Even a skittish ground squirrel can become calm around people.
Socializing Your Inner Pet
We were at my nephew’s house the other day and I was surprised to see how calm their cat was. It was the calmest cat I think I’ve ever seen. And it’s only about a year old.
My theory is that this cat grew up in a very dynamic environment (it shares the house with a two-year-old, high-energy chocolate lab). The dog is constantly running around and is one of the most high-energy dogs I’ve met.
Now, imagine a kitten growing up with this dog running around non-stop. It would either go completely crazy or it would adapt. In this case, I think it adapted to the high-energy environment by becoming immune to it. Nothing seems to faze this cat at all.
We May Be Just Like This
A lot of times, we look for ways to avoid our stressors so that we can be peaceful. But the problem with this approach is that our world becomes smaller and smaller as we limit the things we can do.
Don’t get me wrong, isolation, protection, taking care of oneself… all of these are good things. But when I protect myself too much I may become more prone to stress whenever I get exposed to these stressors again.
Socializing the Dog
Our dog demonstrates the same principle. We live a fairly quiet life so our dog doesn’t get exposed to a lot of other people or animals every day. This means that when he sees other dogs or people he goes nuts and barks and wants to jump, etc.
The exposure to his stressors is not frequent enough for him to be okay with them and to remain calm.
So what’s the solution? In a word, “socialization.”
In dog language, this means taking a dog out to meet other dogs, going to busy places where there are lots of people and lots of things going on, and having people come by. Basically, we try to expose the dog to as many of his stressors as possible until he becomes accustomed to them.
An important principle of socialization is to take it slowly. Too much will overwhelm and cause more stress, even trauma, in the dog. That’s not the idea.
The idea is to take it slowly. Our dog trainer recommends exposing our dog to other dogs at a distance at first. For example, she recommended that we take him across the street from the dog park and just be with him calmly, giving treats, until he is no longer anxious.
This is a low dose of the stressor, and it helps build immunity. In fact, that’s exactly how medical immunization shots work: give enough of the stressor to challenge but not so much that it overwhelms.
We Can Do The Same Thing With Our Stressors
By moving toward our stressors, instead of away from them, we can culture a kind of mental immunity. The key is not to move too fast, just a gradual repeated exposure can build a lot of tolerance.
However, sometimes we can’t control how we get exposed to stress. Sometimes, the intense version of the stress is there every day at work with someone in the office, or at home with someone in the family. How do you deal with that?
It’s Always Possible to Slow Things Down
Even if you can’t control how much exposure you get to your stressors, you can take action to give yourself space to process after each exposure. This can be as effective as giving yourself low-dose, repeated exposures.
A high-dose exposure followed by time to process it thoroughly can be a very fast way to grow. And luckily, there is a way to process things very effectively and quickly with The Work of Byron Katie (4 Questions and Turnarounds).
After any stressful situation, go to a quiet place, write your stressful thoughts, and question them. This process is amazing. It can shift the feeling in a very short time. It can open the mind to see a stressor very differently. It is a powerful way to process emotions and stress.
Suddenly A Stressful Situation Becomes A Fertilizer For Growth
If you really want to grow, the situation that you’re wanting to protect yourself from can become the very thing that helps you gain new strength. It all depends on what you do with it.
Without The Work, it may take more time to process each exposure. With The Work, things can move quite quickly. You may start to get ahead of it. You may even find yourself as relaxed as my nephew’s kitten around something that kept you on edge before. This is the power of inquiry in combination with exposure to stressful situations.
If Money Stresses You, Do The Work on Money
Last summer, my friend, Grace Bell, and I created a course called “Living with Money.” If you have any stress around money, or if you would like to prevent future stress, I highly recommend this course. It contains 12 hours of video.
And to increase the value of this course for you, Grace and I are offering six additional free one-hour seminars for anyone who has purchased the course. If you haven’t enrolled, sign up on the Living with Money webpage today.
We have completed one seminar. The additional seminars will be Jan 18, 25, Feb 1, 8, 15. Don’t miss this one-time opportunity to join us and question your thoughts about money. Purchase the Living with Money course today and sign up for these seminars after you enroll.
Have a great week,
“We never receive more than we can handle, and there is always just one thing to do.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is
Further reading: Emotional Trauma