Self-Relaxation for Self-Control is not about a day at the beach

March 9, 2012

It IS serious business. Anyone out there ever take an anger management class?Guess the FIRST thing you must learn in order to succeed? Anyone out there ever take a bio-feedback class to prevent heart attacks, high blood pressure, migraines, and aneurisms? Guess the FIRST thing you must learn in order to succeed? Anyoneout there receive treatment for fear phobias? Guess the FIRST thing you must to learn in order to succeed? Anyone out there take any kind of treatment or course to kick an addiction? Smoking, drinking, over eating, prescription drugs, street drugs, adrenaline, etc.? Guess the FIRST thing you must learn in order to succeed?

That's correct, you must learn to let go of all perceived control in order to attain true control which is only done through self-relaxation. Breathing exercises, muscle relaxation, stilling of the mind from distracting,self-sabotaging thoughts, a complete release of the physical body is vital to regain control of your true self in any environment.

You would think this would be the easiest thing on earth wouldn't you? It is, initially to a puppy. They are, after all, cunning hunters and members of one of the most successful social structures on earth thus self-control is essential for survival. The animal in the pack who cannot control his or herself has a very short life indeed. Deadly mistakes are made when an animal gives in to his reactivity instead of controlling his actions.

What is the first thing someone says to you when they see you starting to become angry or agitated over a certain "trigger"? "Settle down. Relax. Take a deep breath will you?" And if you don't heed this ancient advice are you able to calm down? And if you do listen is it an easy process for you to let go of your anger or fear in order to intelligently access what is going on? No, of course not, especially if you have not taught yourself to do so by letting go.  However, this is the ONLY way, short of utter exhaustion (flooding and learned helplessness), to change the entire perception of what is happening and to gage any situation safely. To do otherwise would mean that each time you are faced with this "trigger" it will not only cause you to duplicate this out of control behavior but to escalate the behavior exponentially.

The difference between our dogs and ourselves it the amount of opportunistic "tools" made available to us by our human culture to achieve this self-control.  Yoga, Bio-feedback, Tapping, Meditation, Chanting, Self-Hypnosis (the basic principal of all the afore mentioned), etc. and many others too numerous to mention, are all meant to facilitate the same result, that of self-relaxation to regain self-control.

From someone who was formerly an AAAAAAA personality I have studied and still practice many of the relaxation principals mentioned for just such purpose. So I can personally tell you unequivocally, learning them was ANYTHING BUT easy!  Fortunately for the quality of my life I recognized that not only the condition of but my life itself depended upon my mastering these skills.I won't even go into all the ways my ego tried to thwart my mastering these principals but it was something like your dogs' rolling on their backs, wanting you to pet them, raising their legs, wagging their tails, reacting to sound, popping up, having an itch, etc. Their problem is that they have been led to believe they control their environment so that's what they're trying to continue. By your acquiescing to this behavior and thinking "Oh poor thing doesn't want to or can't do this" you are reinforcing this harmful misconception for your dog.

If you told your two year olds to go take a nap because their lack of control over their emotions was triggered by the fact that they needed physical sleep would you: Allow them to climb out of their crib to play? Allow them to leave the bedroom or run away from you because they didn't want to nap? Would you allow them to go to the kitchen for a cookie?  Of course not, why?  Exactly.  Because the reason they were having so much trouble with self-control in the first place was because they were not in a controlled (rested good decision making) place to begin with.

We do our dogs a great disservice by treating them as fragile creatures. Afraid we will lose their love if we ask tough things of them. But fragile they are not, most especially rescued dogs and pound puppies. You have to be made of steel to survive any of those situations even though you appearance may be soft.  I have said it dozens of times, "Dogs LOVE Tough" not mean, not unreasonable, not corporal but tough. Say what you mean and mean what you say. There is unbelievable safety in that to your dog and that's what they crave more than anything.

So get back to work and get tough. Your dogs will adore you for giving them this, the ultimate gift,  control of themselves.

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