“What about humping?”
Oh, geez, I thought.
My wife asked the question, and it seemed to echo in the room like a bat in a cave.
I felt my body slump in the chair as if to hide, and the words, “asking for a friend” cocked on my tongue. It would have made the room ripple with laughter had I pulled the trigger; I have a special talent for lightening the mood in uncomfortable situations, or at least I think I do.
The whole experience felt like we’d climbed into The Dog Whisperer. Twenty or so strangers sat in a large circle in a warehouse of a room with their dogs on leash, and a hispanic man named Hector, with a voice much bigger than he, shed his wisdom on the matter. Hector was a genius with canines (we’d all learned that much) and if there was ever an appropriate time to ask a question like, “what about humping?” that was certainly it.
Appease The Instincts
Leashed dogs with fresh regard for their owners sat at the feet of their masters, waiting for the graduation ceremony where they’d receive a certificate, perfect for shredding on the living room carpet. Our cockapoo, Wendell, was the smallest of the pack, but, still he managed to set the example. I’d never been prouder of our horribly obnoxious dog.
“You have to appease their instincts,” Hector said again, answering my wife’s question. It was a phrase he used a lot. “Humping is a destructive coping mechanism; you need to encourage positive ways to cope with his stress or anxiety. Because your dog is part terrier, his instinct is to sniff out underground animals. He probably likes to find and shake his toys?”
We nodded our heads as if he had a sixth sense that saw into our everyday life.
“Play tug of war with him,” he added, “and that should curb his urge to hump. Appease his instincts and curb his bad habits.”
When we brought Wendell home, we had renewed resolve to appease his instincts in all the ways Hector suggested. And what’d’ya’know, it worked! Only four hours in obedience class, and we brought home a different dog.
Destructive Behaviors And Coping Mechanisms
Like dogs, every human has destructive and unhealthy coping mechanisms when it comes to handling stress, anxiety, or depression. Many of the ways in which we cope start off innocently but morph overtime. Maybe we were young and naive and an adolescent exploration evolved into a negative habit. Perhaps a hobby or leisurely practice has transformed into a fierce dependency. Whether it’s the overuse of alcohol, drugs, pornography, masturbation, food or something as simple as a stupid joke in front of an uncomfortable bunch of strangers, we all know what it’s like to cope with stress in inappropriate ways.
How do you cope?
That one habit or that destructive behavior is a pacifier, and it works, but only for a moment. It’s not a long-lasting, healthy, and positive coping mechanism that appeases your instinct; it’s not the act for which you were made.
Don’t be a dog humping a stray leg under the dinner table. There’s more to life.
I Was Created For This
Years ago, I invested heavily in a career as a singer-songwriter and folk musician. I was a creative 24-7 with an ever-present quill, scratching on the parchment of my mind. My gears were oiled in fantasy, and I thrived in the realm of possibility.
Even as a kid, I remember my imagination like it was my closest neighborhood friend. The small clearing in the backyard trees was a great hall surrounding a massive stone table around which we’d confide in one another like a noble court. My bicycle was a black steed, and the hill it galloped upon was a mountain. The red whiffle ball bat was tuned like a guitar, and the vacuum handle met my lips like a microphone. I wrote poems and pretended I was wise, and I had a world of action figures mumbling in the drawer beneath my bed.
My instinct is to be creative, and yet there was a season, not too far behind, when I disallowed my imagination from “interfering” with everyday life. And, like many others, I bought into the lies that creative endeavors were a mere distraction to the responsibilities of adulthood. Dreams were just dreams, and my imagination was an old and out-of-touch friend.
Not allowing myself to maintain creative outlets anymore, I boarded the ship of Captain Hook, slapped on an eye-patch to fit in, and “grew up.” Doing so, however, heightened my anxiety and deepened my depression, making me more of a lost boy than I was before. It wasn’t until (much too long) later that I made up with my childhood friend, the imagination. And through this experience, I’ve learned that my creativity is instinctual; it is essential to my make-up; and not living in it is like refusing to use a leg.
When we don’t appease our instincts–the purpose for which we were created–we flounder in the darkness, making unwise decisions, and relying on destructive behaviors to cope with what we are missing.
What is that destructive habit? What is the instinct in your life that is not being appeased? What is your gift?
Live In Your Gifting
In this viral video, while the families aren’t feuding, Steve Harvey encourages his studio audience to take a chance on their unique gift.
“The only way for you to soar [in life] is that you got to jump,” he says. “You got to take that gift that’s packed away on your back and you got to jump off that cliff and pull that cord. That gift opens up and provides the soar.