We adopted Cooper the Wonder Dog (black lab and maybe a bit of something mixed in) a number of years ago from the kennel. He was a transplant form somewhere, possibly a victim of Katrina. In any case, his heritage and history are to remain a mystery (hey, that rhymes!) Everyone in the family seems to adore him, with the exception of me.
Keep going, there will be a point to this story…
Cooper and I got off to a bad start. Maybe it was the fact the when he first came to our house, he became overly protective of the kids immediately and wouldn’t let me in my own home. Maybe it was that he would growl at me anytime I wore a baseball hat. Maybe its that he barks at anything and everything all day and night. Like Chuck Norris, Cooper never sleeps, he waits for the attack. Maybe its that I’m allergic to dogs (though nobody cares) and he likes to get hair all over my favorite recliner. Who knows?
After a short time, it quickly became apparent that Cooper was traumatized. We suspect a large man with a baseball hat must have been involved in his previous life. Cooper is afraid of all loud noises as well. He wears a very stylish thunder vest during storms that helps to keep him from tearing up the house. During one of his visits to the vet, it was noted that Cooper has a bullet lodged in his leg. That could explain his fear of loud noises. Being shot at has been known to do that to some people. Can you say PTSD?
Without knowing what trauma this would cause, we installed an invisible fence so Cooper the Wonder Dog could wonder the compound freely. During training on the perimeter walk, Mrs. Randall put his collar on and showed Cooper his kingdom. The collar beeps when he is getting close to the border. It seems the setting may have been a little too high, for when Cooper decided to push his limits, he got a shock that made hime do a spectacular backflip. Nice form. The judges gave him high marks, except for the judge from France. Now Cooper has another fear to add to his list…that funny beeping sound now causes him to spasm, freak, and run for the hills.
Keep going, we are almost there….
This morning, the smoke detector began notifying us that it wanted a fresh battery. To you and me that is simply annoying every 20 mins or so. To Cooper that means panic! It sounds remarkably like the shock collar. So, at 2am, assuming that was the first beep, he started barking, freaking, and trying to escape from the room downstairs. His domain had been threatened by a beep and he had nowhere to go. Not knowing what to do, having nowhere to hide, and nobody coming to his rescue, the only thing he could do was poop in the corner. This happens when thunder claps in the night as well. It adds such a nice aroma to the house.
My point to the story is this…we are all still members of the animal kingdom, even as much as we would like to think we have evolved past that stage into something better, called humans. As human animals we are still plagued by beeps in our life, things that cause us to act, think, or believe in a certain way because of experiences in our past. We walk around through our day being controlled by beeps that we are not even aware of. Yes, we all do.
Don’t believe me? Test it yourself. When that certain someone gives you that certain look or tone of voice, what is your immediate reaction or thought? When someone tells you they are voting democrat or republican, what is your first reaction or thought? If you have had physical trauma in your past and someone touches you in a certain way, how do you respond? Do you have certain beliefs about religion, politics, sex, dating, household behavior, money, work ethics, and other values that drive you crazy when other people don’t believe or behave the same way you do?
The real point to this story is that we all have these subconscious or unconscious beliefs, behaviors, thoughts, and responses that control us…until we make a concerted effort to identify there origin. Only then can we choose to continue with this path or change it.
Try this exercise, the next time you have a strong thought or reaction to a situation, stop and ask yourself, “Why did I do that?” Then ask it again, “No, really. Why DID I do that?” Then ask, “Is this from my experience or did I get this thought/behavior from someone else?” Trace the path back to the first time you felt that way, reacted that way, or thought that thought. Chances are you will find that the original thought was not your own.
Since this is an election time, you may be surprised to find that something as simple as the party you vote for, was not really your original belief, but rather your parents. Or, it may have come from a trauma in the past. Political trauma? Yes. Were you ever denied something because a certain party voted against it? Were you part of a down-sizing that happened and everyone said it was because a certain party caused it. Were your parents from the Great Depression era and decided that it was all the fault of a certain party? Did your parent tell you the Vietnam/Korean/Middle East wars were the fault of a certain party? Did your teachers teach history with a particular slant to the story? Are you from a minority religious rf ethnic group that was raised to believe a certain party is better for your future and the future of your whole culture? These thoughts or beliefs that cause you to vote a certain way may not be of your original design, meaning they were given to you, you didn’t choose them through reasoning or research.
In Cooper’s case, his trauma is from original thought or first-hand experience. Loud sound from gun equals great pain in leg. Beeping sound equals shock to the neck. If Cooper was a human, he could think back and tell himself that he had many, many experiences where the loud sound did not cause pain and the beep did not cause a shock. Then he could choose to think, feel, and react differently to those sounds and hopefully not poop in the corner.
How many of us humans spend our whole lives gun-shy, missing out on opportunities and experiences because we are afraid of the dark, afraid of loud noises, afraid of scary places, afraid of airplanes, afraid of taking chances, afraid of being afraid? How many of us live like Cooper, are afraid and not even aware of why we are afraid? Or, worse yet, we know what caused the trauma and we are afraid to let go of it? We use that trauma as a banner, and wave it around saying, “Look at me. I am a victim.” Or, a shield, to protect us from ever experiencing that trauma again. Or, an excuse, to keep us from fully participating in life.
How many of us hold onto beliefs caused by trauma to other people then passed on to us. I once had a young girl testing for black belt who was a very good student and would have performed well on the test. Her mother, on the other hand, had an extreme fear of public speaking. When she learned that her daughter would have to perform a pattern solo on the exam, mom immediately removed her from training and the daughter did not get to test for black belt. Do you think that has an effect on the beliefs the daughter will grow up with concerning public performance? This will become her trauma causing her to think, believe, and behave in certain ways until she realizes that it did not come from original thought and she has the power to choose to let it go.
On the same vein, there are many examples of courageous people who have faced horrific trauma and have chosen to deny those feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that would hold them back They have looked fear in face and challenged it. They used their experiences to strengthen them, not prevent them from becoming the person they are truly capable of being.
Follow this logic and give it your best effort:
- Why did I do that/think that/feel that/say that?
- When did I fist experience these thoughts?
- How have these thoughts effected my behavior?
- What is it costing me to hold on to these behaviors? What am I missing? Who am I hurting?
- Do I want to change the way I feel, think, or behave in this situation?
- What might I gain from changing this behavior?
- What will it take for me to change?
It takes a seriously brave person to do the self-examination required to look in the mirror and trace the roots of behaviors we may or may not want to keep. I have seen some people go through this exercise and it has changed their lives. One person I know, quit her job and changed careers. Another changed political parties. Another dumped her boyfriend. Another became a motivational speaker. And, I seen many overcome great fears on the way towards becoming black belts.
I am just a traveller on this planet with you, doing my best to recognize the roots of my behaviors and make a conscious effort to accept or change them. With great focussed effort, I hope to become a more aware and enlightened human animal. I thank you for your patience while I am a work in progress.
~Matthew Randall, KwanJang-Nim
If you have any fears around your personal safety or the safety of your family, why not try some martial arts classes? Don’t let fear hold you back. Discover how much personal power you really have. Give us a call at 603-743-6500 for 2 free lessons?