In yesterday’s post we focused on the diverse range of abilities, aptitudes and qualities of professional carers. Again we pose the question: what do we mean by “intelligence”?
We need to question our assumptions about merit and value. Too frequently those who receive the biggest rewards are those seen as “intelligent” – in the sense of “intellectually able”, as demonstrated by certificates and paper qualifications.
Let’s think some more about this.
Why should carers be paid, in most places, less than a living wage when they do work that many of us simply haven’t the ability to do?
If you think that everyone can be a carer then think again. It requires dedication, intellect, diligence, empathy, respect, consideration, honesty, patience and so on – all qualities that we recognise as amongst the most important in life and in relationships. So why are so many of them paid below the minimum or living wage?
Why isn’t a carer cared for by our society?
We appear to value “intellect” more than the other intelligences. Our entire school system values academic success before the ability to be communicative, considerate and creative. A science qualification is often seen as ‘harder’ than one in the arts, and therefore more important.
Intellect is only one component of “intelligence”. There are five others, which in our opinion are equally important.
If we look at the role of the carer, we can see these intelligences quite clearly.
Intellectually, a carer needs to know how to care. They need to know about medicines and how to handle a frail or injured person. They need to be able to communicate in writing with other carers who are working as a team to care for an elderly person. They may not have degrees in medicine, but they need to be observant, analytical, logical, and use their intellect.
Often, a carer has to act instantly without thinking. They need to protect themselves and their charges. They use their instinct daily. They need to be there to catch the fall or mop up after accidents or make immediate decisions.
With an established routine, the carer uses intellect and instinct together, initially thinking and learning what the cared-for person needs, and then acting without thinking so that the daily routine becomes instinctual.
Carers are empathetic. They have to be. They have to get into the minds of the other person to know what might be best for them, and how they can help them to live life to the best of their abilities. They have to be mindful of the dignity of their charge when they are cleaning them, caring for them. They epitomise loving kindness through giving the support that they do – readily, willingly and without thinking about themselves. Here, they’re demonstrating their social intelligence.
They also need to consider their own wellbeing. They need to ensure that they are well themselves. Considering one’s own needs, knowing one’s abilities and being in your element (in this case, caring) demonstrates personal intelligence.
The carer has to be physically intelligent, using their senses to assess a situation. They might need to be physically strong to carry or lift a patient. They need to use their eyes and ears to check for changes or to decide how they might need to change the daily routine or medicine.
They also have to have a strong intuition. Sometimes, situations change for no fathomable reason. A cared-for person might be eating the same amount of food they always have, be taking the same medication, be as alert as they have always been and yet, the carer feels that all is not right. In cases such as these, the carer uses intuition. They’re not acting on instinct, and they’re not necessarily thinking. They’re using intuition which complements both instinct and intellect. It’s often inexplicable, but in many cases the ability to intuit can save lives.
A carer also works within a set of shared values in order to live and give virtuously. The ability to intuit and to have a core set of values at the heart of their work means that carers are showing spiritual intelligence.
We’ve seen this demonstrated by the carers looking after our own family members. We’ve also seen it in the caring professionals that we have worked with – teachers, social workers, doctors, nurses, housing association workers. In order to be well, in order to give something to society, you need to act intelligently, and acting intelligently means using all of the intelligences.
We’ve also seen it in a brilliant series of programmes that Channel Four are broadcasting currently. If you haven’t seen “Bedlam” then we strongly recommend you to do so. The intelligences that we’ve described here are fully demonstrated by the dedicated, thoughtful workers who are out there helping the most vulnerable in society.
As a society we should value people based on their ability to use all of their intelligences and not just one. As we said a few days ago, not everyone can be A-grade students. If we were to financially reward those who are A-grade carers at the same level as those who are intellectually able, then we might have a completely different society. We might have a good society, and we might encourage more people to work in caring professions.
However, it’s not only carers who are capable of demonstrating multiple intelligences.
Whatever our profession, whatever we choose to do in life, we all have the potential to be three dimensionally intelligent – using all six of our intelligences .
By understanding and using our multiple intelligences well, we could have a good society and a good life, where aspiring to wellbeing – and not wealth – is the overriding value.