Good dog

Alone in the kitchen, running late.  I’m nuking coffee for my travel mug when it occurs to me that my car’s out of gas and I haven’t left myself enough time to buy more. 

I get angry.

“Shit, ” I say to myself.  “Stupid.  Stupid.”

“No, no,”  another voice answers.

“You thought about this,” it says.  “Last night 0n the drive home.  You weighed the pros and cons and decided you were too tired to stop.  Remember?” 

I remember.  My anger at myself fades.

End of story.

Why tell you this? 

Because I found it remarkable.

Last year I published a post here which began,

I’d like to introduce you to my dog.

Please look down.

You’ll find him attached to my ankle.

Titled “Bert’s dog” (and accompanied by the disturbing  illustration below), it went on to describe that part of me a Gestaltist would call my Top Dog, and other shrinky types might label my Inner Critic or Punitive Superego.  

You know the part I mean.  You’ve got one yourself. 

It’s that inner voice that knows each of your faults and weaknesses and never lets you forget them. 

The part which pretends it’s protecting you or moving your forward when actually it’s just making you hate yourself.

The part that behaves as if relentless self-criticism somehow gives you more control of your life instead of making you feel more and more helpless.

That part.

Anyway, I wrote about how I call mine Dog for short, how he’s scared and tortured me my whole life, and how I learned to live with him over the past six decades.

The post ended,

So.  What to do with a dog like this?

Well, it helps me a lot to remember what I’ve learned about him.  That Dog isn’t me, just the scared worried part.  That he’s unappeasable, and that he lies, and that he’ll say or do anything to survive.

All this gives me some distance from his voice.  It means when he starts growling I can say “Oh, you again.  Shut up,” instead of taking him too seriously.

Which is just what I did in the kitchen this morning.

I found it remarkable because for so long — despite everything I tell clients and everything I tell myself — I was never entirely sure it would happen: that I’d actually outgrow the abusive voice that’s dogged me since childhood and replace it with a kinder, gentler inner parent. 

Realizing that I had, standing there by the microwave, felt like a cool breeze on a hot day. 

And the microwave’s bing sounded like music.

You, too, can train your Dog.

 

   * * *

 

Self–talk refers to the dialogue that goes on inside your head when faced with conflict or life challenges or even simple day-to-day concerns. 

This aspect of yourself has a running commentary about everything you do.  It never lets anything go by with out some comment, remark or evaluation.

 

Becoming aware of this process is the first step in taking charge of this part of yourself that can create a lot of unnecessary stress.

The automatic reactions you have to this constant barrage of negative thoughts, judgments and evaluations can keep you feeling stressed and less able to meet life’s challenges.

~ From Self-talk and stress at lifematters.com

 

 

   * * * 

I never dreamed that there’s a possibility of stopping until my teacher told me that I could stop.

I thought something would have to descend on me.  Or there would have to be a level of purification.  Or there would have to be some alignment of the planets….

But he said, “Forget all that — that’s part of the conversation.

“Just stop right now.  Just be still.”

~ From Silencing the mind by Gangaji (1:54).

 

* * *

You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own.

And you know what you know.

And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…

Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

 

* * *

postscript:

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4 responses to “Good dog

  • leb105

    not sure I get this… altho it sounds important. you realize that you chose NOT to get gas, last night (you lazy procrastinator), and then FORGOT (idiot) to get up earlier. How is that better?

    • Steve Hauptman

      Wow. Uncanny imitation of the dog I used to carry around inside me. Ruff.

    • releasing lunacy

      @leb105 It’s not about procrastinating (though I don’t think it can be called procrastination if you’re too tired) or forgetting. It’s about understanding that calling yourself lazy or an idiot isn’t going to help resolve the situation. It’s not going to do anything but make you feel badly. By remaining calm, it’s easier to figure out what you need to do to actually fix the situation -call the office to let them know you’ll be 15 minutes late or determine if there’s some part of your morning routine you can skip, etc.

  • leb105

    is it that you were beating yourself up, because you “forgot to get gas”, and it felt better to realize that you hadn’t forgotten? I’m wondering what it was specifically that soothed the beast. (thanks, rl)

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