Have you ever felt guilty towards your horse or another animal? Oh yes, haven’t we all. But what does that do to the human-animal relationship? Today, I have some interesting and perhaps relieving thoughts for you.
Recently, I had an intriguing conversation about this very topic, as well as animal communication, which is always guaranteed to lead to interesting discussions. ?
I was getting a body treatment. So, picture this: I’m lying relaxed on the massage table, chatting about what I do.
The therapist says, “Ah, you do animal communication. Fascinating! I would love to know what my cat is thinking….”
“I get it. What do you think she’s thinking?”
“Well, I have a feeling that she had a real problem when I brought in a second cat…. but now they seem to get along well, I think… well, I hope they do… Oh, I still feel so guilty about it! The first few weeks were really difficult for her, I think…”
I asked a few more questions to make my therapist aware of the basis for her feelings, both back then and now.
“Well,” I pointed out, “I don’t know your cat. But very often, our feelings about our animals are pretty spot-on. That’s why, based on what you’re telling me about her behavior, I think it’s quite likely that the transition was tough for your cat. And that she’s feeling better now. However, from my experience, I can also say that your cat definitely senses that you still feel guilty. And today, that probably creates more of a barrier between you than the fact that there was this situation back then.”
Phew, understandable, right? We’ve all felt guilty towards our animals at some point… because we did something differently that we would later evaluate as better, because we couldn’t live up to our standards regarding the animal, because we can’t always avoid suffering. What we often don’t consider is that when we have a guilty conscience and act upon it, our animals notice (just like our children, by the way).
Because what we “give” to the animal out of a guilty conscience doesn’t feel like giving – it feels like taking.
We do what we do, not primarily to do something good for the other person or the animal, but in truth to appease our own guilty conscience. So, we try to get the good feeling from our animals. It’s about us, not about them. (I know, this realization can also create guilt – don’t worry, we’ve all been there and done that before. It’s just good to be aware of it, so that we can potentially make different decisions next time.)
Applied to horses, simplified: When I give my horse an extra carrot because I won’t be able to come tomorrow, it feels different for the horse than if I give it the carrot because I know it enjoys carrots and I’m happy to see it enjoy them. In the first scenario, I am acting out of fear (fear that I don’t have enough time for my horse, that I can’t meet its needs, etc.), whereas in the second scenario, I am acting out of love. And yes, you might say, “Of course, I also act out of love!” But your horse won’t be able to feel it if fear is overshadowing it. And anyone who has experienced fear can imagine that fear has a tendency to overshadow everything whenever it is present.
“Oh, wow… You mean I’m keeping this old situation alive by continuing to think about it and feeling bad as a result?”
“Wow. I haven’t seen it that way before…” – Pause. “How relieving it is to realize that I’m not doing my cat any favors by feeling bad… instead, both of us will feel better if I let go of it.”
Oh, that was nice! Just the realization itself has already made her feel better. And yes, since I didn’t “speak” to the animal, I can’t say for sure if I was right. But if my therapist can now approach her cat with more unfiltered love, if she can give it the extra cuddles because she wants to and not because she feels the need to make up for something… that’s a great outcome, isn’t it? It will certainly bring them closer together.
In fact, this is often what happens in animal communication: The human comes with a specific question, to which they already have a feeling. This feeling is often correct (if it’s a genuine feeling and not the ego wanting to hear something specific), and simply receiving validation through an external source or “channel” helps both the human and the animal a lot. When we have a close bond with our animals, we are connected with them as well. Communication is always happening, even beyond the visible level. We’re just not always aware of the different levels, so we often can’t exactly determine whether the feeling we have is coming from us or from the animal.
And the thing with the guilty conscience is actually very common. As humans, we have the ability to put ourselves in situations even when they’re not happening at the moment. This is great when we want to plan or anticipate dangers (although we often exaggerate that too). But when we get “stuck” in past situations in this way, it simply blocks us from being present and moving forward. It prevents us from living and giving freely – and our animals and loved ones notice that.
On the other hand, our animals always live in the present moment: When they are feeling bad, they are feeling bad. When the bad feeling stops, they feel better. They don’t then tell their friends how bad they felt, call their mother again to tell her about this crisis, question what they could have done differently, or blame themselves or others and keep the feeling alive with all of that. No. The bad feeling is gone, so this and even the thought of it no longer play a role in their present or future lives.
We can learn so much from that, can’t we? And until then, understand that a guilty conscience has no place in the human-animal connection (just like in other relationships) and that we can confidently leave it behind (just for that reason).
I thought this message might help you too, since we’re all humans. ?
In that sense, feel the ground beneath your feet, acknowledge what is happening right now, and let go of what was, what happened yesterday, and last year. You have the opportunity NOW to give yourself and your animal a good feeling. Use it. ?
And if you ever need help letting go of the feeling of guilt or anything else that keeps showing up and bothering you… let me know. This oftentimes has its roots in other places and times in our lives, and it takes some discovery and rewiring to really get over it. This is why I offer coaching for horsepeople – finding and releasing the deeply-rooted stuff (thoughts, emotions, convictions) is the incredibly freeing for the whole horse-human relationship system and I’m glad to assist you here. Just shoot me an email to get started.