Wearing two hats, emotionally.

How many times at work have you heard, or said, “Let me switch hats for a second…”

This refers to the concept of “wearing many hats,” or juggling several roles at once.  For example, in my current role, I’m both an individual contributor and a manager.  Sometimes in team meetings I’m in a peer role with my team, sometimes I have to “switch hats” and say something managerial.  While others might not be aware I’ve made the switch, I am very aware.  Other hats I’ve experienced include: being both an operational dba and db developer and being both a dba and project manager (ugh).


There are many other ways we wear multiple hats in life.  Are you an employee but also a parent? Spouse? Partner?  Do you go to school part time? Full time? You are still a child or sibling of others.  Maybe you run volunteer efforts after work. Maybe you play in a band.  


Frequently, (for me, anyway), saying “I’m switching hats,” is woefully inaccurate.  The reality is, instead, I have all these hats piled on my head at once.  Perhaps there is one showing at the very top.  That’s the hat in focus, if you will.  But they are all still here simultaneously.  


Imagine standing on the sidewalk.  You see a horrific car accident in front of you.  You have witnessed the car accident.  There are participants who are injured, and they are carried from the scene by ambulance.  You tell the officer what you saw, and you go home shaken, but healthy. In this scenario there is a very large distinction between the roles.  There are participants. There are witnesses.  


When I talked about “gestating your sad baby” previously, one of the reasons this technique works is because it makes you a “witness” to the emotion.  You are still a participant in the emotion, however. You are both. You are the participant, and at the same time, you are the witness.  Visualizing “gestating your feeling baby” doesn’t stop the emotion.  It incorporates both roles at the same moment.  Bring the car accident analogy back to mind.  Pretend you are still the witness, but this time you are sprayed with shattered windshield glass. You are bleeding. You need medical treatment, too. Now you are a participant. You are both roles simultaneously.  


Next bring to mind being in a meeting with developers who say they want to use the “jaywalking” sql anti-pattern, (comma separated lists in a column instead of an intersection/associative/linking table).  Your operational dba side is there, too, and comments on what a generally bad idea this is for your transactional db.  At that moment you are both dba and db developer.  We walk around through our lives with all our hats piled on our heads.  We are a melting pot of all our roles.


Kyle Cease (who is a bit out there but  still has a lot of good points), likes to say, “we aren’t here to feel happy, we are here to feel fully.”  And this is so, so, so true.  The goal of the “feeling baby” isn’t to make the feeling go away. The goal is to be a space for the feeler (you) to process the emotion, but also be the witness (yep, still you), of the feeler doing its thing.  


This is very hard for black and white, all-or-nothing people.  We want to believe we can have only one hat on at any given time.  Having been there myself, I invite you to look at your resistance to this concept as a good place to practice witnessing an emotion while feeling the emotion.  

Gestate your Sad Baby.

This was an email I wrote to a friend who was having trouble processing difficult/overwhelming feelings.  As an adhd person, emotional regulation is very difficult.  I developed this weird way of helping myself through rough patches:


Ok, first of all, I know this is crazy.

Don’t think less of me, but this totally works for me for a lot of reasons.
When I am having a feeling that is “negative” – I’m sad or lonely or angry or disappointed…for me, I feel it in the pit of my stomach.  I will visualize I’m “gestating the <feeling inserted here> baby.”
Let’s say I’m sad, for example:
I will visualize a baby in my womb. It is a “sad baby.”  And I am surrounding it with love, comfort, care, and creating a safe space for it to stay and gestate as long as it needs to.  Babies, for the most part only come out when they decide they are ready.  Babies, are not US, they are temporarily residing in us. We carry them around, day and night, a safe space for them as long as they need it.  We don’t overly identify with the baby we carry. We don’t think we are carrying ourselves.  However we overly identify with our feeling. “I AM sad.” “I AM mad.”  When we are pregnant we ratchet up the self-care.  We feed ourselves healthy food. We get plenty of sleep.  We avoid things that are not good for our baby.  If you visualize you are gestating this sad baby, lonely baby, angry baby, jealous baby, anxious baby…you are taking responsibility for it, and do so by caring for yourself at a very very high level. You are gentle with yourself.  Gestating a baby is hard work.  I will hold my belly as if there is a baby in there. I will talk to it. “I’ve got you. Stay as long as you like. I’m surrounding you with love.”
This TOTALLY works with fear babies, too.  Fear of the unknown is huge.  Fear babies are especially in need of a safe womb to gestate in.
Break out the pickles and ice cream!

Anti-Entropy Mechanisms and Your Spare Tire.

First, let’s define entropy.

Most of the time in tech, the third definition applies:

 “…(in information theory) a logarithmic measure of the rate of transfer of information in a particular message or language.”


In the database world, though, the second definition also applies: 

“Lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.”


Particularly in the space of data consistency across replicas.  Any database management system worth its salt will employ anti-entropy mechanisms to catch data inconsistency across replicas early. Why?  Because updating one or two rows or columns is way less costly than having to start over from scratch.

So these anti-entropy mechanisms run regularly to determine if replicas are out of sync, then works to get them consistent.  

This is also an important concept when it comes to the area of behavior change.  Humans, like databases, tend to drift slowly into disorder (old, less desirable habits) unless we employ anti-entropy mechanisms in our daily life to check our own consistency.  Whenever I tell a group about my weight-loss, I inevitably hear, “That’s great, but now you have to keep it off.”  While that could be discouraging, it’s a realistic call out for making sure I have anti-entropy mechanisms in my life.

What does that look like and how does it relate to your belt no longer fitting?  It looks like still stepping on the scale and tracking your weight trends long after you hit your goal weight.  It looks like having an accountability partner that you check in with nightly on your goal to get out and walk every day.  It can even mean continuing to track your food intake or measure your waist monthly.  It can mean still putting check marks on the calendar for every day you go without cigarettes or spending 30 mins studying a new topic in your career long after you’ve achieved your career goals.

Personally, I do many of those: track my food, weigh daily, measure weekly, and check in with an accountability partner daily.

The benefits are nearly identical between data and your personal behavior change.  It’s easier to fix drift earlier.  If you wait too long to notice drive you might be starting over completely.

Consider yourself the replica that is in an inconsistent state, and the goal version of you is what you need to stay in sync with.  Anti-entropy mechanisms are the checks and balances of your world that maintain success once you have it.