This little picture was stuck in a LinkedIn discussion forum about Learning and Development:
It reminded me of a blog post that I wrote a long time ago that made a couple of people rather annoyed!
My honest nature offended yet another sensitive soul! I didn’t offer up an apology then, and neither will I be doing so now.
Way back when I wrote the offensive blog post I was having a rant about people trying to give advice and solve problems in an area in which they had no direct experience – a lack of personal experience.
I wrote, ‘Oh, and I also have a major bee in my bonnet about people giving advice when they have never had real issues with eating. I absolutely accept that a nutritionist or a dietitian or a personal trainer might know what should be done. But I have to question their level of understanding when it comes to the emotions involved. For me, it is a little like having a drugs counsellor advising a heroin addicted client when they have never had a drug problem. You cannot possibly imagine what it is like unless you have been there. So whilst you may have the shiny gilt-edged framed certificates to tell all and sundry that you have the knowledge…you can stick your knowledge up your arse until you have been there as far as I am concerned. Now this might be a little short-sighted of me, but I just cannot get to grips with people throwing out advice when they have no direct emotional experience to draw from.’
Eeeek – I am an opinionated little madam at times. Admittedly, I could have structured my rant in a more effective and gentle manner. But I am not going to apologise, as I still feel exactly the same way! I will say though that I have worked, and do work, with some amazingly empathetic and understanding people – people who know how to push and get the best out of me…but I think they’d be the first to admit that they really don’t know what it feels like to be in my situation…just as I don’t know what it feels like to be in their situation.
The person who took offence was a drugs worker who has never had an issue with drugs. I have trained and worked alongside people who specialise in the rehabilitation of addicts – drugs, alcohol, and eating disorders specialists. So when I make such comments I am considering my own personal experiences along with the experiences they have shared with me…it’s not an off the cuff remark with no substance! I rarely put myself in the position of speaking about a subject unless I am pretty confident in my ability to support my argument.
Having first-hand experience of a situation provides an insight that absolutely cannot be taught. The issues and challenges associated with overcoming an addiction are things that only someone who has been there, done it, and worn the t-shirt can fully and completely understand. The above people that I mention I have trained with understand and accept this; some of them have shared with me that they feel a lack of ‘something’. These very same people have managed to help many, many people make progress…but they understand that they still lack a little something extra…
You can study, work with, and surround yourself with people who have the issues you are hoping to help others overcome. In doing this you gain an insight into addictive behaviours – the things it drives people to do. However there is a huge gulf between fully and truly experiencing addiction first-hand and having knowledge about addiction. People supporting others with addictions can study, and often do, for years…yet never completely understand an addict and the challenges this presents.
So that little picture above really struck a chord with me. I was actually looking at some leadership development programmes for a work project – and I was looking at the benefits of classroom-based study and experience-based learning. In a work setting, there would be no doubt that both is needed in order to be truly capable…so why the frustration when I liken it to personal learning and development?
You wouldn’t fancy getting on a plane with a Pilot who had read about flying in a book, and worked with other Pilots, but had no experience of flying themselves…would you?!
Anyway – addicts – this sounds like a strong term to use…so maybe anyone with an issue would be more appropriate, but it’s a bit long-winded! – have experiences that other people can only begin to imagine through the field of study and observation. Those cravings and desires and urges which feel so overwhelming and drive you do things that your rational mind would never usually consider are incredibly hard to explain to anyone who has not felt the same way.
Am I saying that all drugs workers need to have been addicts? No! Am I saying that all ex-addicts would make great drugs workers? No! Being an addict, or having had certain issues, does not make you an expert in that field. Many people I have met and spoken with are completely unaware of what drives their behaviour. They feel in the dark as to why they do the things they do…why they continue to binge-eat or self-sabotage…and the same can be said for some who drink to oblivion and use drugs.
In order to help people, you do not have to have had the exact same experiences as they have. If you want to become a drugs worker for example, it’s not a pre-requisite to have been an addict. There are many, many people out there who change and save lives who have not been addicted to drugs.
There is a ‘but’ coming…
But, in my experience and that of the people I have spoken and worked with, specialists in the field of addiction who have had excellent training, are dedicated to helping others, AND have been in a place of addiction themselves DO have that little bit extra. A certain something that can help them get into the mind and life of those they are working to help. This can often be the thing that makes the difference between helping someone overcome their addiction or failure for the addict.
So whilst I could have worded my argument more constructively, I write these blog posts at the end of long, tiring and emotional days. I would challenge any of you to be completely effective and eloquent when a days worth of stresses and strains are competing for your energy and attention. I would also challenge any of you to be completely effective and eloquent when you yourself are trying to overcome an eating disorder which almost killed you!
To conclude, whilst first-hand experience of addiction it is not a pre-requisite for you to get a job helping people overcome their issues, the combination of education/professional training and first-hand experience for me will always win out over someone who just has the education/professional training. Maybe it’s because I like to challenge people…I like to know what qualifies them to help me. I want someone who has read the books as well as someone who has walked the walk…so shoot me…and don’t expect me to apologise or feel sorry for you because you don’t have this combination of experience as I stand by my original comments!
So there we have my views. I am by no means an expert in any sense of the word…but I am allowed my views – if you don’t like it, don’t read it! People rarely agree wholeheartedly on every single subject, do they? It’s that kind of thing that makes the world go round…oops…that’s another opinion of mine!
Today has been pretty awesome – I managed 4 x 1.25k pushes on the rowing machine before work:
I made some progress with a tricky work project that will continue to be tricky and continue to help me find more grey hairs! I spent some time in the sun with my horses and my old dog, and have had some very tasty food. I also had an offer to visit a ‘very erotic and lustful world’ where apparently ‘all of my fantasies will come true’…I had to laugh. Unless Burger King and Hotel Chocolat have gone into partnership, then I am very doubtful that my fantasies this evening will come true!
Breakfast – Tenderstem broccoli, button mushroom, and spinach omelette.
Lunch – Mackerel and poached egg salad with iced coffee…made with unsweetened almond milk.
Dinner – Rump steak burgers with lettuce wraps, red onion, baby plum tomatoes, and mature cheddar.
Thank you for reading,