We had some old friends round for supper the other evening. We hadn’t seen them for ages, and they were enchanted to meet the two new part-time canine members of staff, who were visiting us for the weekend. Fortunately one of my friend’s favourite pastimes is to be submerged beneath a pile of tiny dogs, which is just as well…
Towards the end of supper, we let the dogs into the garden for a spot of milling about. Shortly afterwards the sound of “ear applause” outside the door alerted us to their return and we opened the door… at which point a black and dripping form hurtled through the open doorway, into the kitchen – and through into the hallway, up the stairs, along the landing, into our bedroom, round the outside of the bed and onto the bed – with all of us in hot and hilarious pursuit. Tizzie had fallen in the pond again…
It is interesting how we all become creatures of habit. The very act of doing something over and over in the same way creates a neurological pathway in our brain, so that the behaviour becomes automatic and a habit (or ‘strategy’ in NLP terms) is born.
What if we want to create a new and useful habit, such as daily flossing, or exercise, or self-hypnosis…? Sometimes the idea of making changes to our existing lifestyle can just seem too big. Conventional wisdom says that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit – but we can reduce this dramatically through setting a positive, specific goal, and then attaching the new “habit” onto something that we already do. “Daily flossing” for example can be made more specific by stating is as “flossing every night after cleaning my teeth” – so that it becomes an extension of an existing habit, and not a whole new habit in itself. Small change is always easier than big change!
In the daylight of Sunday morning, I watched the dogs in the garden. They all know to avoid the pond, and when returning to the back door from the lawn this necessitates quite a long detour. Tizzie has evidently decided to create her own new pathway and cut out the loop – and the trackway made by her little feet was easy to see, once you knew it was there… as was the newly-formed (and doubtless inadvertent) slipway, created the night before due to a misplaced foot in the darkness.
Poor Lily recently developed an infection in one of her toes. We didn’t realise she had a problem at first – it was snowy outside, and so a certain amount of foot licking was only to be expected – but when this graduated to a fairly persistent chewing, we knew something was amiss and investigated… At first, I applied a “sock” which worked well… until I went for a shower, at which point it was quietly destroyed in order that the licking could recommence. After this we had no option. Lily was going to have to wear “The Cone of Shame”.
After the initial period of confusion, during which certain skills such as stair climbing and jumping onto sofas had to be adjusted accordingly, Lily found one or two benefits to her new sartorial adornment. Whereas before, when chasing frozen peas across the floor, for example, she had to contend with competition from Theo and Daisy, now her cone acted as both a scoop and an effective barrier, so that once captured, her peas could be consumed in peace.
The main purpose of the cone was, of course, to prevent Lily from worrying constantly at her foot, and thereby making it worse. This is often what happens when we worry constantly about something – the more we choose to focus on it, the bigger it appears in our mind as we return to it again and again. In Lily’s case the original problem was only very small; yet it occupied her entire being – and as soon as she was wearing the cone, she appeared to forget about it altogether.
There are a number of tools which we can use to create our own “cone” – distracting the mind from our worry (and thereby allowing it to reduce in size, or even disappear completely) while at the same time allowing our sense of peace and calmness to expand. Self-Hypnosis, Meditation, Mindfulness – when used regularly, these, and other methods, can be of immeasurable benefit to both our mental and physical health as we leave our worries outside our “cone” and allow our mind and body to heal from the stress we have created.
A week of wearing her cone (and some expert advice from John at Grace Lane Vets) soon saw Lily’s foot back to normal, and her erstwhile neckwear was consigned once more to the top of the cupboard in the utility room, where hopefully it will remain for a long time to come…
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!
...and the Canine Members of Staff