Our 4-month old wild-child puppy Kennedy has finally gone into obedience training. Be calm. Walk on a lead. Sit. Lay down. She struggled and fought against the inevitable, thinking she could best the leash, the GentleLead, her daddy and an expert trainer combined. She cried. She fought. She felt sorry for herself.
She eventually gave in.
The trainer said, “You see, we have to break her ego.”
Now that’s profound.
What is the ego? The ego has several meanings, including our degree of self-confidence or, in Freudian terms, our sense of personal identity. Part of the personal identity comes from the interplay between the conscious and unconscious, according to Freud. Our unconscious being what it is, often we forget that we are driven by needs, beliefs and assumptions that we are not aware of.
Modern psychology is revealing that that unconscious is even more at play than we suspected. Jonathan Haidt, author of the Righteous Mind, states that the unconscious drives all of our behavior while the conscious unwittingly then back-justifies the decisions made by the unconscious. It is for this reason that some question whether we really have free will or are we simply slaves to our unconscious (another WOW).
One area that we seem to struggle as a species is acceptance. I am not in financial ruin. My health is fine. My husband still loves me. My best friend treats me respectfully. My weight gain is temporary. My alcohol use is under my control. I am getting enough rest.
However, when we’re in denial of reality, reality fights back. I get another bill, now with interest and penalties. I get a sinus infection. I argue with my husband over the new bill and sinus infection. My BFF makes another unreasonable demand then gets mad at me. The zipper on my very expensive designer dress broke.
You get the picture. Sometimes life has to break our egos before we accept what is. Only after we accept it do we have a fighting chance to change it.
Our older schnoodle Romeo knows his limits and opportunities. He knows his place, his limits, what he can do and should do, and as a result he has a very good life. He’s peaceful and happy. He’s well-cared for. He gets to sleep in the big bed. He’s a successful dog. It is partly a matter of reward, but it is also just as much about not fighting against the inevitable and knowing how to work with what is.
Our lives are the same way. I don’t know if there’s a Great Master in the Heavens who is trying to put a GentleLead on all of us, but I do know that when I fight reality, I spend a lot of time in the proverbial crate. Showing gratitude for the good in my life instead of constantly focusing on what I cannot change gives me access to life’s treats and privileges. I become a successful human. I work for what I want, need, and believe in based on what’s real, not how I think life should be or how others should be.
Kennedy is doing much better now. She’s not chewing up our electronics or making flying leaps off of strangers and loved ones. She has a wider area she can roam in the house and more time to do what she does best: loving and delighting us all, especially Romeo.
She’s going to be just fine.
This is Silver Lining’s 450th blog. Thank you for sharing your journey with me!