Just got back from a lovely walk with Moodlepips... sorry, I mean "Moo"... or even "Marvin" to give him his actual name. (as a side note Moodlepips just auto corrected to "Poodles" which I may also use in future - thanks Microsoft)
We played with his tuggy on a rope in the street, I investigated random smells with him (at least I stood there and looked interested), we went to say hello to the ducks and we cut through the park so he could go off lead for a few minutes. We had chicken (well, he did), we raced and practiced emergency sits, followed by chasing the tuggy again... Not once did I have to put up with him pulling me, and I was especially chuffed when he didn't decide to have a go at the biggest Rottie I have ever seen in my life, being walked by a bearded man in a hat, his missus and a pushchair.
Then I thought about some posts I had seen on Facebook - people worrying about bullies, people worrying about being judged for what food their dog does or doesn't eat (Moo doesn't have dog food - he likes home made meat, fish & offal stews, cheesy crackers, ready brek, buttered toast, ham & egg quiche (with no onions) and malted milk biscuits, with a nice cup of tea or a small bowl of milk, just incase anyone is interested, but please don't don't tell anyone or the food police will have me for breakfast), people worrying about doing everything wrong all the time. So we all judge ourselves unfavourably all the time too.
A quick scroll through the rest my friend's feeds (ignoring the countless pleas from all the charities I can't afford to help, a fan page or seven, and the marches in London live videos) reads a bit like an elongated version of this:
"I am too fat."
"I am too thin."
"I don't know what to do."
"I feel like I don't fit in"
"I am not good enough at my job"
*PHOTO OF SOMEONE LOOKING LIKE CRAP*
"I can't parent"
"I look like crap."
"My cooking is shit."
"I can't park."
"I am no good at this"
*MEME BEING MEAN ABOUT SOMEBODY ELSE*
"I can't dance."
"My house is a mess."
"My life is boring"
"I am boring"
"Shopping is shit with this person"
"I am lazy"
"I hate the person who did this - you should all hate them too"
"I can't get my dog to do this, or to stop doing that."
"I am too old"
The list of people being down on themselves just goes on and on and on, even when they are laughing at themselves rather than being worried, they still laugh at their imagined downside - either that or I am just friends with an abnormal amount of pissed off, fed up people.
Even my writing this is making me think "people will just think I am writing a ton of crap - who am I to write about stuff anyway?"
Bloody hell - no wonder we are all depressed.
The brain is predisposed by evolution towards a negative bias (big words for a Saturday) to ensure our caveman ancestors survived. Happily skipping towards prehistoric man eating predators to see if they were friendly never did anyone any favours and so we naturally seek out the worst case scenario in our mind's eye and then avoid it. Having a group around us was more or less vital to our survival and so we instinctively want the approval of our peers, finding it very hurtful on a primal level when it is not given. Knowing that cold winters left us starving hungry, we plan ahead with our resources and feel like impending doom is upon us when we are not managing to do that. And so many more reasons why we beat ourselves up continually - and even occasionally indulge in putting others down so that we may feel our own position has elevated slightly.
You know how bullies are actually the insecure ones? - that is why they do it. To attempt to elevate themselves. Not much help when they are tearing you to shreds and ruining your life, but at least you know they feel like shit deep down too - even if they don't realise it in some cases.
What we need to do, is to start celebrating ourselves and each other. When we do, we need to stop thinking of each other as being smug and instead be pleased for each other. In this way people will begin to feel more positive and better about themselves and each other. There is a saying, "if you can be anything, be kind.". Fuck knows who said it, but it is worth remembering. Karma works the same way (kinda).. if you act like a dickhead, to yourself and everyone around you, you will get dickhead vibes back. Be good to yourself and those around you, and you will get good vibes back. (Within reason - don't be giving away your house and car and then blame me if you don't win the lottery the following week).
Especially in professions like ours in the animal world, where we deal with lots of emotional stuff already, why don't we all just be a bit more nice to ourselves and to each other?
Thinking about the way you word things makes a huge difference. Instead of "You are doing this wrong". "You should be doing this". "That's not right" ..........how about "Have you tried this way?", "That's really nice, have you tried adding that?", "I find that when I do so n so, this helps" etc.... adding smileys and colours to text to show you are being friendly or joking (words do not always read the same to everybody). Think before you open your trap, how you would feel on the other end of the conversation?
Your own inner conversations with yourself should receive the same treatment. Reframe the negatives. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Turn your negative thoughts positive. I know I sound all Pollyanna now, but it actually works, with a bit of practice.
"I'm putting on weight" = "I can find myself a new hobby - I might start with dancing", or even "I like my curves, they suit me".
"I can't train my dog very well" = "Imagine how many more problems my dog and I would be having if we never started trying out this new training" or "I can ring my local force-free trainer and find new games to play with little Moodlemonkeydoo".
"People think I am a total weirdo because I sing and play tuggy in the street, call my dog "Moodledoodledumplingpants" and stop and see what my dog has found when he is sniffing at something" = "We are enjoying ourselves and we also get to practice walking past people staring at us without barking at them"
Congratulate each other and ourselves on our wins, and notice when someone is doing well, even if they haven't noticed it themselves. Make people feel good. It makes YOU feel good when you do, and elevates you far more than any bully can ever elevate them self, because it is a genuine elevation based on good feelings - positive reinforcement for the soul. Be nice and here's the trick - genuinely mean it. Or if you can't think of anything nice to say, say nothing at all.
By gradually adding to your own and other's confidence and optimism in this way, life gets easier.
Gratitude for three things every day is another mood booster. Gratitude is something I learned when giving up alcohol many years ago, and is a way of life. Today for instance I am grateful there is Galaxy in my fridge. I am grateful that the kids, pets and I are all in a pretty good place. I am grateful that we made it round our walk without so much as a yip at anything else while on lead.
I am also grateful Moo finally passed the chicken bone but that is a story for another blog.
If ever anyone is having a lot of problems with their mental health, please do feel like you can talk to me, or reach out to a professional. There is no need to suffer in silence, or to feel lonely or alone with it. There are many helplines available, or your local gp, your local mental health services. If you feel you are being bullied, do not sit in silence and accept it. Speak to someone who can help.
INTODogs have started a new arm, INTORescue, for those involved in rescue work. Both ISCP and INTODogs have mental health support contacts and are always encouraging of our members to step forward in confidence to seek advice if they need it.
Be kind xxxxx