Channeling your inner… Zenifred?

“Inner stillness is the key to outer strength.”

(Jared Brock)

Many people reading this blog have had the pleasure of my assistant, Dr. Dante D. Dawg’s company. He is a gentle, quiet soul. He was never formally trained as a therapy dog. He seemed to know, even as a young pup, that the gift he brings is his calming, sweet presence. My husband, Amari, was jealous that I have a dog who works with me every day.  When everything shut down and he started re-imagining his work more on his own terms, he decided to move beyond jealousy to action and change. Enter, Zen. Or… Not so Zen Because Amari is a Therapeutic Personal Trainer, he needed a dog big enough to be able to handle herself in a gym setting. (The “girl” part was Dante’s idea.) He needed a smart, strong dog who could be well trained. We all needed a dog we aren’t allergic to. Thus, she who was named “Zen” as an aspiration, the sable-brindle Standard Poodle came into our lives at 8 weeks old last August. Those of you who have ever trained a puppy, (especially a very smart, large and strong one,) can attest to how un-Zen-like a dog like this is at first. She is smart enough to get into all kinds of trouble, large enough to do damage and energetic enough to wear even my 15-year-old stepson out. We have full confidence that she will, eventually, grow into her name. For the time being, however… She is "The Empress Zenifred of Sankofa.” Dante’s circuits were completely blown. This is not about dogs So what does that have to do with you? Last week’s blog was about the sacred healing power of the “vv” space. (You can catch up here.)  This week is about applying it. She never listens to my advice! My clients frequently voice the frustration that the people they care about don’t listen to them or take their advice. People come to them asking for help and then ignore everything they said. Funny, as a therapist that’s very familiar to me. I have learned over the years, 1. Advice is rarely what someone actually wants, even when they say that’s what they want, and 2. It is helpful to completely let go of what someone does with what I offer them. We offer our gifts. Once they are given, it’s entirely up to the other person whether to take them, ignore them, give them away, sell them, burn them. The gift belongs to the other person once it leaves us. This is not about babies either, but hang in there with me… Have you ever tried to feed a baby that was either full, or didn’t like what you were feeding them? It does not go well. Most babies just spit it out and leave you hoping that the whole “nutrition by absorption through the skin” thing is more than a fantasy. Some babies will take it in, and then shock and amaze with just how far a tiny person with a teeny tiny mouth and body can projectile vomit that food. They aren’t telling you that you are a terrible human for giving them the food they didn’t want. They are not channeling their inner Karen and demanding to speak to the manager. They are not refusing the food because of you. They are refusing the food because they either don’t need it or are not ready for it. (Bonus points if you know what movie that header is referencing.) We care best for our loved ones when we do so on their terms; not ours. We don’t want people to suffer. We don’t want them to learn things the hard, painful way. We sometimes want them to make other choices to avoid all of that. In our anxiety, (go back, read those three words again,) in our anxiety, we want them to make other choices. We throw words and ideas at them. We give them advice. We wrap back and repeat what we’ve already said. When they either actively or passively spit our advice back out, we wonder why they thought our ideas weren’t good enough. We sometimes wonder if we aren’t good enough. We spin a whole story in our heads about how they don’t value us, don’t respect us, don’t care about our relationship! The “vv” There are very few times when our loved ones are hurting that they would really benefit from advice. It’s not because the advice isn’t good, or because they don’t think we are wise enough to listen to. It’s just not what they needed in that moment. If people really do want clarity on an issue, they will be much better served by figuring it out for themselves. We can ask questions that might help them find the answers, but answers given by others are most often just spat out one way or another. You know what helps a whole lot more? Being with them in the wordless space; not running away from the unspoken care that sits between you. Be there. Just… be. See? All that energy you spent trying to come up with “the right words” would likely have been more effective with no words at all. Back to Zen Over the nine months that Zenifred has been part of our family, she and Dante have learned one another much better and settled into an arrangement: Zen adores Dante. Dante adores being adored. Zen has learned to make her 50 pound+ body almost completely flat in an effort to show deference to her little lint ball big brother. Dante has (mostly) learned to stop snapping at her like he is about to eat her, just to prove that he can. Zen has learned (mostly) to listen when Dante tells her … go away. As those who follow @dr.dante.d.dawg or @twofloofybuddhas on Insta, or who look at my professional FaceBook page know, Dante recently blew out his knee and had surgery. Dante’s surgery deeply disturbed Zenifred. Her answer to everything is “PLAY!!” She naturally seemed to assume that if he felt bad, play would certainly make it all better. After all, it works for her! When he continued to lay around feeling miserable, not really able to walk, she tried harder. She yell-yapped at him. She invited him to play. She brought him toys. She threw toys to herself in front of him to show him just how much better he could feel if he just played. The transformation She was us, giving advice and feeling put out when the other person doesn’t want what we’re offering. And then one day, she got it. She put her Zenifred instincts aside, displayed her first ever Zen tendencies, and sat in the “vv” with him.  (See picture above.) And so can you. The quote is "It's not the chicken!" Is this deviation intentional? How does it go?  ITS NOT THE CHICKEN??


Does your anxiety get in the way of your ability to care well for others? Contact Tiffany here!