“We often forget that WE ARE NATURE. Nature is not something separate from us. So when we say that we have lost our connection to nature, we’ve lost our connection to ourselves.”
― Andy Goldsworthy
I hope this finds you and yours well and at peace. It’s been over 2 months since I last shared with you. Life here has been, well, eye opening. So much has happened in just two months! I have so much that I want to share with you concerning aging animals, behavior, healing, animal companions, energy, and conscious communication!
But not today.
Considering the current state of affairs around the world I was inspired to share something that I believe we all need right now: Nature
How’s your nature-intake-level? Are you practicing the self care habit of unplugging from nightmarish news, and enjoying a hiatus of sensational social media? I am. And it feels frigging GREAT.
Today we are less connected to Nature than ever before in human history. Our busy lifestyles and hectic schedules don’t allow us the freedom to find rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation in nature.
Yet that is exactly what we need.
My Cherokee ancestors knew that being in tune with our Mother Earth is one of the most powerful tools we have. Being in nature allows us to develop a more fulfilling, peaceful, and enlightened life. Being In Tune with Nature allows for a deeper connection with all Life – including our animal companions and our fellow earth travelers.
If there is any wisdom running through my life now, in my walking on this earth, it came from listening in the Great Silence to the stones, trees, space, the wild animals, to the pulse of all life as my heartbeat.
So why aren’t we out there on a daily basis? Are we making excuses for why we can’t be outside? Are we disconnected from the purest source of nourishment? What takes our focus and time? Have we forgotten what nature has to offer us all?
We have never truly “lost” our connection to nature; we have forgotten how to engage it. When we fail to have reverence for nature and connect with the energies of all that nature encompasses we lose something valuable – our intimate connection with each other, with wildlife, with the Earth, and with All That Is.
Nature is a refuge. She is solace. A teacher. A healer. When we connect with nature we are connected to All Life. We are open to receiving. We are able to giving. We find balance. We are open to discovery, learning, healing, and enlightenment.
The reason is quite simple: We are part of nature; we are not separate from it.
But we often feel so disconnected.
When I appear to lose my connection, I appear to be separate from All that Is.
But when I am in nature I Am tuned in, tapped in, and turned on!
I become consciously awake.
Then I remember.
I laugh at my forgetfulness.
I give thanks.
Thanks for remembering the Truth.
I Am not *Part* of Nature.
I Am nature.
She is me.
The roaring winds
The turbulent seas
The peaceful sunset
The strong trees
They are me.
What I do to nature,
I am doing to me.
You are nature.
Nature is you.
All that you see is you.
How we treat nature
How we view nature
How we give to nature
How we take from nature
It’s all a reflection of ourselves.
We do not exist independently
We are not separate from everything else.
There is no “else”.
We are not separate from anyONE.
That belief, my fellow earth travelers, is the illusion.
A trick of the ego.
Harmful in every way.
We have forgotten the Truth.
But we can remember.
GO into nature.
Listen. Feel. Know.
Sit in silence.
Let Nature heal you.
Let Nature inspire you.
Let Nature show you.
Be open to the miracles and magic.
Do not accept this little, fenced-off aspect as yourself. The sun and ocean are as nothing beside what you are. The sun beam sparkles only in the sunlight, and the ripple dances as it rests upon the ocean. Yet in neither sun nor ocean is the power that rests in you.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Hello. I hope this finds you and yours doing very well and at peace. I hope wherever you are in the world you are enjoying the holidays and the changing seasons of life.
You may have noticed that I have been absent in sharing with you for many weeks. Things on our end have been nonstop and challenging, to say the least. I haven’t had time to share here, continue writing my books, or working with clients. I have made a few videos, but in general, all professional work has been on hold.
Since I last shared with you we have had many successes and a few scares. We’ve had three birthdays in the house (woot!), four surgeries, one near-death experience (on a birthday), one reactive rover who trusts again (hallelujah!), funerals for fallen Marines, family and friends visiting, awards ceremonies, best friends battling cancer, and a multitude of other experiences.
But today I am allowing myself to take a break. Today I am choosing to channel my energy into this post in hopes that it will inspire and uplift you. Today I am focusing on something we often forget to focus on: gratitude.
Ever since we moved to California there has been one challenge after another. One struggle after the next. One illness after another. Pain. Heartache. Frustration. Exhaustion.
But that’s not the full story. That’s only part of the picture. There has been much more at play. There is another side to all the stress and strife. The other side of the struggles are at the heart of this post.
Between the physical and emotional struggles there have been miracles and wonder. There’s been growth, expansion, hope, strength, endurance, and bonding. There have been life lessons learned, friendships forged, soul contracts at play, inspiration gained, and new horizons seen. There have been unimaginable success, hard-fought healings, and life-changing growth on every level possible.
And through it all, somehow we have remained in gratitude. We come back to gratitude. And we remain there. Looking above it all, I am in awe.
Each one of the struggles and successes deserve a post in itself. In fact, there will be several chapters dedicated to each of them in the books I am writing. But for now, I will summarize a few of them because not only is there too much to cover in one post, but some stories are not ready to be shared with the world just yet. But they will be one day. I look forward to sharing that with you when the time is right.
Today I want to keep it simple. I want to uplift and inspire. My goal is to redirect our focus. And to see life from a new perspective. Even if it’s merely a glimpse.
Today I will be sharing something from the animal’s perspective.
I took the liberty to share not only what they have shared with me over the years, and what I have learned from them lately, but also what I perceive their truths to be. All of this is centered on their idea of “Gratitude.”
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Here in the United States we just wrapped up Thanksgiving. It’s a lovely time of year if you create the time to slow down and enjoy it. I love seeing people smiling, sharing, and caring more this time of year. I love seeing and hearing the words, “grateful”, “gratitude” and “thankful” tossed around like autumn leaves on the breeze. An attitude of gratitude seems to permeate people. It’s really quite beautiful.
But then it leaves.
Just as the vibrantly colored leaves float to the ground, briefly rest on the Earth and quickly dance off into the horizon, so too goes our gratitude.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Gratitude can be an attitude that we embody during the most challenging times. Gratitude can be a cloak in which we cover a tired body. Gratitude can be the breeze we choose to ride. It can be the wind we set our sails to while riding the rocky seas. Gratitude can sooth the most exhausted mind. It can heal a broken heart. It can change your world. And it can radically change the world of our animal family members.
But we have to choose it.
Gratitude is not a gift. It is not reserved for the elite, the special, or the few. It is who we are. It is who you are without all of the other thoughts, beliefs and judgments. Gratitude, like Love is always only a thought away.
I am reminded of this during every struggle. In fact, I am reminded of Gratitude when I look at how the animals move through their lives. I am reminded of the power of gratitude when I see them shine; when their light is brightest even when there is a dark cloud above them. I am reminded of gratitude when they outshine me.
It’s as if all the world could be falling apart, but they somehow remain grateful in their heart. They rise above it. They see beyond temporary, fleeting circumstances. They know that this too, shall pass. They know more than we realize and gratitude is their guide.
“Just an observation: it is impossible to be both grateful and depressed. Those with a grateful mindset tend to see the message in the mess. And even though life may knock them down, the grateful find reasons, if even small ones, to get up.” ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free
Gratitude as a Gift
I started thinking about how gratitude has pulled me out of my darkest depressions and my most intense anxieties over the years. Gratitude has transformed boredom, frustration, fear, and anger into hope, trust, and joy. I thought about how much there is to be grateful for, even during the darkest hour. I thought about how gratitude has been a driving force pushing me through the past few months.
Then I thought about our animal family members. I wondered what they might be grateful for this year. I wondered how gratitude played into their perspective. I wanted to really look into what they were thankful for, without stepping into the quicksand of anthropomorphism. I wondered what they would say “Thank you” for every day.
What I discovered wasn’t a surprise; these aspects are all part of their journey and the story of their lives. If the animals were to say “thanks” for the circumstances and gifts in their lives, their lists might include these:
The ability to let go
Hide and seek games
Seeing the world through innocence
Seeing our people become stronger and fearless
Meals tailored to our individual needs
Foraging and hunting opportunities
Sharing our people’s bed
Knowing this world is temporary; a place away from our real Home.
Energy healing sessions
Living a force-free way of life
Being silly and goofy
Food used as a tool
Soul contracts being honored
Unexpected car rides in the Adventure Box
The ability to choose
Meeting nice people out and about
Seeing my people happy and healthy
Getting permission to roll in smelly goodness
Watching our person learning to let go
Communicating on a new level
Smelling the scents on the breeze
Our person learning how hidden emotions affect us
Teaching our people new life lessons
Knowing that our people are doing the best they can
Watching each other grow
Feeling the sun on our fur and face
Aging with dignity and grace
Unlikely friendships forged through trust
Force-free medical care at home
Bonds that never break
Being seen as an individual
Polite play dates
Being listened to and heard
A loving home
Being near the one you love
Being loved for who I Am
…Those were just a few of their “thanks” that came to mind. These are a merely a snippet of what I have been honored to learn from them. I am grateful. I am humbled. I am honored. And I am grateful for each of them.
Teachers. Gifts. Angels. Lights in the dark. That is what they are to me. This is some of what I am grateful for each day. This is what I will focus on as we move through this life together. This is what I will remember when things get hard. When life is rough. I will remember these things and I will share their gratitude.
Our gratitude won’t end now that Thanksgiving has come and gone. Our gratitude will last. It will be within us 365 days a year. And as we grow gratitude, we will pass it on to others. If you’re interested I made a quick video about this. You can view it here.
What do you believe your animal companions are grateful for? What are the gifts in their lives? What supports their attitude of gratitude? What would be on their “thankful for” list?
Before I go, I would also like to share that I am grateful for you. Thank you for being here. Thank you being a part of this community. Thank you for reading, staying inspired, and for being willing to stay in an attitude of gratitude every moment of the day.
From our family to yours,
Much love and light
“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” ― Meister Eckhart
“Ten years of shadows, but no longer. Light up the darkness, Majesty.”― Sarah J. Maas, Queen of Shadows
Thank you for being here. I am sincerely grateful to each of you who consciously chose to follow this blog. I realize that there are many other ways for you to spend your time other than reading my posts. I am touched and truly appreciate that you care enough to want to be gently challenged and inspired, and that you want to learn from my musings and mistakes.
But if we are going to stay together and grow together, and if I am going to keep sharing with you, I have to be honest. I have to be really honest with myself and with you.
I have been hiding and pretending for a long time. But I am not going to pretend anymore. I have been living a life out there “on the screen” but I have been living another life off screen. I am not going to hide anymore. So I will just say it and get it over with.
I am an Empath, an Intuitive, an Indigo, and also a BlueRay Starseed.
Holy Shizznit. I finally freaking said it. My heart is racing as I write this. A flood of emotions are welling up inside of me right now. I feel a bit scared. I am grateful. Relieved. Liberated. Free. But there’s still a lot of fear.
So What the Heck Are Those?!
For those of you who are not totally weirded out by what I admitted (and you’re still reading) I can try to explain what these three words mean. Maybe after reading this you will realize that your friend, a family member, or you, are an Empath, an Indigo, or an Intuitive, too! (The Starseed will be addressed at another time😸)
If you have been following this blog for some time, you already know that I am not a fan of labels – especially when it comes to our animal companions. This also goes for people; putting any specie’s behavior, choices, or preferences into a “box” is not helpful for a number of reasons. But for the purposes of today I will use words and loose categorizes that are widely accepted in the the energy and holistic healing community.
An Intuitive is someone who experiences the world in a way that is not easy to understand or explain in words. Our minds filter information in a way that cannot be explained in a logical-minded way. Our bodies are filters of the world. Intuition is our compass.
Intuitives also know things without knowing why. We can’t prove how or why, we just know it to be true. (This is Claircognizance.). We are walking lie detectors. We receive information in a variety of ways. It can via the mind, thoughts, sounds, or through the body – utilizing the five senses (sight, sound, smell, taste and touch).
We receive information through all of the senses at once. – We call these senses “The Clairs.” The clair senses are abilities that correspond with the five senses of seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and tasting. Clairalience means clear smelling. Clairgustance means clear tasting. Clairsentience means clear feeling. Clairvoyance means clear seeing. Claircognizance means clear knowing. Clairaudience means clear hearing. Intuitives vary in what Clair is their strongest, and which cliars they use most. My strongest ones are the latter four, with Claircognazance being the strongest and Clairaudience coming in at a close second.
After many years of doing a lot of deep inner healing and energetic clearing these heightened senses became my primary senses. And in the depths of one of my most challenging physical struggles, it was these senses that allowed me to connect deeply to animals and The Standing Ones. Life changed forever after that. I learned Soul Speak and now I teach this to others who are open to learning.
Empaths feel. In fact, they feel profoundly on many levels. Empaths are highly sensitive to their surroundings; everything from what they see and hear, smell and taste. Empaths can experience sensory overload very easily. Derived from the Greek “em” (in) and “pathos” (feeling), the term empathic means I am able to “feel into” others’ feelings.
Empaths are born an empath. You don’t become one. My empathic traits have been passed down through my family’s lineage; this is very common. My Cherokee/Irish mother is also an Empath, but she does not know this yet. She is starting to learn from what I share with her.
Empaths feel everyone else’s emotions. Our body functions like a vibrational instrument. Empaths can easily absorb other people’s thoughts and feelings. It’s common to feel emotionally or physically drained after being in public, or having a conversation with someone in person, or via phone or Skype. These common circumstances can be too much for an Empath if one does not have the tools to navigate the world safely and without sensory overload.
Being an Empath is way more than just being “sensitive.” We can feel physical sensitivities, spiritual urges, and can easily discern the motivations and intentions of others. Empaths often experience chronic fatigue or unexplained aches and pains that come and go. We “share” emotions of others. We have the ability to read another’s body language as if it was our own, and we can truly, deeply understand what someone else is going through.
We FEEL unlike no other.
Being an empath does have its advantages, but it also has some downsides, too. It can be physically and emotionally draining and exhausting. That is why self love and self care is of the utmost importance! We talk about how important this is on our Empath community group.
here are a number of types of Empaths. Only 10 are currently recognized:
1. Physically Receptive Empath
2. Emotionally Receptive Empath
3. Claircognizant Empath
4. Geomantic Empaths
5. Fauna Empath
6. Medium Empath
7. Flora Empath
8. Psychometric Empath
9. Telepathic Empath
10. Precognitive Empath
An Empath can be all of these or just one of these; it does not matter the number. They all serve a purpose. I am actually many of these types of empaths. Some of these categories are stronger than others for me, but it does not matter. They are merely part of who I am. What we do need to recognize is that they will ebb and flow as we grow spiritually.
The Heyoka Empath
There is another type of empath, that few discuss. They are called “Heyokas”. The heyoka (heyókȟa, also spelled “haokah,” or “heyokha”) is a kind of “sacred clown” in the culture of the Lakota people of the Great Plains of North America. The heyoka is a contrarian, jester, and satirist, who speaks, moves and reacts in an opposite fashion to the people around them. The Lakota medicine man, Black Elk, described himself as a Heyoka, saying he had been visited as a child by the thunder beings (Thunderbirds).⚡
I find it interesting that as a Cherokee child, I am one of these. We are considered “mirrors” for others. Our Cherokee heritages that We Are One; one appearing as many. So the mirroring is actually a very helpful tool.
Principally, the Heyókȟa functions both as a mirror and a teacher, using extreme behaviors to mirror others, and forcing them to examine their own doubts, fears, hatreds, and weaknesses. Heyókȟa have the power to heal emotional pain; such power comes from the experience of shame. They provoke laughter in distressing situations of despair, and provoke fear and chaos when people feel complacent and overly secure, to keep them from taking themselves too seriously or believing they are more powerful than they are.
Heyokas’ advice and behavior is not always welcomed. But it should be known that our intentions are always for good. We only mean to help those around us. If you feel irritated or annoyed after leaving the presence of a Heyoka, it very well could be because we shined a light on that particular part of you; you were triggered. On the other hand, if you are filled with a sense of joy, peace, love, and acceptance after being with a Heyoka, we mirrored or reflected that part of you back to you, while also reminding you of the importance of loving and accepting yourself for who you are. The mirroring that Heyokas practice is intended to teach you to open your mind to aspects of yourself that you were not aware existed.
The Heyókȟa symbolizes and portrays many aspects of the sacred beings, the Wakȟáŋ. His satire presents important questions by fooling around. They ask difficult questions, and say things others are too afraid to say. Their behavior poses questions as do Zen koans. By reading between the lines, the audience is able to think about things not usually thought about, or to look at things in a different way.
They are the only ones who can ask “Why?” about sensitive topics; they use satire to question the specialists and carriers of sacred knowledge or those in positions of power and authority.
In Native American ceremonies, the Heyoka would be the one to disrupt the ceremony. The purpose was to help his people to either see things differently or to shift the energy. Heyokas today, will say or do something off hand or “out of left field” to shift the energy. I do this ALL the time when things are tense. Some see this “interruption” as rude or insensitive, but my goal is always to shift the energy. This energy disruption comes from love; the goal is to act as a catalyst for growth and healing.
The Heyoka’s gift to others is bringing balance, by reflecting the opposite. Heyoka’s carry the medicine of chaos; what my ancestors used as spiritual medicine. It ha the power to change lives. This medicine reveals / reflects the shadow side that is unseen; we show the mirror of truth, that few are willing to look into. When you meet a Heyoka, challenge yourself to have the courage to let love reflect back to you, the unseen within.
Most Heyoka teach us that there is no such thing as an enlightened master. We’re all spiritually dumb. The closest we can ever get to being “enlightened” is simply to understand that we are naïve to it, and then to laugh about it together as a community. Sacred clowns have the ability to plant this seed of sacred humor. They are constantly in the throes of metanoia, disturbing the undisturbed, comforting the uncomfortable and freeing the unfree. They remind us, as Rumi did, that “the ego is merely a veil between humans and God.” – McGee
There are (currently) 5 Major aura colors that correspond to the spiritual types: blues, violets, Indigos Crystals, and Rainbows.
Every single person (and being) is an extension of Creator/Source. Thus every single aura color in existence is a spiritual expression. When we have an Intention prior to incarnating, we are coming into a physical body, vibrating at a certain rate. Once here, the photons are now bouncing off of the energy frequency in a person’s energy field (aura). It will “bounce back” and be perceived as a particular color (blues, green, violet, indigo, etc.).
Both my brother and I are Indigo Children (both now adults). Many Indigos are born in the mid to late 70’s or soon after. The term “Indigo” was given to this generation because it most accurately describes their aura colors and energy patterns; Indigo Children have a lot of indigo blue in our auras. (It’s actually my favorite color.) This is also in the color spectrum of the third eye chakra, which is an energy center located between the eyebrows. This chakra regulates clairvoyance (clear sight).
“When we talk about the spiritual aura colors, what that means is, the beings who came to earth with these particular frequencies, had the intention to put other people into connection with their own nonphysical essence.” – Teal
Each of the spiritual colors have their own attributes. Indigos are known as the warriors. We are pathfinders; paving the way for the other colors.
Ah, but it’s not all as great as it sounds. For an Indigo, it’s very common for us to find resistance – whether within ourselves or within the system we want to see change within. Indigos would do well to learn how to align with what we want to see with our grander vision w/out resisting what we don’t want to see.
I will briefly list some Indigo traits.
Indigos tend to be trailblazers. Indigos abhor conformity. We are incapable of idly watching any kind of injustice and staying silent. Indigos can sense dishonesty the way a bee can sense subtle scents in flight. Indigos know when they’re being lied to, patronized, or manipulated. We can hear it, feel it, and know it the second we are exposed to it. An Indigo’s inner lie detector is integral to us a people. Indigos also have a warrior spirit. Indigos are unable to conform to any type of dysfunctional situations at home, work, or school; indigos often rebel or speak out. -Sometimes loudly and often unapologetically.
Indigos are, in general, old souls, or at least souls with great spiritual depth with a strong sense of life purpose. Indigos have wisdom and depth that most people have yet to understand (or want) to understand. They have great potential in their souls from birth, which, as time goes by, they tap into this wisdom and fully bring to fruition, during their current incarnation.
Indigos don’t have the ability to dissociate from our feelings and just pretend like everything’s okay; unless medicated or sedated. We are completely and utterly incapable of faking or pretending anything; we avoid people and situations all together at times. We become frustrated with systems that are ritually oriented, outdated and don’t require creative thought. We easily see more effective ways of doing things – at home, work, and in school. We are very nonconforming to old systems. We may appear antisocial at times, unless we are with those who are like us. If there are no others of similar-consciousness around us we turn inward. We are not shy in letting others know what we need. Many Indigos are often diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia and other learning challenges.
Here are some other (generalized) traits of Indigo children and adults:
intense at times
empathic, curious, creative
strong-willed with a sense of having an important “mission”
often perceived by friends and family as being strange or the black sheep
possess a clear sense of self-definition and purpose
show a strong innate subconscious spirituality from early childhood
have a strong feeling of entitlement, or deserving to be here
have a high intelligence quotient
have an inherent intuitive ability
resistant to rigid, control-based paradigms of authority
Indigos began entering Earth around 45 years ago. They are born into every race and social structure in existence. They hold an innate energy vibrational frequency of Love. Indigos come into our world through the Third Eye Chakra which is the center of intuition, spiritual will, connecting ideas and developing a ‘picture’ of the world. They tend to be very strong willed, ultra sensitive, and quite “rebellious.” They also have a tremendous desire to be of service. Therefore, one of their biggest challenges is to honor and love themselves, to have boundaries and to learn to say, “no.”
According to Tober and Carroll, indigo children may function poorly in conventional schools due to their rejection of rigid authority, their being more spiritually mature than their teachers, and their lack of response to guilt-, fear- or manipulation-based discipline. Indigos are rarely willing to settle being talked down to or being made part of a conforming “machine.” An Indigo’s most common question is “why?”. (My favorite question!) We are always questioning the status quo.
For as long as I can remember I have been super sensitive to my surroundings. This sensitivity could be anything from how my dogs were feeling, how a room feels, to how my friends or family members were feeling. I knew people’s intentions and motivations before they spoke. I also knew other things I shouldn’t just know. – I could just sense it. I just knew!
I could feel how others were feeling, whether they were near me or far away. I could always know if someone was speaking the truth, or if they were lying. I have always known the true essence of an animal and could see past their pain and fear. I knew who they really were, beyond the body. Animals and nature have always been who and where I felt safest. Animals and nature were my refuge from the world.
They still are.
That inner voice, our intuition is always there, always reading the situation, always trying to steer us the right way. But can we hear it? Are we paying attention? Are we living a life that keeps the pathway to our intuition unblocked? Feeding and nurturing our intuition, and living a life in which we can make use of its wisdom, is one key way to thrive, at work and in life.
Energy and Others
When it comes to empaths and intuition, our bodies and minds work in conjunction to “read” the information we receive. They are a perfect compass. For example, my hands know where to go when I am working on an animal or person. Someone could be coming from 50 feet away and I know if I should get out of their way. I can feel subtle changes in the energy of animals, people, and places. I know when an animal has disease often before a veterinarian gives an official diagnosis – not always, but I can feel an imbalance in their energy field. I hear messages. I see clearly in situations. I just know.
Kids and Critters
Most children are like this. Animals are like this. Every one of your animal companions is just like an Empath and an Intuitive. – That is one of the reasons I do this work! They are like sponges! And almost every child that is being born now is like this, too. They are highly sensitive and finely tuned beings. Many children that I work with in a client’s home, or meet at my workshops are obvious Empaths and full-blown cognitive Intuitives. Most of the children we work with through Make A Wish are Intuitive Empaths.
More than Sensitive
Being an empath is much more than being highly sensitive and it’s not just limited to emotions. Empaths perceive physical and spiritual shifts in their body as they are observing or thinking about a person, place, idea, memory, or future event. Children and young kids who are empaths feel things way more deeply and on a much more intense level than their parents do. Their senses are heightened. They are very sensitive emotionally and physically.
Empaths process other people’s feelings and energy, and in many cases take on the emotions of others. They are very sensitive to their surroundings and changes within their environments. They are literally energetic sponges. Can you imagine the kinds of effects that has on a child? Yeah. It’s intense to say the least. More on that later.
A Virtual Sponge
Empaths feel like you would not believe. That has been the hardest part for me – a gift and a curse you might say. For years I used alcohol and drugs to shield myself from feeling so much. Depression and anxiety were the many cloaks I was enveloped in, and I used substances to numb myself from feeling so much (although I had no idea that’s what I was doing.)
Thankfully Energy Medicine has taught me how to use other methods that are safe and natural to shield and manage my energy. Sometimes I still shield myself before going into public places, or even with some family members, to ensure that I am not overwhelmed by other people’s energy. But overall, life is much easier and healthier with these holistic and alternative healing tools and techniques to manage life as an Empath.
Why This Is Hard to Admit
If you are an empath, and an intuitive healer, or a transformational coach, you may think, This is great! How wonderful that you are embracing your true self! But I don’t see it that way. -At least, not yet. It may come to a surprise to most folks, but the animal behavior and scientific community are not the most accepting group of people when it comes to embracing beliefs or practices that are outside their circle of traditional science or “normal” practices. In fact, concrete, proven science is the only medium with which most of the animal behavior community operates.
There are many behavior consultants in my field that are also intuitive empaths. A few are very close friends, and highly respected members of the science-based community. But none of these colleagues want to admit it yet publicly. Proof, facts, and hard core science are still the safe zones they choose to work in for now. Only one of my colleagues in the dog training community has formally “come out” as an Empath and an Animal Intuitive. She has been an inspiration to me. I hope that others will follow our lead.
I believe in intuitions and inspirations…I sometimes FEEL that I am right. I do not KNOW that I am. ― Albert Einstein
Safer To Be Silent?
I could list a countless examples of why it’s safer to not embrace your true self in the animal behavior and scientific community. But that would take too much of your time. To help you understand why it’s “safer” to be silent, I’ll briefly share just a few of my experiences:
When you’re at an animal behavior conference and you mention the word sacral chakra, when referring to a dog or cat and people respond to you as if you were coughing up phlegm.
Telling a client that their parrot, iguana, cat, or dog would greatly benefit from Smudging their home, and balancing their own energy can be your one-way ticket straight to Crazy Town.
Explaining to your veterinarian that you can feel / see / know where the pain or discomfort is in your cat’s body and they look at you as if you are high.
Knowing that the negative prognosis that the vet just gave you about your animal was not accurate, because you felt and heard a solid “No” in your body and mind.
Any discussion about ‘animal communication’ will immediately send one to the time out box, where you are soon to be dismissed and discarded.
So I stayed silent for many years. And I was safe. Really Safe. But being safe is not the way I want to live my life anymore.
The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are. ― C.G. Jung
Willing to Be Vulnerable
This post is not easy to share. I am fully aware of the possible negative results of “coming out” in my scientific community, and with my family and friends. But I trust enough to share my truth. If being open, honest, and vulnerable can help one person and their animal companion to grow closer, to heal, to love more deeply, to laugh more, and to see life from a new and more enlightened perspective, it will all be worth it. If I can inspire one person, any ridicule or rejection will be worth it.
Saying it out loud to you here, and to my friends and family (who will eventually see this) doesn’t make it any more “real” and easy. In fact, it’s still just as scary. And I feel just as vulnerable and exposed. I have witnessed many friends and colleagues come out in other ways, and it was not easy for them. But they are living an authentic life now. I am so proud of all of them. They were no longer willing to hide who they really are. Now I am free of what I was hiding. I am all out there, baby! 😀
No more hiding or pretending.
But there is still some fear. So I will take this fear and breathe into it and remember that fear is an illusion. There is really nothing to be afraid of. F. E. A. R. is really only False Evidence Appearing Real.
Fear is a passing emotion that has no real substance, arising when the ego-self is threatened, which makes you cling to the known and familiar. Such fear creates untold worry, apprehension, nervousness, and anxiety. The immediate effect of fear is to shut us down, and—in particular—to shut off the heart.
I do believe that the world will come to accept intuition and senses beyond our limited human perception as reality. We are already starting to see this happening in the world of science. Psychologists say that people use psychological preferences for Sensing and Intuition. Questions they will ask are, “Do you pay more attention to information that comes in through your five senses?” or “Do you pay more attention to the patterns and possibilities that you see in the information you receive? Everyone utilizes Sensing and using Intuition. The levels of each of these spectrum are wide and vast within each person. Science is now starting to recognize these levels.
There is now a field of study known as “Cognitive Science.” It is beginning to demystify the inexplicable presence of unconscious reasoning in our lives. Often dismissed as unscientific because of its connections to the psychic and paranormal, intuition isn’t just a bunch of woo-woo. The U.S. military is even investigating the power of intuition, which has helped our men and women of the military to make quick judgments during combat that ended up saving lives.
There is a growing body of anecdotal evidence, combined with solid research efforts, that suggests intuition is a critical aspect of how we humans interact with our environment and how, ultimately, we make many of our decisions. – Ivy Estabrooke, Office of Naval Research
Beyond Science and “Proof”
Science is amazing. Science is what I have used for nearly 20 years to produce ground breaking results with multiple species of threatened and endangered species. Science is what I use with my clients’ aggressive dog, fearful feline, and traumatized iguana. Science is what I use with our animal companions at home, with everything from anxiety to obesity.
But there IS more to life with our animal companions than scientific facts and “evidence”. There is more we can learn from just the proven stats. There is so much more that science has yet to discover. There is an infinite amount that has not been studied, or even remotely explored in the scientific community. There is more to learn and experience than most people could possibly imagine. I have lived this and learned this fact. And the beauty that I have learned in all of this is simple but profound: Animals and nature can be two of the greatest teachers to facilitate this learning. If we allow them to be.
No civilization, including Plato’s, has ever been destroyed because its citizens learned too much.
What About Science and Animal training?
Of course I will continue to share tips and techniques about training, behavior, and enrichment for pets at home and in shelters because those are part of our reality that enhance lives. Training and enrichment are needed in our homes. Period. (Ahem … like conditioning our canine to wear goofy snow boots, modifying a dog’s aggression toward foxes, teaching our tabby to “go to your place” to keep the peace, changing a fearful feline into a confident cat, conditioning a dog to a new baby, teaching a parrot to give voluntary injections, and preventing fights between species by eliminating anger, fear, and frustration.) That’s where science is needed and where it works. That’s where Force Free techniques reign supreme. Those are tools and techniques that I still love to teach and practice! In fact, I just did a 1.5 hour webinar yesterday on a specialized topic that has never been presented before in the feline community; how exotic cat species in captivity can teach us how to manage and rehabilitate companion cats. It was attended by veterinarians and animal behaviorist from all over the world. And it’s going to be a game changer for the cat community.
So yeah, science is necessary. I use it and I love it. Science, data, and measurable results are crucial when it comes to behavior modification and healing an animal companion’s emotional and behavioral issues. Science, facts, and results continue to be much of what I share here.
But there are many other tools that I use as well. Those techniques are not the only path to healing and modifying behavior. There is much more out there. There are other tools and techniques that are not mainstream. But they are profound. And they work.
There is so much more to explore together: Energy medicine, animal communication, removing negative emotions that contribute to health and behavioral issues, releasing stagnant blocked energy in our pets, how to connect on a deeper, more meaningful level with your animal companions and how they can be mirrors for our issues. We will talk about what it really means to live “Life with Your Animal Companion Improved.”
Come from the heart, the true heart, not the head. When in doubt, choose the heart. This does not mean to deny your own experiences and that which you have empirically learned through the years. It means to trust your self to integrate intuition and experience. There is a balance, a harmony to be nurtured, between the head and the heart. When the intuition rings clear and true, loving impulses are favored.
― Brian L. Weiss, Messages from the Masters: Tapping Into the Power of Love
Why I Am Sharing This Now
I wrote this over 6 months ago, but was too afraid to share it. Alanis Morrissette’s song “Excuses” perfectly parallels this kind of fear. She is also and Empath and “came out” a few years ago. She. Is. Amazing.
Now I am coming out in my own way and being completely authentic because I have moved into a space where I am now a hundred percent authentically honest with everyone – clients, friends, family, and even strangers. But the person I am most honest with now is myself; I have to be for my health and sanity. I also have to be for the health and peace of mind of my animal companions.
This blog was created to discuss all-things-animal-and-nature. Since 2012, I have stayed within the “safe” spaces by discussing safe topics such as animal behavior, animal training, animal enrichment, and the latest science in all-things-pets. Every so often I would venture out of my safe space and talk about death and dying, spiritual experiences, and bits about energy, but there is so much more that I want to share and discuss with you here! I have decided to shift this blog to better reflect how I have shifted, and how nature and the animals in my life have facilitated this shift.
Now this blog will parallel how I live my life. This blog will begin to better reflect what it means to be an intuitive and empath, living and working with animals, and how we can all learn from nature and our animal companions. This blog will be a more honest reflection of what the animals and trees have taught me, and how you and your animal companions can benefit, heal, and grow as well. I have even created an entirely new section on my website that celebrates and honors these gifts, to help others to grow and heal together.
We so often think of ourselves, as the “dog owner” the “cat guardian”, the “parrot trainer”, or the “horse leader”. We see ourselves as the teacher, and we are! But what if our animal companions have things to teach us? What if we were willing to be the student? What if we are willing to look at them and say, “Teach me. I am willing to learn from you.” …. What might happen?
October is a month of balance. I discussed this before, yet I didn’t realize how much I was out of balance. This week it hit me; it’s time to balance everything, including what I share with you. I hope you will be willing to grow with me.
Hope and Love for Others
My hope is that if I can openly share my truth and experiences, others may realize that they can share theirs as well. I hope that those who are also an Intuitive, or an Empath or Starseed can learn to feel safe and supported. I hope this will help others to understand their abilities and how they can dramatically improve their life with animals. And on the other hand, if one is not an Empath, they will be open to learning what we can see, feel, know. Maybe people will be willing to learn how to tap into their senses so we can learn about each other, energy, animals, nature. Maybe others will be willing to learn the endless lessons that animals and nature have to teach all of us. My hope is that you have the courage to be open to seeing things from another perspective. My hope is to learn, grow, and share together here. If you are looking for more inspiration, tips, and guidance, I invite you to join me on my Intuitive Instagram page and on our Empath Facebook community page.
The planet does not need more ‘successful people’. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds. It needs people to live well in their places. It needs people with moral courage willing to join the struggle to make the world habitable and humane and these qualities have little to do with success as our culture is the set. ~H.H.The Dalai Lama
Thank you for listening. Thank you for being here. And thank you to every soul who has ever braved the safety and comfort of what they were living, to finally be who they truly are. Thank you for daring to live fearlessly. Thank you to every brave soul who dared to speak out. Thank you to those who would not be silent. Thank you to everyone who came out despite the results. Thank you to every man, woman, and child who came out by sharing their truth with the world; no matter what that truth was. Thank you for holding space to allow everyone on this planet to be authentically who they are. Thank you to the animal companions who held a mirror up for me to see who I am. Thank you to the animals and trees who have been my greatest teachers. Thank you for inspiring me to “come out” today. Thank you to all of the brave souls who have come out in other ways, and who are sharing their stories today. I love you all.
And thanks for remembering to laugh and to not take ourselves too seriously.
Life is supposed to be fun and free.
Be you. Be fun. Be Free.
And if my words haven’t inspired you to be brave, free, and become your authentic self, check out a snippet of what my soul sister shared with me today when I told her that I didn’t think I could publicly share this post:
“People need us. And we need them.
We don’t have to deny who we are.”
So If you need some motivation to come out with whatever you’ve been hiding, Diana can help. 😉
I can’t let them down They’ll not understand me They’ll hate me …
These excuses how they served me so well They’ve kept me safe They’ve kept me small They’ve kept me locked inside my cell
Bringing this into the light Shakes their foundation And it clears my side
Now my imagination Is the only thing that limits The bar that is raised to the heights
The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear. – Gandhi
Over the past few years I have written about fear often. Whether it’s behavioral concerns that stem from fear in an animal, or fear of an animal, fear has always been one of my favorite subjects. As animal guardians and animal stewards and caretakers, we are sometimes really great at recognizing an animal’s fear. Sometimes we are not so great at recognizing when an animal is afraid, uncomfortable, or feels threatened, and we fail to help them feel safe.
In my life I have found that we can be blind to another type of fear; our own fear. When I am working with a client and they are afraid, nervous, or anxious, their fear often impedes the progress of their pet’s behavior modification process. When they are not able to be objective, unattached, or in a healthy mind set they allow fear to run the show. I can attest to this being true in my life with pets as well. When I allow fear to take over, I am no longer able to help anyone.
Rather than focusing on our animal companion’s fear issues, this post is going to discuss our fear and how it affects our world, and our animal companion’s world.
All fear comes from thought in the form of memory (past) or projection (future)
Changes in the Wind
We are moving soon. Right now my husband is out in California looking for a new home for our family. Moving is not new to our family. We are in the Marine Corps so we are expected to pick up and relocate every 1.5 -3 years. My husband and I both have Wanderlust, so it’s not such a bad gig. But because we have a number of animals who share our home, it does complicate things, to say the least.
The Upside and Downside
Although moving is a huge pain in the derriere, we are grateful. My husband has been selected for command (hence why we are moving a year earlier than expected). This is an opportunity of a lifetime. So needless to say, we are all proud of him and supportive of this opportunity. My husband and I will be a command “team”, so to speak (they even sent us both to school to prepare for this new leadership role).
I am going to be quite certainly, in a whole new playing field. (Deep Breath). As if all of these new duties and expectations aren’t overwhelming enough, we have a house full of animals that have to be uprooted and replanted (again). And this all begins soon.
We pack up. We move. We begin a new life chapter.
Fear of What We Fear Most
As excited as we both are about this new chapter, fears have been coming up in unexpected ways. Last week these fears hit their peak. As the animal guardian for four (very complicated) critters, I am having my own issues with the move. Here in lies the problem.
You might be wondering, What is there to fear? You’re going to live by the beach! Hello!! That’s amazing! Right?! But somehow my fear of completely screwing things up for the animals is front and center. My worries and concerns have been at an all-time high. Rather than being in joy and gratitude for the next life chapter for our family, I have managed to come up with every possible scenario of how everything can go to crap.
Maybe one of the cats escapes en transit as we make our week long trek from the east coast to the west coast. Maybe our sometimes grey grizzly bear of a geriatric cat backslides into his former health and behavioral issues. Maybe our recovering-reactive-canine takes a deep dive back down into the mental Reactive Dog Canyon. Maybe our youngest cat completely loses his mind after the week long journey of multiple hotels, constant car rides, a new unfamiliar home, and he takes a deep dive into Stressville, and urinary tract issues flare up again.
Those are only four of the countless hellish scenarios that I have concocted in my mind.
Why was I imagining those scenarios? you ask. Well, those scenarios have either happened before during times of stress, life’s upheavals, or “Hurrications”. Or they could be possible considering each one of the animal’s individual histories.
But is any of this helpful? Would focusing my attention and energy on any of those scenarios help my family? Would worrying about what-could-go-awry help the animals? NO. My wandering and all too creative mind has not been put to good use.
In fact, it could be the very thing that blocks our family’s success.
“You are far too tolerant of mind wandering.” – ACIM
Success AND Stress Are Both Dependent upon You.
Could you relate to those crazy scenarios that I concocted? Do you catch yourself mind wandering like that when you have something coming up that is either stressful for you, your family, and animal companions? Have you ever been very stressed and anxious about an upcoming medical procedure with a pet? Do you become nervous or fearful when under pressure with a timeline or big changes with your family pets?
If you do, you are not alone. You, unfortunately, are just like the majority of people on this planet. If you are living in fear and letting fear run the show, you, my friend are a hostage to fear. And this bondage can affect the outcome of every challenge your family faces together.
Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves.
Who’s Driving Your Life?
I was out in the forest one day with Hocus and an old school song came on my playlist. All of a sudden it was as if I was hearing the song for the very first time. I heard, understood, and felt the lyrics completely. He was singing about how we let our ego and fear run the show in our lives. But we don’t have to. We can learn to take the wheel and drive. We can take control over our fears. We can decide that we are no longer hostage to our fears. Here’s an excerpt:
Sometimes, I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear
And I can’t help but ask myself how much
I’ll let the fear take the wheel and steer.
It’s driven me before, and it seems to have a vague
Haunting mass appeal.
But lately I’m beginning to find that I
Should be the one behind the wheel.
Whatever tomorrow brings I’ll be there with open arms and open eyes.
It’s driven me before and it seems to be the way
That everyone else gets around.
But lately I’m beginning to find that when
I drive myself my light is found. ~ Incubus, “Drive”
That song is exactly what I am getting at here. We can let fear take over, and create all kinds of scenarios that result in unnecessary stress and worry. We can consciously create circumstances in which our animal companions (and we) become victims of our circumstances.
Or we can choose another way of looking at challenges: We can remember that we have the power to choose to take control over our fears, and release them. These fears have no power over us unless we allow them.
If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment. -Marcus Aurelius
Fears Hinders Guidance, Inspiration, and Solutions.
Fear is rampant in our world. It’s everywhere we look. We are led to believe that fear is natural and should be embraced at times, but I disagree wholeheartedly. Fear is not your friend. Fear is harmful and it’s unproductive. Fear hinders. Fear clouds our minds and creates disharmony where there could be peace.
Whether you are a person or a pet, fear can be debilitating.
Have you ever heard of the acronym of F.E.A.R. -False Evidence Appearing Real? I had my own F.E.A.R. come up with this move and major life transition. Once fear set into my mind I was unable to see solutions. I was making assumptions, creating negative circumstances, and projecting my limiting beliefs onto the moving process, our new home, and our companion animals.
As an Intuitive Empath I have learned (the hard way) that fear blocks everything. Fear taints. Fear stalls. Fear overrides. Fear impedes. Fear ruins. Fear blocks.
Now I know that I am not in my right mind when I am in fear. When I am in fear I am reacting, instead of observing. When I’m letting fear take the wheel and run the show I am not able to use my intuition and my guidance. Using my intuition and abilities are how I best connect with my environment. It’s how I am able to navigate the world on a level that helps me to connect deeply, compassionately, and objectively with everyone and everything. But when I am in fear all of this guidance and inspiration is blocked. When I am allowing fear to run the show, I am blindly navigating this crazy world.
I am not different from you in this way. This is true for every person. Fear blocks everything. Everything.
But when we can consciously remove our limiting beliefs, thoughts, perceptions, judgments, and projections, we are able to find solutions to problems, complications, and challenges that arise. Our perception can make or break the process with our pets!
Perception is consistent. What you see reflects your thinking. And your thinking but reflects your choice of what you want to see. -ACIM
The Power of Choice
I am passionate about allowing all species of animals to have the power to choose in every circumstance. The ability to choose to participate or choose to walk away are choices that all living beings deserve the right to exercise. But what about our power to make choices as their guardians? We have the power to choose as well. And the choices we make affect their lives. Even the choices we make in our mind can have a powerful effect.
When a stressful event is on the horizon and you know that it’s going to affect your pets, you have choices to make. We have the power to choose to be in fear or to release those fears. Whether you choose to stay stressed, anxious, or worried is your choice. But what you choose will affect the experience and the outcome for all involved.
The success of your family and your animal companions during times of change depends upon you and how you choose to prepare, address, view, and react during, after, and before the event.
Come what may. We are never victims of our circumstances. We can chose another way.
Choose to tell a different story.
Let’s get Back to the power of choice. Your perception is everything. You can choose to see the current or upcoming circumstances in a new light. You don’t have to remain in fear.
I just did this myself with my insane, rampant fears surrounding our upcoming move out west. After some intense inner work, I released my fears. All of them. I cried. And I even laughed at a few of them. Then I remembered to have compassion for myself for feeling and believing those fears.
Having compassion for the fears that you are perceiving about what “could happen” to your pets is imperative. There is no need to judge yourself when these fears pop up. But if something horrible happened in the past, it does not mean that it will happen again. Do not create scenarios that are not desirable. And do not drag the past into your present circumstances.
Choose to create a new story. Choose how you want the story to unfold this time. If there are preventative measures that you can implement, put them in place. If you are not sure how to implement tools and techniques that will ensure the safety and success of you animal companions, there are qualified people who can help you.
Worry seems like a form of caring, but really it’s a rumination of ego-fear energy. It does nothing to help. In fact, it can make things worse; worry is a form of prayer and manifestation that can call more negativity to you.
I have started to see life’s challenges as one of those books from childhood that had those “choose your own ending” options. Do you remember those? I loved them. When things got a little hairy, I knew I could choose a different outcome. Life challenges and upheavals with our animal companions can be like those choose-your-own-ending chapters. We can choose to write a new story.
If you now know better, do better. We do! If you have learned from your mistakes in the past, move on. We have. But if fear is running your world, you won’t know how to do better. You won’t be able to move forward. If fear is rampant in your mind you won’t be able to tell a different story.
I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. ~Frank Herbert
I finally cleared the clouds of fear that were clouding my judgment about our upcoming move. I set aside my worst fears about the animals, and how I would fail them all. I released my fear of not measuring up. I let go of the negative and worrisome outcomes I had created in my mind.
I have decided to choose to move forward without fear.
I have remembered that I know what to do. This is what I teach other families how to do with grace and ease! I can do this. And I will. I am capable of doing it with grace, ease, and success within our own family. I am willing to see the countless ways that we will all be successful. I can now see that there is really nothing to fear. I do have the power to create success with each animal, within myself, and for our family. I will remember to stay in gratitude at every moment. Gratitude will be my guide.
This is how I am choosing to experience our new life chapter. This is how I am now choosing to view our animal companions in their new world. A safe, empowered, and successful new life is the world that we will create for them. This is the world they will live in. They will succeed. They will thrive. None of us will live in a world of fear. We will be safe and sound.
I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. ― Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Ready to Release, and Rock & Roll?
Are you ready to release your biggest fears? I am. And I hope you are, too. This is part one of a four part post. In the next post I will discuss how fear and emotions affect the mind and body. And the following posts will cover how Fear and Stress Affects Our Pets, and in the last post I will offer Practical Advice and Tips You Can Use Before, During, and After a Big Transition with Pets.
I am not listing these tips now for one very important reason: Before we put anything into practice, before we can think clearly and objectively, and before we are able to address any kind of behavioral or medical issue, we have to get fear out of the way. Fear blocks. Fear impedes. Fear stalls. Fear clouds judgment. Fear is the root of failure. Fear is not our friend. Fear must leave.
So for now, the first step is focusing on releasing any and all fears. That is your first task at hand. Then you can move forward fearlessly toward success. You can do this. Let go of your fears. Live the life you were meant to live. Be brave. Trust. Let go.
“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. –Cheryl Strayed
Full disclosure: I am breaking my no-more-blog-posts-until-I-finish-writing-my-books-and-move-out-west rule. Again. But it’s so hard not to share things with you all, especially when I am passionate about something!
The topic on the table is something that every single person on this planet has done at least once in their life. For many, it’s something we all do almost every day. We anthropomorphize.
What is Aɴᴛʜʀᴏᴘᴏᴍᴏʀᴘʜɪsᴍ?
The big “A” word is the attribution of human traits, emotions, motivations, and intentions to non-human entities (objects, animals, natural phenomena). Anthropomorphism is derived from its verb anthropomorphize, which is derived from the Greek word ánthrōpos, meaning “human”, and morphē , meaning “form”. It was first attested in 1753, originally in reference to the heresy of applying a human form to the Christian God.
The practice of anthropomorphism is an innate tendency of human psychology. We all do it. We see it everywhere: The Easter Bunny is an anthropomorphized rabbit. Shel Silverstein’s book The Giving Tree anthropomorphizes the tree. I named my first car.
It’s natural for us to want to relate to an animal, a plant, the weather, an object, the gods, goddesses, deities, angels, God, and anything else that seems to be outside of us. We want to connect! We want to create a connection that helps us to feel good. We need connections that help us to feel safe and supported. These connections can be powerful. They can heal. They help. They can foster loving connections.
But this natural tendency can also be very unhelpful and sometimes detrimental.
Eye of the Beholder
Let’s set the plants, weather, and goddesses aside for now. I am going to address our human view of animals’ behavior today. How we perceive behavior is key. When we don’t know how or why an animal is doing something, we tend to make it about us; we personalize it. We place the meaning that a behavior has for us, onto the animal. We anthropomorphize.
Let’s use two common examples of cat and dog behavior.
When we see a cat languidly rolling around on the floor, stretching and yawning in front of a child, or in front of another cat or dog, we see this behavior and think, “Awe, he’s so relaxed! He wants someone to love him!” But what could actually be happening with that behavior is very clear in cat language: Calm Down, Dude. It’s all good. I am not a threat. Be Cool. Chillax man. The cat is most likely offering a displacement behavior. But from our human perspective, we see sleepiness and invitation.
When a dog interrupts play to sniff his or her uro-genital body parts, we most likely will be embarrassed or grossed out, then label the dog as “nasty”. But the dog is far from nasty. The dog is offering a behavior that helps him/her to feel safe, or to feel better in that moment. What is most likely happening is the dog is performing a displacement behavior that occurs in stressful situations. But from our human perspective we have labeled the behavior and interpreted it much differently from the dog’s reality.
An animal’s particular behavior may seem to be “adorable”, “annoying”, “affectionate”, “rude”, “playful”, “disgusting”, “excited”, “happy”, “bored”, “mean”, “loving”, or “spiteful”, but there may be more than meets our human eye. Behaviors have functions. They are not always what we perceive them to be. The behavior that we have chosen to label as “excited” may actually be stress arousal. The behavior that we labeled “affectionate” may be used as a distance increasing behavior, or even scent marking for security. Fearful, unsure, overwhelmed, and incapable could be easily labeled as “stubborn”. What we perceive from our humanistic viewpoint is often way off the mark of what the animal is experiencing.
Pitfalls of the Big “A” Word
Misreading those two examples of behavior are not harmful in and of themselves. But some of the ways we misread, mislabel, and anthropomorphize animal behavior is harmful. And sometimes it’s dangerous.
One pitfall of anthropomorphizing animal behavior can be harmful and unfair to our pets. When we perceive our pet’s behavior from our human perspective (beliefs, intentions, and motivations), we miss the mark. We are unable to see what’s really happening with the animal. We see a behavior, assume it’s happening for one reason, then we get frustrated or upset with the animal. All too often the result from these kinds of misunderstandings and misperceptions is detrimental to the animals: They are the ones who are punished. All because of the belief, projection, or label that the person has placed upon them.
But in the animal’s reality – from the animal’s perspective- the behavior was performed for an entirely different reason or need. It was necessary.
Perception is consistent. What you see reflects your thinking. And your thinking but reflects your choice of what you want to see. -ACIM
Pet owners are simply unaware that the stool they found on their antique rug was from a very painfully constipated cat who needs medical attention. The dog who chewed their favorite shoes is suffering from anxiety. The cat who howls all night is suffering from a variety of aging ailments. The dog who barks at strangers is suffering from deep-rooted fear issues.
But what does the human see? A mess. Embarrassing behavior. Disruptive behavior. We miss the reality of what’s behind each of those behaviors: A call for help.
We are the ones who can respond to their calls for assistance.
When we don’t know how or why an animal behavior problem exists, we tend to make it about us; we personalize it. We make it into something that we can relate to. We label the animal. In the animal behavior world, this Anthropomorphism at its worst.
Hidden in the complex world of behavior science is a simple, often underutilized, fact that there is never just behavior. Behavior never occurs in a vacuum or sprays out of an animal haphazardly like water from a leaky showerhead, independent of conditions. Behavior always depends on the environment in some way.
– Susan Friedman. Ph.D.
Another pitfall of anthropomorphism is a lack of safety. Take for instance the dog and baby or toddler who are “the best of friends” in the parent’s eyes. But dog and baby are not the best of friends. Dog is tolerating, and baby is on the borderline of dog’s boundary. The parents want to create a connection between dog and baby that helps them to feel good, and maybe even to feel safe. But the parents are unaware of the danger because they want so badly to connect. They want their dog and baby to be best friends, so that is what they see. But that is not the reality.
One example of this is “The Kiss To Dismiss.” A parent might assume her dog loves her baby because the dog is often licking the child’s face. But this is often not so. The behavior of face licking appears to be stemming from affection, but it certain circumstances, this behavior is intended to increase the distance between the licker and the lickee. This is a very effective way for a dog to get someone who is pestering, threatening, or annoying them them to go away. In dangerous situations like this, the unaware parents have placed their human attributes, human traits, emotions, motivations, and intentions onto the dog. Anthropomorphism is at work here.
The Desire to Create a Connection
Do you see a theme here? People want to connect with their pets. They want their kids and other people to connect with their pets. This makes people feel good. People ultimately want to feel safe ans secure. But when their pet’s behavior becomes unacceptable, or is labeled as something familiar and relate-able to the person (ex. spiteful, vengeful, malicious, rude, annoying, or aggressive) they lose trust in the animal and they don’t feel connected anymore. This loss of connection only widens the gap of communication and understanding.
When it comes to people, pets, and wild animals, anthropomorphism is usually at the root of many misperceptions and many mishaps. People not only want to connect with their pets, but they also want to connect with animals in nature. Part of the fun of indulging in a bit of anthropomorphizing of animals allows people to feel that animals are “just like us!” Of course we want to connect to animals. Connecting makes us feel good. But our lack of awareness, combined with our desire to connect with species who should remain wild can cloud our judgement.
Having worked with nonhuman primates in captivity, I have seen all too many of them who are abandoned and discarded as a result of the all too common must-have-it pet trade. The desire to own an exotic animal, or even wanting to interact and connect with it can be a very slippery slope. Unfortunately and all too often, lemurs like Sefo, and other exotic animals are taken from their natural habitat, sold or orphaned, and in return have poor quality lives; they are left alone in the unfamiliar and foreign human world, no longer able to survive in the lemur world.
What we are seeing in that “adorable” video is only a fraction of what’s the truth; Sefo was taken from his family and abandoned.The ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) live in large family groups. These groups preen (groom) each other all day. If Sefo was with his natural born family he would never consider letting a human approach him.
Everyone anthropomorphized what we saw in that video. It’s a natural response for anyone, if we don’t know about healthy and normal primate behavior. But that’s the point. When we lack knowledge of an individual animal’s needs, when we don’t know the natural biology and behavior of an animal, the only perspective we have is from our limited human point of view.
And Then Came “Anthropodenial”…
So by now you are probably realizing that how you view your pets, wild animals, and even the weather is largely based around anthropomorphizing. Attributing human characteristics to the weather and animals does create great material for humorous cartoons, but it’s not helpful if we want to understand why things happen they way they do, and why an animal behaves a certain way.
Placing human-like intentions on animals is often thought of as unscientific. But there are some who argue that anthropomorphizing’s opposing position, “anthropodenial” — an unwillingness to recognize the human-like traits of animals — is too prevalent in our attitudes toward other species.
I have to ask: Could the absence of anthropomorphism be just as harmful?
Through decades of analyzing animal-cognition research, animals have exhibited many of key behaviors that were once thought to distinguish humans from animals. Some of these abilities and behaviors include the ability to consider the past and the future, the ability to demonstrate empathy and self-awareness, and the awareness and ability to anticipate the motives of others. Certain skills are considered key signs of higher mental abilities. These skills and abilities were once reserved for the human species, but now the animal kingdom shares many of these abilities!
These include, but are not limited to:
– a good memory
– ability to recall a specific past event
– a grasp of grammar and symbols
– understanding others’ motives
– imitating others
– being creative
Animal cognition research humbles us. We are not alone in our ability to invent or plan or to contemplate ourselves—or even to plot and lie. -“Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?,” the Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal
Over the years and through ingenious experiments, researchers have documented these skills in other non-human species, gradually eroding the deep-seeded belief that human beings are the superior species. But there is research to show us otherwise. Animals can be incredibly complex cognitive creatures. Animals’ abilities can and do rival ours.
Darwin even suggested that earthworms are cognitive beings! Based on his close observations, earthworms have to make judgments about the kinds of leafy material they use to block their tunnels. Darwin did not expect to discover thinking invertebrates. He shared that even a hint of earthworm intelligence “has surprised me more than anything else.”
Behind The Scenes of Each Species
I have found myself thinking similar surprising thoughts with the species I have worked and lived with over the years. What I have learned from them has revolutionized the way I perceive animals and their behavior. I may not understand the motivation behind an animal’s particular behavior, but I do understand and I do recognize and respect that every behavior serves a purpose for each animal. Whether this behavior is a choice, a preference, or it serves a vital outcome, it must be respected. Even if I am unable to perceive it at the time.
There is indeed, more happening “behind the scenes” in an animal’s world than we are aware.
If an octopus were to measure human intelligence, it might test us on the number of color patterns we can produce on the skin of our (pathetically few) appendages. Seeing us flunk the test, it might conclude that we are pretty stupid.
-The Soul of an Octopus” by naturalist Sy Montgomery
Not All Are Created Equal.
Thanks to science and observing behavior, we now know that animals do have abilities and skills that rival ours:
– Scrub jays are aware that other jays are thieves and that their stashed food can spoil
– Sheep can recognize faces
– Capuchin monkeys can experience envy
– Chimpanzees use a variety of tools to probe termite mounds and even use weapons to hunt small mammals
– Crows can hold grudges against the biologists who capture and tag them
– Orcas use highly coordinated synchronized swimming to push seals off ice floes and into the water
– Sea lions can associate symbols (if A goes with B, and B goes with C, then A and C belong together as well)
– Dolphins can imitate human postures
– The archerfish, which stuns insects with a sudden blast of water, can learn how to aim its squirt simply by watching an experienced fish perform the task
– Chimpanzees, bonobos, and gorillas have been taught to use sign language and symbols
– Alex the parrot turned out to be a surprisingly amazing speaker
– Betsy the Bodercollie has a vocabulary of more than 300 words.
– Octopi can be shy, playful, cantankerous, or sneaky. They crave attention and play with toys.
Squirrels may fail at memory tasks that are important to humans, but, whereas we need apps to help us find our misplaced cell phones, they can remember where they’ve hidden tiny caches of nuts.-de Waal
Awareness, Knowledge, and Intelligence Coexisting
So, let’s say for a moment that some species of animals are capable of the full spectrum of intelligence and awareness of we humans. Does that mean that our pets ARE doing things out of spite and malice? Does this mean that our pets “should know better?” Does this mean that we shouldn’t use anthropomorphism? Does this mean that all conscious beings are fully armed knowledge of absolutely everything in the universe?
My short answer to all of those questions is NO.
History has shown us that extreme anthropomorphizing of animals can lead to blaming animals for crimes and it can end terribly for the animal. For example, in medieval and early modern Europe the animal’s mind was considered sophisticated enough that domesticated animals such as dogs and pigs could be put on trial for crimes. Seriously, this happened.
As crazy as that case was, similar situations still happen today. Pet owners tell me (all too often) why they blame their pet for “deliberately” behaving in ways that are “clearly meant to piss them off”. They claim the animal “knows what she’s doing!” They are convinced that he is “doing it on purpose!”
Then they punish the animal. Or they toss their family pet out like the trash.
Of course animals are behaving in ways that serve their needs. They are not mindless creatures. They are sentient beings who are trying to live in our human world the best way they know how. But the animals with whom we share a home are not doing things for the reasons that we humans might be doing them.
Our pets are not being spiteful, vengeful, or malicious. They are behaving in ways that help them to coexist in our human world. They are behaving in ways that help them to feel better. They are behaving in ways that help them to feel safe. They are behaving in response to their internal and external environment! Their behavior always serves a purpose. That purpose is not to upset you. I promise you this.
Your job as their guardian is to discover what they are trying to communicate. Your duty is to learn why their behavior is happening. Your job as their guardian is to learn their language. It’s not enough to love, shelter, and feed them. We have to learn to communicate clearly. We must set aside our human perceptions and limited beliefs. And we must learn as much as we can.
Our duty as an animal guardian is to become fluent in their needs, their biology, their health, history, and their species-specific language. We need to know about each species’ natural behaviors! And if you don’t know them, learn them. Read about dog or cat behavior. Read up on the particular species of lizard or parrot that you have. Read about the requirements of rats. Know what your kid’s guinea pig needs. Read about the red flags to be aware of in cat behavior and health. Know what your cat needs to thrive! Learn what dogs need to feel safe and secure in our human world. Know what your dog needs to feel safe and connected.
Our animal companions want to connect with us, but it may not be in the way that we know how to, or how we prefer to connect. Each animal is an individual. And each species has their unique needs. Our pets want to feel safe. They need to be supported in their environment. They want to thrive. They are no different from us when it comes to wanting their individual needs to be met. And they will do what they can to ensure all of this. This theme is one that connects us all. Animals know what they need. They feel. They respond to their world. They behave in ways that work for them.
The question is I feel we need to ask ourselves is: How am I viewing all of this from my human perspective?
“It’s easy to project our own feelings onto animals—and that’s a mistake, but it’s a worse mistake to think that we are up on some kind of pedestal and that animals can’t also think, feel, and know.” – naturalist, Sy Montgomery