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By: Grazyna Witkowska Date: 7th September 2021
Countless people enjoy, and value, the companionship of animals. These could be dogs, cats, horses… In fact, any animal can be a great companion.
When people prepare a room for their newborns they often adorn it with pictures of animals. Not so much pictures of people, or computers, or beautiful buildings. Why is that? Could it be that we feel it is easiest to relate to animals? Could it be that we feel a baby would find great deal of comfort and affinity relating to images of animals?
The researcher, Daphna Shir-Vertesh, documented what people tend to say about their companion animals:
- “They accept you unconditionally”
- “It gives me a sense of intimacy I don’t reach in my relations with human beings”
- “It is an opportunity to be completely free of defences, masks, no matter what”
While Daphna Shir-Vertesh worked mainly with dog companions, her research reflects a more general truth. We can feel comfortable in the company of animals because we know they won’t judge us for the kind of clothes we wear or when we are having a bad hair day. When we feel safe from judgement, accepted for who we are, we are free to be truly, authentically ourselves. A friend of mine once told me, “When I walk with my dogs, I am myself. At other times I am a father, a husband, an accountant … But when I walk with my dogs, I am myself.”
There is nothing wrong with being a husband or an accountant. Each role we play is a part of us and part of our expression. It only becomes problematic when we forget that these roles are an expression of a “greater us”. Going on a date we dress differently than when we go to mow the lawn. Each costume helps us to play the role we choose to play. But it is us who choose the costume and play the role. Each of us plays the same role a little differently because we are unique underneath those costumes.
Animals can make space for us to remember and reconnect with the entirety of who we are underneath our costumes. With humans, we have more history, more baggage. And thus, in the presence of humans, we can feel more reluctant to open up completely. Wearing a mask can help us to demonstrate our worth according to what others are expecting of us. We might even feel we must be embodying a specific role to be lovable.
With animals, young children, and some special grown-ups, we can remove our masks, knowing that they will love us just the same.
So why is it important to be fully ourselves?
Feeing safe to be ourselves, feeling free to express ourselves as who we are, and being ok with any feedback that might come our way is the real feeling of freedom.
If we have to adjust what we say to please others, if we feel we have to conform to the status quo, we will feel (if not immediately then eventually) unfaithful to ourselves. And this can rob us from enjoying life. Moreover, it can derail us from knowing what is important to us, what we value the most, and thus what course of action would be most appropriate for us to take. Instead we may blindly adopt other peoples’ values and live our lives according to their rules while – ironically – thinking that we have chosen these rules for ourselves.
Have you ever come across people who are considered very, very successful and yet they seem sad and disappointed with life? Yes, those whose mantra is: “I can get no satisfaction”. Well, could that be that they lost touch with their authentic selves and forgot themselves in their impressive success?
Of course, there very successful people who are genuinely beaming with love for life. I would say these people have strong sense of who they are and have aligned their success with their internal values. They are living and expressing themselves authentically.
By the way, when I talk about “one expressing themselves authentically” I do not mean it is ok to be rude. There is always room for diplomacy while holding to one’s own values. When one lives authentically they have little reason to lose their cool. They know their own value, and they are ok whether their views meet with agreement or disagreement.
If you want to experience more of this confidence that flows from knowing yourself I would like to suggest you start with this exercise:
- Find the right moment and a right place where you and your pet can be relaxed and undisturbed. This could be on a couch with your cat, or perhaps, on the grass relaxing with your dog after some exercise.
- Allow the relaxation of your pet to inspire you to relax deeper and deeper. Ignore all the outside stimuli. Just imagine an energetic bubble containing only you, your pet, and the sense of relaxation.
- Deepen this sense of relaxation by taking long deep breaths and allow the exhalations to be long and soft.
- Know that you are in the safe space and your pet is there to support you in every way. Know that you are loved and accepted.
- Now ask yourself what one thing, what one quality, could make you feel more authentic in your expression of you in the world. There will be many things that come to mind. It is natural. Many things can be of relevance. Do not dwell on them too much. Probe how they feel. Watch for that feeling when you sense that something kind of “hits you”. Trust yourself that you will be able to distinguish that “hit”. I feel it in my solar plexus but everyone has their own way. Wait to discover it.
- Keep breathing long, deep, relaxing breaths.
- Once you get that “hit” pay particular attention to what value or idea brought it about.
- Now explore this value or idea further. Employ your imagination and envision various ways you could bring more of this quality to your life. Play with it. Consider how that makes you feel. Consider what would be the potential implications on your loved ones and the world?
- If that picture is not pleasing to you, see how you can adjust it. Play with it. Make sure that you feel empowered by what you are envisioning and make sure that is can have a positive impact on the world around you.
- Do not over do it. Keep it relatively short. This exercise is about discovering one idea or one quality. I will soon share with you the ways to incorporate this new quality into your expression of authentic self so you can watch your confidence and your enjoyment of life grow.
- When you are done, take a couple of long, deep breaths and thank your animal for their support!
And if you want to know more about how animals can assist us to overcome our challenges and grow into better and better versions of ourselves – check out Meet Your Animal Coach at https://bestversionsofus.com/training/