Wiley's Wisdom

Joy: From the Ground Up

The Underpants Trick July 24, 2013

It’s absurd really. But I’ve heard there’s this trick to help people feel less scared of public speaking. Apparently the secret to quelling the fear is for the speaker to picture the audience in their underpants. Or (worse yet) naked. As a thinker of the canine variety, you can imagine my confusion at this alleged psychological strategy. In general, us dogs do wander around naked after all. And I know public speaking is among the most common of people fears, but that too is a head scratcher to me.

All things tangible are among a dog’s greatest fears.Standing Strong Sure, we have our obvious emotional fears – the greatest of which is losing our beloved people. Beyond that, it’s physical things we can touch and feel we fear most. I used to fear people hands and the damage they can do. And leather belts. And going hungry.

I know it’s different for people. It’s my understanding that public speaking is among the most common people fears, right along with fear of the unknown, fear of the future, and fear of change. Fear. In itself its a scary thing. And powerful in all the wrong ways. It can be debilitating, and (worst of all) it is incredibly contagious. So it’s safe to say I fear fear. I live and breathe the words of American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt who challenged “the only thing to fear is fear itself.”

I know its easier said than done, but I think there is something to be said for taking on this philosophy. With heavy hitter fears like fear of the unknown knocking at our psyches, it’s no wonder times are scary. But even in the most uncertain of times, one thing is certain. Change is imminent. The future will come. And it will bring with it the unknown.

Sadly, even picturing the people around you in their underpants (or naked) won’t change these truths. One hundred years can pass and these same basic fears will remain. But its not hopeless. I no longer fear people hands, leather belts, or going hungry because I’ve made the conscious decision not to fear fear. Fear will not be the master of me. Instead, I find comfort in knowing that some things will never change. Sure, the future is scary. The unknown can feel like a rickety bridge over the grand canyon when all you can see is fog. Change isn’t anyone’s favorite thing. But faith is the antidote to fear.

As Lebanese writer Khalil Gibran suggested, “doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.” I know it looks different to everyone, but faith in its simplest form is even more powerful than the negativity of fear. It is unchanging, steady, and offers a light powerful enough to clear the fog away from the bridge. Forget the underpants trick. I’d rather have faith.


Learning to Live February 10, 2013

Influential psychotherapist Carl Jung would have classified me as an extrovert for sure. Known best for his personality theories, Jung’s works dug to the core of the human psyche to piece together its innermost workings.

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings,” Jung wrote. “The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.”Learning to Live

I was thinking today about how far I’ve come since my adoptive parents rescued me from the humane society two and a half years ago. The clearance dog that I was, I know my doggie adoption profile featured me as one of those difficult fixer-upper kind of dogs. There were a lot of references to me being a “really loving boy who really just needs some tender loving care” or something like that. Which (let’s face it) basically meant my new owners would have their hands full.

I was sent home from the shelter with what they called a “care package” that primarily included little doggie diapers because apparently I had such a potty problem in my previous adoptive home. My new adoptive parents were required to take me to see an animal behaviorist prior to adopting me because I was such a “problem” dog. The only trick I knew then was sit. So you can imagine my internal victory when the behaviorist told them some magical news that day. “He’s really smart,” she said. “I don’t know why the folks at the shelter would think he needs to see a behaviorist.” Halleluiah! A human who saw something in me, believed in me.

It’s amazing what a little faith in character can do for a relationship. I knew at first sight I could trust my forever mom and dad, for example. And as much as I hopelessly long to speak people, my adoptive mom and I communicate pretty well with each other. I would argue this is because the Jungian warmth we gain from our mutual affection.

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists,” said great American author John Steinbeck. “Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.”

I know I’m incredibly biased, but I see my mom as one heck of an artist in the tapestry of my life. She has patiently (and tirelessly) taught me numerous tricks (with a little help from treats), like lay down, rollover, play dead, and (my own personal favorite) high five. I’ve never once needed my doggie diapers since I’ve been living in my forever home. And first visit to the behaviorist was also my last.

But by no means does that mean I’ve stopped learning. It is a rare occasion, but today I shall disagree with fellow transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau in his thought that “it is only when we forget all our learning that we begin to know.”

Rather, living is learning. I rarely go a day without experiencing something new, which I welcome into my life as part of my personality. Perhaps it’s the extrovert in me, but (on this one at least) I side with stoic Roman philosopher Lucius Anneaus Seneca, who said “as long as you live, keep learning how to live.”