This is me being empathetic and emotionally warm? Is it working? I ask only because I've got another session with the 'consultant' who's actually an occupational psychologist, and she asked me to do an online personality test. Despite my reservations about 'positive psychology' (oddly, a subject discussed on radio 4 this morning), I filled in the 240 questions as honestly as possible.
The report, however, has severely damaged my natural optimism. It gives you 24 ranked strengths, but looking closely, the analysis is deeply flawed. For instance, the last one is this:
Spirituality, sense of purpose, and faith
You have strong and coherent beliefs about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe. You know where you fit in the larger scheme. Your beliefs shape your actions and are a source of comfort to you.Which is odd because the questionnaire asks several questions about religion and 'beliefs' but none about ideology or politics. Let's be clear about my beliefs. I believe in the general description of quantum physics, and in entropy. I do not believe in any 'higher purpose' or 'meaning' to the universe (other than '42'). I believe that we are individually performing a microscopic version of the eventual entropic universe death. We shuffle towards the grave and anything we do in-between birth and death is merely displacement activity. I've chosen to read a lot and to attempt to meliorate the world's misery through politics. And blogging. In some tiny way, I hope to make life more bearable and pleasant for others, but I'm well aware that any contribution is minuscule.
OK. Next 'strength':
Hope, optimism, and future-mindednessYou expect the best in the future, and you work to achieve it. You believe that the future is something that you can control.No. All of that is entirely wrong. Next!
Creativity, ingenuity, and originalityThinking of new ways to do things is a crucial part of who you are. You are never content with doing something the conventional way if a better way is possible.Christ no. That scoffing sound you hear is everyone I've ever met, laughing at whoever constructed this questionnaire. What's coming next?
Industry, diligence, and perseveranceYou work hard to finish what you start. No matter the project, you "get it out the door" in timely fashion. You do not get distracted when you work, and you take satisfaction in completing tasks.
Zest, enthusiasm, and energyRegardless of what you do, you approach it with excitement and energy. You never do anything halfway or halfheartedly. For you, life is an adventure.
Oh dear me no. I'm nervous and often transfixed by anxiety like a lazy rabbit in the headlights.
And then the rest reveals a complete methodological failure: the responses tell me how other people perceive me, and how I am … based on my answers. This is of course utter nonsense: what the questions elicit is my perception of what other people think, and a view of how I perceive myself, not what this mythical 'I' actually is like.
Although you may not think of yourself as wise, your friends hold this view of you. They value your perspective on matters and turn to you for advice. You have a way of looking at the world that makes sense to others and to yourself.
And for the record, I don't think this is what you all think of me. I'd be insufferable. And students: if you submit this kind of thing for your dissertations, we'll be having some long and painful conversations.
Sorry about the formatting - bloody Blogger. Anyway, I'm off to write a passage on times I've experienced 'flow', or total absorption in an activity. Tempted to cite blogging…
Before this meeting - my union's AGM, a casework meeting and several other duties. And in the background, John Major and Ed Miliband at Leveson. Be still, my aching heart!