Friday, 1 October 2010

Mad Hatters - A Wonderland

After posting my last blog I looked round and thought for a glimpse I saw my cat Poppy peacefully sleeping on the sofa, until I realised it was a cardigan, and burst into floods of tears. Bereavement (even of a cat) is a special case. Intense emotions sneak up on you out of nowhere, but I stuck to my rules and went with those feelings and set a time limit for them. Initially that time limit is always one day but it can be extended to a week. After that, because of my personal history with depression, I go and seek help from professionals. Sometimes that just means a phone call. Sometimes, when things are more complicated it can mean counselling.

As the years have rolled by I've found I've needed less professional support in times of difficulty, and each time I've gone back it's been to address something different. We learn what we need to at our own pace. And for me it's become a simple choice of "Which do I want to be? Happy or sad?" I'm not so complacent to think there won't be gliches or that I won't need help every now and then.

Counselling should never be seen as you failing, but recognising that you are not super human and that you need a particular outlet. In the UK demand exceeds supply so there's usually a waiting list. Even so it is important that your counsellor is someone you strike a rapport with so that you will tell them everything that is troubling you, which is why you go for an initial assessment. It is for the benefit of both parties. If you ever feel you need counselling, remember to speak up if the one you meet isn't for you, but be good to yourself and say why. They're professionals and won't mind, they have your best interests at heart and want to find the right one for you.

There are many different forms of counselling too for you to pick from; all have one thing in common - they never advise. They are catalyst for you to work through your thoughts and feelings for yourself so that you have control.

My sobbing my heart out last night was entirely necessary, natural and healthy as I hadn't properly cried since Poppy died and those feelings of loss needed to come out. Today I feel better for it and comforted by it too even though it was painful at the time. Now I'm able to continue with normal life again, in the full knowledge that those feelings of loss might trip me up again, but experience has already told me they will gradually do so less and less as time goes by. So...

Six Mad Hats
In Edward de Bono's book 'Six Hats' he highlights that our brains work on many levels. It is now known that different parts of our brain are responsible for different things. Different areas are responsible for languages, others for creativity, others for sexual orientation, another for logic, another for emotions etc. What Edward de Bono points out is that we have the capacity to access different ways of thinking at any point and has given each way of thinking a 'hat'.

The six hats (if I can recall them correctly, and apologies if the labels are not quite right) are:

  • The Emotional Hat
  • The Information or Data Hat
  • The Creative Hat
  • The Problem Hat
  • The Logistics Hat
  • The Decision Hat
To me that's still an incomplete model, but certainly an improvement on the either/or of 'head (logic) vs heart (emotions) model that most of us are used to. Edward claims that many companies now use this structure to help work through problems and issues in meetings. I have not come across this myself in the UK (Data Hat), but can see how it could help (Creative Hat) and think it's a brilliant idea (Emotional Hat).

He cites an example of a meeting at work to illustrate how the mechanics of using the different hats can help save time and make discussions more productive and inclusive, but it is just as useful at family gatherings where major decisions need to be made and passions are running high.

Example: You might have a new product to discuss or an event to arrange and people have strong views about it. He suggests everyone puts on their Emotional Hats first to find out what they are, sharing feelings about it only. Then you might go on to the Creative Hat or the Data (facts) Hat followed by the Problem Hat, then the Logistics Hat before finally arriving at the Decision Hat.
There is no set order in which the group wear the hats, no rules as to how often you wear each one except one: everyone sticks with the same hat until they agree to move on. If anyone digresses, you point out to them which hat it is that they've switched to, "that's you Logistics Hat, can you put your Creative Hat back on please, we can come back to that in a minute." In addition you don't have to wear all the hats in any discussion - some may be unnecessary.

It's impossible to do a whole book justice in a few paragraphs so I recommend you read it for yourselves if you get the chance. It is an easy read. Edward has different colours for each hat - I'm loathed to guess now which colour is which - and advises that people need practice or even the hats themselves to get into the swing of it. I've used the concept many times if only to work through my own decisions e.g. do I really want to go to that party? I don't recommend you use it everyday for everything you do though, but as and when you need to. Try it as a game or if you want to be really silly try out the hats on something everyday like making a cup of tea or brushing your teeth but only as a quick introduction!

There's nothing to stop you making your own new hat either... You might want to create a Communicators Hat or a Spiritual one. There's nothing stopping you doing so. It is important though to agree on the hats you have on the table when in groups at the beginning to avoid confusion!

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