False Evidence Appearing Real

Last Thursday was haircut day… we have a wonderful, patient lady who, every four weeks, comes to the house for the morning and creates order out of chaos; leaving behind three tidy dogs and an enormous bag of fluff.  (The fluff is much appreciated by the local bird population in the spring, for nest-lining purposes… I would imagine that Lhasa fluff in particular must be very cosy – it certainly all disappears very rapidly.)

For Luna, who adores being brushed and loves meeting people, the arrival of Tracy is one of unrestrained joy and excitement.  Lily is slightly more circumspect, but happy to hang around as she knows there will be biscuits in the offing…  Theo, however, is horrified.  After joining Lily in a traditional (and noisy) Schnauzer greeting, he scurries off at high speed in order to find a hiding place where, he hopes, we will be unable to find him until after Tracy has left… under my office desk is his sanctuary of choice.  If he can’t see us, he reasons, there’s no way we’ll be able to see him.

Unfortunately for Theo, cowering behind the office chair, we somehow always manage to locate him and lift him, by now shivering piteously, onto the grooming table.  Half an hour or so later, when nothing very terrible has happened to him apart from the loss of some fluff amidst lots of cuddles, he’s ecstatic to receive his obligatory biscuit from Tracy and run off joyously into the garden, to forget his fears until the next time.

Our worries and stresses are subjective – it depends what we have going on inside our heads as to how we perceive, and therefore how we experience, any given situation.  When we are anticipating an event, we will have an internal representation of how we think the event will be.  If we are focusing on a positive outcome, then we might feel pleasure, or excitement.  But if we are focusing on what might go wrong, we are effectively playing out a scary movie inside our heads, which will result in us feeling stress and anxiety, even though our anticipated scenario may be far from real, or even likely.

Theo’s Teachings:

  • What we are focusing on has a direct effect on our state of mind.  If you are paying attention to negative things, try opening your mind to the possibility of the positive.  If you look for it, you will find it.
  • Our fears are often just False Evidence Appearing Real.  When you are worried or anxious, ask yourself what other possible outcomes might there be?
  • If you are facing something disagreeable, give yourself something to look forward to after the event, then imagine yourself out there in the future, looking back at the event.  From this perspective, there is no anxiety.
  • If you don’t want to be found, choosing the same place to hide each time is probably not the best strategy.

 

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Dogs will be Dogs…

So Luna caught a mole yesterday evening… I’ve no idea where she found it, as there are no evident mole hills in the garden, but she was exceptionally pleased with herself.  She refused to relinquish her prize in the garden, and carried it triumphantly into the house, where she was eventually persuaded to part with it in exchange for three biscuits – a deal which she subsequently regretted, if her disappointed searching was anything to go by…

The mole was, sadly, deceased by this point and was decently interred under the hedgerow across the lane.  Cat families will often be distressingly familiar with this scenario, but with our dogs it is not so frequent (although certainly not unheard of!).

We somehow forget, when we are throwing the fluffy, squeaky toy in a fun game of chase, fetch and throw-in-the-air before chasing again, that in addition to the joyful interaction we are both having, we are also assisting our little hairy friends to hone their hunting skills…

Dogs are natural predators – it is their essential nature to hunt small, squeaky, furry or feathered things.  Why should we expect them to be less dog, and more human, just because we choose to share our lives, our homes and our sofas with them?

Luna’s Teachings:

  • Accept others for who they are, rather than expecting them to be whom you think they ought to be.
  • Everyone is entitled to perceive the world in their own, unique way.  Others will do whatever they will do – what you do with that is all yours.
  • When you’ve just caught your first mole, hold out for the fourth biscuit before handing it over.

 

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The Teachings of Dog – No 28: Hearing the signals

Somewhere between 5.01pm and 5.05pm every day, Daisy will start to bark.  It’s an occasional “woof”, sometimes interspersed with the odd “grrr”, designed to attract attention, and it means simply – “It’s now officially supper o’clock.  Feed me.”  I’ve always been fascinated by how accurately her little body clock can tell the time; even the hour change doesn’t seem to confuse her.

In our modern world, it seems that people often forget to pay attention to their bodies; many even lose the ability.  How often have you found yourself tired, irritable and grumpy because you didn’t have time for lunch – then as soon as you eat something you realise you are not tired and grumpy at all; you were just hungry!

Our bodies have a natural rhythm and we can re-train ourselves to listen and pay attention to the signals we are sending ourselves from our unconscious mind.  The Hawaiians have a saying that if we don’t pay attention, then we will pay with pain – and this is certainly true for our bodies.

Daisy’s Teachings:

  • Take care of yourself and pay attention to your body – eat when you start to feel hungry, don’t wait until you are famished; drink when you are thirsty; take a rest when you feel tired – even a five minute break can make all the difference.

The Teachings of Dog – No 24: Why we believe weird stuff

One of Daisy’s self-imposed missions in life is to chase visiting birds from her premises.  In our garden, she has plenty of opportunity to indulge this desire as it is the haunt of woodpigeon, pheasant and partridge, to say nothing of a host of sparrows who reside in the cyprus tree, from where they can tease her from the safety of its impenetrable branches.  Of all of the canine members of staff, Daisy is the only one who watches birds flying, or sitting out of reach on the top of the garden wall (which, as far as Daisy is concerned, is clearly trespassing and therefore not permitted).  Earlier this week, this created a small problem…

Being of a very diminutive stature, Daisy likes to stand on the small wall next to the pond when she is addressing the birds who sit on the top of the high garden wall – being 18 inches higher off the ground is not inconsiderable when one is less than a foot high to start with.  An unusually prolonged episode of barking alerted us to the fact that something was amiss – generally the birds will stand only so much abuse before taking offence and departing.  This time, however, there was nobody sitting on the garden wall at all, yet Daisy continued to bark.  Bringing her back inside didn’t help – she simply waited to go back outside, returned to her station by the pond and continued her vigil, staring up at the top of the empty garden wall and barking with increasing vexation at a trespassing bird whom she could see quite clearly, even if we could not.

Eventually we worked out what it was… behind the garden wall, a large laurel bush has grown up and this year’s new growth had just reached the point where the topmost leaves had become visible to a small Lhasa Apso standing on the wall by the pond, whose job it is to guard the garden from the predations of trespassing sparrows…

The interesting thing is that we all do this…  We are programmed to notice and recognise patterns in things (remember when you saw the shape of a creature in the clouds, or faces in the curtain fabric?) and in NLP we call this “deletion, distortion and generalisation”.  In other words, we see what we believe and we believe what we see – and we will quite happily “disregard the rest”, to quote Paul Simon’s lyrics.  A trick of the light, a different angle, a mis-heard or mis-read word, coming across something unexpectedly – these can all transform “reality” for us.

Daisy’s Teachings:

  • You don’t have to believe everything you see, although if it makes it more fun, then go with your imagination.
  • If something is bothering you, make sure it’s true before you start to shout about it.
  • If you can see something that nobody else can, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not there.

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The Teachings of Dog – No 17: Perception is Projection

Here in Wydale it might sometimes seem as if time stands still while the rest of the world passes us by (which is why it’s such a good place for a retreat centre!), but of course even here we are not immune from change…

A recent change, which might seem small in the scheme of things, was chronicled in The Teachings of Dog No 16 – our full-time canine members of staff are now down from five to three and, it has to be said, things are a lot quieter round here…!  It is remarkably interesting how differently the dogs behave depending on who else is around, and this sudden reduction in their numbers has really brought this to the fore.  Theo and Lily now play and chase as they used to do before Poppy came along – when Poppy visits, Lily is more or less ignored by Theo.  Lily will vociferously defend me against “intruders” (aka “visitors”!) if Theo is around, but without Theo she becomes quiet and welcoming.  (Daisy remains pretty much Daisy, regardless of who is there!)

What about us?  Do we also behave differently around different people?  We certainly do!  I was speaking with a new client this afternoon who was wanting help with some problems he is experiencing at work.  Most of the time he is fine, but when in the company of certain colleagues he goes to pieces and loses his confidence completely; we’ve probably all experienced something similar at some point in our lives!

In NLP terms, this is known as “Perception is Projection” – in other words, we project our own “stuff” onto other people, which is then reflected back at us.  For example, if a person unconsciously reminds us of someone we met in the past who made us feel a certain way, we are likely to recreate those feelings without consciously realising why – we project the attributes of the original person onto the new person and have the perception that they are the cause of our feelings.  Snippets the poodle gave an excellent demonstration of this – when she first came to us she was afraid of men, so any man who came into the house was, in her perception, a truly terrifying being.

When we become consciously aware of an unwanted projection it then becomes possible to do something about it, either by acknowledging that this person is not the same person as the original person who made us feel this way, or by addressing the underlying “stuff” within ourselves (often a limiting belief) that created the feeling in the first place.

Amongst the canine members of staff, however, doubtless Theo will continue to be best friends with Lily unless Poppy is around; Poppy will be very, very quiet when by herself, but act as a noise catalyst (or should that be “dogalyst”?) when with the others; Lily will have to be forcibly restrained until visitors are safely inside the hallway if Theo is around, and Daisy will remain Daisy, regardless of all the rest of us… until such time as another junior canine member of staff arrives, to shake up the mix yet again!