Healing Shame with Empathy and Kindness

I bristle at the question, “can you fix my dog?”

I recognized my resistance to that question prevented me from truly reaching the person in front of me.

“Can you fix my dog?” Implies that the dog is bad.

Shame is the belief that there is something wrong with the person or in this case, wrong with the person’s dog.

As I’ve shared in other posts, often we see the reflection of ourselves in what our dogs are doing. Rather than showing ourselves and our dogs kindness and compassion, we blame and shame our dogs for being dogs much like we may believe ourselves to be bad or unworthy.

As I leaned into my resistance instead of running away or avoiding it, I saw that there was much more underneath the surface than I realized.

There’s a tendency when a person experiences the sensations of shame is then to shift the blame on to someone else because shame feeds off of shame.

The person on the receiving end of the blame and shame feels less than because they don’t know “enough” or are made to feel they aren’t doing “enough”.

When a professional addresses the “fixing” mindset, they are bypassing what the person in front of them is feeling because they go straight into training, education or consultant mode.

When we move past empathizing with the felt experience of the person or client, we devalue the feelings of the client in front of us which only leads to constructing roadblocks and barriers preventing the client in understanding the emotional needs of the companion dog.

The person’s needs go unnoticed and this is reflected into the person not recognizing the needs of their dog.

Ultimately the client and their dog are left in their own suffering.

You don’t need to have had the same experience as your client to connect with the person in front of you. Neither of you need to have the same experience as their dog, and how could you!

We are all different, shaped by different lived experiences.

But, you can draw on and connect with the feelings of what another person or even a dog can experience.

We’ve all experienced feelings one way or another like despair, anguish, sadness, desperation, disappointment, frustration as well as also experiencing joy, peace, excitement, proud, optimistic in various moments of our lives.

You know how your body hurts and feels heavy when there is grief or loneliness.

You also know how light and energized when you’re feeling playful and excited about the day.

Empathy isn’t fixing what you or your dog is feeling.

Empathy is understanding and creating connection with another (professional to client so the client can empathize with their dog). It comes down to receiving empathy to your feelings, so you can better understand what your dog is going through and then taking heart centered action to guide your dog in changing his or her emotional responses so your dog can make the behavior changes from there.

Being able to empathize with your companion animal opens up space for you to experience vulnerability with another being that won’t judge your thoughts, but rather show you unconditional love which you can learn to do the same in return.

Love and connection is the antidote for shame.

Meeting the hardwired desire for connection with others (including our dogs) heals the human and animal bond.

Trust is born when you make a choice to show yourself compassion and kindness and extend the same to others which undoubtedly includes your dogs.

Curious about how support can help you with creating empathetic connections? Set up a time to chat with me!

Published by houndbiz

Katherine Porter is a force free, reward based dog behavior advisor and consultant serving clients and their companion dogs worldwide. Her calm and gentle approach in coaching clients in effectively communicating what they want to their dog blends her MSW background into her dog training and behavior practice. Katherine was a behavior consultant for Heeling Hounds after graduation. She opened Four Paws and You Dog Training LLC when the military relocated her family to Fort Sill, OK in 2015. During this time, she volunteered with Rainbow Bridge Can Wait where she provided post adoption consultations to new pet parents. She also developed and implemented tailored behavior modification plans for highly reactive dogs residing at the shelter. She also provided educational programs to military children through interactive workshops at the Fort Sill School Age Center. In 2017, Katherine relocated Four Paws and You Dog Training LLC to Germany. She served the Armed Forces communities in Bavaria. She continued coaching and advising her clients in addressing their companion dog’s fearful and reactive behavioral issues. Katherine takes a Do No Harm approach first and foremost in providing behavioral plans. She is committed in serving clients with gentle and modern science approaches in modifying behavioral concerns such as reactivity, aggression, separation anxiety and fear based responses. Katherine is a member of the Pet Professional Guild. She is focused on integrating a holistic and modern approach in addressing her client’s pet companion reactive behavior issues.

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