Or at least I was…
And of course, this addiction is another one of the reasons losing a dog is so hard. Let me clarify and provide some suggestions for dealing with the pain of this loss.
According to Tony Robbins’s Human Needs Psychology, all humans, regardless of gender, class, race or ethnicity, experience the same six (6) fundamental needs. How we meet these needs is what makes us each unique. The needs as he explains them are as follows:
1.Certainty. Everyone has the need to feel safe and secure; certainty that you can at least be comfortable. We all want comfort. Think of certainty as the ability to avoid pain, and the ability to have pleasure.
My dogs made me feel safe & secure; they certainly comforted me and gave me pleasure. I’m betting yours did too.
2.Uncertainty. Conversely, we have a need for uncertainty. We have a need for variety. We have a need for surprise. We need stimulation. We need the unknown or we feel dead inside.
My dogs continually surprised me! In fact, I got certainty from the uncertainty (variety) they provided!
3.Significance. We all have a need to feel significant, to feel important, to feel special, to feel unique. These are all code words for significance.
My dogs made me feel like I was the greatest ‘mom’ in the world! I felt adored in fact. And my dogs garnered so much attention from others that I gleaned significance from them in that regard as well.
4.Love/Connection. This doesn’t need much explanation, right? We all want at least connection with others and if we have the courage to admit, we want love as well.
Again, this doesn’t really need explanation. I never received such pure unconditional love – love with no judgment attached – as I did from my dogs.
5.Growth. You must grow. In fact, if you don’t grow, you die. Everything in the universe is either growing or dying – there is no third alternative. People are not spiritually satisfied unless their capacities are expanding.
So many things I learned from my dogs! I grew in my capacity to forgive and to love. I grew in my ability to appreciate the little things in life. I grew in my knowledge of behavior and nutrition. I grew spiritually from the experiences I had with my dogs.
6.Contribution. You must contribute beyond yourself because life is about more than just you. All of us know there were times when you did something just because it was right and it felt so incredible inside. And you didn’t have to tell anybody. You felt it.
I contributed by giving two rescue dogs a stable, loving forever home; by making financial and time donations because of them. I’ve contributed by spreading awareness about needs of rescue organizations, as well as awareness about senior dog rescue.
And these are just some of the ways my needs were met by my dogs! Tony Robbins says if something or someone meets three or more of our needs, we become addicted to it. My dogs met ALL SIX of my needs! Do you think I was addicted? You bet I was! And this was one of the reasons the losses were so devastating. I’m betting you could tell a similar story.
So. What to do about it? Does addiction mean the intensity of the pain is doomed to last forever?
Fortunately, no. The suggestions I have for you won’t make you stop loving your dog or missing your dog or feeling terrible for some period of time. But, knowing how to find ways to consciously meet your needs in other ways will help.
The most helpful strategy is to find ways to meet all of your needs yourself, regardless of whether you have other dogs, pets, spouses, children, friends, etc. You see, when you make someone else responsible for meeting your needs, be that someone else two-legged or four, you give away your power and place an unfair burden on the other. (Our needs might also be met from our work, a group we belong to, etc, but those are still things outside of ourselves.)
Then when something ‘happens’ (your dog dies, a spouse leaves, a job ends), we’re lost; devastated. Our life completely crashes, because we relied on the other for so much of our well-being.
Now, I’m not saying that a loss won’t be deeply felt even when you are able to meet all your needs without relying on anyone else. But, what can happen is that your recovery is easier; you can bounce back a little faster, because your needs are still being met despite the loss. There will still be a void, but it will be felt differently.
If you can see that like me, you were “addicted” and are really hurting as a result, there’s a 2-step process you can take that can help facilitate your healing. Again, this strategy won’t eliminate your sorrow, but it can help, if you’ll let it.
Step 1 is to redefine the way you meet your needs.
Step 2 is to focus on or give attention to the “new” way when you find yourself hurting.
Let me illustrate.
A new way I choose to meet my need for certainty is to trust in the Divine. You might call it God, or the Universe or your soul/spirit. You might meet your need for certainty through knowing that the sun will indeed come up tomorrow, through a positive outlook or past experiences of resilience. You can meet it through something like exercise if, for example, you are certain that you will feel good when you get out and move. There are countless ways to meet this and all your needs!
That was an example of Step 1 – coming up with alternative ways to meet a need.
Step 2 is simply reminding yourself of how you meet your needs and actively doing so.
So when I’m hurting, I might remind myself that God is on my side and loves me. I can take time to pray and bring myself peace through prayer. Or I can go exercise and get that good feeling from being active, like I do from yoga.
I invite you to go through each of the six needs and come up with ways that you might meet them that don’t rely on anyone other than yourself. Make a list of these ways and take a few minutes each day to make sure you are doing so, that is, putting them into practice.
If you are having difficulty, reach out and let me know!