On Friday night, I went to a dinner party with some friends and some people I did not know. Several of the guests brought dogs to the party, and one woman brought a dog we’ll call “scared dog.” “Scared dog” was the smallest of the dogs and would bark at literally everything – the other dogs, food, new people, people walking around. The owner, understandably, began to get tired of this and embarrassed. She started trying to control “scared dog” by yelling “Hey!” at him. “Scared dog” would freeze for a moment, and then go on barking again.
Eventually the owner started getting more and more frustrated and started yelling “Shut Up!” and even tapping “scared dog” on the head to try to get him to stop.
After a bit, I decided to go over to “scared dog” when he was barking and started to pet him, reassure him, and tell him “everything was OK.”
“Scared dog” would start to calm down and would actually stop barking. I kept going over to “scared dog” every time he would bark and continue to comfort him and he would relax and stop barking.
Eventually the owner started to catch on. She saw that comforting and being kind to “scared dog” actually worked and got the result she was looking for in the first place. By the end of the party, she too would pet him and tell him “it was OK” and sure enough “scared dog” would relax and be OK.
And yet, how often do we treat our own inner “scared dog” this way? How often do we tell our self we “shouldn’t be scared”? That we try to control how we feel, get angry with ourselves for feeling a certain way?
The point isn’t really that being kind to ourselves (and dogs) is the “right” thing, it’s that being kind ACTUALLY WORKS.
Beating ourselves up and trying to control how we feel simply DOESN’T WORK.
Self-love (and love from others) is not really a woo-woo weird spiritual thing. It’s what our biology NEEDS in times of distress.
And yet, we are conditioned to believe beating ourselves up is the only option, the “right” thing to do.
It isn’t. We can ALWAYS choose to be kind to ourselves, not because we “should” but because it actually WORKS.
Happy Monday 🙂
Ellis Edmunds, Psy.D.
If you, or someone you know is struggling in life, I offer therapy and mindfulness groups in Oakland, CA. Contact me for a free 15 minute consultation.