Change the reflection..
The behaviours of the animals that share our environment are in all likelihood a subconscious habit developed from a conscious reaction to something we feel or do subconsciously.
“What on earth does all that mean?” I hear you asking. I will try and explain.
The subconscious mind is where our habits are. So we learn to drive with our conscious mind. Then we keep driving and after a while we drive subconsciously. We don’t think about changing gear anymore. It is automatic. It is a habitual response created from persistently doing the same thing in response to a given situation. We can improve the way we drive by questioning our habit, changing the way we do it and then continuing that until the new way becomes a subconscious habit. So maybe you buy a new car and it has 6 gears. All your previous cars have had 5 gears. So you change your habit consciously until using 6 gears becomes a subconscious habit. When you find you have automatically put the car in 6th gear as a response to your speed and environment and you didn’t consciously think about it, you have created a subconscious habit.
When we come across animals in the wild we can see immediate subconscious behaviours. When we approach we are generally, as humans, noisy and quite predatory. Even if we are trying to be quiet our conscious minds will be thinking all sorts of things like “where is my camera?”; “what animal is that?”, etc. All these thoughts are very noisy to an animal. So the animal will high tail it out of your environment. This is his subconscious habitual response to a noisy predatory environment.
If you change your conscious thinking, reduce your thinking to nothing, find patience and be persistent about thinking about nothing, you will be rewarded with subconscious behavioural responses to a now safe environment.
When an animal is constantly in our environment and cannot escape it will develop subconscious habitual responses to us. These can become behaviours that we see as ‘bad behaviours’. But in reality they are behaviours we have helped our animals develop often times due to subconscious habitual responses we have developed over our lifetime.
So when we see a behaviour we don’t want or like in our animals we need to ask ourselves ‘What am I doing subconsciously that is causing this response?’.
Sometimes the answer can be immediate and you can change a habit consciously very quickly, and soon, the subconscious will change in both you and your animal. Sometimes it can take longer because the depth of the feeling you are giving out could be something old and deep and will need to be acknowledged on several levels before it can be changed completely.
One personal experience I can share (and there have been many) is a situation I have had with one of the horses that lives with me, Risada. During the entire 10 years I have known her she has had a habit of putting her ears flat back at me and stamping her foot if I try and touch her or scratch her nose without asking permission first. Don’t get me wrong she loves a groom and scratch but not spontaneously. I have been through many iterations of ‘why?’, from ‘she is sensitive to touch and needs a minute to compose her nerve endings’ to ‘ she is just plain obnoxious and disrespectful’. I have read loads of stuff on ‘changing the horses expression’, and so on and so forth.
Since I started doing work on myself and the way I look at the world I have not worried about her expressions at all until very recently. It was obviously time to address this. I put up a haynet for her (and the others usual feeding time stuff) and I gave her a quick stroke on her nose. Oh my! I got ears back and big foot stamps and a snort. And I got this really tight feeling in my chest and throat. Having worked a lot on how every emotion manifests somewhere in the physical body, I acknowledged this feeling.
Later I spent some time doing a technique I learnt from “The Trust Technique”. I asked myself if I could put into words what that feeling was. The best word I could come up with was rejection. Then I asked when I had felt this feeling before and in the immediate past it is all when Risada does this behaviour. But then I started going back in time. I would bring the feeling up by thinking about that experience and how it made me feel then ask myself when I had felt it before and I ended up finding my way back to two major experiences involving my sister. Experiences she probably wouldn’t even remember but had a profound affect on me obviously. Once I had gone back as far as I could, that is I couldn’t find any previous instances before those I could already sense a change in myself. Using the Trust Technique for humans I then started to really let go of that rejection feeling until thinking about those situations and experiences did not bring up that feeling anymore. I was starting to change the subconscious response.
After a few days of letting all this process the feeling of rejection, the tightness in the chest and throat when I thought about the experiences that caused that had pretty much disappeared. It is a bit like they never happened.
Has this changed Risada’s subconscious behaviour? Absolutely. I was obviously giving off some sort of energy around having my spontaneous shows of affection rejected before they were even rejected. My subconscious had developed a habitual response to my own conscious spontaneity. I had developed a subconscious habitual fear response to a conscious behaviour of my own. Risada could sense that before I even touched her and was mirroring this subconscious fear by responding with a fear behaviour. Fear aggression the experts call it. I was fearful so in her mind their is something to be frightened of.
I have spontaneously touched her, stroked her, scratched her since and the subconscious habit has changed. We sometimes get a physical habitual response still, a little flit of the ears going back and then it is almost like she realises that there is nothing there to fear now. We have both learnt that spontaneity is actually fun. It may be rejected by those who fear it but I have learnt that this has nothing to do with me. It is not something I need to worry about. And it is definitely not something my animals should feel or fear.
How interesting is that! By changing the way I look at something, by changing my perspective on something, I have changed my relationship with an animal, and changed a behaviour. I have changed the way she reflects spontaneity back to me.