Inner Thinking: Of dogs and humans.

We are what we think about most.

Today’s post was inspired by something yesterday I read, not for the first time, over on The People Workshop site. (As an aside, I know that many regulars of this place are familiar with the history of my friendship with Jon.) On the page that explains more of Jon Lavin’s approach to his work with clients, he writes:

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Thus said Albert Einstein (1879-1955).

Intuitively, it strikes one as correct. However, reflect for a few moments on how you think and very quickly it becomes clear that how you think is based on deep-seated experiences and the learnings that flow from those experiences.

As it is for all of us.

Just as relevantly, perhaps more so, is that how we behave is based on those same deep-seated experiences and subsequent learnings. This offers a clue as to why bringing about lasting, behavioural change can often feel like pushing water uphill!

That prompted me to look up a previous time when I had written a post about feelings. It was last December when in a post called Feelings – Of Both Humans and Animals, I wrote this:

There couldn’t have been a better answer to that ponder than a recent video that was presented by TED Talks. It was a talk by Carl Safina about what is going on inside the brains of animals: What are animals thinking and feeling? Or in the fuller words of that TED Talk page:

What’s going on inside the brains of animals? Can we know what, or if, they’re thinking and feeling? Carl Safina thinks we can. Using discoveries and anecdotes that span ecology, biology and behavioral science, he weaves together stories of whales, wolves, elephants and albatrosses to argue that just as we think, feel, use tools and express emotions, so too do the other creatures – and minds – that share the Earth with us.

So back to what inspired today’s post. It was the challenge of really knowing why we behave the way we do, both humans and dogs. With dogs, however, we accept they cannot speak to us clearly. Or as Esme put it in a recent reply to an update on Hazel: “Well you’re getting there, half the battle is diagnosis with dogs because they can’t actually tell us how they feel.” (My emphasis.)

Back to humans. When Jon wrote on his site, “…. how you think  …… is based on deep-seated experiences ….”, what I heard is that for us humans there are many times when we cannot actually tell ourselves what we are feeling. That is why we need the counselling of someone who has the professional training and experience to expose those deep emotional and psychological drivers within us; those drivers that are normally out of sight from us.

In my own case, how my father’s death was managed by my mother back in December, 1956 left an emotional wound that was totally out of sight from my conscious mind for 50 years.  The emotional crisis that I went through back then was discovered by Jon to have its roots back in December, 1956. By a massive stroke of fortune Jon gave me the insight into that mental place of old and a year later I met Jean down in Mexico.

In other words, to return to Albert Einstein:

We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.

The challenge is having sufficient self-awareness to know when an aspect of our behaviour requires the support of the Jon Lavins of this world.

So what would we require from a counsellor, from a therapist, who was working with us to uncover those hidden aspects? In other words, in terms of assessing that therapist what’s the difference that would make the difference?

Naturally, I don’t have the skills to answer that question in any direct, professional manner. But if I look down at our dogs then a form of answer does ‘speak’ to me. Dogs are creatures of integrity, openness and trust. They relate to us humans and other known dogs around them through friendship and love; frequently unconditional love.

A therapist who embraces those values; nay, lives those values, would display that very quickly after meeting with the ‘client’. Any person seeing that in a therapist would be seeing the difference that makes the difference.

Good people, I’m not asking any of you who read this to divulge any personal stuff but, nonetheless, I would love to hear your thoughts on what I have written today!


6 thoughts on “Inner Thinking: Of dogs and humans.

  1. I actually think dogs try to tell us what’s wrong, they just use signals that we find hard to understand. Though, just like people, they might not know themselves what is wrong (or if there’s anything wrong). As to the difference that makes the difference: assuming the therapist has sufficient knowledge it’s vital they actually care. Each case is different, sometimes we need to unlearn, abandon the dogma, be ready to admit our convictions might have been wrong. To help, a therapist needs to be interested in the patient (client, person, dog, whichever word is better) and use all resources available to him/her to try and help.


  2. I feel there are two ways to unravelling our own complexities Paul. One is using a professional, as you yourself did, to mirror back to us that which we are unable – really, unwilling – to see. The other is by means of intensive introspection, and this invariably means silent meditation. I don’t mean 20 minutes in the morning now and again when we feel like it; I mean going through several long and intensive silent retreats under highly controlled conditions. The inner impulsions and volitional tendencies have nowhere to hide under such circumstances, and all the buried stuff comes out into consciousness, and in full force. There is no escape, and it is a very tough path for many, but all come out much the better for it provided they were under knowledgeable supervision on the retreats, and learn how to be gentle with themselves during the process. Vipassana Buddhism is a great way to go in my opinion; it being a form of phenomenological reduction – not a million miles from Husserlian phenomenology, which is similarly reductive and geared to arrive at the same self-knowledge.


    1. Hariod, what a deeply moving contribution from you. Reading what you have written creates a strong desire in me to overcome whatever my barrier is to meditation, to yoga, or similar. I believe my awareness of the deeper currents within me is pretty good, or better than average, yet why I avoid meditation escapes me. All the more puzzling when I see how naturally and easily our dogs find quiet, reflective zones!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yours was simply a different path, Paul, the one I first mentioned. In any case, meditation is not for everyone, far from it, so one needs to accommodate one’s innate dispositions in any attempt at self-knowledge, as I feel sure you know. That said, it is always good to explore the mind, and if ever you get the opportunity to retreat at a Buddhist monastery, I feel sure you would find it quite fascinating. To me, there is nothing more interesting than the mind and its workings; it is, after all, the entirety of our life and the world as apprehended. We of course know nothing, and experience nothing, outside of consciousness, and yet we ignore the true and intimate texture of it as our mediator and medium, not realising the filtering and distortions that it presents, instead taking consciousness as if it were our self and the world – it never is; and is only ever (in effect) a narrative construct about those things. A good idea to find out what lies behind it, perhaps?


      2. … the true and intimate texture of it as our mediator and medium …

        The true and intimate texture. What a wonderful turn of phrase. Your life exeperiences, Hariod, are rich beyond measure. Thank you so much for sharing them in this place. I’m sure I am not the only one to be grateful for what you have offered.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.