Archive for November, 2013

Recently I received a letter from Andrea in Belgium who wrote to me because a friend had told her

…how amazingly good you are with dogs…

I know that people are saying that about me and I accept it. But since I received the message from Andrea I kept on asking myself what had happened in my life that enabled me to become “amazingly good with dogs”.

Today I think I have found it and I want to explain what I discovered about dogs, about humans and most of all about myself.

Let me first state that when my wife Béatrice decided to have our first dog, I was not even interested. But as soon as our first beautiful Labrador arrived I was hooked. Nevertheless it took me a decade to start discovering the real importance of dogs in my life. It was nothing less than a revolution brought about by my marriage to Eva Schoenfeld, living with dogs, and becoming a member of the ManKindProject and a student of martial arts.

Let me tell you in a few words what I discovered.

Our first dog had to suffer from my lack of understanding her. I was taught to use a choke chain and to use it violently. As I did not have a clue about what the dog was telling me I only copied what the well meaning amateur-instructors of the “dog training club” showed me. What changed my approach completely was not a series of workshops, not attending lots of courses or reading many books about dog training. No! What changed my overall approach to life was what I learned about myself.

My eyes started opening only after my initiation as a “New Warrior” in the ManKindProject. Soon after my initiation in Magaliesburg (South Africa) I started doing men’s work in men’s circles. This work enabled me to very slowly discover that I was not alone with my fears, my unanswered questions and my feelings of uncertainty.

I will now summarize what I learned during my work in the circles of men.

First I learned how to accept the existence of my shadow. For us New Warriors our shadow is “everything we hide, repress and negate as a man”.

To give you an example, if I see myself as a warrior, then I also accept that my shadow is the coward in me.

The Second important result of my work in the circles of men is that I learned to accept the existence of my fears. Most of all I have accepted that within me there is always the fear of failure, the fear of poverty, the fear of abandonment and the fear of not being good enough. These fears are always present.

But the more I observe and accept the presence of these fears in me, the less they control me. On the contrary, I can now speak and write openly about these fears in the same manner as I can be open about the presence of my shadow.

Thirdly, because of the fact that I accept the existence of my shadow and the presence of my fears I do not need to use my social mask anymore.

In my case the social mask I used was the mask of the arrogant, successful businessman and I had been using it for the major part of my life. Hiding behind that social mask was a young child who wanted to please everyone by being a good boy. Carl Gustav Jung has written extensively about our shadow and our mask.

The Fourth important result of my work in the circles of men was to accept that, as a man, I have feelings. I do not only accept that I have feelings. I also know that I am allowed to identify and to show them without shame. Accepting the importance of feelings in my life enables me to listen to my gut feeling whenever I make decisions.Trusting my own feelings produces confidence and calm assertive energy. It is exactly the calm assertive energy that is needed in our non-verbal communication with dogs (and horses).

The more I could observe and accept the existence of my shadow, the presence of my fears, the use of my social mask, the more I started noticing the same symptoms in the body language of other humans.

It is obvious that the more we use a social mask and the more we pretend, the less we are real and authentic human beings. Dogs notice this immediately.

Because being real and authentic is exactly what dogs are. They never pretend. They do not have a social mask. They never lie and are always clear in their communication. Today it is my conviction that whoever wants to live with dogs has the obligation to learn how to understand them correctly. Unfortunately it is quite impossible to clearly understand dogs if we do not understand ourselves. How can we for instance correctly understand sentient beings who never pretend, when we are pretending all the time?

Living with dogs and doing my work in men’s circles allowed me to observe my own behaviour around them.

The more I got to know about myself, the better the communication became between me and my dogs, but also between me and other humans.

As I had (and still have) the opportunity to observe the behaviour of hundreds of dog loving people it dawned upon me that most of the “problems” between humans and dogs were (are) not caused by the “bad” dogs but by the unnatural behaviour of the humans. According to me we are living lives that are disconnected from nature. It means that we are disconnected from ourselves, from our fellow human beings, from animals and from the universe. We are living unconsciously. We can feel the emptiness this has created inside and we unsuccessfully try to fill that emptiness with “entertainment”.

My remedy for the “problems” between dogs and humans is not that I teach my clients how to train their dogs. No!. My remedy is to teach them how to change their behaviour. For that reason I closed my three dog training schools and stopped with what is called “dog training”.

Teaching human beings how to change their behaviour is of course much more difficult than training a dog. But it is also very satisfying.


Why is it so difficult to change our behaviour?

According to my own experience it is so difficult because most of us go into denial when somebody advises us to do something about our behaviour.

Let me give you an example.

I remember quite well how, each time my ex-wife Eva (bless her) made a remark about my behaviour I immediately went into denial. I always experienced what she said as a personal attack. Unconsciously I switched on my resistance, closed up like an oister and tried to forget what she had just said.

Today I know how well meaning she was and how she wanted to help me.

But I can also see that I was not ready to accept what she told me. Each time I went into denial and closed my eyes, my heart and my ears to her.

Today it is remarkable for me to realize how easy it is to accept what I experience in men’s circles, remembering that I denied it when Eva spoke about exactly the same things years ago. The price I had to pay for my denial and my resistance was my divorce from Eva.

Martial arts

Besides my work in circles of men, there is something else that helped me tremendously in getting to know myself. And of course it also helps me in my work with dogs and their carers.

It is my work as a student and an instructor of martial arts.

Let me explain.

First of all the practice of martial arts has nothing to do with sports.

Today sports is a global industry tainted by lots of money, corruption, hooligans, criminals, violence and drugs. Sportsmen and -women are the modern gladiators playing their part on the tv screens for the unconscious masses who want to be entertained.

As a practioner of martial arts I am not a sportsman but an artist and my first target is to transform my body into a work of art. But my ultimate goal is to transform my life into a work of art.

This is the example I am living for my companions and my pupils in the dojo.

Learning and teaching martial arts is very similar to learning and teaching how to behave correctly with dogs. It is very similar because both activities are based upon first, the oral transmission of information and second, upon following the example given by the teacher.

It is completely different from what I learned at school and at the university.

At the university we had professors who were (according to me) the most horrible and inadequate teachers. The way they behaved and spoke was something I never wanted to copy. But these (according to me) very akward and emotionally immature men had…written many books.

It were these books we had to study and to memorise. Looking back at my time as a student I see myself as a young and inexperienced parrot who replicated and reproduced what the professors had written. A good parrot got good notes and in the end an academic title. But during all the years I was a student I did not learn anything about real life and myself.

I had to wait for another 40 years before I could start discovering myself.

When I enter the home of clients for the first time they often say:”Oh, we have never seen our dogs behave like this!”

My standard answer is:”Yes, I know, their behaviour is different because I am here and they can feel my energy.” This calm ascertive energy I feel around dogs is the result of my work in men’s circles and my practice of martial arts. It is NOT the result of attending many courses in dog training.

I remember the two Greek words “gnoti seauton” from the Greek lessons in the ateneum.

I knew it signified “know yourself” but I did not understand what that was supposed to be.

Today I know that as soon as I know myself, it is impossible to have problems with my dogs, with my fellow human beings and of course…..with myself.

Thank you Andrea for inspiring me.

Love and blessings from Bruno

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