This barking world

So we’re lying in bed, Hank and I, both half asleep.

And he hears a car in the street or a bird in a tree or a plane overhead.

And he yelps.

Yelps loud.

Scares the crap out of me.

But what happens then is interesting.

I flinch.

I mean, I just flinch.

And roll over and resume dozing.

Interesting because not long ago I might well have reached out and slapped him for yelping.

(Or tried to. He’s fast.)

What’s changed?

It’s not that I’m used to him yelping.

I’ll never get used to his yelping.

It’s that this time I did not take his yelp personally.

I somehow redefined his yelp to

(a) something Hank does


(b) something Hank does to me.

I know that sounds silly.

Dogs yelp. They just do.

It’s nothing personal.

But how many times are we frustrated or upset or enraged by things that are nothing personal? 

The driver who cuts us off in traffic.

The long line in the bank.

Rising prices.

Rude waiters.

Lying politicians.

Neurotic relatives.

Dysfunctional medical offices.



Bad weather.

The thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.

This process of redefining such shocks is called detachment.

It’s a mental skill I learned from twenty years of thinking and talking and teaching about our addiction to control.

And an enormously valuable one.

The silver bullet, in fact, of healing control addiction.

Because it allows us to accept discomfort without taking it personally.

To see clearly, instead of squinting through a lens of defensive victimization.

To move beyond suffering to mere pain.

To, in the words of Alcoholics Anonymous, live life on life’s terms.

And to understand what Joseph Campbell meant when he said

Life is this wonderful,

wonderful opera.

It just hurts.

Detachment is what allows us to live in this beautiful, barking world without losing our last marble.





One response to “This barking world

  • Kathleen

    The bark analogy was a good one…a great example of reframing something in a way that makes it less personal, and therefore easier to accept.

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