Well... we'd had the cushions a long time... (observent folks will note that they feature with Daisy in the image at the top of the page) and as we learned from Winifred in the last blog, we should welcome change. Winifred brought that home to us quite clearly (she is insistent in her teachings, and wants everybody to appreciate them) when she decided that the cushion was clearly boring and needed redesigning - and she's right; it does look much more exciting and unique now!
Winifred has two specific times of day when she likes to let her inner puppy out to play - one in the morning, just after breakfast; and the other in the late afternoon, before supper. The rest of the time she spends mostly sleeping at the moment - walks are not yet permitted as she hasn't had all her vaccinations. However, we took her out for her first trip around the lanes with Mungo yesterday evening; even being carried her little nose was whiffling interestedly at all the sights and smells she could take in from her vantage point... Robbie the horse was a huge fascination for her!
It's quite clear that her puppyhood, although never before allowed an outlet, is still within easy reach of her tiny paws... there would have been no toys in the puppy farm, and yet she knew just what to do with the selection in the toy box - and rifled through them all to discover "Rubber Pig" buried and forgotten at the bottom (last played with by Hugo and kept for sentimental reasons - he did used to be "Squeaky Rubber Pig" but... well... things change...).
I believe very firmly that we can't develop in a strong, congruent manner unless our foundations are secure. Just like a building, we pass through a variety of stages and challenges throughout our lives, and we have to have a good outcome at each stage in order to keep our building stable... and if we don't, then psychotherapy can help us to get it back on track. (If you are curious, there is a lovely model by Erik Erikson that describes this lifelong development.)
For dogs, of course, psychotherapy is not possible - although dogs tell themselves much less complex stories inside their heads! Mungo, having spent many more years inside a puppy farm, has a much less stable building than Winifred; even after two years, he still doesn't know how to play. Winifred is embracing toys, games and chasing with all her tiny heart - and guess what... she is showing Mungo how it's done.
Winifred arrived somewhat unexpectedly; a tiny black and silver schnauzer in need of her forever home, following her rescue from a puppy farm by Friends of Animals Wales. We were anticipating that she would be a bit like Mungo, and take time to come out of her shell - but after 36 hours she has already learned her name, how to do the stairs, emptied the toy box to discover the ones at the bottom, and which ones she likes best (the crinkly octopus, for sure), bounced Mungo out of bed so that she can play with him, and showed that she loves to chase a ball in the garden. In fact, she's discovering her delayed puppyhood, and she loves it!
Winifred is only two... she'd clearly had a litter not long before she was rescued, and we don't know the reason why she was surrendered for rescue at this point - but we are very glad that she was. Being so young, she doesn't seem anywhere near as traumatised as Mungo; just a bit wary of us to begin with, but it didn't take long before her innate joyfulness and lightness of spirit shone through.
We chose her name because she needed something that suited her grace and delicacy, and Winifred seemed to suit her. The name means 'joy and peace', and St Winifred is also the patron saint of protection from unwanted advances, so it's doubly perfect for a little ex-puppy farm girlie who is reclaiming her joyful birthright.
What does Transformation mean to you...? Here is a little story about a dragonfly, inspired by watching the dragonflies on my pond, one early summer morning...
The Mind and Body are the same system - what affects one affects the other. The beliefs we hold about ourselves and the world around us have a profound effect on our biology, because we experience life through the feelings created by our thoughts....
Our beliefs about ourselves and the world can empower us or they can limit us. In this story about a Partridge and a Bumblebee we see what can happen when we look at life through a different lens....
According to Family Therapist Virginia Satir, the world isn’t the way it’s meant to be, it is the way it is – and it’s the way we cope with it that makes the difference; how we process our experiences is what makes us able to cope or not.
As a coach or therapist, it is vital for us to question why we respond the way we do. Why do we react to different clients in different ways, and why do they respond to us differently? This is the heart of transference and countertransference, and it behoves us to pay attention or we can be led down the rocky paths of Drama Triangle, collusion and blind spots. We ignore our own “stuff” at our peril; and this is one of the reasons we have Clinical Supervision – and why it’s not just desirable, it is essential.
We are only able to process our experiences through the lens of our previous experiences; we can never be truly objective, because this is how we perceive and understand our world – and how we each construct our own reality; we see the world not as it is, says Jung, but as we are. Whatever we perceive in others, therefore, gives us an opportunity to learn something about ourselves… because it is a reflection of our own unconscious mind.
Because of our subjective nature, we will judge things according to our own values, beliefs and past experiences which form our mental filters; what we perceive to be right, wrong, good, bad and so on. The moment a judgement about someone or something else comes into our consciousness, it is our perception, and therefore we must have an understanding of it because we’ve labelled it.
Our judgements are the result of our own unique combination of unconscious filters; our filters influence what we pay attention to, how we interpret situations and how we make sense of ambiguous situations. We unconsciously pay attention to information that confirms and supports our beliefs, and we ignore or minimise information that contradicts them.
We also project our 'stuff' onto others - expecting people to behave in particular ways based on our values, and then blaming them because they don't (or sometimes because they do) live up or down to our expectations - but they are not us, and their way of perceiving the world is very different from ours. Also, if there are aspects of ourselves that we don't like, and refuse to own (Jung called this our 'Shadow Self'), then we may see those aspects in others, and dislike them because of it... we see in others whatever needs healing in ourselves.
It is, therefore imperative for those of us working in therapy, coaching or counselling to pay attention and to bring our (sometimes deeply repressed) 'stuff' into consciousness, in order to become as clear a vessel as possible. Only then are we able to be fully present with our client, and have the ability to create a safe, non-judgemental space, in which the client can be supported to learn about themselves, and process their own issues.
We know nobody can “make” us feel or do anything – we do that to ourselves; other people do whatever they do, and what we do with that is up to us. Other people’s behaviour can, however, trigger a reaction in us, and if we are having an unuseful reaction to someone or something then we need to pay attention and seek to understand why. We need to “make the darkness conscious” as Jung says, otherwise we are potentially heading down the path of conflict with others, or collusion and blind spots with our clients.
In other words, as therapists and coaches, we need to deal with our own ‘stuff’, and we can’t change something until we become consciously aware of it; as author Susan David says, “awareness is a prerequisite for change”… hence the necessity for self-awareness – and it’s an ongoing journey; a life-long job… Jung called it ‘Individuation’. What old core beliefs and injunctions are we running? Until we become aware of them and challenge them, they will carry on directing our lives, says Jung, and we will call it fate.
And throughout our lives, stuff is going to happen to us; we will have experiences that we perceive to be unpleasant and challenging – and what can we do? We have a choice… we can either be a victim of them, and blame someone or something else, or we can take responsibility and learn from them. My psychotherapy tutor called these things ‘JAFLOs’ – they are Just Another F[insert appropriate word]-ing Learning Opportunity. And they might be truly awful, terrible, traumatic things – but from those huge, awful terrible things might indeed come our biggest learnings... Learnings that set us free forever - perhaps from the tyranny of a repeating, self-sabotaging pattern that has been running our life for years.
Eric Berne described this freedom as autonomy; our capacity for developing awareness, choice, responsibility, spontaneity and intimacy. Autonomy means living our life as an authentic, integrated adult, without the ‘shoulds’, ‘oughts’ and ‘musts’.
Living an autonomous life is an ideal, to which we as coaches and therapists can only truly assist our clients to aspire if we first do the work ourselves, and commit to doing so in the spirit of openness and curiosity... so that we can own our 'stuff'; use it like compost and grow from it - and thrive, and blossom...
Life is for living and learning… enjoy the ride…
If you are interested in exploring and developing your own self-awareness, we offer a number of courses, workshops and groups to help you... click on the link below to take a look at our Forthcoming Courses to see what is coming up...
If there's one thing for which Schnauzers are well known, it's their voice. Loud, joyous, frequent, and sometimes embarrassing, has been our previous experience over the past 30-odd years of sharing life with Schnauzers, so to come across a silent one was odd, to say the least... For the first few weeks of his life with us, Mungo didn't bark.
Maybe he had learned, in the puppy farm in which he had spent the first five years of life, that barking was futile - at best, it could have achieved nothing for him - and even when his new life brought him two little Lhasa sisters, who do bark at such exciting events as The Postman, or Things Outside The Garden Wall, he still never uttered a sound.
In his silence we could read the history of unmet needs; the total absence of any sense of deserving anything - in human terms, he had no self-worth whatsoever. In that previous life, where life itself had no value except price, he had been worth less than nothing. To bark would mean that his voice was worthy of being heard, and clearly this was not the case.
The very, very first time we heard him bark, I almost couldn't believe it... such a little, rusty bark it was, and high-pitched... he was trying to join in with his sisters at the time. Gradually, he began to find his real, authentic voice - little by little, until now it is loud, joyous, frequent and sometimes embarrassing - a true, beautiful, Schnauzer voice.
Mungo came to us in February... he was rescued from a Welsh puppy farm, where he had spent the first five years of his life. Probably his only experience of love in all that time, since being taken from his mother, until he came to us, was the eight weeks he spent in a wonderful foster-home (you can read more about his early journey here).
As human beings, it's easy for us to get stuck in the story we are telling ourselves each day... we will continue to do a particular behaviour, or think particular thoughts, because we've always done it that way. We interact with the world because of the labels we give ourselves - or accept from other people - "Anxious", "Introverted", "Extroverted", "Victim", "Intelligent", "Stupid"... When labels give us permission to limit ourselves, then we don't have to take responsibility - instead we can blame the label, because the label gives us our story... without realising that it's also the story that is "proving" the label. Those "knots of our own making" that Rainer Maria Rilke wrote about.
There's a wonderful poem by Marianne Williamson, called "Our Deepest Fear" (I have it on the wall in my office), and in it she explains that it's our light, not our darkness that frightens us... our deepest fear, she says, is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure...
In my work as a therapist and a trainer, I see many people who do change the stories they have been telling themselves, often for decades - it requires courage, and insight, and self-awareness, and self-compassion to do that, and I'm in awe every single time, because it proves the truth of Marianne's words...
And then I look at this beautiful little soul who has joined our family... every "first time" he does something new - like jumping up next to us on the sofa, or climbing up four steps instead of three, or allowing Luna to share his bed - he is releasing and re-writing a little bit of that old story and it makes my heart melt, because he's letting a little bit more of his light shine.
If he is not afraid to re-write his old story, why should any of us be? In Marianne's words, again, "As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same..." If we are bringing that kind of inspiration into the world, then what can happen? That's another story - what if we were to write it?
Mungo arrived into our lives a few weeks ago... confused and scared, he had been rescued from a puppy farm, where he had spent the first five years of his life as a stud dog - without care, kindness or even a name of his own. His escape from this grim life was probably because he needed some expensive veterinary care, which he was unlikely to receive, unless he was surrendered into rescue - and fortunately for Mungo, this was the path that opened before him, thanks to the lovely folks at Friends of Animals Wales...
Following the removal of 33 teeth, funded by the wonderful Schnauzerfest charity, who supported all his veterinary costs whilst he was in rescue with FOAW, he then spent the first eight weeks of his new life with a kind and patient foster family, who began to teach him what it feels like to be loved...
Fast forward to the end of February, and this little boy had yet another huge upheaval when he moved yet again... this time to his forever home, with two little Lhasa sisters to show him the ropes. However, it is very clear to us that although he is completely free from that old life, the abuse and neglect has deep roots, and he is still beset by the demons of his past...
To begin with, he wouldn't eat. I wasn't too worried at first, because of the stress of his move, but after a couple of days he began to taste - and then he stood back and just stared at me. I suddenly got the message - he didn't like the bowl! I turned his meal out onto a plate, and he devoured it ravenously; so now, Mungo eats from a plate... and not just any plate - he has three rather beautiful Art Deco plates that we bought specially for him.
For all of us, it's a journey of interpreting feelings and needs... the tilt of an ear, the twitch of a tail or the droop of a head can tell us so much when we are prepared to pay attention. Unlike with people, there is no story to listen to, and be hooked by - we can only imagine what he has been through. Just like many people though, when we do not have the self-worth to believe that we deserve to have our needs met, it was clear to us that Mungo felt deeply unworthy of many things in his new life.
It's an incredible joy when he responds... the first time he came towards us and stood to have his head scratched... the first time he lay down next to us on the sofa... the first walk, with tail and ears up, and eyes bright... all of these things mark a small rite of passage for him - the sign that he has given himself permission to accept this part of his new life and, in doing so, hopefully also to release part of the old.
But here's an interesting thing. We chose his name because we liked it, and because it fit with our previous boy schnauzers (Theo, Hugo...). In an idle moment, I looked it up, to find out the meaning. It turns out that St Mungo is the patron saint of those who have been bullied, which is actually pretty perfect, and his feast day is 13 January. As Mungo didn't have a proper birthday either, that seems pretty perfect, too, just like Mungo himself...
Little Matilda joined our family in early April, following the sad loss of our beautiful Theo to lymphoma earlier in the year. She needed us as much as we needed her - her previous Mum had developed some health issues and was no longer able to look after her, so we took Luna to meet Matilda and they were friends at first sight...
She is, as all puppies are, part little angel, part tiny demon... but as Carl Jung once wrote, "The greater the contrast, the greater the potential. Great energy only comes from a correspondingly great tension of opposites."
"The greater the contrast, the greater the potential. Great energy only comes from a correspondingly great tension of opposites." - Carl Jung
Matilda certainly has great energy, as Luna can testify; they play crazy games of chase together - not caring whether they are in the garden, bedroom or sitting room, and then subside in a panting, happy heap. Like Luna, and like Daisy before her, Matilda knows how to bring the joy...
Matilda of course has no concept of self-judgement - she is fearless! She doesn't worry that she is "not good enough" because she likes to roll in pigeon poo, or that she is a "bad person" because she cherishes secret fantasies of catching one of the voles who inhabit the garden wall... she doesn't wallow in guilt because she was sick on our duvet at 4am... she just is as she is, and accepts herself for who she is because she has no idea that there is any other way to be. What liberation! No wonder she is so joyful...
Self-acceptance is a key aspect in developing wellbeing and rediscovering our own joy. To quote Carl Jung once again, "How can I be substantial if I do not cast a shadow? I must have a dark side also if I am to be whole." When we can accept all of ourselves - the light as well as the dark - then we are liberated from others' judgements of us; we realise that what others think of us is not about us at all - it is a reflection of their own thoughts and being.
It doesn't matter what others think of you - it is what you think of you that is the most important thing. Become fearless and spread the joy!
...and the Canine Members of Staff