An example of my dog tuning into my feelings
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 three related themes that I am working with. I am suggesting that our dog's behaviour is:
- a reflection of our feelings in the moment,
- a response to our deeply, buried, unresolved emotions that we have collected through our life.
- 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. It 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. I was fortunate that my new love interest was also a dog owner and was happy for me to bring Archie along when I visited.
On my first visit Archie 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
I have been able to 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. Maybe it's to do with trying to stop rejection. My new relationship turned out to give me the opportunity to repeat this old pattern but also 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 called 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. Maybe I was imagining it but his behaviour seemed to reflect me exercising control over the situation.
I plucked up the courage to share my feelings, saying that 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' apparently was my passion for understanding our emotional links with our dogs. For the first time in a long time I responded to my feelings, and said goodbye.
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, giving him a greater capacity to handle the energetic release of emotion that he had previously run away from.
It was a loss. I had enjoyed the company. However, as I stood back I could see another perspective. I had been given an opportunity to choose a different behaviour when relating to someone else, to recognise my own needs and chose an option that avoided compromising them. In doing so, I also discovered that the fear of rejection was worse than the rejection itself. I am immensely grateful for the experience.
Adventure, followed by pain, followed by growth, with your dogs sharing the journey!
How truly amazing life is!