Well Intentioned but Slightly Misled…Dog

We have a highly exuberant dog whose maniacal barking got out of control. Nothing we tried was helping, so we bought one of those citronella collars that squirts her on the chin when she barks. When she had it on for the first time, she did not make the connection that it was her barking that caused the squirting. Instead, she concluded that being on the floor was the problem, so she joyfully jumped from chair to chair, trying to make sure her feet never hit the floor. She looked incredibly proud of herself for having solved this challenging puzzle.
If you came from a difficult childhood, you may have employed equally bizarre (and creative) strategies to avoid painful experiences. They may have made sense to you at the time, because they were the ideas of a hurt child, and you were working with what you had. And these defenses got you through your childhood intact, so they worked, no matter how strange they may seem now.
If you grew up in an abusive household, the rules of the household were probably just as insane as the idea that a dog would get squirted for standing on the floor. Rules in abusive families make no sense, just as abusing a child makes no sense. So, you develop strategies that only apply to the crazy situation you grew up in, but that are bizarre in the non-abusive world.
When you leave your abusive home and enter the world beyond it, some coping strategies become a hindrance. Recognizing the outmoded protective strategies is the first step in changing them. Understanding how they protected you is very important, and learning new ways to protect yourself is crucial. As always, being slow and gentle with yourself is the best approach. Eventually, you will have enough new strategies, so that the old ones won’t be necessary any more.

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