Your emotions your dog

posted in: My dog as my therapist | 2

Joanne & Archie

 

Your emotions your dog

Your emotions, your dog - what do I mean?

The work I am doing with my dogs is all about observing their behaviour and tuning into my feelings and emotions at the time.  From that I try to understand how the two things might be connected.  This helps me build up my knowledge of how dogs are here to help us in our personal development.  Hence the title: 'Your emotions, your dog'.

Because there is no way of measuring emotion it doesn't seem to be possible to prove scientifically. I use my own anecdotal experiences to explore the concepts and write about my resulting  ideas, thoughts and reflections.  It might be described as unscientific, but in my defence this approach is not new.  I comfort myself in the knowledge that Albert Einstein's work was one of coming up with principles or hypotheses, for other people to prove scientifically!

There are two related themes that I am working with: your dog's behaviour is:

  1. a reflection of your feelings in the moment,
  2. a response to your deeply, buried, unresolved emotions that you have collected through your life.
  3. A combination of the above two, in association with his or her own temperament (this I have added in May 2018 as I progress my own interpretation)

Noticing my dog's behaviour

A few weeks ago I started a new intimate relationship with someone.   It was the first for me in 23 years, and at the age of 51, was a bit of a scary prospect.   So it was going to be a time with opportunities for personal growth!

I found being in a new  relationship exciting. Ir was like being a teenager again!   It was also stressful!  The excitement of getting to know someone new, sharing new experiences, sharing ideas and feelings, physical intimacy, feeling cared for and caring for someone, was  great.  Balanced by my fear of the unknown, the fear of showing my feelings for someone else and running the risk of rejection.

One of my 3 dogs, Archie, goes everywhere with me.  He has done since the day I brought him home 2 1/2 years ago.  I was fortunate that  my new love interest was also a dog owner and was happy for me to bring Archie along too when I visited him.

Archie is an excitable young Labrador retriever.  On my first visit he appeared to display his usual enthusiastic, energetic and inquisitive self, running around exploring the new house.  On the second and third visits he seemed more nervous, anxious about crossing the living room floor, reluctant to enter the kitchen.  The most extreme behaviour was him sitting on  the sofa, whining when I left the room, unprepared to join me until I came back to collect him.

I was puzzled, trying to work out what things might have freaked him out.  Then at the following visit his anxiety seemed reduced.   I started to think about Archie's behaviour and how it matched my own feelings.  His nervousness in the living room had occurred on a visit that I had felt particularly anxious and uncertain of myself   I had felt challenged by my surroundings and how I felt about myself.  The more I considered it I saw that  Archie's confidence has grown with each visit, as I had got more relaxed in this new situation.

Noticing my own feelings

In my own personal development I have become more aware of the role I play in my relationships.   I have had a tendency to compromise my own needs because I am frightened of speaking up.  It's how I try to stop the worst consequence -  rejection.  My new relationship turned out to give me the opportunity to witness this old pattern and choose to change it.

After a few weeks I started to get the feeling that my new friend's interest in me was waning.  Previously in this situation I would just assume the worst.  This time, however, maybe because of the personal development I have been going through, I risked sending a text to ask 'what's going on?'.  We arranged to meet.  But afterwards things still didn't feel quite right.  I pushed myself through my reservations and arranged to call round.  At this visit, Archie was noticeably much more confident.  He was happier all around the house.  Rather  than cowering along the floor in the kitchen he was jumping up and counter-surfing.  His behaviour seemed to reflect my growing ability to take control of my situation.

Breaking a habit of  a lifetime I plucked up the courage to share my feelings.  I felt he was no longer enjoying my company.  He didn’t disagree and explained what for him wasn’t working.  The biggest 'turn-off' was cited  as my passion for understanding our emotional links with our dogs.  This was one thing that I could do nothing about changing.   For the first time in a long time I noticed my own feelings, knew what I wanted , and spoke my truth as I said  'this isn't working for me'.

Aftermath

A few nights later I dreamt of scenarios where I spoke my truth and experienced the dire consequences that ensued  - of isolation and abandonment.  I interpreted the dreams as confirmation that I had managed to confront a huge emotional block.   I woke the next morning full of anxiety and dread.  I wept,  as my body released the energy of blocked emotion that had been dammed up for so long in my fear of speaking out.

I joined the dogs in the garden with my morning cup of tea.  Sitting in the sunshine,  tears rolling down my face,  Jack, the hamiltonstovare, joined me immediately.  He took up his familiar 'supportive' position, sitting slightly in front at me, with his back facing me.  It's as if he is offering his broad back to soak up the energy of my tears.  Archie joined me on my other side.  What was unusual this time was that Logan,   the trail hound, who usually makes a sharp exit any time I have tears.  He came and sat down close into Jack, on his other side.  I found myself wondering if the emotional blocks that I had shifted in speaking my truth has allowed something to shift something in Logan as well, allowing him a greater capacity to handle the energetic release of emotion that he had previously run away from.  I will continue to observe 🙂

Room for another

End Note

It has been a sad time.  I had enjoyed the relationship and the company and was sorry that it hadn't lasted longer.  We had some great times and I learnt a lot.  However, as I stand back I can see another perspective.  My friend had given me the opportunity to choose a different behaviour when relating to someone else:  to recognise my own personal needs.  I spoke up about my concerns.  I owned my own feelings and chose an option that avoided compromising them.  I was changing my habit of a lifetime (ouch!).   In doing so, I  also discovered that the fear of rejection was actually worse than the rejection itself (although it is still sore!).  I can only be immensely grateful for the experience and trust that the benefits weren't all on my side 🙂

Adventure, followed by pain, followed by growth, with your dogs sharing the journey!

How truly amazing life is!

2 Responses

  1. Nanda
    | Reply

    thanks for being so honest..It is very hard stuff and our dogs do hold us and the other in high regard it seems in there own way and even in there cautious way. I have watched how slowly my dog had extended her self to the man I have been dating and careful about his asthma and yet wanting to be loving and close. She is not at all easy with a huge prey drive but a huge heart in my view and a great, as Sang would say, snarky side that makes me laug. It is pretty wild to watch the interplay and it has made me see how I hold myself in all of this as well; my life, my dog and loving another, and letting them all matter rather then just either/or.

    I think dogs can be like step kids and can be as challenging for a new partner or friendship and there is letting the other into the situation. Letting them be who they are and let the dog negotiate that on their terms is incredible work, so there has been alot to learn and most of it not super easy.

    I admire your courage and your love in the letting go. The opening, I am sure, is leading you to an even fuller place within loving another and always as well in terms of loving this funny non-self as they can say in Zen..the full and empty of it. Much love and beauty in the weeks to come. Nanda

    You write very well and I continue to benefit from your words. I am not much of a blogger but I do touch in now and then..honored to know you all in bits.

    • Joanne
      | Reply

      Oh Nanda, thankyou very much for your wise, kind words and sharing your experiences as well 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.