I talk a lot about my dog Annie. She’s a seven year old German Shepherd and she is one of the great loves of my life. She is the sweetest creature. Full of fun, boisterous, incredibly loving and unbelievably smart. Too smart at times. I could swear she understand every word we say. She is also acutely sensitive. In the years she has been in my life, she has taught me so much.
Occasionally though, and usually because of other stuff going on with me, I lose my temper with her. I snap, tell her she’s a bad dog and instruct her to go to bed. What happens next is both hilarious and heart breaking.
She is never quite sure what she has done wrong, but she understands that momma is mad, and she wants to make it better. She instantly starts cycling through her repertoire of tricks. Sitting, giving first one paw and then the other. Bestowing kisses, lying down and then going back to sitting. She will repeat this sequence, hoping to hit on the one that will make everything alright. She will only stop when I tell her she’s a good girl, give her a cuddle and let her know momma’s not mad anymore.
The funniest part of this, is that I have realised lately I do the exact same thing. When I go into a situation where there’s an atmosphere, I am compelled to try to fix it. When I am in contact with someone in a bad mood, I have an unquenchable desire to try to make them feel better.
Most of the time, this has the exact opposite affect. We all know there’s nothing more annoying than someone trying to cheer us up when we just want to work through whatever is going on by ourselves. Preferably in silence.
On a rational level I understand this, but some old instinct kicks in and makes me feel unsafe. The negative energy charges the room with a sense of the unpredictable and I am never quite able to relax. In short, I have the emotional intelligence of my dog!
A lot of us grow up pleasing and perfecting. Collecting gold stars and praise for being a good little girl. For being sweet. We perform to make others happy, finding safety in their smiles. Most of us grow out of this behaviour in adolescence. I seem to have skipped over that step.
I am deep into my third decade on this planet and I still have this innate desire to smooth everything over. As often as I tell myself your mood is nothing to do with me, I will still try to “fix” it. As much as I know your silence and withdrawal could have a million motivations, I will still find a way to take it personally. I will sit, give the paw and roll over until such time as I feel like order has been restored.
The irony is, doing so will most likely alienate you or make you think I am a crazy lady.
There is great power in self awareness. Now that I know I do this, I can try to stop myself from diving head first into every drama I encounter. Other peoples’ moods are none of my business and I am certainly not responsible for altering them. This is going to require a herculean effort on my part, because just sitting in the discomfort, without trying to do something about it is completely alien to me.
Just like Annie, I am too sensitive for my own good. Getting a thicker skin is most likely not going to happen at this stage, but I can stop putting my hand out to be slapped. I can stop taking on the problems of the world as if they were my own.
Let’s hope I can pick up new tricks just as easily as Annie can. Be well xxx