Non-human animals have a lot to teach us about belonging. I recall a story of a dog being accidentally locked outside overnight in the dead of winter. The dog spent the night hungry and shivering. The next morning, the dog's human opened the front door only to be surprised by her pet jumping up on her and licking her face, happy to see her. As the story went, the next night, the human accidentally locks her partner out of the house. When she opens the door the next morning, her partner is not so happy to see her. Unlike the dog, it also takes her partner over a year to trust her again.
When it comes to healing from trauma, out animal friends can be great allies. When receiving a warm glance or a compliment from a friend feels scary or unpleasant, we might not be able to receive it or the sense of belonging that could have come with it. However, if we imagine a protective mama bear between us and the friend, we might be able to better receive the warmth because of the sense of protection that bear can provide. When we feel bogged down in shame, imagining the playfulness and lightness of the otter or the fox might provide a little respite. When we are dissociated and disconnected from our bodies, the groundedness or the turtle or the weightiness of the whale might be good allies.
This week's belonging reminder:
Here's a silly reminder from the New Yorker that animals don't judge in quite the same way that humans do!
This week's practice suggestion:
-Without thinking about it too hard, what animal would it feel really good to encounter right now? List some of the qualities of this animal. Imagine yourself embodying those qualities. Stand like that animal stands, walk like that animal walks. What do you notice? Imagine your animal ally with you for the rest of the day and if you'd like to, jot down some notes at bedtime about what you noticed.