So...I've been playing around with something that I think could be really, really cool.
I notice that there aren't a lot of wearable things for us dog people that strengthen us as trainers/handlers. There are a ton of shirts and stuff out there that poke fun at us and our shortcomings... things that don't build us up. I know we've all seen shirts that say "Dog Wants New Handler." or "Great Dog, Shame About the Handler." If we wear those negative, self defeating messages...what does that say about what we really feel about ourselves?? Why do we project our negative self image to others around us and out to the universe?
I saw and bought that one shirt I got from a vendor at the USDAA New England Regionals that says something about believing in myself and my dog. The couple of agility trials I wore it to and after posting a chest selfie of my shirt, I had a bunch of friends say they needed that shirt or where could they get one. I went off and googled thinking I could locate it in a page or two. I was surprised to see that I couldn't find anything like that online. I found that actually disappointing.
Being the creative entrepreneur that I am, I set out to fix that. I'm now offering clothing and gifts with empowering messages for us and our dogs on the Tasks site. I'm calling it "Transcendent Trainers."
I see Transcendent Trainers becoming a sister site to Train 'Em Tasks...but that will come down the road in a couple of months. This is seriously just starting out and I have literally a ton of transcendent ideas floating around in my head. I'm excited about it especially since I've been on my own big self improvement path this year.
So, I will fully admit, the Tasks blog has been put on the back burner this spring while developing new products and working on a myriad of other things with the boys and even on myself.
That is where the title of today's blog post comes from...the hard work I have been doing on the inside. Long story short, I started to see a mental health professional almost a year ago now because there was a lot in my life that wasn't working for me. At the time, I thought it was burnout from my former day job with an undercurrent of depression. It infiltrated everything...work, personal life, and even the journey I walked with the boys. It wasn't until about 4 - 5 months into the sessions that we had a big break through...I wasn't burned out or clinically depressed. I was Codependent. What that means in a nutshell, I learned a lot of self defeating mental survival skills as a kid growing up in a dysfunctional household that I carried into and cling to as an adult. To quote Codependent No More, the book that has more or less redefined my life - "Codependency involves a habitual system of thinking, feeling, and behaving towards ourselves and others that cause us pain. These habits are self destructive." Codependent people worry about, obsess over, and try to control other people and events that are not our business to worry about, obsess over, and try to control. We enmesh ourselves in external things and people and detach from ourselves. Codependent people also have low self worth. We don't feel good about ourselves and we don't like ourselves very much. We tie our self worth to accomplishments and external things/events.
That has been my operating system for 40 or so years and removing that virus from my operating system is going to take some time. It's been slow going and I have had moments where its easier for me to fall back on familiar, old habits. But, it is getting better every day and I am putting one foot in front of the other on the path of codependency recovery. I'm working hard on detaching from everything that isn't my direct responsibility. The only thing I'm responsible for is me (isn't that a radical thought!) I'm working very hard on placing my own needs first and practicing self care (physically and emotionally.) I'm working very hard on developing the idea that what other people think of me is really none of my business. I'm letting go of all things that I can't control (which is everything but my own actions, feelings, and thoughts.) I'm becoming a spiritual gangster.
So....what does all of have to do with dog training?? Actually, quite a bit. I know that I was taking dog training and the end goal of getting titles way too seriously for my own good. I see a lot of people who are in dog sports who also take dog training and getting those scores/titles way too seriously for their own good too. A dear friend of mine asked why I was driven by the need to be perfect...why was I so scared to fail or even make small mistakes? I would get defensive with instructors or friends who were trying to give me constructive criticism. They were trying to help me...but I took their input as attacks against my fragile self image. I couldn't process what they were trying to tell me in a healthy way. I couldn't process much of the world in a healthy way.
With my new self awareness in place, I started to question why that was with me and speculated why that was with others too. I was basing my self worth on getting a Q or a title, or a great score. I worried way too much about what others thought about me as a person if I didn't Q, get that title, or that great score. Last year, agility caused me an incredible amount of angst because I could not Q with Ocean at 24" to save my life. Towards the end of the summer, I broke down at a trial and sobbed to friends saying "Why is this so hard?" My self worth took a huge tumble...I couldn't get my dog out of novice and I had been listening to advice from people. I wasn't listening to my own voice because of that poor self worth...I had detached from my own wisdom. It wasn't long after that agility break down that I moved Ocean back down to 20" to where he should have been. Wouldn't you know it, we're back to getting those Q's on a regular basis.
My new favorite dog sport shirt!!
Over these past couple of months with this new self awareness, I've learned where we are in our own head-space massively impacts training and working our dogs. We hear so much about the psychology side of sports and I don't think the obedience world has really looked at how that can impact their performance. The agility world's more competitive teams are aware of the mental game....but does the average agility team struggle with it? I surely didn't think that my everyday undercurrent of mental crap impacted how I trained or showed. But it did...and did a lot. I wasn't ready until now to really come out and talk about this recovery I'm working on. Now that I am ready, I'm probably going to write about it as it pertains to dog training.
If you see yourself in anything I wrote above, you're not alone. Codependency is a common issue for people who have lived/grew up with family dysfunction, alcoholism, mental illness, or abuse. Codependent No More by Melody Beattie is a life changing and validating book. I highly recommend it to anyone who knows or thinks codependency is part of their life.