Tuesday, March 28, 2017

My fourth month of working from home

The "pros" of working from home:

  • I'm home when The Little Madam gets back from school
  • If the weather is beautiful I can easily nip out for 5-10 mins of sunshine without having to take up smoking as an excuse
The "cons" of working from home:
  • I have to consciously make an effort to get exercise, whereas before walking from work to home was effortlessly built in.
  • It's hard being part of a team if you only see them for a couple of hours once per week.
  • If I need to get anything in town I have to make a special trip.
  • If I happen to have all of the internal helpline calls directed to a phone that is in my possession, I can't easily take the day off if I have a cold.

I have a cold, perfectly timed for Autumn. My workmates have all had it - which is surprising as we are all working from our homes and should be less likely to infect each other. 

The boy had it all of last week. "That ache-iness and the headaches - that's just the beginning", he says helpfully. But just because it knocked him for a six all week doesn't necessarily mean it will do the same for me. 

For one, I make an effort to keep up my fitness. For two, I eat lots of fruit and vegetables. For three, I'm not a man. So fingers crossed, I have had the worst of it after two days.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The need for victim blaming

  • A woman was attacked while walking home from the pub? She shouldn't have been out walking in the dark.
  • Someone took all the produce and didn't put money into the honesty box? It's madness to leave your stuff out where anyone can steal it.
  • Young person can't get a job? They are probably lazy and entitled.

These are all examples of victim blaming. It's very politically incorrect to do so, but we've all heard (maybe even said) something like the above, often.

I think it's to do with believing in the cause and effect, and the need to have control. For example, if I work hard at my job I will get a promotion and a pay rise; if I take care of my looks, keep the house clean and cook my husband great meals he won't leave me for someone else. If I eat healthily I won't get sick.

But we all know these are not guaranteed. Good things happen to bad people. Financially responsible people can become homeless. Non smokers can get lung cancer.

I've been re-reading The Idiot Brain, by Welsh neuroscientist Dean Burnett. Quite apart from the fact that this guy writes like the Bill Bryson of medical writing (i.e. highly readable, funny and really enlightening), he provides a neuroscientist's view of why we as society victim-blame.

One factor in why we do this is is because we tend to find it difficult to empathise (obviously it varies from person to person), due to the fact that our brains are egocentric. He describes an experiment in which one person has to touch something nice while a second person has to touch something disgusting. The person touching something nice finds it difficult to sympathise with the other. However if both people have to touch something gross then it's easy for them to sympathise with each other.

The other factor is what he calls the "just world" hypothesis. The brain assumes that the world is fair, good behaviour is rewarded and bad behaviour is punished. If a bad thing happens to someone then they must have done something to deserve it. Because if they didn't, then that means it could happen to us, who are most definitely behaving well. Our brain is uncomfortable with the possibility that bad things could happen to us even if we don't deserve it. So it chooses to have us believe that it must have been deserved.

So there you have it - our brains make it hard for us to empathise with someone less fortunate than us and in fact makes us blame the unfortunate for whatever has happened to them.

(That doesn't mean we should just let it happen though.)