If you have ever seen a dog happy, you know they are happy with their whole body – they wag their tail like crazy, they jump around, the breath excitedly, lick every part of you they can reach and even yelp with joy. If you have a dog, just take its leash and stand by the door and you will see what I mean.
When a dog is miserable, it is also total and complete misery. We had a little dog once and had to leave him at home and go to work. As soon as it was clear he was not coming with us, his eyes fell, his ears went limp and he started making those sharp weeping noises dogs make. We still have to go, so we closed the door in front of his miserable little face and then he started barking and crying and howling his unbearable pain to the world. We could still hear him from the end of the street.
Because that made him angry, he also took revenge in the same unreserved manner – when we came back, every pot was overturned, every shoe was chewed and there was dog poo in so many places and in such quantities we could not imagine how it had been stored inside the dog before.
And, of course, when a dog senses danger, it will charge head first to fight it, no matter the risk to itself. Fangs will be revealed, growls will be issued, serious scratching will be done and bites will be delivered until the danger goes away.
People, on the other hand, think too much. Particularly, people care about what others will think of them. So instead of being true to what goes on inside them and expressing it to the best of their ability, they aim for a response out of the people around them and behave in a way that will get them this response.
But that is being manipulative, really.
It is also far less likely to succeed than being honest.
Kids start out like dogs – they get all excited when Mommy pulls a breast out of her bra. They wag their little arms and legs, their face lights up with excited anticipation and they cling and suck with everything they have. When Mommy goes out of their room, on the other hand, they start crying bitterly, twitching their arms and legs in a futile attempt to chase her.
As they grow up, however, we start teaching them that people are not dogs and emotions must be put under control. “Please don’t jump all over me like that”, we say when our kids come and pour all their love on us, “It’s not polite. People are watching. I love you too, now go and play. Quietly!” Instead of enjoying their food with their arms and their face, we teach them to stay clean “so Mommy does not have to clean after you”.
Our kids continue to grow and start attending school, where the almighty teachers have lots of expectations of them, including sitting down quietly for hours. It will not do to yell in the middle of a class, “Look what I found!” at the top of one’s voice. What will the principal think?
By the teen years, this is starting to get back at us, because being seen with one’s parents is just not cool. “Dad, can you not kiss me in front of my friends anymore. I don’t want them to think I’m a little girl. Oh, and can I have twenty bucks, ’cause we’re all going to see <insert scary and/or violent movie here>?”
So you think to yourself, “Kids today have no self esteem. They put other people’s opinion before their own. That’s not a good way to live. They should be true to who they are”.
Of course they should, but are you?
Do you say or do stuff to please your boss, so he might promote you, give you a bonus or just not sack you? Do you ever talk about it in front of the kids? Well, I have managed people and I can tell you I have always preferred people I could trust. In fact, trust is one of the main factors that always got me hired.
Do you say or do stuff to please your partner, so he or she might be nice to you, stop yelling at you or let you have your way a little? Do you every do it in front of the kids? Well, going easy on your partner and exercising control are fine, but for the most part, I believe partners should have confidence in their relationship and know where they stand.
You see, your kids pay far less attention to your words of wisdom than they do to your everyday behavior. What you do consistently, your kids will learn. What you say may work if your actions do not counter your words.
Sing it with me:
If it has to be, it starts with me
There is nothing easier than wagging your tail and jumping up and down when this is how you feel. Controlling your emotions and pretending to feel something else, on the other hand, is hard work, so it creates internal pressure. The professionals call this Incongruence, which means that your actions disagree with your beliefs and values.
So think about all the things that give you pressure in life. These things may or may not have to do with other people (your finances might be a common one here). To really turn this into a project, you can even make a list of them, but only if this comes naturally to you. Now, pick the 3 things that give you the most pressure.
Consider each item more deeply by asking yourself, “What is the real source of pressure here?”
For example, if you are uncomfortable with your financial situation, you may realize that you are measuring your success and therefore your value as a person based on how much money you make. Yet, money is just a means to buy happiness.
People who follow their passion and do what they love feel the amount of money they make is irrelevant, because they are already happy. Ask anyone who works at a charity, any young teacher or any midwife.
People who live by their values and use their time for what they consider to be important often compromise their pay, at least initially, but see themselves as free and rich on the inside. Ask anyone who has decided to work from home in order to spend more time with the kids.
In both cases, rather than adopt some external way of measuring themselves, these people ask themselves every day, “What do I want to do today? What is going to make me happy? What actions and words will represent who I am the best?”
You may resist at first, because you have been at these things for so long, but keep digging deeper into them and find just how you are serving others and neglecting the expression of your own feelings. Breathe deeply from time to time, relax and find ways to change these items that give you pressure. Take your time, think things through, talk them over with people you trust, but know you owe it to the dog inside you to run free in the park.
Gal (Ronit is doing some personal development today)
Here is one great way to let loose, gain perspective and connect with someone who is important to you – your son.
Darren Lewis is a special man who lives in Townsville, QLD. He takes fathers and sons on weekend or 5-day adventures and gives them an incredible opportunity to do something extraordinary together – sea kayaking, mountain climbing, snorkeling and white-water rafting – to be inspired by one another and to bond.
Many father-son relationships have come out stronger after going on a fathering adventure. Many fathers and sons have learned to be open and free with each other. If there is pressure in your relationship with your son, check out Fathering Adventures.