The Hats We Wear

by gloria on June 27, 2018

Unlike our ancestors of the early 1900’s, fashion rules of today do not dictate that we wear hats. Occasionally we will notice a group of women from the Red Hat Society having a meal together, or see someone wear a hat on Easter Sunday, or try to find the smiling face of a teenager whose cap is pulled down too tight. Novelist Margaret Atwood said, “I myself have twelve hats, and each represents a different personality.”

Hats have a metaphorical significance and come in all shapes and sizes. Consider some of these figurative hats–there are our work hats, our family hats, the hat we wear when we volunteer, or the hat we wear when we vacation, or work in our flower garden. Each hat is adorned with a particular set of skills and responsibilities. Often our strengths and talents for wearing each hat are the same. Our organizational skills can be used whether we are working on a job project, juggling the family’s schedule, or planning a fund-raising event. Teambuilding skills can be an excellent way to help families work out ways to take care of household chores. Strangely enough, hats may call for unique characteristics and qualities. For example our co-workers may become alienated if we wear our parent hat rather than our work hat.

Our duplicitous and integrated world makes it crucial to identify each hat we wear. We are so adept at multitasking we must also differentiate each hats’ unique qualities. There is an art to knowing which hat to wear, because trying to wear more than one hat at a time is confusing. In my role as a therapist I not only draw on my theoretical knowledge and training in family systems, but also on the experiences of my life’s journey.Many HatsThe difficulty comes when we try to wear more than one hat at a time, or forget to change from our work hat to our family hat. Sometimes I will say to a client, “I am going to take off my therapist hat, and speak from my vantage point of wearing my parent hat.” This is my way of distinguishing between theory and anecdotal knowledge. At other times I forget to take off my therapy hat, and put my family hat on at the same time. In my “well-meaningness” I become overly helpful. I try to be therapist to my family resulting in family members feeling mistrusted and/or criticized. Children in my practice tell me “I wish my Dad would just be a Dad rather than a businessman,” or “I wish my Mom would just listen and not always be the teacher.” Likewise, employees tire of a co-worker that brings all their personal problems to the workplace.

In her book Victoria: The Romance of Hats, Jeanie Larmont writes, “A hat alters the image we have of ourselves and the image others see as well. For the hours we wear it, it brings out a different dimension of our personality.” Think for a moment about the symbolic hats that you wear each day. Give each hat a name and an associated role. What expertise, experience, and talents are needed to keep each hat situated on your head? Identify circumstances that call for a transference of skills. Also, identify the hat that is only worn for special occasions. Do you need to make changes in the hats you wear?

Join me as I work to become mindful of the hat I am wearing and only wearing one hat at a time.


Talkers and Thinkers

by gloriam on March 16, 2018

Do you talk to think, or do you think to talk? People who talk to think are external processors, while people who think to talk are internal processors. I believe that the way we process information greatly affects our interaction with one another. Understanding this dynamic of internal processing and external processing can be beneficial in all of our relationships. It can aid in communication with our spouse, our children, our co-workers, and our friends. Conflict and misunderstanding can be avoided when internal and external processors are aware of the way in which they process life.

Internal processors take time to think through issues “in their head.” People who think to talk often need time to think about all the dynamics of a situation before they are ready to speak. They may need time alone to sort through issues. Internal processors want to think about all the issues, play out a scenario, or have all the information before speaking. Once the issue is worked out, internal processors may not need to discuss their process with another person. Discussing the process may feel redundant and unnecessary. It takes a conscious effort for internal processors to share their thoughts. The following list characterizes internal processors-people who think to talk:
• Need time alone
• Like to journal
• Get energy from within
• Get overwhelmed by always being with others
• Need time to think about how to articulate thoughts and feelings
• Listen well
• Need a safe environment to speak feelings and thoughts
• May or may not seek one other person’s input
• Thoughts and ideas will be solidified by the time they are verbally articulated
• May believe that every thought a person thinks does not need to be articulated

People who talk to think, or external processors, can easily assess a situation and know how to respond. External processors talk to many different people about their ideas and issues. The external processor is able to assimilate the information quickly and take it in or discard it. They are able to work out solutions as they talk. We often refer to people who talk to think as the kind of person that “thinks on their feet.” An external processor may also talk to many different people to get assistance in working through issues. The following list characterizes external processors-people who talk to think:
• Love to be with other people
• Easily carry on a conversation with others
• Get energy from external sources
• Are energized by talking and being with others
• Think on their feet
• Easily articulate thoughts and feelings
• Easily assimilate information
• Seek input from many different people
• May modify thoughts and ideas as they talk them over with others
• Often will say aloud the first thing that comes to mind

When internal processors are in a relationship with external processors problems can arise. Misunderstanding the way another person processes information often causes a judgmental stance and a sense of I’m right and you’re wrong. Accepting that there is NO right way or wrong way to deal with an issue leads to deeper and fuller understanding of one another. There are strengths in both ways of dealing with information and life issues.

The person who thinks to talk may have great difficulty understanding the needs of the person who talks to think and visa versa. The result may be that the external processor feels left out. It might feel that the other person will not talk or engage in conversation. Likewise, the internal processor may feel that he/she is not being listened too or that an answer is expected immediately. The external processor may be heard saying, “He/she won’t talk to me”. The internal processor may be heard saying, “He/she is always asking questions. When I do talk about my thoughts I am not heard.”

The dynamic of external and internal processing may not be absolute. It may fall on a continuum depending on the situation. Think for a moment about the way you process information, ideas, and issues. Where do you fall on the continuum of talkers and thinkers-internal and external processors? Do you talk to think, or do you think to talk? How does the way you deal with information affect your relationship with your spouse? What about your relationship with your children or friends or co-workers?

What about you? Are you a talker, a thinker, or a combination of both?


Rules of Life

December 1, 2017

Last Friday I had the unique opportunity and pleasure to hear Betty Alice Erickson speak at the monthly meeting of the Dallas Association for Marriage & Family Therapy meeting. Betty is Milton Ericson’s daughter, lives in Dallas and has a private practice here. It was so inspiring to hear phrases like “Daddy said” or “Daddy […]

Read the full article →

Relationship Resolutions

November 2, 2017

I hope that 2012 is off to a great start for you, your friends, and your family. The New Year is one of my favorite times of year because it is a time of new beginnings. Whether committing to healthier living or changing a bad habit, January is a great time in our lives for […]

Read the full article →

Stories of the Season

October 28, 2017

We all have our favorite holiday activities. One of mine is watching holiday movies. Though I have seen my favorites so many times I can recite many of the lines by memory, I seem to find a new meaning or laugh each time I watch. Charles Dickens’s character, Ebenezer Scrooge, reminds us that giving gifts […]

Read the full article →

Different Does Not Equal Wrong

December 15, 2016

Examples of the benefits of right and wrong permeate our lives. Our legal system, governing laws, and our moral and social mores provide the structure that keeps our society working. There are many disciplines that require precise concepts of right and wrong, i.e., math, computer science, medicine, architecture, engineering, etc. I challenge you, however, to […]

Read the full article →

“Ah-Ha” Moments: The Juice of Life

March 29, 2011

You have experienced them. Those times when you realize, “I get it,” “oh, that’s it,” “I finally understand.”Ah-ha moments are serendipitous and surprise us when we least expect it. They may come after reading something for the tenth time or when we hear an old concept framed in a new way. Recently, an ah-ha occurred for […]

Read the full article →

How Do I Love You, Let Me Count the Ways

February 2, 2011

February–the month of love and valentines. Some of my younger friends think Valentine’s Day was created by Hallmark. Others love the tradition of St. Valentine and a special day to tell someone dear “I love and appreciate you.”  I want to remind you of the importance of affirmation. Early in our marriage, my husband and […]

Read the full article →

Relationship Resolutions

January 9, 2011

I hope that 2011 is off to a great start for you, your friends, and your family. The New Year is one of my favorite times of year because it is a time of new beginnings. Whether committing to healthier living or changing a bad habit, January is a great time in our lives for […]

Read the full article →

FALL: A Time of Transition

October 15, 2010

I believe that the beginning of fall is marked by a holiday rather than a date on the calendar because growing up in the South taught me that white shoes were not to be worn after Labor Day. We live in a society that dictates activity cycles beginning in September and ending in May. Are […]

Read the full article →