According to the theory, one of the differences between men and women relates to their focus of attribution. Supposedly, men attribute successes to themselves, failures to others and women are the opposite, interpreting successes to luck and the support of others, failures to personal inadequacy.
I know this is not an exact science or a biological law, it is funny, in a way how I experienced this first-hand today, although, me being a guy, the other way round.
I was visiting a care home to check on some of my patients – this is something I do regularly, and I consider it a highlight of my week; I usually feel so welcome when I enter the home, with familiar faces of staff and residents greeting me. All of the residents have some form of dementia – most, in the advanced stages. Yet, the place is usually positive, the staff warm and welcoming, supportive and caring.
When working with one of the nurses today, I had a distinct sense that she couldn’t be bothered. A feeling that my questions about the residents, their health, diet, continence, sleeping patterns, were not something that she valued as much as me. It was odd, but I persevered, I felt, contrary to the theory, that I must be asking the wrong questions, perhaps I had arrived at the wrong time of day or my approach wasn’t quite right.
Afterwards, I drove to another nearby care home. This wasn’t a planned visit; I had rung ahead to let them know I was on the way.
When I arrived the atmosphere was immediately different, despite the care home manager having never met me before, I felt at home, she welcomed me (& my medical student chum), it was apparent how much she cared, how dedicated she was to maintaining a home that supported the residents, facilitating their sense of identity and wellbeing.
Together we visited a woman who became unwell every time she changed position, to the extent that all she could do was lie in bed. If she moved to sit or stand, her blood pressure dropped so precipitously that she lost consciousness.
The care, knowledge and dignity present in this home was significant. I felt humbled by the sensitivity of the staff and the environment – bold dementia friendly colours, memory boxes, high-quality light, the gentle murmur of conversation and human interaction.
It is difficult to express the feeling of being in the presence of true care, of passion, where the meaning, the essence of person-centredness, that is the suffering of one individual becoming shared by another is evident, tangible.
And it was here that I realised that the first encounter which was awkward, difficult, unfamiliar, was not because of my asking the wrong questions or timing my visit poorly, but because the level of appreciation – what was almost adoration in the second home, was not demonstrated by the nurse in the first.
None of this had anything to do with me, yet I was part of the experience, I was pulled-in, drawn into the feelings of those people who are so very dependent on our support, our interest and attention.
Attribution is funny and not something I fully understand. One thing is clear to me, which is the inner voice, whether it is expressing happiness or sorrow, contentedness or confusion is more often that which we should attend to, more often the unconscious sees beyond the attributions, beyond the superficialities, to the true meaning of care, of people, of being human.