There’s a louse on my hat! How to de-stress through a change of perspective


A couple of weeks ago, a Scottish friend wished me a happy Burns Night. I had completely forgotten about it until that moment, but some of Robert Burns’ famous words hit me with a clear message and reminder to stop and rethink something that has been bothering me for a while. Yes, coaches and supervisors are human and get stuck in the stuff we coach others out of too!

Burns Original
O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!

English Translation
Oh, would some Power give us the gift
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion:
What airs in dress and gait would leave us,
And even devotion!

In other words, ‘What a gift it would be, to see ourselves and our situations through the eyes of others.

Something, or rather someone, has been bothering me. It might not even be such a big deal in the greater scheme of things, but they have certainly been taking thought, consideration and (I’ll admit it) judgement space as I battle to understand, assume what they MUST be thinking, wonder how to move forward and trying on different assumptions and scenario hats all, I might add, firmly in my own head.

It was a hat that inspired this poem as the poet sat behind an upper-class lady in church with a louse roving around, unnoticed, on her hat. The poet reflects that, to a louse, we are all equal. He muses on what an incredible gift it would be if we could all see ourselves through the eyes of others and how quickly this would remove our airs, graces and judgements.

Rabbie Burns’ message to self is, “Who really knows what is going on in someone else’s mind? Who knows what others are dealing with? Who is to say what is right or wrong, good or bad? It is all a question of interpretation based on my view point.”

So, the logic would follow that, if it would be a gift to be able to see ourself through the eyes of others, we have to begin with assuming, discovering and questioning our own assumptions and inner narratives. There are two questions that I love for this:

1. What do I believe (about this)?
2. How could I be wrong?

I find that physically writing lists of my answers down is much more helpful that staying purely in my head with all my old narratives, beliefs, judgements and values because they soon entice me back into my judgement stories. We don’t like to admit it, but we are all judgmental; towards others, towards situations and, most often towards ourselves. It’s important to recognise our thoughts and write them down as they come. If you are anything like me, you will surprise yourself if you keep going beyond the obvious answers! For those of you that are used to being coached, you know the routine; you write the obvious things down and, perhaps after a pause, your coach will always ask, “What else..?” You know that’s where the good stuff can be found!

Get creative when answering question 2! How many different ways could you possibly have the wrong end of the stick? For every louse you criticize someone else for, imagine one crawling, unnoticed, on your own hat. It makes me shudder just thinking about it, but it’s certainly an image that sticks with me and I’m hoping it helps you to take a lighthearted approach to this inner judgement exploration. The last thing you want to do here is start judging yourself for judging – guess what happens then..?

When you’ve finished the list, go back and get silly, exaggerate and have fun with it. Over exaggerate the victim, rescuer or persecutor voices that you notice you’ve been using. You’d be surprised how many hidden truths come out to play and, as they do, if you can, try and ask yourself what the gift of learning has been in this exercise for you.

Then, smile and give a hug, empathy and compassion to all the aspects of all of us with lice on our hats.

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