Emotional Mirroring

Jul 5, 2020

“Dad, my friends found a dog that has tags, but no phone number. Can she stay in our garage tonight?” Silence followed. He continued. “You know if that happened to one of our dogs, you would want someone else to do the same.” How does one say “no” to that? And so, our adopt-a-dog-for-the-weekend adventure begun.
 
Lillie (as we have chosen to call her) is a sweet lab mix. Extremely shy and gentle. She spent Friday night huddled in the garage, scared of her own shadow. Saturday morning, while the boys were trying to find an open vet, she stayed hiding in a bush in our back yard. We had to be very careful not to make sudden moves, as she got spooked easily.
 
When it became apparent we would be housing her again last night (given the holiday weekend), we decided to slowly introduce her to our own three dogs. Though at first our pups were excited and rambunctious, they immediately slowed down and took a very cautious approach with her when they saw me doing the same. Yep – my dogs were mirroring my behavior. And thus, it has been ever since.
 
This morning Lillie has been sleeping by my feet. And our other dogs have been going about their business, as usual. The difference is that when they come near me and Lillie, they immediately slow down. And with my non-to-limited verbal self, I know they are taking their cues from my body language and emotional demeanor rather than words or commands.
 
There is an obvious behavioral lesson here. Our emotional state impacts the emotional state of others. So, given the Covid-19 emotionally-charged state of our world right now, look for ways to de-escalate rather than escalate, bring people up rather than push then down, and emotionally move us all towards a place we hope to be, rather than to one we wish to avoid.
 
Our sweet visitor will leave us in the morning – but while here, I’m certain she brought a great deal of peace and serenity to our household. And for that, I’m thankful.

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