There is nothing more powerful than knowledge—once you have it, you realize you have choices. As a child of the ’80s, I grew up watching those public service announcement TV spots in which drugs, bullying, feeling good about yourself, and other teen issues were addressed. At the end of each little short, a voice could be heard saying, “The more you know.” The assumption was that if these public service announcements could educate kids about the best way to handle challenges by interspersing these The More You Know commercials in with the The Incredible Hulk, The A-Team, Super Friends, and whatever else the kids were watching, it would provide a needed leg to stand on for better informed decisions.
It’s the same way with the animal in your life. He or she has been doing everything in her or his power to get your attention so that you can know and use that knowledge to make better decisions yourself. The difference between watching a PSA in the ’80s and bonding in this way with your very special animal is that you get to play a more active role in the knowing. Yes, your animal is and has been showing you where to look, but now, it’s time to start really looking! Fortunately, this simply requires you to “look” using a skill you’ve already innately possessed for your entire life. But first you must understand what you’re looking at.
For most of your life, if not all your life, you’ve followed particular behavior patterns. As we begin to dissect those patterns, you’re going to see that they are really just methods you’ve developed in order to avoid experiencing your negative beliefs. Perhaps when someone yells at you, you shrink away, or maybe you’re someone who yells back. When a friend has a success, you may immediately congratulate them while secretly feeling jealous, or maybe you’re someone who voices your jealousy as a joke while also patting your friend genuinely on the back. When you experience a pattern like this in your life, it’s called a work-around.
Most people fall prey to their work-arounds because they don’t realize they have a choice. You can change your work-arounds; it simply takes self-awareness. However, most of us avoid this completely, instead believing our work-arounds to be an integral part of our personality. It’s easier to decide never to speak up (work-around) or to have to always beat everyone else at their game (work-around) than it is to slow down and take the time to understand what is really going on. It’s easier to think that you’re a competitive person (work-around) or that you always prefer to be alone (work-around) rather than talk to other people than it is to stop and look at what is really going on. And what is really going on is you have developed certain behavior patterns in order to avoid experiencing any of your negative beliefs.
You’ve already figured out the actions your animal is taking to help you and what lesson your animal is helping you learn. You’ve also discovered which negative beliefs you and your animal are working on shifting within you. But there is another influence at play here: you also have to take into account the fact that you’ve had years to find ways to avoid experiencing those negative beliefs through your work-arounds. People avoid their negative beliefs by simply choosing to be unaware, reacting to life like robots programmed to behave in particular ways, and these are exactly the type of experiences your animals are helping you leave behind. If you’re going to make changes within and learn that lesson the animal in your life is teaching you, you’re going to have to stop choosing unawareness, stop choosing to let your work-arounds be your guide, stop letting your work-arounds dictate your personality, and instead start paying attention.
You’re unaware when you unthinkingly perform the same action again and again without looking at what is driving that negative experience. You’re unaware when you experience the same negative thoughts about yourself over and over, but you don’t seek out why this is happening. People who go through life in this way often never come to realize that it is their work-arounds that are creating these situations for them, not their reality. And it’s that lack of awareness that animals are here to shed a light on, exposing you to the places in your life where your thoughts and actions are holding you back and preventing you from becoming the very best person you can be.
Here are a few examples of work-arounds in action to get you starting to tune in to what your own work-arounds with your animal may be. I’ve also included potential reasons for those work-arounds, which are the negative beliefs that created the work-arounds in the first place.
• Overgiving to others in order to prove how good you are
• Overgiving at such a high clip that there is no space left within you to receive from others, thereby avoiding disappointment when you are not supported
• Being loyal to such a degree that it doesn’t benefit you anymore, but it proves what a good, worthy, deserving, lovable person you are
• Flying under the radar so that no one notices you and makes you feel unsafe
• Flying under the radar so that no one can find you to support you, so you avoid disappointment
• Flying under the radar so that no one can get to know you and see that you’re really not worthy, deserving, good enough, or loveable
• Sacrificing your own needs to prove you’re a lovable person
• Being the aggressor in most situations to avoid disappointment when no one comes through for you
• Struggling to find your passion because you don’t feel deserving of it
• Isolating yourself because you don’t feel worthy of the love of others
• Isolating yourself because you don’t feel good enough to be around others
And this is just the beginning! Clearly there are many, many different ways that people can create work-arounds for themselves, and this list doesn’t even scratch the surface. It could be very challenging to figure out what your work-arounds are except that you have a secret weapon: your human-animal relationship. Your animal is working with you in exactly the area where your biggest work-arounds are causing pain and challenge, which means you’ve already begun laying the groundwork to start figuring yours out easily and smoothly by spending time coming to understand your relationship with your animal.
The key to discovering these work-arounds within your negative beliefs is to become innately curious in the relationship with your animal by developing a deep awareness of yourself and how you function within that relationship. As you become more and more curious, what you’re really doing is delving further into what is actually occurring within you. Through curiosity with your animal, you’ll start to break through the system you’ve had in place for many years that was designed to protect you from experiencing your negative beliefs about yourself.
Let’s say you’re forty years old and for as long as you can remember you have secretly questioned your lovability, which means that for almost forty years your decisions have been quietly directed by your desire never to experience feeling unlovable. Perhaps you’ve figured out that the more you love others, the more lovable you “look” (work-around); maybe you have determined that since no one is going to love you, it’s easier to not love anyone either (work-around); or perhaps you believe that people cannot be trusted with your heart, so you have only surrounded yourself with animals (work-around). These work-arounds have become ingrained and a substantial part of who you are and have helped you mostly avoid feeling unlovable, as long as you can carry them out successfully.
When I first tried out meditating many years ago, I quit pretty quickly. The whole idea behind meditation is to calm the mind, basically creating a blue sky in your head, which will allow you to feel peaceful, reduce anxiety, and feel happier. When I noticed that my thoughts were wandering, I was to simply note this and come back to imagining this blue sky. The problem was that when I noticed that my mind had drifted, rather than just pulling myself back to the blue sky imagery, I wanted to notice what I had drifted toward, what kind of thought it was, and if it was the same kind of thought as last time. Did it make me feel good or bad? Was it a valid thought? What was I thinking about? Why was I thinking that? There was so much to know around that drifting away, that I began to feel that meditation didn’t work on my brain.
But what did work on my brain was slowing down to examine what was going on with me, in my head, in my emotions, and in my heart during that meditation—and that’s how curiosity with your animal works as well. My curiosity around which thought it was, if it was a pattern, and why it happened at that time actually allowed me to become more aware of what was going on with me. Years later, when I tried meditation again, I was much better at it because I had mastered the art of simply noticing my thoughts, actions, and emotions rather than critiquing them. Curiosity with your animal uses exactly the same process of understanding without judgment to just check out what is going on, why it’s going on, and what’s underneath it all.
Being curious with your animal allows you to start calling out all the thought processes that have resulted in those crazy work-arounds. Through curiosity, you naturally end up acknowledging that those thoughts, beliefs, emotions, feelings, and actions do exist. Let’s use the example of Caesar the ferret making Luke feel that he wasn’t good enough. Normally, Luke would simply work harder at hiding wires and ferret-proofing his house to what many would consider a somewhat insane degree (work-around) in order to prove to himself that he wasn’t a bad ferret owner (negative belief). This method means that for Caesar’s human to feel good enough, Caesar must not get into any trouble at any time in his life. In other words, Luke’s feelings about himself have become dependent on his ferret! The point of this work with your animal, on the other hand, is to use curiosity to cull out the places in which these negative beliefs, feelings, and work-arounds exist so that they can be naturally shifted. In this case it would be to discover what Luke’s beliefs about himself were and how they were being controlled by his ferret.
Finding Your Work-Arounds through Curiosity
Through their deep work with us, animals are demanding an end to this lack of awareness in the human population, an end to our mindless work-arounds that enable us to avoid understanding and releasing our painful beliefs within, an end to our justification of the hurt we put on others, both human and animal, in the name of survival. Luckily, the animal that has stolen your heart has been quietly (and sometimes not so quietly) cultivating your relationship together to specifically assist you in addressing your lack of understanding of yourself.
In order to take advantage of everything the animal in your life has to offer you, you’ll simply begin to uncover your personal work-arounds. This means becoming mindful of your feelings, thoughts, actions, reactions, and body and no longer accepting these things that you have no control over as “the way things are.” And you’re going to do this using a skill most people perfected at an early age: curiosity.
Yes, discovering your work-arounds through your animal really is as easy as becoming curious about yourself and your relationship with your animal. Curiosity is simple. It isn’t daunting—it’s just getting to know something a little better. It’s going to help you greatly in this special relationship and beyond. After all, how can you grow, learn, or make changes if you have no idea when you’re doing something to avoid feeling something? If you don’t pay attention to how you’re feeling, you can’t learn about your feelings, and you simply aren’t opening the door to a deeper understanding of yourself that allows for growth and change.
Recently, I was speaking with a former student about the curiosity part of the process with the animal. She told me that it was hard to recall what that learning process felt like because now that she’s through it, living with curiosity just seems so natural. She laughed as she said, “It’s challenging to even remember when I wasn’t aware of myself like this!”
Think back to that beautiful statement you’ve written about the relationship between you and your animal and the negative beliefs your animal is assisting you in changing—“I’m not good enough,” “I’m not safe/supported/protected,” “I’m not deserving/worthy,” or “I’m not loveable.” We spend our lives trying to avoid things that we don’t like, feelings we don’t enjoy, people who make us feel bad, and situations that hurt us. The truth is that, at the very deepest levels of our being, we do everything we can to avoid any ickiness in our lives. But what would happen if, instead of avoiding the upset, you explored that feeling? Would it get worse? Would it get better?
When you’re attached to something, the loss of it is always much greater than if you didn’t care, even if the outcome is the same. When you’re unattached to something, it’s easier to get the big picture because none of your emotions or fears are getting in the way to drive you in certain directions. When you’re out in your field behind the barn thinking up fun things to train your horse to do, you’re probably going to have a much better day than if you are trying to cram in as many horse tricks as possible in order to prove to your boss that you really are a great horse trainer.
You’re in a more neutral place and are free to move through the experience as you’re moved to when you’re working with your horse because you love him and feel moved by him. When the two of you are together in that field, it feels like a beautiful connection overcomes the two of you. There is no need to prove or disprove, protect or promote in that moment with your horse; you are purely there for the experience. When you are working with the horse to prove you can do something, to show someone else that you can do it, to show that you’re better than someone else, or to prove you’re worth the money, you’re now placing your value on what you are able to achieve, which means that the only way to come out of the experience feeling good is to meet or, more likely, exceed your goal. You are no longer unbiased, you have become attached to the outcome, and that outcome is what tells you your worth.
Through curiosity, you can do that training for your boss without the results having anything to do with your value or worth. When you become curious about yourself, your feelings, your emotions, your physical sensations, your drives, and your thoughts, you can actually release that attachment and perform better than you ever have before! Curiosity requires you to do the exact opposite of what most people have been doing for their entire life: instead of running away from the icky feelings by living on autopilot, curiosity will force you to take note and understand what’s really going on. For years you’ve done everything in your power not to notice your discomfort. Now, with your animal supporting you all the way, things are about to change in the biggest way possible.
The challenge then becomes this: How do you become curious with yourself ? I mean, you’ve been hanging out with yourself for your entire life. How do you now try to look at yourself through this new lens and see something different from what you’ve been seeing for the past thirty, forty, fifty, sixty years? Because curiosity is just an intense desire to know or understand, starting this process is actually very easy. Whenever you’re around your animal, merely start paying attention to the emotions that come up. That’s it!
Practicing curiosity with your animal is very straightforward. For those of you who are working with an animal that you have easy access to, such as a dog or cat that lives in your home, just start noticing how you feel when you’re interacting with that animal and what kinds of things you do as a result of those feelings. For those of you who are working with an animal you don’t see every day—this could be Lucy the cow from the farm next door or the abused elephant in India you recently read about on social media—you’ll concentrate more on the feelings and emotions that come up when you think about this animal or read about this animal and what you do as a result. Either way, the curiosity is about starting to notice what is going on within you when you interact with your animal. While this may seem obvious at first (you may be thinking to yourself, “Well, of course I’m frustrated and decide to shut down when she keeps doing that over and over again!”), there’s a lot more to curiosity than first meets the eye.
The nature of curiosity is 100 percent neutral. Scientists are curious as they try to understand why something happens. Children are curious when presented with a new task, such as putting a block set together. Cats are curious when presented with a new experience, like tasting a new food or exploring a new sound. The thing about curiosity is that there is no judgment and no expectation. When the curious scientist tests her hypothesis and it turns out to be incorrect, she simply adjusts her hypothesis. When the child accidentally knocks the new block set over, he might cry for a moment (as he’s just a child), but then he’ll set about putting the blocks back together. When the cat hears the new sound, he sets off to check it out. Maybe he finds the source and takes a swipe at it. Perhaps he attacks it. Whatever he does, he wants to figure out what is going on.
And that’s what I’m asking you to do when you’re with your animal: simply be inquisitive about what is happening with you on a mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual level. Think of yourself as that cat checking out that weird sound and just notice. How do you feel in this moment as you witness your parrot pulling out all his feathers? Are you experiencing an emotion? What are your thoughts? Do you feel anything going on in your body? Is that negative belief you identified earlier at play? Does the pulling of the feather create a negative emotion? Were you thinking something negative beforehand? Does watching this occur make you want to take some action?
The more curious you are and the more you step outside of yourself and observe as you go through an experience with your animal, the less charged your thoughts and feelings will naturally become and the less need you’ll have to do one of your work-arounds. Rather than running away from or ignoring that tough moment with your animal, stepping into it with curiosity again and again will actually assist you in understanding yourself better and defusing the situation. It will subsequently mean the work-arounds that you used to do as a result of the feelings and emotions you were trying to avoid become less and less necessary.
You can do a lot with this whole curiosity thing. When your curiosity enables you to observe that you’re experiencing one of the emotions you identified earlier in the book, it’s actually a signal to become even more curious. Take note of that emotion: “I’m noticing that I now feel embarrassed by Caesar’s behavior.” Then link it up to the underlying belief the animal is helping you change: “I notice that I’m now feeling embarrassed because it makes me seem like I’m terrible at taking care of my ferret, which activates my belief that I’m not good enough.” Curiosity really can be this easy if only you make the effort to do it.
One way to embrace this curiosity around your relationship with your animal is to start observing it in more of a third-person mode. In the first-person perspective, we talk about ourselves as “I”—“I notice that every time Caesar does this, I feel frustrated, and I find myself closing off to him.” But if you’re struggling to see the pattern through your curiosity, it may work to talk about yourself, to yourself, in the third person. Certainly, this is not a normal way to behave (I definitely want to giggle when people in real life start talking about themselves in the third person!), but for many, it is key to being able to fully take note of what is happening.
In the first-person perspective, you are saying this: “Every time Caesar does this, I feel frustrated.” Instead, in the third-person perspective, you are saying this: “Every time Caesar does this, Luke looks frustrated and upset. In fact, he looks a little bit hurt, and then it seems that he closes himself off from Caesar, his ferret, turning his back and walking away.” Using the third-person perspective is a bit like telling a story, but that story is about yourself. This may allow you to notice things about you and your animal that you might otherwise overlook because you are so involved in the situation. Throughout their lives, most people have tried not to be curious about themselves. Be prepared for it to take a little effort for you to become a curiosity expert in discovering all the places your animal is pushing you, and use whatever method necessary to effectively become the master of curiosity about you and your animal.
As you improve at being curious when you’re with your animal, the things that you choose to get curious about with your animal will change. If I were to ask Luke to give me examples of times when he experienced an emotional thought of not being good enough around Caesar, he surely could, and it wouldn’t take him being an expert at curiosity to do so. He’d remember the many times his negative belief arose in his relationship with Caesar, and he’d be able to account for them almost effortlessly. Memory is your curiosity starting point with your animal.
Consider for a moment your relationship with your animal. Think back to the numerous times your experience with your animal elicited the particular negative beliefs, emotions, and thoughts about yourself that you’ve identified here. Choose just one of those memories and think about it now as if you were watching it on TV, only you don’t know what the show is about: “Oh, when he chewed the electrical cord, my immediate thought was that I did something wrong. I noticed this made me feel bad about myself, and I didn’t want to hang out with him anymore. Oh yeah! And then I remember thinking to myself, ‘Of course I have a ferret that misbehaves—it’s all I deserve!’” Just follow the course of the interaction from a detached place. No judgment, no criticism—just notice what happened emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. Observe your memory and feel excited with each piece you can witness, and tie it back to the negative beliefs and thoughts your animal is helping you master.
When you’re recalling a memory, it’s pretty easy to become curious about it and link what you’re observing in the memory to the work that your animal is doing with you. Being in a state of curiosity about the past, which allows you to become objective, much like talking about yourself in the third person can do, allows you to look and learn rather than be bowled over by the memory. It’s also a great way to practice detached curiosity, since the next goal is to be able to practice it while the interaction with you and your animal is taking place rather than in hindsight.
Simple, real-time curiosity can be a bit more challenging to perform than memory curiosity at first. When you’re curious about an experience you had in the past, two things happen. First, you feel as if you almost have more control over it because you can choose to remember it however you want, and, second, because the experience happened in the past, there is a natural access to more objectivity around it. This gives you the power to parse it out for your curiosity exercise. Real-time curiosity with your animal doesn’t allow for any cherry-picking because you are in the experience, but the more you practice it, the easier it becomes. At first, when you’re in the moment with your animal, your natural tendency is going to be to want to judge rather than observe, but a gentle reminder that you’re doing a curiosity experiment on yourself should allow part of you to be able to step back and begin witnessing what is transpiring between you and your animal.
The more often you can become curious around your animal, the better you’ll become at this whole curiosity thing—and the less you’ll find yourself attached to your behaviors and subsequent emotions with your animal. Curiosity is helping you grow your awareness of yourself, the drives behind your behavior, what your behavior really is, and where it’s coming from. Let me repeat that: the more you practice curiosity with your animal, the less of a hold your behavior, thoughts, feelings, and emotions have over you (i.e., your work-arounds), and the more you create space for change within you and for an upgraded relationship to emerge between the two of you.
Curiosity is a funny thing. The more curious you are, the more things there are to be curious about and the less seemingly important the things you’re curious about become. Instead of practicing curiosity around that time you felt devastated by that hawk that swooped down and tried to take your little dog for dinner, forcing you to feel unsafe in your backyard for the next two years, you’re more curious about the time that your dog nudged the cup on the coffee table so that it tipped over. Your curiosity is changing because you’re starting to solve the mystery behind your emotions, negative feelings, and actions (your work-arounds) for the big, obvious events in your relationship with your animal, so the smaller moments are the ones that start to stand out. It’s like you have solved the mystery of the big stuff, and so you start fine-tuning your curiosity to those experiences that you have yet to understand, those that may have gone under the radar and unnoticed by you previously.
Isn’t it interesting that once you start to realize why your dog makes you feel not good enough, why you can’t say no to your horse, what drives you to hate your neighbor’s dog, or why the squirrels in the backyard make you feel scared and unsafe, that those things lose some of their charge with you? When you finally see how your rooster’s ability to escape every enclosure is linked to your feelings of never being safe, your thoughts, feelings, and actions start to slowly change. As your interest is piqued, you begin seeking out more places where this dynamic is playing out that you may never have noticed before. A few weeks ago the bear could have walked up to your dining room window and looked in and you wouldn’t have noticed how unsupported that made you feel because all you could concentrate on being curious about was the fact that the bear kept breaking into your garage and you couldn’t find a way to keep him out. As you hone your curiosity skills, your ability to connect this smaller moment to that negative belief you hold within you is becoming honed as well.
The ultimate goal in being in this state of curiosity with your animal is to keep honing your skills until you can uncover and observe those negative thoughts about yourself in formerly unexpected moments with her. The more you use curiosity to observe the relationship between you and your animal, the more you are breaking apart that system of unconsciousness that was so heavily embedded within you, preventing you from experiencing the full potential of your human-animal relationship.
The challenge, as you become more and more curious, will be not to resist it and, more importantly, not to try to control it or make yourself make changes because of it. Being curious means you’re really looking at yourself, and there is a very human part of all of us that is going to want to observe, figure it all out, and then change our behavior immediately. I’ve seen it time and time again with my students and private clients: their curiosity has shown them the light around their beliefs, feelings, and behavior, and because they finally appreciate how these things are no longer serving them, they decide to start doing the opposite of their work-arounds.
And that kind of makes sense, right? You finally see how your beliefs and behavior are affecting every day of your life with your animal, and you don’t want that to happen anymore, so you decide to change it. Perhaps you’ve been overloving your cat, you’ve resisted training your dog, or you’ve been afraid to let the new pig meet the old pigs because of your negative beliefs. What’s the first thing you can do to alter those beliefs and behaviors? Let the pigs meet each other, right? No. In fact, using willpower in this way would actually impede you from learning everything you can from working with your animal. Simply doing the opposite of your work-around or telling yourself you shouldn’t be feeling this way anymore will not even come close to accomplishing the deep, internal growth that you can achieve through this work with your animal. Don’t fall into this trap.
Let’s say you never feel safe or protected in the world (your negative belief), and as a result, you never ride your somewhat unruly horse. Then, let’s say you move into curiosity around this relationship and you realize how much you’re missing out on with your horse, how you’re even afraid to enter the barn, and how your horse is suffering because he’s not getting enough exercise. Some people would try talking themselves into feeling safe: “It’s just a horse, you can do this. People ride horses every day.” But the minute you get on your horse, your fears—based on your deep-down belief that you’re not safe—are going to pop up. And your horse is going to feel your fear and react. You’re putting yourself in a position where you are in conflict with yourself and with what you believe. Not fun. Not easy. This work with your animal is about changing your negative beliefs into positive beliefs so that the things you want to do, achieve, and feel are effortless. Period. When beliefs change, your behavior naturally changes. It’s that simple. For example, when you go from believing that you’re unlovable and making choices based on that belief to believing in your lovability, everything about how you place yourself in the world changes along with it—not because you’re telling yourself to change, but because it will naturally happen.
When your negative belief remains intact but you decide to act as if it doesn’t exist by pushing yourself to do the “proper” thing, you’re challenging yourself to rely on your willpower to change your life. And what does that mean? It means that you have to keep your eye on the ball of that change forever. The moment you let go of those reigns, your negative beliefs about yourself will regain control and start guiding your behavior again. You can’t talk yourself into a different belief unless you want to keep talking yourself into it again and again and again. And that’s a lot of work. That’s more work than I want to put into anything. You actually have to change the belief within first before the behavior and work-arounds will ever change.
Let’s say that by working with your animal so far, you’ve realized that you have a negative belief that you aren’t lovable, and that is reflected in your relationship with your rescue horse Ticonderoga through her affection for you. Every time she gives you love and attention, you know you did the right thing in rescuing her and you feel like you’re on track. Every time she gives you less attention than you think she should be giving you, you feel bad about yourself and question if you’re doing enough to earn her love. In fact, when she doesn’t give you attention, you even wonder if she doesn’t like you, and it makes you feel guilty. Now that you know this about yourself, you feel like you’ve been putting too much pressure on Ticonderoga, and you feel like you have been messing this whole relationship up. As a result, you decide that you shouldn’t be the one rehabilitating her and you hire someone else instead. When you see Ticonderoga, you try not to let your heart melt if she nuzzles you, and you try to not be attached to her at all because you don’t want to base your goodness on whether or not she is well rehabilitated.
Does this seem like an effective way to learn about yourself ? Does it seem like it is growing or assisting the relationship between you and Ticonderoga? Does it even feel good to try and censor your feelings for this horse you’ve just rescued? Does it feel like this relationship has a chance of progressing at all? The answers, as you’ve already noticed, are all no. In this instance, you’re using willpower to try and create change rather than going within and working with your animal to change your beliefs about yourself and open your heart. Willpower is a conditional thing based on your determination, your force, and your ability to remain focused at all times. This doesn’t seem very fun to me. Sure, I like to be focused, but I don’t want things in my life to go downhill or return to a state I don’t love just because I didn’t maintain my focus 100 percent of the time.
Being curious with your animal should be just that: working in alignment with your animal. Curiosity is not an act that directly creates change; it is simply the act of observing objectively and learning from what you’re noticing. Change indirectly results. It is not about altering the relationship between you and your animal. Yes, changes are going to come about because of this incredible work that you’re doing, but they are not going to come about because you forced them to happen. They’re going to arise through this new awareness of yourself, of your animal, and of the relationship that you have with her. Don’t force this. Avoid pushing in any way. Just spend your time observing and getting to know your personal invisible system of negative beliefs about yourself that your animal is helping you become acquainted with.
One more thing about curiosity—have fun with it! If you can remember to laugh at yourself a little bit, it’s going to make the process a whole lot more enjoyable, and it will prevent you from becoming critical of yourself, your thoughts, your emotions, and your actions. The more curious you are, the more your animal will throw you things to be curious about! I’ve seen many people struggle to be curious because they were taking it too seriously and looking too hard. You don’t have to push here—just pretend that you are your own science project and that you’re forming your hypothesis about the various situations with your animal. Your animal will help you find and, yes, create the perfect moments to observe and learn from. Just trust her and have fun with this!
Animals in Action: Anne and Kelly
I first met Anne Quick at an Animal Communication workshop I was teaching at the Kripalu Center in the Massachusetts Berkshires. She had a super cute haircut and her own unique dressing style, and because of her wide-eyed, deer-in-the-headlights look, she stood out to me within the group of twenty or so students. Anne is one of those people who is always smiling, and yet you can see the wheels behind her smile are always turning. I noticed there was a certain unrest in her smile, even as she worked with the other students to connect with the various class animals.
In my work, whether it’s a weekend workshop, a one-hour class, or even an international retreat, I tend to attract very sensitive yet very analytical folks. I always laugh about this when starting a new class because I can look around and see everyone picking apart everything I say, everything anyone else does, and everything they do to the finest detail. Anne is one of those people.
During a break on the first day of our class, Anne approached me out in the hallway. I remember she looked a little worried and seemed unsure as she waited to talk with me.
“I don’t think I can do this,” she said as she nervously looked in all directions except at me.
Now, here’s the funny thing. I like to think of myself as a kind person, one who helps her students get through the tough times, one who provides a supportive environment, and one who would never laugh at her students. But that’s exactly what I did. I laughed. In fact, I laughed heartily.
“Of course you can! I just saw you do it!” I told her. And I had just seen her do it. She would present her impressions from our practice animal to the group, and she would talk as if she didn’t know what she was doing and as if she were getting information that didn’t apply (but it did). It wasn’t just her cool hair or her funky style that made her stand out in the class to me, it was also her innate skill coupled with her lack of confidence, something I see again and again in my work.
And that was the beginning of a very cool relationship in which I would witness someone move from fearful and full of depression, self-doubt, insecurity, and anxiety, to confidence, a great sense of humor, and an ability to see the depth in others in a way that would allow her to assist people and their animals profoundly. Just because of who she finally realized she is.
But not yet. I didn’t know it at the time, but Anne had just been in the hospital for depression and had chosen to come to my workshop to learn more about how to read animal body language in order to be a better owner to her two dogs. She didn’t realize that animal communication involved the heart, intuition, being clear, and being sensitive. She got a huge surprise!
Later that year, Anne chose to start working on her relationship with her retired Greyhound, Kelly, and me through my Soul Contraction Certification with Animals program. Her relationship with Kelly had been challenging because Kelly was not affectionate toward her, and this was creating a lot of anxiety in her life. Kelly didn’t like loud sounds, including the sounds of kicking a ball. Anne lived right across the street from a school, so this was a problem. Additionally, every time Kelly shied away from Anne, Anne questioned whether she was the right rescuer for her and felt that she wasn’t doing a good enough job. It was a tough situation for someone who had been struggling deeply with depression, anxiety, not believing in herself, and feeling separate and apart from the world.
Through her work with Kelly in my program, Anne realized that Kelly was helping her in two very important ways. First, Kelly was doing everything in her power to bring Anne’s anxiety problem to the forefront by mirroring it back to Anne. With Kelly around, there was no way that Anne was going to be able to continue to ignore her anxiety, which had been her work-around until that time. Each time Kelly was anxious, Anne used curiosity to begin to look at herself, her thoughts and feelings, and what she was doing at the time. This curiosity brought to the forefront something that Anne had been pushing away for years: how dominantly anxiety had been ruling her life. The more aware she was of Kelly’s anxiety and triggers, the more aware she became of her own, which started to make her feel that her own anxiety was somewhat pointless. It was a circular pattern for her that just kept going around because she had been letting it. Kelly was bringing awareness to that, so Anne could finally stop going in circles through simple understanding.
Kelly was also helping Anne address her inability to trust that others would love her as she would love them. Anne watched as Kelly shut herself off to experiences simply because Anne was allowing her past to drive her present. It brought an awareness of her own life to the forefront, and soon Anne was able to see this for herself in her day-to-day activities. Her curiosity started kicking in when she realized how much she was missing out by not trusting, and with Kelly by her side, they started exploring more of life together.
Through Kelly and Animal Lesson work, Anne shifted her beliefs about herself, and the most beautiful result was that Kelly did too! Today, Anne and Kelly have a beautiful relationship that is relatively anxiety free (unless Anne starts to waver, and then Kelly is right there reminding her). Anne’s newfound love of herself has allowed her to open up to love with others as well, and she’s now in a relationship with someone who values her for all that she brings to the table. And through all this work, Anne realized that she wants to help others evolve and grow just like she did. She’s now pursuing her dream as a professional animal communicator, with Kelly right by her side, and she did, in fact, become my very first Certified Soul-Level Animal Communication Practitioner!