Am I Vulcan or Am I Human?

animal wisdom fear mindfulness wisdom of animals Feb 01, 2023
Woman gardening with cat helping

When I was sixteen, on September 8, 1966, Star Trek premiered on NBC. Yep, I was there the very first time the very first episode aired. I told you I was old, at least chronologically. I tuned in for William Shatner, because I thought he was kind of cute, but I stayed for Mr Spock. Sorry, Bill.

It makes sense. At sixteen, our emotions are all over the place. Mr Spock was the total antithesis of sixteen, and as such, became for me a powerful influence. If I could be more like Spock, maybe I wouldn’t be so (insert emotion here - fearful, teary-eyed, angry, etc etc etc.) It apparently worked well. My mom told me years later she never knew what I was thinking or feeling, even though I felt as though my heart was on my sleeve.

The thing about all that suppressed emotion, though, is that it can be very confusing for our animal friends. They are certainly smarter than we are when it comes to telling it like it is. There’s never much question about what’s going on in a dog’s mind. They want to be loved, and be part of the pack (hmmm, kind of like humans). Any cat lover will tell you they know what’s going on with their cat at pretty much any given moment. Are they happy? Sad? Do they feel good? Cats are a little bit more like Vulcans, but, like a Vulcan, if you pay attention, you can pretty much figure out how they feel (a Vulcan four-letter word, by the way.)

So what happens if you think you’re being over-emotional? Are you hurting your animal friend by showing anger, or grief, or laughing uncontrollably?

The only time it hurts your animal friend is if you’re feeling a strong emotion, and you direct that emotion toward your pet. First of all, it’s not fair. The animal has done nothing except be present, and doesn’t deserve to be the recipient of a direct experience of your emotion. Second of all, redirecting your emotion hurts everyone, including you. If you’re angry, for example, you’re angry. Own it. Say it out loud - “I am SOOOO angry!” It’s okay to be angry, or have other strong emotions.

The other day I was angry because my beloved husband very kindly cleaned up the barn, but left the manure in the wheelbarrow over night. When it’s cold, like it has been, it freezes to the bottom of the wheelbarrow and is a pain in the butt to get out. It’s a good thing we live far from anyone else, because I let my anger out big time. Not at the horses, not at the wild bunny who lives in the barn, just a general “ARRRRRGHH! I’m so ANGRY about this!!” It was definitely a moment. I said all the things I wanted to tell my husband, and vowed that I would do so! When I was done being angry, I felt a lot better, and when the time came to say something, I was able to be pretty Vulcan about it, actually. I presented the facts, said how I felt about it (angry - and okay, a Vulcan wouldn’t do that part), and asked him to please, please, please empty the wheelbarrow after putting anything in it. 

The thing is, the horses didn’t get upset. They recognized that I was having a moment, checked in, saw I didn’t really need any help, and went back to their food.

You may notice when you’re angry, sad, grieving, any strong emotion, your animal will check in with you. They feel what you feel. They want to help. Let them, especially if you are sad, in pain, or grieving. The important thing is to own the emotion, rather than dry your tears and suck it up. Tell them “I’m so ________.” Ask if it’s okay to hug or hold them. Dogs will almost always say yes - cats may prefer a different approach, such as being close, or laying on your legs, but they will definitely want to help. Our small friends, like hamsters, bunnies, gerbils, want to assist as well. 

When you are real, allowing yourself to be human, and own your emotions, it’s good for all involved. When you let the emotion be what it is, wash over you and wash you clean, it doesn’t get stuck in your body. It’s over and done with. It may come back a few times, especially grief, but let it be what it is. It’s not you. It’s an emotion. That’s what we humans do. And our animals love it when we’re human.

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