Ever have issues with your pets’ behavior or health? Well, duh, I think I heard someone mutter under their breath. When we discuss these issues, people sometimes declare, “It must be me because animals are our mirrors!”

Animals as mirrors means animals’ health issues and behaviors reflect what’s going on with their humans. So we should look to the humans in the family  – and maybe blame them – for their animals’ behavioral and physical issues.

Animals become reaction machines in our lives

This statement turns animals into reaction machines. We’re the input, the stimulus and they’re the output, the reaction. It’s another version of the early psychologists’ and scientists’ stimulus-response theories – B.F. Skinner comes to mind. (He believed free will was an illusion for humans.)

Making animals our mirrors is too strong a statement for me. It takes away free will for our animals and focuses on us, the humans. It can’t always be about us, can it? This is why I call it a myth.

Each animal is a fully-formed being

Instead, I believe each animal has their own personality, peculiarities and preferences. They are unique beings and have unique perceptions of what’s happening in their life. Animals are autonomous with their own story and life path.

Brown dog in the woods

Their own life experiences shape them

Anyone who’s adopted an animal with a tough past knows this. My dog, Tibor growled and bared his teeth when I tried to bring him into the house after a delightful walk. He wasn’t mirroring my reluctance to return to the house. Instead, he was expressing his fear about going into the house. It got worse when I tried to pull him in.

So I stood inside and asked him to come in using loving words and feelings. And it worked. Tibor decided to come into the house. I honored his feelings, allowed him to express them (safely) and he willingly chose to come in.

I didn’t create Tibor’s door problem. But I learned a huge lesson about listening with love to what he was trying to communicate and adjusting my behavior.

But wait, don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater

We absolutely affect our animals’ emotions and physical well being and influence their actions. The key is not to turn our animals into 2-dimensional mirrors of ourselves, mini-me’s.

Maybe there’s a behavior you’re worried about – fear, aggression, inability to relax, compulsive licking, for instance. Review the human emotions in your family. If there’s fear, anger, grief, inability to relax in you, this is your invitation to work on yourself.

Fear of thunder, sirens & fire crackers

Here’s an example. Tibor came to us afraid of thunder, sirens and fire crackers. I looked to see if there was anything we needed to change for his sake. And indeed, there was – how my husband and I argued. We decided that, rather than erupt in anger out of nowhere – like thunder – we would talk calmly about our differences. It helped.

But we also used herbs, essential oils and energetic techniques to calm him. I even remind him how we’re not going to let the noise ruin our walks. It’s better.

Consider other factors and talk to professionals when you need to.

  • Are there physical causes of the behavior that can be addressed?
  • Are they getting good food, loving attention, play and exercise?
  • Have they been unable to let go of past traumas? (Animal communication can help with this.)

Let’s find out what’s going on with your animal!

Work with Maribeth