Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Me, My Dog and Tigger

I have an inner Tigger. I know, another myth about depression and anxiety sufferers hits the wall! I believe this aspect of my character - the irrepressible, fun, bubbly part of me, has helped me to keep going when I really felt like giving up completely. I love Tigger's refrain 'The wonderful thing about Tiggers is Tiggers are wonderful things, their tops are made out of rubber, their bottoms are made out of spring!'. For me, the rubbery, springy part has been my ability to bounce back - both emotionally and physically.

The problem with Tiggers (T-I-doubleG-er)is that we bounce into rooms and situations without really 'reading' the people involved and sometimes there can be a backlash. I have a Tigger dog too. Recently, she was involved in a couple of incidents when she became aggressive towards other dogs - or so I thought. I continued to observe her interaction with other dogs both known and strangers. With her best friend, Farai, a black lab, there are few problems - except when Farai has something that Smilla wants. I will admit this could be my fault, she suffers from only child syndrome and she is spoilt. When it comes to stranger dogs though, she has always got on well with all sorts. She is not an aggressive dog, although I have often heard people remark about the 'Snow Wolf' approaching - she is more likely to lick you to death than anything. So, these incidents when she became angry at other dogs baffled me.

Then I came across an interesting article by an american writer on dog behaviour. It spoke about 'Impolite Dogs'. These are dogs who bounce into another dog, or group of dogs and immediately launch into (often boisterous) play. No butt sniffing or nose touching to introduce herself. With relief I recognised my Tigger like dog in this description. When an impolite dog bounces into a situation without reading the other dogs' signals she/he is likely to be met by defensive and aggressive reactions. This did explain her out of character reactions. Now I have to take control and help her to introduce herself to a new dog or group of dogs. I also check out with other owners if their dogs can cope with a Tigger-like playdate!

Once again, my dog has taught me about my own mistakes in social situations. Another parting piece of advice from my DBT Therapist was to learn to read rooms before I launch myself into social situations. I am still learning the skills of reading my own and others' emotional responses. I have been known to be able to change the temperature in a room. For either good or ill. Most times I have been oblivious to this 'power'. What I have noticed is that I may be perceived as an 'impolite human'. I don't stop to 'sniff butts' (so to speak) and take stock of where others are. Back to the awful moment at school, aged fourteen, when a friend and her whole family had been killed in a car accident at the weekend. It had been all over the local news. On Monday morning, I bounced into the normally buzzing lockers, looked around at my obviously distressed friends and said 'You all look as if someone has died!'. Ouch, I felt bad about that for ages. But it demonstrates my tendency to leap in where angels fear to tread.

Of course there is always a flipside to being Tigger. Tiggers can lift a mood, when they are up to it and when it is needed and appropriate. Again, though I still need to be aware of the mood and therefore the likely response of my 'audience'. Sometimes I have used this ability in running groups or in teaching to bring a group along with me and encourage some participation. On a personal level, I need to be self protective in when I choose to bounce in and enthuse. When I don't have the protection of a professional role to maintain, I am likely to expose myself to very negative responses, if I am not careful to become aware of the signals of others in a group. I realise this tendency of mine to launch myself into group situations without first assessing the emotional temperature, has resulted in very painful moments, when groups as a whole, or individuals have rejected the Tigger in me. When you are feeling down or shy, or uncertain, then a Tigger can be annoying at best and unbearable at worst. I need to be able to control my inner Tigger not only for my own sake, but for the sake of others.

The irony is that I am emotionally sensitive and so can recognise what is going on around me emotionally, but I need to give myself time to weigh up before bouncing in.

A plea then, to bear with me when my inner Tigger bounces into your presence. I will always feel bad if I have misread the situation, just tell me to come off the ceiling. I am good at receiving advice and will always consider it carefully - as well as being a Tigger I am also a bit of a Pooh (so to speak) for 'I am a bear of very little brain, and long words bother me.'

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