Well obviously I’m not a student of psychology, but I call this the fake it until you make it approach.
4 years ago today I adopted a 7 year old golden retriever from our local golden rescue group. This dog spent his first 7 years in a garage. He wasn’t allowed in his owner’s house but could enter and exit the garage to the backyard through a dog door. The rescue group told me about the dog’s background, but I thought no big deal. Goldens are the most friendly, lovable dogs there are.
Unfortunately this dog had developed some rather unusual behaviors. I, of course, thought the dog would be ecstatic to be in the house. Wrong! He was scared of everything, the dishwasher, the phone ringing, the vacuum cleaner, the TV. This lovable golden was even afraid of people, especially men. When I first brought the dog home and let him in, he dove into the sofa and stayed there for the next 12 hours. It was such an ordeal to get him to go outside because you had to open the door so wide and step away from it until he mustered the courage to run out. But that was the easy part. Getting him to come back inside was harder. I actually had to go out to the yard, put a leash on him and walk him (or sometimes drag him) back into the house. I sadly wondered how many times this dog had been slammed in a door or simply just turned away. The dog hid from every visitor that came over. People only saw a blur of dog hair going by as he ran upstairs to flee these strangers.
But we loved the dog anyway. We nurtured him, adored him, and eased him into our lifestyle. It took a while but eventually he started to change. Today he is a typical, ultra lazy, love-everyone-to-death golden. He’s no longer afraid. When people come over now they always say “Hey, where’s that other dog you had?” I reply “This is that other dog.” But really he is a totally new dog.
So why is he so different now? New environment, nurture, patience, consistency, fire and wire….I don’t know. What I do know is that sometimes it’s not so easy to pretend yourself or think yourself happy. Maybe sometimes we just need someone to walk us in and out the door until we can do it on our own. Hey, it worked for my dog.
Maybe we are both essentially agreeing on this. First recognizing the need for rewiring, second figuring out how to get rewired, and finally actually allowing it to happen is not an easy or simple process. It seems it might require both tools and people that care.
And yes I agree with you that our perception and vision also gets skewed. I’ll even go one step further and tell you that my hearing is now skewed. A few months ago I was caring for my husband over a weekend. We had no nursing help so it was just me for the entire weekend. One of the days, I had spent nearly the entire morning taking care of his needs. I fed him breakfast, brushed his teeth, shaved him, ROM, got him dressed, transferred and positioned him perfectly in his chair, washed and dried his hair and finally turned on his computer and set up his phone. Then I managed to clean up his room, change his sheets, clean out his various supplies and start a load of his laundry. It was nearly noon then, and I was still in my pajamas. I sat down on the sofa just for a moment merely to gather enough energy to actually take a shower myself. Just then he came wheeling into the family room. He stopped and looked across the kitchen and said, “Hey is that a penny over there on the floor.” Well that was not at all what I heard. I heard “You don’t think you’re done yet, do you? There’s a penny over there on the floor. I want you to get up and pick it up right now.” So I got up, walked into the kitchen, picked up the penny and carried it over to him. I opened my hand and showed him the penny and said “yep Einstein, you’re right, that was a penny over there.” Then I proceeded to throw the penny across the kitchen and it landed in essentially the same spot from where I had picked it up.
Well the story doesn’t end there. The next 15 minutes consisted of a rant that went something like this: “When you lost the ability to pick up a penny yourself, you lost the right to tell me when to pick up a penny. I pick up any coin, scrap of paper, dust bunny, or morsel of food that falls on the floor. I don’t need you to tell me when you want it done. I’ll do it when I want to do it Unless it’s blocking your pathway, keep your opinion to yourself.” You get the idea here. Writing it all down now makes me see how ridiculous ranting over a penny on the floor is, but that’s what I mean about my hearing being skewed. I know I wasn’t really ranting about a penny. I suppose the issue is that now I mostly expect anything that comes out of his mouth will probably be a request for me to do something. Even things that are not, my mind can turn them into one.
Here’s my recent story of acceptance or lack there of; certainly not as dramatic as quadriplegia or baldness, but still. A while back I put this little tiny chip in my tooth trying to pull a needle out of a basketball. Yes I know, stupid idea, but I was in a hurry and didn’t have time to find the pliers. Finally I decided I couldn’t accept this flaw any longer. I found this LVI trained cosmetic dentist and made an appointment. Well it all sounded so easy. 2 perfect, beautiful porcelain veneers to cover the little chip on one tooth and the hairline fracture on the other. I thought I asked all the right questions and heard all the right answers. The first appointment was last week where he had to shave away a “little” of my teeth in order to prepare them for the veneers. As the shaving began, I started to panic. It seemed like a whole lot of shaving was going on. I never saw what the final damage looked like, but my tongue could feel it. I was seriously about to freak out. I’m sitting there not believing that I just had 2 perfectly acceptable teeth shaved to what feels like something hideous. My teeth were pretty decent (I had braces) until now.
Very quickly however, the dentist made these temporary teeth. After he was done he handed me the mirror. OK I’m feeling a little better; they really didn’t look so bad. As he was walking me out the door, I said “so what are these temporaries made of.” He says PLASTIC. Now panic starts to set in as I’m getting in my car. I have 2 plastic front teeth like ones maybe I could have won from Chuck E Cheese. I can not believe what I have just done to my teeth. This could all go so wrong. I’m nearly crying by the time I get home thinking about it all. I should have just lived with the little chip. I don’t know how the story is going to end because my 2 front teeth are still plastic.
Dan, it’s just like what you keep saying. We hang on to what is comfortable and familiar no matter how bad it is. If we make a change, maybe the outcome will be better, but the process of getting there is rather scary. It all seems so simple on paper or when someone is coaching you to a better place. But once the process starts, it is terrifying. I don’t know how this is all going to turn out, but I know for sure it’s going to be a change. At this stage, what has happened can’t be undone. I guess that is sort of like quadriplegia and baldness now that I think about it. There is no going back, only moving forward.