Shizuka blue asks: What’s the best way to hide tears? My friends say that I am very emotional and a bit short tempered. Can you tell me how I could control my tears and anger when I need to?
Hi Shikuza blue –
One big difference between humans and dogs is that humans are taught to hide their feelings, a lot. If someone steps on my tail and I give a loud yelp, no one thinks that means I’m less tough, or less cool, that they thought before. But when a person reacts to life in an honest, emotional way, your friends get uncomfortable – they don’t know how to deal with you; it’s as if you’re suddenly like a child, or demanding too much of them.
It’s all really weird.
What I want you to do is to work to develop exactly the skills you ask for – and no more!
What I mean by that is that I want you to learn to find ways to keep yourself from showing anger or hurt when showing them isn’t a good idea – but never to keep yourself from feeling them.
Your feelings are the core of who you are, Shikuza blue! Your love, your anger, your hatred, your fears… they truly are what make you you. Shutting those feelings down makes about as much sense as tying your arms up or covering your whole head and body in a burlap sack!
But just as we dogs do have to learn, at times, to stay quiet, or stay still, you can learn to hold those reactions in.
The best suggestion I have is probably the opposite of what you usually try – and that is to b-r-e-a-t-h-e. All of us, from dogs to humans to zebras, have a natural tendency, when stressed, to clench our breath. That’s very useful if you’re hiding from a lion, but otherwise it’s a big load of nothing.
So, for example, when someone says something that hurts your feelings, just step back, and take a very deep breath. And while you’re breathing in, think about how stupid what they said was. And how, even though their comment bothered you, it really isn’t worth your attention. And then slowly breathe that feeling out… and most of it will probably be gone.
Then, as another example, you get back a paper in class that you were very proud of, and it has a lousy grade on it. Your instant reaction is to burst into tears and complain that the teacher treated you unfairly. But instead, you b-r-e-a-t-h-e. You inhale the knowledge that blowing up at the teacher wouldn’t do any good, and that what you really need is to figure out how to get a better grade. And you breathe out that you’re going to look over the teacher’s notes on your paper, and go up and talk to them after class, and see if you can rewrite it to get some points back.
Do you see what I’m doing here? I’m not trying to take away the fact that you’re bothered. But I’m putting your smart, strategic brain in, between the offending moment and your reaction. And the best way to do that is to do some long breaths.
What other things can you do? Well, if you’re too hurt to be able to hold in the tears, you can step away, and find a place to cry for a moment by yourself. Or if you’re too angry to keep cool, you can step away and punch something (hopefully something soft and unbreakable, like a pillow).
But what happens if you take that long breath, or you step away, and you STILL feel upset? Well, maybe that’s because what happened to you is really just that bad! Maybe you DESERVE to get that angry or tearful. And if that’s the case, then you have every right to tell your friends, “I’m sorry, but this really just is too much!” And if they disagree, maybe they aren’t really the best people to hang around with right now.
Of course, the best thing to do when you (or any human) gets really upset is to go to someone who is fully understanding, and will feel your pain and want to help. Maybe by licking your face or burying their head onto your knees, or maybe by grabbing a ball and trying to cheer you up with a game of fetch.
I’m a huge fan of therapists, and I’m all for school counselors, religious leaders, and so on, absolutely. But when your heart is broken, there is NOTHING like a dog! We are the BEST!
So try to practice that deep breathing. That’s always a great place to start. And give yourself the right to step away if you need to. But if you can manage to get yourself a pooch, you’ll have the best medicine there is, for whatever life hands you.
Best of Luck!