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.