Aria’s Agenda …how fears hold us back…
When I was a puppy, and first went into Handsome’s house, I saw another dog. It looked like a friendly pup, but when I sniffed at it, and it sniffed at me, I didn’t smell anything; it was on the other side of a glass door. And then, when I walked around the door, there wasn’t anyone there!
You might ‘get’ what happened; I was having my first experience of seeing my own reflection in a mirror.
But of course, when you see yourself in mirrors, you aren’t seeing exactly what you look like. You’re seeing, in some ways, the opposite! Your left is on your right, so any markings you have are on the other side, and even the slight difference between your eyes’ size is the reverse of what all your friends see in you.
I bring this up, because sometimes we meet someone who’s like a mirror image – partly just like us, and partly the opposite, and hardly anything in between. Which means there’s nothing about that being you don’t find fascinating!
I have such a friend. Her name is Aria.
Both of us were rescues of a sort. I don’t really remember my first couple of months, but I know that at some point, I was captured by a dog catcher and put into a pound, in a cage with four other puppies. We played together some, but mainly we were just scared poopless about timetables; if someone didn’t come to take us out within four days, we’d get taken to a little room and sent into whatever happens after this life.
I made it five days, because a nice employee stole my identification card and hid it, but then Handsome showed up and we fell in love at first sight and my life’s been comparatively wonderful ever since. I just wish I could know what happened to my cell-mates. (…Or maybe I don’t…)
So, although there were those scary days in the pound, I’ve been lucky. No person has ever abused me, most dogs I’ve met have been friendly (and any who haven’t have either been pushed away by Handsome, or I’ve been able to fend them off myself), and I’ve never worried about where my next meal was coming from. It’s a good life. A life that’s enabled me to trust everyone until they prove me wrong, and to assume the next stranger I meet might well become my new best friend.
Aria had a different story. She was kicked out of the home she was born in, because the owners didn’t like her. She found another home, but – believe it or not – they kicked her out too! She lived in the wild, hunting for food and avoiding predators, for a long time then, till some people coaxed her to come with them (it took them days). By this time, she’d learned to assume that any dog she met would attack her, and any person would beat her for no reason at all.
She lived with the people who’d found her till she was adopted by a very nice couple who look for homes for dogs. And then, she found a person. Kind of like my Handsome. But I call him Ugmo.
Ugmo had wanted to get two dogs, one adult and one puppy, and thought the way to do this was to rescue an adult, bond for a couple of weeks, and then bring a puppy in, who the adult could teach in manners and housetraining.
Do you know the word “naïve?”
Ugmo loved Aria at once, the way Handsome loved me, but the moment they were away from that nice couple, she was terrified of him. Too beaten-down to attack him or run away, she’d just cower in a crate or a corner, or even slumped in the middle of a room, hoping to not be punished. And when he took her for her first walk, and she snapped at a bothersome puppy and he pulled her back, saying, “Oh don’t do that,” she fell onto her back, all her paws pulled in, her eyes blinking rapidly – showing him and everyone else there that she had been beaten horribly, and expected that from him.
This was going to take more than two weeks.
Over the next year, Ugmo worked every day with Aria. Most of that work involved treats, petting, and kisses (lots and lots of kisses, especially on her tummy), but eventually he worked up to getting her some leash training, going on hikes, and taking her with him to work. In all these situations, everyone found her sweet and lovable, but she was too scared to have fun with them (people or dogs). She’d cower, showing submission, and do everything she could to express that no one need be frightened of her. Then, ironically, if they petted her in a way that scared her (especially if she felt they were going to grab her by the neck, the way some mean people had long ago), she’d scream and snap at them; her fear actually made her more dangerous than a dog like me, who doesn’t worry at all about convincing people I’m not a danger.
But she’s come a long way. Now she’s not afraid of Ugmo, and is even able to play at times. She’s become very attached to a squeaky toy lamb – not in the way I am (loving ripping them to bits), but more like a little girl and her dolly, protective and always concerned about where it is. And I’m sure she’ll continue to get better.
But she’ll never be as easy-going as I am.
Ugmo often says it’s because she’s “got mashed potatoes between her ears.” But Aria’s not dumb, she’s just learned a lot of awful lessons. Which mainly add up to one: Don’t Trust Anyone, Because The World Is Dangerous And Cruel.
And because she believes that, she acts on it. All the time. She acts on it by hiding, by keeping her head down, by snapping at little dogs who could never actually hurt her.
And in this, she’s not unlike a lot of people I’ve seen.
In fact, I might argue she’s like all people.
The man who sits in the bar, ready to punch anyone who says something that sounds disrespectful to him, because he knows they will.
The woman who goes on dates but is always expressing that she knows she’s unlovable and will be left by this new boyfriend just like the others.
The child at school who knows the other kids won’t like him, and so acts up in ways to get bad attention, as he knows that’s the only kind he can get.
The teenager who won’t ask anyone for help, because she knows that no one will ever care about her. As she’s learned by experience, over and over again.
Do you have a “knowledge” like this? Something you “know” but don’t really know? Nobody who meets you at a party ever likes you? All people of a certain race or class or sex look down on you? You’re not good enough to be loved?
Here’s the crazy part about those beliefs – have you ever heard the term “self-fulfilling prophecy?” – these beliefs stick around because your believing them makes them come true! They actually create an Agenda. An insistence that “I’m gonna act this way because I know this.”
Ugmo will have five people over to his home. Everyone wants to meet Aria and pet her, but she hides in her crate the whole time. At the end of the night, she’ll “know” she was right – no one at the party liked her, which is proven because no one petted or played with her. She sure was right to act the way she did! The fact that she kept them from being able to be nice is completely unknown to her.
And why is she, unlike you or me, unable to see how wrong she is? Because that belief didn’t want her to realize it.
That last sentence might be worth reading over a few times, to make sure you get it! Yes, literally, her brain is telling her “You need to believe this, because this belief keeps you safe. And this belief can’t exist if you start believing people are nice. So, for your safety, we won’t let you realize it, even if it’s true!”
Lots of people and books tell about the power of Manifestation, that a person focusing on, and believing, something they want makes it more likely to come true. I can’t argue whether that’s real or not. But I can promise you that if you have a belief that something you don’t like, that’s always been the case before, will always happen – and you act on that agenda – you’re doing a great job of making that rotten belief come true.
Don’t get me wrong. Aria’s not bad or dumb. She’s suffered horrible treatments I can only imagine. She has every reason in the world to fear and believe the things she does.
But she also, now, has every reason in the world to stop believing those things.
Bit by bit, she’s working through it. And every day for her is better than any day she ever had before.
But what about you? Do you have any of those beliefs? Do you act on any agendas like that? Are you ready, and willing, to put even one false, fear-based belief behind you, and change your agenda?
Because if you are, you will literally create a future full of – not necessarily joys, but certainly of possibilities.
And that is the future that a cheerful, optimistic, excitable, knucklehead dog like me sees every morning.
And exactly the future I so wish for you.
(And my mashed-potato-brained friend)