Sunday, 7 August 2016

Getting Cold Feet On Holiday (and not through paddling in the sea)

Last week I was on holiday, a holiday spent at the House in Scotland. It was Regatta week and it was great to see the different boats and yachts go out with each tide ready for a few hours racing. I stayed firmly on land. The weather helped too – most day’s it was wall to wall sunshine, with just the occasional rain shower. It was half way through the week before I noticed my inner clock didn't recognise I was on holiday, and that I was habitually awake before 05.00 each day. Of course being on holiday meant I had many choices as to what to do once awake. Like this morning, I had a choice as to whether to write this blog or not as I was on holiday.

Not all choices we make are conscious ones, and most choices will be influenced by our unconscious mind. Freud (amongst others), described the unconscious mind as comprising of mental processes that are inaccessible to consciousness, but which influence our judgements, feelings and behaviour. It is the unconscious mind that is the primary source of shaping our behaviour – and our motives and decisions are powerfully influenced by our past experiences and stored in the unconscious.

This blog is not the place to indulge in a critical debate around the existence or not of Freud’s conscious and unconscious mind. It would be a good debate to have as Freud's theory remains a contested one particularly between those that practice psychoanalysis and those that practice psychology. However, to see the theory grounded in something familiar, take a look at my colleague Donna’s recent blog (see here). It is superbly written and her case is well argued. Whilst the context doesn’t resonate with my own politics, I think it is a blog that, in different ways, perhaps illuminates the complexity involved in the choices we make.

Some choices and decisions, once taken, can have far reaching consequences. We are for example, only just beginning to understand what Brexit might mean for us all. Likewise the individual decisions taken by others in less focused contexts can also have a collective impact, and yet the consequences of such choices might be completely unknown - for example, there are a record number of male nurses working in today's NHS. In a profession traditionally seen as the preserve of women, 1 in 10 nurses are now male. Some believe this trend speaks to the masculinisation of nursing (alongside the feminisation of medicine). I guess whether this is a good thing or not, remains to be seen.

Last week I read about how in today's increasingly digital world, people are taking the decision to step off the magic roundabout and learn to live once more without the internet. It was reported that 34% took the decision to take a 'month off' – a so called 'digital detox'. It is an amazingly high number of people given that 60% of us say we are permanently connected to the world through our various devices. With many of us spending 25 hours a week online, it is no wonder that nearly 40% of us feel we are increasingly being ignored by our significant others. Phones and all other digital devices are banned at meal times in this house. 

Being on holiday, also meant I could catch up on my reading, watch missed films, play music and do all the things that like our significant others, can sometimes be ignored in the busy-ness of our working lives. One of the things I chose to do was work my way through all 5 series (33 episodes) of the fabulous award winning programme Cold Feet – which for me, brilliantly captured social change, 'real people' and the consequences of choices that ‘real people’ make. There is a 6th series to be released later on this year. Although it is an amazingly funny programme, and of course not real life, rather like Donna's blog, the programme reminded me of the complexity and consequences of the choices and decisions we make. However, like the rest of my holiday, it was a very enjoyable experience, and a good choice to have made.