This was an extremely difficult chapter for me to write as I was forced to own up to some bad behavior on my part. Being born as the type of dog that I am (part Lab and part Terrier, what I call a “Laberrier”), I’ve had an extremely compulsive need to be both helpful (the Lab) and a constantly busy know-it-all (the Terrier.)
Most people (myself included) fail to notice when their behavior is getting out of hand and, as a result of that, I failed to see just how much of a buttinsky I could be at times (especially when it came to my twin daughters.) I always rationalized that I was simply being “helpful” when, in truth, I was frequently overbearing in an effort to get things to go my way. The truth was I wanted my daughters to do what I wanted them to do! But, as we’ll see later in the chapter, my desire to “be helpful” often went beyond the bounds of what’s appropriate. It ended up taking one of my daughter’s horrified response to something I did to finally make me see how inappropriate I was at times.
Thankfully, it’s possible (though not easy) for us humans to be trained in spite of our genetic tendencies. Yet, it’s always going to be a struggle going against our genetic blueprint. Any training occurs in one of two ways: either by stopping ourselves from doing something we want to do or getting ourselves to do something we don’t want to do. The biggest difference between people and dogs when it comes to being trained has to do with the fact that dogs can’t consciously train themselves like people can. Yet, despite the fact that we humans have the theoretical potential to change ourselves, for the most part, we’re rarely able to significantly alter our genetic tendencies or temperament.
Throughout my many years as a veterinarian, I’ve watched countless dog owners tear their hair out as they tried time and again to get their dog to do something the dog didn’t want to do or to quit doing something the owner didn’t want the dog to do. The truth is, no matter how hard we try by ourselves or with the help of trainers, it’s not easy to get a genetic being (dog or human) to stop doing something it wants to do or start doing something it doesn’t want to do.
Training is always going to be the most successful when it’s centered around a behavior that’s already genetically present in an individual. A perfect example of this concerns Lipizaner horses. When I went to a performance of Lipizaner horses in Nashville, Tennessee, I was amazed when the announcer explained that, before a Lipazaner horse ever receives any kind of training, it’s simply observed: for the first five years of its life! The trainers merely watch the horses for whatever behaviors they naturally display genetically. For instance, one horse might love rearing up on its hind legs all the time while another horse likes to leap in the air. The trainers then capitalize on the behaviors the horse genetically likes to do. Clearly, Lipazaner horse trainers have learned throughout the years that it’s not worth it to try and force a horse to do something it doesn’t already want to do.
Another factor that greatly impacts the success or failure of any training endeavor is the actual temperament of the individual being trained since, without a doubt, certain individuals are much easier to train than others. When it comes to training, it makes all the difference in the world if an individual has an easy temperament versus one that is difficult or slow to warm up. Some dogs, such as a compliant Golden Retriever or a Lab, are not going to be nearly as difficult to train as compared to a dog that is stubborn or fearful. Anyone who’s ever tried knows that it can be almost impossible to train a dog that’s overly fearful and anxious. Certain dogs are so anxious or fearful that they may need anti-anxiety medication before any training can actually begin. Many veterinarians today have started prescribing various anti-anxiety medications (such as Prozac) so as to help some of these poor dogs that are perpetually scared and anxious. There are dogs that are so extremely sensitive and reactive that just the most ordinary of sounds can make them panic (like doorbells, vacuum cleaners or any unexpected sound such a dropped pan.) Certain dogs panic the moment they’re left alone or exposed to something unfamiliar. Anti-anxiety drugs are often quite effective in helping these dogs to calm down and relax so that a training process can begin.
There have been a number of different techniques utilized over the years in our quest to find the best way to train a dog. One of the first and best-known techniques was the Barbara Woodhouse method that was introduced in the 1950’s. This technique involved giving a command in conjunction with a physical correction (such as a gentle jerk on the dog’s leash.) The command and physical correction are repeated until the dog finally responds in the correct manner whereby it’s rewarded with verbal praise. One variation of this technique (called positive reinforcement) involves giving the dog a favorite toy or treat in addition to the verbal praise.
The dog whisperer technique popularized by Cesar Millan requires that a trainer learn to “read” a dog’s body language in an attempt to uncover the underlying motivation behind a particular behavior of the dog. The trainer then utilizes his own body language to bring about the desired change in the dog’s behavior.
Certain dog behaviorists and trainers in recent years have started using a clicker as part of the training process. The clicker technique is especially helpful when the dog being trained is so fearful that it can’t be approached or corrected by the trainer. With the clicker technique, the trainer attempts to build a positive response to the clicker by pairing the clicking of the clicker with the offering of food. Once a dog has learned to associate the sound of the clicker with the positive reinforcement of food, the trainer then starts to intermittently use the clicker without the reward of food. Many dogs reach a point where they respond just as enthusiastically to the clicker by itself as they did when the clicker was accompanied by food. The goal is to have the clicker become a positive reinforcement in and of itself so that the dog’s fear is minimized any time it hears the clicker.
There’s actually a technique that’s reminiscent of the clicker that’s sometimes used to alter the behavior of people! Instead of a clicker, though, a rubber band around the wrist is used. This is actually a form of negative reinforcement as compared to the positive reinforcement of a clicker. As needed, the rubber band is repeatedly snapped against the skin by the wearer in an effort to distract or interrupt unwanted thoughts or behaviors (such as the desire to smoke a cigarette or eat a Snicker’s bar!)
Humans have desperately searched for centuries for some method, technique or philosophy that will allow us to control or change our behavior. Yet, what has consistently proved to be much more important than any individual technique or philosophy is whether the person involved is actually ready and motivated to change at any moment in time. And, just as it is with fearful or anxious dogs, it’s only going to be that much more difficult for us to change if we’re overly stressed or psychologically compromised in some way or another.
So, to increase the likelihood of success in our quest to change ourselves, it’s vital that we not only be ready and motivated to change but that we find a way to create the proper space in our lives for change. The space required for us to be able to change involves both physical space (i.e.-making time in our busy schedules) and emotional space (finding ways to maintain our motivation and commitment.) In sustain the proper emotional health needed for change, it’s imperative that we constantly revisit the motivation that inspired us to change in the first place. That’s the only place where we’re going to find the needed strength and determination to keep us going when the going gets tough (as it always will.)
Before writing this book, most of my attempts to change myself had been fairly half-hearted or, at the very least, poorly motivated. To begin with, being a know-it-all Terrier made me a bit blind to the need for change. It was much easier to convince myself that I was just fine the way I was and that it was really the other people in my life who needed to change! Focusing on other people’s shortcomings allowed me to ignore my own issues.
To further protect myself from criticism, I made sure that no one got a chance to ever really see the “real” me inside. Like so many of us, I’d subconsciously convinced myself that I wasn’t really worthy of being loved: that there was something so messed up about myself that I was simply unfixable. I don’t think I would have ever found any compassion for myself if I hadn’t started think of myself as a dog! Only through viewing myself with the unconditional love that I brought to all dog was I able to understand that I was simply a genetic being and, just like a dog, I had a temperament and behaviors that weren’t under my control. Just like a Chihuahua is a Chihuahua and a German Shepherd is a German Shepherd, I was the person I was as a result of my DNA
Now that I’ve learned to think of myself as a Lab/Terrier mix (a Laberrier), it’s so much easier to make sense of why I behave the way I do. Being a Laberrier, I’m simply an incorrigible combination of a thoughtless, no-boundaries Lab and a know-it-all constantly busy Jack Russell Terrier. Since Laberriers are outrageously hardheaded and one-track minded, I understand now why I can’t ever let something go! The way I always get a certain scheme or plan of action stuck inside my head completely makes sense to me now. I simply never know when to quit!
Throughout the entirety of my life, friends and family have tried politely (and not-so-politely) to let me know that I was constantly over stepping my boundaries and butting into their lives. Instead of ever really listening, though, I’d either become defensive and lash out or find another way to get what I wanted such that the other person finally gave up or backed down. I lived my life by the Vince Lombardi adage that the best defense is always a good offense. I came on strong and would attack if needed.
In truth, though, I was terrified: scared that if some part of me was ever called into question, then the whole of me might be suspect. I didn’t have the capacity to look myself non-judgmentally because I’d already decided that I was no good. The only recourse I had was to put on a false front: to constantly act confident around other people when, in truth, when I felt scared and alone.
With time, the real me became so thoroughly overshadowed by the fake me that I no longer had any clue who the real me was. That’s why it was such an incredible relief when I finally started thinking of myself as a dog. For the first time ever, I’d found a way to accept myself simply as I was. Once I realized that I was a Lab/Terrier combination (a Laberrier), I immediately discovered a patience and compassion for myself that I’d never known before. Instead of thinking of myself as a moldable lump of clay where I should be able to sculpt myself into whatever I might want to be, I now accepted that I was a genetic being and, as such, I had no choice but to be the individual that my DNA had dictated me to be. It was no longer my “fault” that I was the person that I was any more than it’s a Poodle’s fault that it was born a Poodle.
The realization that I was a product of my DNA in the exact same way that a dog is a product of its DNA is what finally freed me from the burden of being myself. No longer did I have to fight the reality of who I was. All that I had to do was accept and be at peace with the individual that I was born to be. I’d been born a Laberrier and that’s who I was going to be until the day I died. I’d never again have to make excuses for being the person that I was.
The consequences of seeing myself as a genetic being instead of some unformed lump of clay were huge. When I’d believed myself to be an unformed lump of clay, I always felt guilty, that I lacked strength or determination because I hadn’t able to turn myself into the person that I thought I should be. Time and time again as I repeatedly failed in my quest to transform myself (which was bound to happen since none of us can change ourselves into something that we’re not), I’d viscously chastise myself for being weak and spineless. I also blamed my parents and my personal circumstances for my inability to turn myself into someone that I wasn’t. For the most part, though, I blamed myself because, even if I’d had an unhappy family life and hadn’t been born rich, I felt that I still should have been strong enough and determined enough to rise above those obstacles.
Humans are so hard on themselves. The majority of us hate ourselves for failing to be the person that we think we should be when the truth is we don’t have much choice in the matter as we’re all products of our DNA. We may not like or want to be the genetic person that we were born to be but we can’t help but be who we are. If a Poodle is born a Poodle, does it make sense for it to spend its life hating itself because it can’t transform itself into a German Shepherd? Accepting ourselves for who we are may not be easy but it’s the only option we have unless we want to spend our lives wishing, hoping and dreaming that one day we’ll finally become something that we’re not!
.It’s taken some time but, with the People Are Like Dogs philosophy as my guide, I’ve managed to minimize the amount of time I spend blaming and hating myself for not being someone else. It has truly been such a relief (affording me the first real peace that I’ve ever known) now that I accept that I’m never going to be anyone other than who I am.
Of course, we all need to be as responsible as we can for the person we are even if who we are is a consequence of our genetics. Genetics is not a get-out-of-jail free-card such that we can say, “My DNA made me do it!” Each of us needs to do what we can to try and manage our genetic selves so that we’re the best people that we can possibly be.
For the world to be as good of a place that it can possibly be, we all need to be conscious and mindful (to the best of our ability) of how our behavior affects others. Each of us (Chihuahuas and Pit Bulls alike!) must first acknowledge and own up to both our strengths and shortcomings and then do our best to control ourselves so we live in as much harmony as is possible with other human beings.
Tragically, as history and the daily news bears out, there’s always going to be certain individuals (just as there are certain dogs) who are out of control and dangerous and who are going to ultimately hurt or kill others. Dangerous people (and dogs) are simply a part of life. We’ll be discussing this in more detail in the chapter on Dangerous Dogs/Dangerous People.
At the moment that I finally made peace with the fact that I’m a product of my DNA, I felt both relief and trepidation: relief because I no longer had to blame myself for the individual that I was; trepidation because I now knew that I wasn’t ever going to be able to change myself that much.
Being a genetic being was definitely a mixed bag. I was thrilled that I could quit thinking of myself as a failure for not being able to change myself into whatever and whoever I might want to be yet, at the same time, I wasn’t particularly thrilled that I was going to be stuck with the person that I was until the day I died. Was I simply going to keep repeating my bad behaviors over and over again like a dog hopelessly chasing its tail?
All I could hope was that, somewhere within myself, I might possess the capacity to at least temper my behavior despite my DNA. My hopes for this possibility were based on the fact that if dogs (who are genetic beings) could be trained, then I should be trainable if I’m like a dog! I desperately wanted the ability to dictate my behavior at least to some degree: I wasn’t a DNA robot after all! Through training myself, I might just be able to get a leash on my bad behaviors so they weren’t just running wild all the time!
As it turned out, training (or changing) oneself is never as easy as we think it’s going to be when we first make up our minds to change! The reason for that concerns the fact that all change, even a change for the better, is inevitably going to be accompanied by a certain amount of upheaval and stress. The degree of that upheaval is quite variable and can range from simply feeling a little ill at ease to feeling like you might just die at any moment.
Also, due to all the different temperaments in the world, it goes without saying that certain individuals are going to be much easier to train than others. An individual with an “easy” temperament (such as a Golden Retriever type) is definitely going to be easier to train than an individual that is fearful, obstinate or defiant (a “difficult” or “slow-to-warm-up” temperament such as a Chihuahua.)
On top of these temperamental differences (easy, difficult or slow-to-warm-up), there are two other factors that greatly impact how trainable we’re going to be at any given moment: whether we’re ready and motivated to change. There are countless reasons why we might not be ready at one moment in time and then ready at another moment in time but the reality is this: if we’re not ready and motivated to change, change isn’t going to happen.
When it came to my own personal struggle to modify certain behaviors that didn’t serve me well, it seemed to take a hell of a long time to finally get to a point where I was both ready and motivated. I was just so genetically stubborn and hard-headed that I lacked the ability to see myself as others saw me. No matter how often someone tried to tell me that I was being intrusive and controlling, I simply couldn’t (or wouldn’t) let it sink in.
I don’t know if the stars and universe became aligned or I’d simply reached the point where I came to my senses but something inside of me clicked and, at long last, I was finally ready to make a change. Once the flip switched inside of me, I could suddenly see things about myself that I’d not been able to see before: most importantly, how I’d been hurting someone I dearly loved. I refused to make excuses for myself and I didn’t shift the blame or responsibility to someone else like I normally would. In the moment that I saw how badly I’d hurt someone who I loved and who loved me, I was not only ready, I was motivated
Looking back, I realize now that I’d lived my life with blinders on. Whenever it came to the way I behaved, I only ever saw what I wanted to see. When the blinders were finally removed from my eyes, I could hardly stand the sight of myself: how I’d chosen to selfishly hurt someone I loved simply to fulfill my own agenda. In that instant, my life changed because, once the blinders were off, there was no going back to being blind again.
Before I confess the bad behavior that finally opened my eyes, I’d like to explain some things about myself. Before the incident that opened my eyes, it wasn’t as if I was completely oblivious to how controlling and intrusive I could be. The reasoning that went on inside my head had to do with the feeling that I had that I honestly knew what was best for someone else and that, once they did what I thought was best for them, they’d actually be appreciative and thankful.
Before I was able to understand that my behavior was directly dictated by my genetics (that I was part Labrador and part Terrier), I simply believed that I’d either made a choice to be the way I was or that’d I’d turned out to be the way I was due to my family and childhood circumstances. I had no idea that I’d been born a rescuer plain and simple. Genetically, I’m instantly attracted to any individual that is lost, distressed or forlorn.
Growing up, this need to save-the-day got a lot of practice because, as a little girl, I lived my life trying to save my mom and my family. Being an Italian, my mom was very vocal about everything that she was unhappy about: she was never one to suffer in silence. Seeing her constant distress triggered my genetic need to help and I became permanently committed to saving her in whatever fashion a six-year old-plus could manage.
Unfortunately, all my efforts to make my mom happy were futile yet, being the Laberrier that I was born to be, I didn’t know how to quit trying to save her. On a daily basis all through my childhood, I constantly strategized and schemed for ways to make her happy for at least a moment or two. I’d try to keep the house clean, organize the garage, weed the lawn but, by far, the most important thing I tried to do for my mom was listen unendingly to her complaints and upsets concerning my dad.
As absurd as it was, I served as my mom’s personal Dear Abby. From the age of six or seven, I was privy to all sorts of intimate details that no child should ever know about. I had no clue that this wasn’t normal, that not every kid hears about her dad’s affairs and her parent’s sex life.
But, as a result of my genetic need to please and to be of service, I couldn’t quit listening to my mom’s problems and trying to help her find a way to make her life better. I realize now that my need to please and to help others was not a choice: it was a complete and utter compulsion. Never once did I think about what I was doing: I was action devoid of thought. I responded to my mom’s needs (and ultimately everyone else’s needs) as mindlessly as a dog might chase a ball.
But, what I didn’t know at the time was the downside to being compulsively pleasing and helpful. The more entrenched I became in my mother’s life (and anyone else’s I got involved with), the more I lost sight of what a healthy boundary was. In truth, I was so mindlessly compelled to help people that I even tried to help people who hadn’t asked for my help!
As my need to please and to be needed was ingrained in my DNA, it definitely wasn’t something that I could easily choose not to do. Unfortunately, my need to please and be needed was a lot more about me than it was about the person I was trying to help. The buttinsky Labrador inside of me was persistently egged on by the Jack Russell terrier inside of me that arrogantly believed that it had the answers to everyone’s problems. This crazy combination of intrusiveness and arrogance had me convinced that I could be Dear Abby to the entire world!
If someone were to ask my twin daughters what it was like having me as a mom, they’d probably say that I tried really hard to be a good mom by making sure they had lots of fun and adventure in their lives. At the same time, though, I have no doubt that they’d also say that I could be quite intense and intrusive at times. Looking back, I’m ashamed at how my need to be in control got out of hand. I suffered terribly from an inability to listen or hear anything my daughters (or anyone else for that matter!) might have to say. Simply put, I had my own personal agenda and it was clear that I’d rather die than let something or someone get in the way of that agenda. My point of view was so narrow that, no matter how much my daughters protested or tried to tell me what they wanted for their lives, I never quit believing that I was the one who knew what was best for them.
Not too long ago (as I continued my legacy of constantly butting into my daughters’ lives), I did something that was so outrageous that even I have had a hard time owning up to it. As usual, the Lab in me had detected a need as far as one of my daughters was concerned and the Terrier in me arrogantly decided that it was time for me to take action (without first asking my daughter for permission!)
The situation had to do with the fact that my daughter had just gone through an extremely difficult break-up with the father of her son. Though she was actually coming to terms with the situation and was in truth doing fine, I got it in my head that what she needed was a new boyfriend!
Following that line of reasoning, I started looking for eligible guys on craigslist! Looking back, I must have been temporarily insane is all I can think. Using my criteria for the selection process, I found three guys that looked to me to be quite promising. If I’d stopped at that point and simply told my daughter that I’d been browsing on her behalf for eligible guys online, then things might not have been so bad. But, like a terrier chasing a mole, I couldn’t stop and I actually responded to the ads! Thank heavens, I wasn’t so insane as to pretend to be my daughter: I confessed to the guys that I was a mom looking for great guys for my daughter as she was too busy with work, school and her son to take time for dating. I made it clear that my daughter had no idea that I was doing this and that she was surely going to kill me when she found out! All the guys wrote back and all of them were interested in talking to my daughter online.
I knew that I’d shamelessly invaded my daughter’s privacy but I was simply too caught up in my knowing-what’s-best-for-everyone-else Laberrier self. The truth was I was only thinking of what I wanted for my daughter, not what she might want or how she might feel as a result of what I was doing.
This was horrendous behavior even for a Laberrier! It made no difference whatsoever that my intentions might have been good because, no matter how I tried to spin it, I had selfishly chosen to run rampant over my adult daughter’s life.
I knew with absolute certainty what my daughter’s reaction was going to be when I finally told her what I’d done: “Mom, are you nuts?! I can’t believe you! How dare you invade my life like this!” Yet, despite knowing how upset my daughter was going to be, I selfishly disregarded her feelings in favor of my own agenda.
What nerve! To think that I actually considered myself to be a caring and selfless person! What a crock! Who in hell did I think I was fooling?
When I finally found the courage to tell my daughter what I’d done, she was mortified. I watched as her initial shock morphed into abject frustration, anger and defeat. To her credit, she didn’t yell at me but, in what was almost worse, she spoke to me like she was trying to explain something to a four-year old child. She told me that she was quite content with her life as it was and that, when she was ready to date again, she’d find someone on her own.
What broke my heart was the look of defeat on my daughter’s face: a look that said, “God, she’s never going to change, she’s never going to treat me like the adult that I am.” In retrospect, I don’t think there’s anything worse that I could have done to her: I’d completely disrespected her adulthood. My daughter was someone who’d worked incredibly hard to accomplish the things she’d accomplished in her life and, here I was, treating her like a helpless child.
That look of defeat caused something to snap inside of me: I felt instantly ashamed and embarrassed in a way that I don’t ever remember feeling. A life-changing moment of clarity took place inside of me as I watched my daughter struggle to control her emotions and be patient with me. Maybe for the first time ever, I saw myself through my daughter’s eyes. She was a grown woman stuck with an overbearing and interfering mother who only operated from her own agenda, who clearly didn’t trust her daughter’s judgement, who went so far as to try and pick out guys for her like she picked out clothes when she was in grade school! What a disaster!
Watching my daughter, my I-know-what’s-best-for-you arrogance deflated faster than a popped balloon. Without my know-it-all arrogance, there was absolutely nothing standing between me and the truth of what I’d done. I started to actually feel shaky and light-headed. It was as if someone had cracked my shell and I was getting ready to crumble into a million tiny pieces.
I had to get out of there. I was at my daughter’s house so, repeating over and over again how sorry I was, I excused myself and left. Getting into my car, I felt out-of-body, like I was watching myself from outside of myself. Having the first panic attack of my life, I was finding it hard to breathe. What had I done? What had I done?
I was in a complete melt down as I drove home from my daughter’s house. I couldn’t get the horrible look of defeat on my daughter’s face out of my mind. What kind of mother would do what I’d done? I felt like someone must feel when they’ve stepped on a land mine and, with the sound of that fateful click, their life is over.
For hours that night, I lay on my bed with my knees tucked up to my chest, asking myself over and over again, “What’s wrong with you? What’s wrong with you?” My world felt like it was spinning out of control like the time I’d drank too many Black Russians in college. But, this time, sobering up wouldn’t make me feel any better.
One thing, and one thing only, saved me that night. As I lay on my bed reliving what I’d done to my daughter, I couldn’t see how I’d ever be able to forgive myself. But, like a hand reaching out for mine in the dark, a wonderful thought occurred to me, a thought that managed to calm me when nothing else could. It was a simple thought born out of my years of being a veterinarian. What occurred to me was that I’d behaved badly. I’d misbehaved just like so many dogs do by peeing on the rug or tearing up a favorite pair of shoes. Without a doubt, I’d been stupid and thoughtless but, if a beloved dog can be forgiven for doing something destructive, then maybe I could be forgiven: not only by my daughter but by myself.
As I thought more about being like a dog, I realized that my genetic tendencies had set me up to misbehave as badly as I had. As a Labrador, I naturally had a tendency to overstep my boundaries and, as a Terrier, I was always going to arrogantly think that I knew what was best for everyone. Being genetically predisposed doesn’t in any way excuse my behavior or what I’d done to my daughter. But, now that I understood that my behavior had been dictated by my DNA (just like it was for dogs), I was able to find some compassion for myself.
It also gave me hope! If I was a genetic being just like a dog and dogs can be trained to behave in spite of their genetic tendencies, then I should be able to train myself to behave in a more thoughtful and considerate manner. The clincher was, in my case, I had to be ready and motivated to change. I had to want to be trained.
When I’d misbehaved in the past, I’d never been able to accept that my behavior was truly out of line. This time was different: I’d seen myself through my daughter’s eyes and I was ready and motivated to change. Even though I’d been born a Laberrier and would be a Laberrier until the day I died, that didn’t mean that if I really set my mind to it, I couldn’t find a way to reign in some of the genetic behaviors that weren’t serving me in my life. I hadn’t ever felt the need to change myself before but I now saw with crystal clarity that my tendency to disregard other people’s boundaries and my arrogant know-it-all attitude was hurting and disrespecting the people I loved.
I didn’t expect that I’d be able to completely change who I was because my DNA controlled the majority of what made me “me.” But, if I could keep myself motivated, I just might be able to control myself enough so that I wouldn’t keep invading the space of the other people.
The first thing I’d need to do would be to authentically apologize to my daughter. I’d explain that I’d allowed my Laberrier to run wild and that I would get a leash on that dog and do everything I could to make it behave.
There are only two ways to truly make amends for behaving as I had:
- take full responsibility for my actions
- promise to work hard to train myself so that I might be a better-behaved person in the future.
As a veterinarian, I’d always known that the behavior of any particular dog was a reflection of that dog’s genetics as each breed has its own temperament and genetic tendencies. All German Shepherds are extremely similar to other German Shepherds and the same goes for all breeds of dogs: Labs, Chihuahuas, Dobermans, etc. When it comes to people, though, we know we are genetic beings on one level but truly accepting how much our DNA affects us isn’t always easy. Humans desperately want to believe that we have the capacity to transform ourselves into anything we want ourselves to be. A certain amount of change might be possible with intense determination and commitment but there’s no way a genetic being is ever going to be able to transform itself into something other than what it was born to be.
.Before I started accepting myself for who I was genetically, I was extremely hard on myself. Though I wouldn’t own up to other people’s complaints about me, I had a picture in my mind of the person that I longed to be. When I repeatedly failed at being able to transform myself into someone I wasn’t, I experienced an extreme amount of self-loathing, often hating myself for not having enough will power to become the person I wanted to be. Though I was arrogant about other people’s lives, I never felt good enough when it came to my own life.
That’s a completely different mindset from accepting yourself as you are understanding that there’s some training that needs to be done. I was so weary of always hating myself, forever wishing that I could become someone else. What I’m committed to doing now is to continue my efforts to accept myself as the Laberrier that I am (with all that entails) while, at the same time, realizing that I need to try to train myself to be a more thoughtful and considerate person.
What I’ve discovered is, if I can keep picturing myself as a dog, it’s not only easier to own up to my faults without hating myself but I can actually acknowledge and be proud what’s good about being a Laberrier: that I’m friendly, outgoing and not overly judgmental. Thinking of myself as a dog (someone whose DNA has a powerful impact on their personality) allows me to have a much more balanced view of myself and where I’m able to give myself some of the same compassion and understanding that I’d give to a dog.
Thinking of myself as a dog allows me to not be so critical of all my faults and shortcomings. Whenever I catch myself being too harsh and critical towards myself, I remind myself that I’m simply a genetic being who’s following the orders of her DNA in the same way that a dog would. I have to remind myself to treat myself just as nicely as I would a dog.
The first thing we have to do when we make the decision to train ourselves is to take stock of our faults in as much of an objective and non-judgmental way as is possible. There’s no way to can’t ourselves if we haven’t first evaluated what needs to be changed!
Showing ourselves some compassion is extremely important once we decide to own up to our faults. Otherwise, we might just get so discouraged and defensive that we give up before we ever get started. Thinking of ourselves as a dog is what provides us with the compassion to love ourselves in spite of our faults.
After the nightmare with my daughter, I was more than ready to make a change in my behavior. I wanted to not only repair the damage I’d done but I wanted to make sure I never repeated that kind of bad behavior. To that end, I was ready and willing to put a metaphorical shock collar around the neck of the Laberrier inside of me and I was going to zap that Laberrier each and every time it got out of line. I was even willing to smack its nose and tell it “Bad Dog!” if that’s what it took to get that misbehaving Laberrier under control!
I won’t ever forget the pain that I caused my daughter. The memory of that pain continues to motivate me to work hard at controlling my behavior. My greatest hope is that, if I work hard enough, someday I’ll finally be able to say that I’m a well-behaved Laberrier! Woof!