The surprise arrival of rescue cats L'il Fox and Ming Ming has been the impetus for mental health clinician Dianne Salvador to create a simple tool to help people navigate change.
- Rescue cats inspire mental health clinician Dianne Salvador to combine psychology and cat behaviours in a book
- The book Cat Shapes is intended as a tool to help navigate change
- Ms Salvador has been assisting doctors with mental health concerns for more than a decade
Previously not a cat lover, Ms Salvador had been supporting medical practitioners through change and authored books for the sector.
But the arrival of the cats came with new insights into agility and transformation that inspired her to create a practical book for the wider community, that pairs photographs of cat behaviours with psychology theory – Cat Shapes.
"Their knack for transforming [which is something we yearn for] captured my imagination," Ms Salvador said.
As the cats settled into their new home and went about their activities, Ms Salvador noticed their agility in adaptation — one of the key elements to sustainable endeavour.
"Agility is about a state of constant evolution, innovation, reinvention. It is the capability to respond to changing demands," Ms Salvador said.
Change and transition can often feel overwhelming, so Ms Salvador made the book deliberately simple and accessible.
"[Readers] don't want a heavy tome of information that is going to bewilder them further," she said.
"They just want something simple to find a simple way forward."
Make like a cat to find a path forward
Through observing her new feline charges, Ms Salvador identified 28 shapes — or ways of approaching a situation — cats used.
Some of those shapes were curiosity, courage, temporary collapse, social engagement, intention, presence, and patience.
By picking one shape as a 'next step' when we are stuck, observing the outcome, then choosing another option for the following step, Ms Salvador said we could start to create a pathway forward through challenges.
Ms Salvador said one powerful approach to an unfamiliar situation was just to show up.
"We all carry fears about the types of situations that we might be about to enter," Ms Salvador said.
"There is a tendency to avoid those situations where the fear is bigger than our inclination to enter that situation.
Another shape is conforming to those around us.
This can be useful to help us 'fit in' when we are in an unfamiliar situation, but Ms Salvador cautioned us to choose our company carefully.
"So that we are not drawn into things that could be destructive when we have an array of constructive options available to us and company that will accompany us on a healthier path," she said.
Turning change into a positive
As change becomes more rapid, tools that help us manage change can make transitions easier and more productive.
Ms Salvador said change could even lead to wonderful outcomes.
"Work conditions change, health conditions change, and those changes can present new obstacles," she said.
"They can also present some really amazing opportunities as well."