April 2017

It’s the Easter holidays and we’re spending a few days in the Belgian Ardennes. We have ended up in quite a special place: a bed & breakfast where the owners take care of neglected and abused dogs.

I had read about it on their website and had formed an abstract image in my mind of what this meant. But it breaks your heart when you are actually confronted with the dogs, coming from Spain, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria. Most have simply had their legs cut off. You wonder why so much cruelty is needed and you are ashamed to be a human when you look into these dogs’ eyes.

These helpless animals had every reason to lose faith in people forever. And yet this couple from the B&B have succeeded in rebuilding their faith with a lot of patience and love. The dogs have given this couple their trust to get help. The help consists of a complete physiotherapy programme, custom-made wheelchairs, quality nutrititon and daily care. Not only the dogs benefit from this care. You can clearly see that these people are passionate about what they are doing and that it gives meaning to their lives. Both parties benefit.

This brings me to the subject of asking for help as a person. It is something we struggle with and we will only ask when we have no other option, when we are completely helpless like those poor dogs.

For one reason or another we believe that asking for help and putting ourselves in a vulnerable position is a sign of weakness, as if we would lose something.

It is rather the contrary. Asking for help creates a warm connection between the asker and the giver. Not asking for help or refusing kindly offered help alienates you from others. You risk to lose something valuable and human.

It does take some courage to ask – I notice this personally: when I’m in trouble or stuck with something, I tend to close off, turn into myself, maybe in an attempt not to feel any pain. Talking to someone else at that moment confronts you with your own vulnerability. But it doesn’t kill you, quite the opposite.

I resolve to start working on this consciously. Who wants to join? I am curious to learn about your experiences.

See you in two weeks.

I need to take back what I said in early December. I wrote in Django and the resistance of the cat that our dog did not touch our hens. Since a few days this has changed, and I have no idea what triggered it. The victim is our brown hen Kevin – named after our star football player Kevin De Bruyne (I know, a hen is female and this is a boy’s name, but there you go).

Our Kevin is a somewhat special kind of hen, she often wanders around aimlessly, usually by herself, as the other three hens seem to exclude her. Sometimes I think she doesn’t see or hear properly, or that something else is wrong. Since a few days Django charges after her and grabs her by the neck. The first time we really thought he was choking her, as Kevin was lying there seemingly lifeless. But the truth is that he doesn’t really hurt her, he just seems to enjoy grabbing her.

While the other hens flee when Django appears, Kevin shows another typical reaction: she freezes. This is one of the 3 primitive survival mechanisms that all animals, including us, share: fight, flight or freeze. After we have saved her from Django’s ‘hug’, Kevin just stands up and walks around as if nothing has happened. She also does not seem impressed or traumatised – but that might be related to her being ‘different’.

It reminds me of how, when finding yourself in a difficult situation or being confronted with painful feelings or emotions, you usually choose to fight by staying ‘strong’ or by not letting it get to you. Or you flee by looking for diversions in order not to deal with it – addictions or compulsive eating are just a few examples. Or, like Kevin, you freeze and feel paralysed, not capable of doing anything. A much less evident choice is to embrace these feelings and emotions, and to stay present and alert.

These are the moments when you can investigate what is holding you back, what you are not willing to face, what you do not want to feel. These situations are in fact perfect learning opportunities. It is not necessary to look for insights or to create situations to test your limits in order to experience a moment of revelation. These situations will present themselves on a regular basis, usually when you least expect them, and just when you need them. And then you can choose to either close yourself off – fight, flight or freeze – or open up to them.

It takes a lot more courage to open up and be vulnerable than to opt for the fight, flight or freeze response. What Kevin the hen does has nothing to do with courage – she misleads by pretending to be dead. But somehow her total surrender to a potential killer makes me think of reaching your limit, as if you die. Such low points will help you realise that you do want to live. And that usually works, as is the case with Kevin the hen.

This Inspiration is number 50 in a series that I started on 22 May 2015, so a good reason to celebrate! On this occasion I am compiling my first 50 inspirations in an e-book which I would like to offer to my faithful readers. More about this later. Talk to you in 2 weeks!