for which they’re looking. A police constable has been assigned to the case and will be in touch with her when he’s back on duty. She tells me she’s not holding her breath. 









Photo 1: Will Creswick on Unsplash

Photo 2: Etienne Girardet on Unsplash


 


Monday, 25 April 2022

The Starring Quality for Politicians

We might be on the way to a perfect storm. Tax rises are on their way, energy prices are already there, we’re probably in for a new bout of food shortages because of our reliance on imports and let’s not start talking about the Northern Ireland protocol. If you can explain how it’s working (or should work), you’re doing a good deal better than me. 

It looks as though our politicians are in for a rough ride for at least the foreseeable future. I’m not too sympathetic. It’s a job that’s very oversubscribed and they chose to enter politics. They can always leave if they’ve had enough, particularly if they have a reasonable level of independent wealth and are not reliant on their MP salaries.


I’ve been wondering what makes a good politician. The qualities needed to get there seem obvious. Clearly, determination is way out in front. Can you imagine continually knocking on those doors of strangers, being told firmly to go away and still going on? No, nor me, I’d slink away at the first opportunity. 

 

I’d say you need a strong sense of self-belief, maybe even arrogance, to think that you can do the job better than others, and a resilience to keep on going even after you may feel you’ve been publicly humiliated - not winning that constituency seat for example. Such failure is very much in the public eye; a person needs to be pretty extraordinary to get over that. 

 

And then, if you’re lucky enough to get the job, you need to be almost a verbal contortionist if you’re to be considered for a ministerial prize in the future. Imagine those being sent out to support a PM and then learning within a few hours that their leader had changed his mind, leaving them with metaphorical egg on their face. It’s happened more than once recently. Those ones have to be brazen too.

 

All public figures need charm and believability to convince you/us of the truth of what they’re saying and a persuasive style to assure us their path is the one we should choose.  

 

What do we have so far? Self belief, arrogance, brazenness, charm, calmness under pressure, resilience, persuasiveness and, dare I say it, an ability to interpret the truth just that little bit. It shouldn’t be a prerequisite but, increasingly, that’s how it seems to be. And if you doubt it, go back and read an interview with a key politician about an important issue and then read what s/he has said some while later. You may be surprised to see how their recollections may vary.

 

You may notice that all these qualities can be good or bad, depending on how they are used. Brazenness is borderline just bad but the others have a value that is useful for the common good.

 

There is, however, one stand-alone quality that can only be for the common good and, I’d argue, is essential if you are to be a decent politician or a decent person in any kind of public office. 

 

Empathy, that’s what they need. The ability to be able to imagine and understand what it might be like to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. 

 

Imagine taking a private jet back from a global environmental conference when you’ve just been telling people to cut back on their own carbon footprint.

 

Or maybe you’ve been partying (gathering?) when you made the rules telling people they mustn’t, on pain - best case - of penalty notices and imprisonment or - worst case - helping to destroy the NHS or the life of someone you love. 

 

And then there’s tax rises at the same time as food shortages appear or, when the food’s about, the prices are much higher because of those same shortages. And the person making the decisions about our finances has a spouse with unimaginable wealth. You see where I’m going here?

 

If those in positions of power had imagined how they’d feel in a less privileged position, they might have avoided being in such a pickle now. With empathy, they might have changed one or two of their own actions and thus lessened the chance of a fall in popularity and the potential loss of their own jobs. 

 

I’m not biased. I can think of an ex-minister from another party saying he was: "Intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes." Then there was a senior politician from yet another party who left politics and went off to seek his fortune in the US - lucky him, he has.

 

All I’m saying is that it would be so much better for all of us if those in positions of power and influence over our lives could ask themselves how they would feel “if”.

 

If only they could do that, I get the sense it would be so much better for all of us, and maybe we’d all feel better too, even during the tough times ahead.


Tuesday, 29 March 2022

When Narcissism Turns Real


Many of us will be familiar with the story of Narcissus, the flawed character in Greek mythology who fell in love with his reflection after a dirty trick was played on him by an angry goddess.

 

Poor Narcissus, instead of being grateful that he had been given such good looks and behaving with good grace, was arrogant and dismissive of those around him who didn’t come up to the same standard as him.

 

Inevitably, being a Greek tragedy, it was all going to end badly. Narcissus incurred the wrath of goddess Nemesis when he rejected an approach by nymph Echo who was only looking for a hug. His rejection wounded her so greatly that she faded away until all that was left of her was her echo. 

 

In punishment, Nemesis took Narcissus to a pool where, when he saw his reflection, he fell in love. 

 

It took him some time to understand that a spell had been cast on him and there was no “other” to love. And that, sadly, was the end of him.

 

The moral of the story clearly demonstrates that too much self-love can severely damage your health and well-being in very much the same way that too little can have an equally detrimental effect on a person.

 

Today’s definition of a narcissist has broadened considerably from that tale, so that sometimes it seems as if a person who selfishly disagrees with us and sticks ruthlessly to his/her point of view must be a narcissist, particularly when they’re riding roughshod over us.

 

Narcissism appears to be one of the most difficult personality types to identity. According to the DSM-5, the US classification  manual used by many psychiatrists to diagnose mental disorders, it is hard to diagnose such a disorder because, ironically, people with it don’t tend to present with problems because they don’t see anything wrong with them!

 

However, the DSM gives professionals some clues as to what they might look out for. These include a sense of superiority; a sense of grandiosity, a need for attention and admiration; a sense of uniqueness as well as being self-centred, boastful and pretentious. There is more but this seems like a good start.


 

We all have some - or all - of those qualities in us but the problem arises when they are taken to extreme and when there is no-one who is there to point out where we may be going wrong. 

 

Children often demonstrate a fair few of these characteristics - “I was the best”; “I’m the cleverest”; “I’m the prettiest/strongest”, etc and the ones I’ve investigated seem to have a tremendous sense of self-worth. Who would want to knock that?

 

Unfortunately, though hopefully in a kind way, somebody has to. The charm of a slightly optimistic child might diminish as they grow up into a vainglorious adult. 

 

I suggest one of a parent’s most difficult tasks is trying to find a way of balancing their own innate belief that their child really is the world’s most perfect specimen with the knowledge needed to help that child fit into society in a way that encourages their self-belief but not at the expense of others.  

 

Culture is important here. Japanese children are asked by their parents: “How would you feel if?” as a way of helping them to connect with others. The question encourages the child to imagine how they would react to a given situation. It’s a healthy way of teaching empathy.

 

Conversely, and up until fairly recently, a type of English parent would come down hard on a child that appeared to be over-pleased with him/herself. The British culture didn’t approve of boastfulness or anyone aiming for a starring role. The expression “too big for their boots” comes to mind.  

 

Fortunately, such harshness seems to have softened but we now have the problem of what seems to be that everyone is determined to take centre stage. It’s a problem because not everyone is able and, if we tell the young child they can be anything they wish to be, they may be bitterly disappointed when they find reality isn’t like that.

 

Some experts say narcissists, contrary to how they appear, are internally full of self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness. Other studies suggest they are among the happiest of people because they have no doubts. 

 

We are unlikely to know for sure because of the dearth of narcissists who present for help but one point we might all agree on is that narcissism is not appealing for those who are around it. 

 

Imagine working for, say, a Russian President, who doesn’t like to hear the word “no” in his presence. What catastrophic mistakes he might make because his ego refused to allow an “other” voice to be heard. It might even lead to war.

 

Or what about an extraordinarily privileged prince who is forced to disappear from view because all those adults couldn’t tell him “no”. He should have supporters, friends or staff to speak out on his behalf, but he seemed to have alienated them to such a degree that he was left all alone vain-glorious. 

 

This also applies to ordinary family, where one person is allowed to take too much control. It may happen so slowly that nobody notices until it’s too late. Too much power is placed in one person’s hands until it ends up not only being the acolytes who suffer, but the narcissists themselves. Their own actions have caused them to thwart themselves.

 

Oh, for the wisdom of the ancient Greeks!






Photo 1:  Marija Zaric on Unsplash

Photo 2:  Laurenz Kleinheider on Unsplash


 

 

 

 

 

Monday, 14 March 2022

What A Chinese Banquet Can Teach Us About Working Together




I was lucky enough to be invited to a (late) Chinese celebration to mark Chinese New Year.

I was a bit apprehensive - I only knew the person who’d invited me - because I’m not as informed about the culture as I feel I should be and had very little idea what to expect. I try to embrace change and look positively towards the unknown but I have to admit it can sometimes be challenging. 


Fortunately, the company was kind and those fellow diners at my table did their best to include me as they told fascinating stories of their time in the Far East.


The dinner - a banquet really - was presented in a traditional Chinese way. That is, with a revolving glass table that sits on the table top and which can be turned in one direction or another so that each diner helps themselves to a dish.


The dishes are plentiful and intended to be shared. The point of the New Year dinner is to celebrate family and friends, to be thankful for what you have received and to combine and share your provisions with grace and goodwill. A great deal of thought goes into the food and it is important to be aware of the giver’s generosity and to honour the guest in attendance. 


It was easy to acknowledge and be grateful for such a delicious dinner. It was so enjoyable it will remain in my happy memory bank for some time yet.


But I found another thought creeping in as I was enjoying my fare and that was how efficient the system of distribution was. The moveable plate went both clockwise and anti-clockwise and you could see who was helping themselves so there was not a chance of either missing out or accessing your particular choice because you simply turned the style in your direction of travel and, hey presto, there it was! 


It did come unstuck just the once and that was when a guest was helping herself to a dish one side and a fellow guest on the other - who was talking intently to his companion - began to turn the platter in his direction. He was quick and it happened so fast that the first guest still had her hands in the air clutching at the serving spoons with a slight sense of panic as the table moved away from her.  


Delicious dish carnage was only just prevented by a quick intervention from another guest who managed to gain a good grip of the revolving glass and stop it moving. Apologies followed and honour was restored.


That episode brings to mind the plight of cars, traffic lights and roundabouts. If a driver approaching a set of traffic lights just before a roundabout stops his/her car when the lights go red, the traffic from the right-hand side will be able to flow freely, either turning left and going away from the roundabout or turning right to move further into it.


If, however, the driver - and the one behind - continues crossing the line just as the red light appears when their way forward is not clear, the problems start. If it’s busy, that leaves those drivers on the right blocked and unable to move. As the queues snarl up, so does the frustration and the fury. And all for what? The chance of reaching your destination a minute or two ahead of time. Instead, the likelihood is that you - and everyone else - will be stuck in stop-start traffic for a great deal longer than you’d planned.


You may have heard of Stanford University Professor Walter Mischel’s 1972 experiment on pre-school children and their ability to hold out for a culinary reward. Some children gave in to temptation quickly while others were able to contain themselves for a while longer. The children’s progress was followed over the years and those who could hold out the longest were found to do better throughout life than those who gave in to the first temptation.  


Research has moved on and a 2020 study reported in US publication Greater Good goes further and finds that children do even better in this test when they cooperate. The study put two children together in a room, gave them a task to do and left them with a biscuit and permission to either eat it or wait until the researcher returned and then get another one. The study involved children from industrialised Germany and children from a rural community in Kenya to see if there might be a cultural difference. The results were the same. Those children who worked together were able to delay their own gratification for longer showing, the researchers said, that humans found working together for a common goal to be more enjoyable than going it alone.


And that brings me back to the revolving table at the Chinese banquet. It works so well. If only we could remember it’s not just about us serving ourselves, but about sharing with others.



  

 


 


 


Monday, 28 February 2022

Life's A Risky Business


I started on this subject before the invasion of Ukraine and it felt a little frivolous to continue considering the enormity of what is going on now within our European borders.

However, after some reflection, I’ve decided this idea may not be as disconnected as it first seemed. 


The life-threatening situation for the poor citizens of Ukraine clearly demonstrate the risks they face. 


Those brave people defying President Putin’s invasion and fighting for their liberty and their land are taking a real risk. There is a frightening and growing chance of either being injured or killed and, as borders close up, the opportunity to escape decreases. 


We who are safely distant are witnessing a real horror and risk. Some Ukrainians are leaving the safety of their home here and going back to fight for their country. Most of us, however, can only watch and hope. Or pray.


Our lives seem so much more comfortable than compared with the days before the invasion. Our growing worries about net zero costs and how we were going to pay the rising energy bills no longer seem so important. 


Even the necessity of finding tens of thousands of pounds to replace a boiler or car to achieve that same net zero goal is paling into insignificance as I wonder if President Putin is serious about nuclear weapon plans.


I’m hoping that what’s going on within my own inner world is not so different from others. I’m imagining we’re all considering putting our petty quarrels to one side as we contemplate and absorb the reality of what calamity our brave friends may be facing.


And yet, when I venture outside my inner world to the world outside, I get the feeling our authorities have not yet grasped what I understand as real risk. 


The rules around lockdown - remember that? How so last month it all seems - have been abandoned. Theoretically, we have no need of nose and mouth coverings or written instructions about how much distance we need to maintain between our individual selves. 


We can once again open our arms wide and explore the - safe - country around us. We can acknowledge the continuing risk of covid but hope that our vaccinations and boosters will make it less deadly and, in time, it may even disappear altogether.


My journey around London shows me how risk seems to be perceived. 



I’m warned to wear a mask on buses and tubes to “protect others” (a clever bit of psychology in case I’m not concerned about protecting me) and told to wash my hands for at least 20 seconds in case of germs. 

Careful not to trip up the escalators, “mind the gap” on the tube, keep your distance! Do this, Don’t do that. Travellers holding on to their mask habit avert their eyes from someone who is mask free. They look anxious, their eyes darting nervously from nose to mouth. Are these warnings helping us or are they making life just that bit more frightening?


Of course it makes sense. We have been locked away and scared for almost two years. We have discovered a new illness that was highly infectious and for which there was initially no cure. Who wouldn’t be scared? 


But it’s all so obvious too and, some would argue, these are decisions that any adult person would take. Germs pass through contact - wash your hands; cover your mouth if you’re coughing and sneezing and keep your distance. If you’re ill, keep away from others. We knew that before the pandemic so why, I wonder, does it all seem so threatening now.


From a personal point of view, I am concerned that this two-year period has left us as needy and insecure as small children. It’s as though we’ve had our own agency taken away and we’re having to learn to live again from scratch. We already know lockdown has had a damaging effect on children and young people but what about those of us who thought we had left our childhoods way behind us? This in-between stage at the wrong time of life is very unsettling. 


Part of the problem may be because politicians and those in authority like it when people do as they’re told. It makes it easier for them if we’re compliant. Rules are habit-forming. If we are forced to stick to them for long enough, they may become second nature for some people.


For others, this just brings up resentment. Take a look at a toddler who wants to do something for themselves as you try to help them. The chances are they will brush your hand away impatiently and continue on their own path. That is as it should be: they are on the path to growing up.


It seems that we presently have this  dichotomy between those poor people in Ukraine who have had their safety and security ripped away from them at a terrible and astonishing speed, while those of us lucky enough to be in the UK are almost reluctant to ease ourselves out of our own state-sponsored and comfortable cocoon.


May I politely suggest it’s time we took back control and acknowledged life is a risky business. However, as adults we are perfectly capable of making our own risk assessments. In order to get the best out of life, we need to live it as adults, weighing up the risks and taking our own decisions. Decision making may be hard but life’s more fun that way.  






Photo 1:  Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash

Photo 2:  Matt Artz on Unsplash

Photo 3:  Edward Howell on Unsplash


Monday, 7 February 2022

How To Say Sorry and Mean It

Sorry is a word that many of us find hard to say.

Sometimes, it’s not so difficult. You bump into a person, say sorry and move on with the easy acceptance that it was your fault.


But it becomes a little more difficult to own up to one’s own errors when there might be repercussions and, the worse the repercussions, the trickier it is to say the word.


Let’s start with the need for an apology. Why do we need to do it?


Put simply, it’s part of our society’s rules to allow us to live reasonably well within our group. It is usually seen as a way of making good a situation that has gone wrong.


It feels as though it should be second nature. We are taught from almost the time we can speak that sometimes we have to say sorry. It’s effectively ingrained and that means our conscience will be giving us a strong clue when we should be apologising.  


So how is it that, almost from the time we learn of the need to own up to our errors, some of us also feel the need to wriggle out of that apologetic mode?


As with most things, it probably starts in childhood. Think of the child who has that naughty expression even when they’re innocent and they get the blame. Imagine that sense of indignation when it’s not your fault. If it goes on too long, you’re quite likely to wonder at the merits of apologies with a distorted view of your own.


And what about the angelic-looking child who looks as though butter wouldn’t melt in his/her mouth - and yet their behaviour is devilish? They don’t need to say sorry because they’re never blamed. When they grow up, they, too, may have a skewed idea of how polite society works.


Most of us are somewhere in the middle, occasionally being blamed for what we didn’t do but being able to set that off against the time when we “got away” with things of which we were guilty. An example of that might be going slightly over a 30-mile speed limit when driving and not being caught. Guilty but lucky. 


Many of us are also fortunate that our apologies tend to be private matters so, if we do feel humiliation, it will probably not last too long.


When sorry seems to be the hardest word

But what happens when you’re obliged to make an apology in public and it’s televised around the nation. How should you manage that? 


Let’s now turn to the political arena and the current PM’s quandaries.


In our culture - and this is different from other parts of the world - we require the person saying they’re sorry to look at us when they do so. 


It is important that we see each other’s eyes. On a primitive - instinctive - level, we need to feel that the person really is truly sorry. And then we can decide whether we are going to forgive and forget, accept it and bear a grudge or reject it completely. Generally, people tend to be forgiving so the first option seems the most likely to work.


But, and there is a very big but, all this depends on how contrite you really are. If you apologise because you must but you neither feel it nor mean it, then your potential friend or foe will pick up on those inner feelings and react accordingly. They will sense that your heart isn’t in it and they may be reluctant to forgive.


This leads us back to the PM. Putting aside the misinformation, confusion, possibly being economical with the truth and the fact that a great number of people in Britain obeyed the lockdown laws set by the Government over Covid, it was possible Boris might still be forgiven for disobeying those same laws, if he did.


However, his apology needed to be good and, in my opinion, it was not. The problem came from his clear discomfort as he addressed MPs in the House of Commons. It seemed to me that he was grudging. He is a usually clear speaker. He may - he often does - go off on a tangent but I can hear what he says. 


This time it was harder. 


The apologetic words were said but were somehow rushed over. There wasn’t a pause for us to digest them and to consider what we felt about them. It seemed like a take-it-or-leave -it moment. It was almost as if he were a little boy being made to say sorry when he really didn’t want to. It was not as though he was the man behind the laws and the one who had put us in lockdown. 


Lockdown was hard on everyone

Even so, this, too, might just have been forgiven if he had kept his eyes on the prize - to get the electorate onside. If he had only dropped his gaze, bowed his head a little longer when coming under fire from his opponents and left us convinced that he accepted he was to blame. 


This didn’t happen. 


Boris was too quick to brush over it and launch his own attack on someone else - to deflect, in other words. Attack was not the best form of defence, here, and he blew it. We were not convinced it was a heartfelt apology, despite the best efforts of his loyal supporters to insist that he really was contrite. 


And the moral of the story? 


Only apologise if you mean it. Be prepared to tolerate some form of admonishment and maybe even allow yourself to feel a bit awkward and accepting that you deserve it. If not, say nothing. A phoney apology only makes matters worse.










Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash