What's the value in using a vague term such as energy?

“But one wonders what the reason is to use a vague term like “energy” when you mean arousal or excitement or anxiety? For instance, there is a BIG difference between a dog barking out of arousal and one barking out of anxiety. Since you wouldn’t deal with both situations in the same way, why would you use the same label for the motivation? They are different. Why not be specific? Is there some value in NOT naming the actual emotion in charge?”

The value in not naming the “actual” emotion is that there is in fact only one emotion, a dull, monolithic force of attraction, and with this CORRECT definition in hand one is able to reverse engineer what’s going on within the dog’s mind because knowing the answer, i.e. the dog is feeling attracted, even an anxious dog, makes it possible to deconstruct a complex state of consciousness into its underlying components. (Imagine how confused our view of nature would be if we mischaracterized all of the phenomena related to electromagnetism as being different phenomenon each with its own definition, as opposed to each one being a different manifestation of one underlying phenomenon?)

Paradoxically, the seemingly simple term of energy is the only way to arrive at a precise definition. Meanwhile the behavioral scientists will say that they’re only looking at the behavior, but then they do in fact invent a psychology in order to ascertain a motive as they attempt to say something meaningful about the variations and nuances of what they’re observing. So when a dog is described as being excited or anxious as if these are fundamentally different emotions, this will only lead to a psychology because it immutably invokes the question, why is the dog excited, what is the reason that drives its state of excitement, what is it that is making the dog anxious and why? We are assuming that the dog is doing something for a reason, due to a cause that renders an effect, i.e. the dog is thinking and this would be like asking of electricity; what is the reason for a lightening bolt running to ground?

So, there is only one emotion and it arises from the confluence of the basic systems of hunger and balance and if one wants to tune the specific value of a stimulus so that a dog changes its mind about the emotional value of any given stimulus so that its perception and subsequent response ends up being to everyone’s mutual benefit, most especially a dog having to live in human society, then one can learn to fiddle with the hunger relative to the balance ratio in order to turn anxiety into excitement and excitement back into arousal. This is an important distinction to make because arousal can be satisfied whereas EXCITEMENT AND ANXIETY as excitement or anxiety cannot because each is, in their own complementary way, a specific manifestation of ungrounded energy. In both cases, there is more energy being generated by the Big-Brain in the head than can be grounded in the little-brain-in-the-gut. Excitement is an attempt to dump this energy by expressing it via externalized body actions, whereas anxiety is an internalizing of this energy in order to prevent bodily vibrations because that invokes even more fear of exposure (i.e. more activation of the balance circuitry). The internalization of ungrounded energy in a state of anxiety is like the reverberations of an echo, which can cascade on and on in the brain like ripples of waves interfering with each other, the mental facsimile of an epileptic seizure. So both conditions are too much energy for the available behavior, but at least excitement is an externalizing of energy and which feels so much better which is why an excited dog looks “happy.” Then again, if that energy doesn’t get to consummation, the excited dog is left holding a hot potato just as surely as the anxious dog.

Therefore from my point of view naming something as arousal, excitement or anxiety is not particularly specific because it misses the specifics as to how a simple state of emotion refracts into so many manifestations via the process of temperament that thereby forms the dog’s mind. While knowing a reason is interesting, for example this particular dog was bitten by a black lab as a puppy and so is now anxious around black labs, once one knows how these various states work energetically, the reasons are not particularly relevant since the cure is always energy running to ground. Once we understand that behavior is an expression of energy, and that the universal motive for emotion is energy that wants to “run to ground” with no reason or intention whatsoever, we are granted access to the inner workings of the dog’s mind. That’s the value.

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Published March 16, 2010 by Kevin Behan
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16 responses to “What's the value in using a vague term such as energy?”

  1. kbehan says:

    Thanks Burl, his work looks intriguing. I look forward to the reading.

  2. Christine says:

    Hey Kevin, I wanted to clarify a few of the comments that I made during the phone conference (not that it matters greatly, just as an FYI). Re:Diva, when you asked how she reacts to the other 2 when she’s crated. In fact she does bark and jump at them, but she’s rarely confined in her crate so I wasn’t thinking in context (I guess). When I first adopted her she was crated at night and when we got up in the morning she would be almost screaming at the boys until I let her out. Then she would bite at their scruff. She would behave in a similar fashion when I get home from work: they are kenneled outside and she would scream bark at them and jump on them, biting their scruff. Diva is not as adamant in this behavior now, she has calmed down quite a bit but it is still there. She still will body-block them to keep them away from the couch when I’m sitting there and she used to ‘tattle’ on Duncan when he’d get up on the couch when I was in another room out-of-sight. I don’t think she’s ever bothered Bodie for getting on the couch.
    At any rate, the actual question I have is about energy. When I’m eating (and you should know, unless I’m at the table, I sometimes share my food with them)they all gathering round waiting for a tidbit. Duncan is very polite and won’t remind me that he’s waiting and Bodie is getting better at waiting also. Diva, on the other hand, will wait for only so long and then she will gently bump me with her nose and sit back expectantly; sometimes she will yip when I don’t give her something soon enough. At that point I will give her a ‘hard stare’ and she will settle herself into a sit again. I know this is the “long way ’round the barn” but the question is coming….how would you explain her behavior using your energy model? At first glance it looks as if she is asking politely (you should see her sweet face!) and I know that’s anthropomorphizing but that is how it looks.
    I know you’re busy with your book and work so I’m not looking for a quick response….when you can get to it will be fine! Thanks a bunch.

  3. Christine says:

    BTW, I appreciate the simplicity and beauty of your closing statement, “…we are granted access to the inner workings of the dog’s mind. That’s the value.”

  4. Christine says:

    Heather, I’m thinkin’ on how to get the best vid clip of the puppers howling….I’m thinking that if I can manage to get them to howl outside, it will make an interesting/entertaining clip. As soon as I get something worth sharing I’ll post it!

  5. kbehan says:

    That friction over the crate makes more sense now, so for Diva it is a power place from which she is safe to express deep energy and when Duncan was in crate, she feels cut off from her source, if as I recall you said she stands there glowering at him in the crate (mirroring you with the “hard stare” at the table) when you are at the computer. Likewise when she’s at the dinner table and you are enjoying yourself, she feels cut off from her source. Diva must be reflecting a judgment you hold perhaps something to the effect of “one must be pushy to get what one wants,” and which is then masked by a “sweet” personality as a defensive measure. The triggering by Diva of a physical memory within you is what’s happening, around which she’s aligning, and which makes you think she’s thinking. The judgment is the thought that caused that physical memory and this is then being triggered by Diva at the dinner table. Remember, thinking IS the box.

  6. Christine says:

    Yep, I can be obtrusive when I want something; it’s not intentional (i.e. I’m not ‘thinking’ that I want to intrude it just is). Kind of like speaking without thinking or things come out of my mouth before I realize they are in my head-Yikes! And I try very hard to be a ‘nice person’ to compensate (overcompensate?) for all of my impulsiveness.
    So is the ‘hard-stare’ unnecessary? Is it better to just ignore their begging and let them decide on their own to settle and wait?
    I’ve tried so hard all my life to get in the box and stay there because so much of who I am and what I do is very much impulsive or ‘in the moment’. I suppose some might say ‘reactive’. Ah well!
    I guess I’m lost as to what the memory is that Diva’s triggering as well as the ‘source’ you refer to. Some clarification would be soooo gratifying!

  7. kbehan says:

    When you were very, very young, before you understood Time and cause and effect, and I’m assuming that you have a strong nature by virtue of your dogs and your capacity to be open, you trusted in the power of wanting. However, because you had a strong nature, your wanting got you in trouble. And because you were not yet intellectually developed to see the overall picture in terms of our human world of time, you thought that you were at fault and thereby learned that the pure act of wanting was the source of the problem rather than whatever judgment was being imposed on you before you were intellectually developed enough to consciously assess the validity of such a judgment. And so you, like all of us in one way or another, learned that wanting was dangerous. To protect ourselves, we then develop a personality and we surround the pure state of wanting with judgments so that we can want indirectly, and present a pleasing/controlling facade to the world so that we won’t get in trouble as we pursue what we want. So ones’ dog then acts out the internal contradictions to all this in order to bring our lack of trust to our attention. They don’t know they’re doing this, they’re merely aligning around our internal disquiet, the vibration of our emotional battery. The stirring of your battery is happening when Diva’s eyes bear down on you and then you see in her eyes the pleasing facade which is the judgment that one must be pleasing to get what they want, even though people use this to push in and take what is not theirs. So when you are enjoying your meal and Diva presses in, her behavior is acting out the judgment against enjoying something for the sheer pleasure of enjoyment. “There’s not enough, one has to share what they want in order to be deserving of getting what they want.” Yes, just ignore her, don’t try to buy her trust with food that is not for her, and if she gets intrusive don’t do a hard stare because that is only downloading more of that judgment into her memory bank. Just tell her as your guilt reflection to leave you alone. It’s not her job anymore to remind you of the judgment that you can’t have what you want just because you want it. If that makes you feel bad, unloving or uncaring, that is good, that is the channel-to-wanting that you cut off as a child in order to protect yourself. If you reclaim that feeling by experiencing it in its totality, and there can be great pain and grief behind all that, you are getting your Will back, increasing your emotional mass, your capacity to bend time and space so that it conforms to the strength of your desire. And your dogs will feel more connected to you.

  8. Christine says:

    Yep, I’ve always had difficulty with Time and I’ve always had boundary issues (i.e. being too pestiferous or too defensive).

    It’s a hard-scrabble, that’s for sure. I also seem to keep redoing the same emotional work. Hopefully, this time it will stick! That’s probably why the 3 are necessary ….. hmmmmm …. an upcoming tripole moment? lol

  9. Christine says:

    Just as an adjunct, when I was 4-years old I went head-to-head with my father; I wanted to go with him on the truck and he said no. I really wanted to go and he really didn’t want me to so I got a spanking but when he walked away I sassed him so he came back and spanked me again. This scenario repeated until my father finally gave up and walked away. I didn’t get to go on the truck with him. So perhaps that was the ‘start point’because I surely did not understand why I couldn’t go with him.

  10. Heather says:

    I ran across this and I thought, hey, I resemble that remark 🙂


  11. kbehan says:

    That sounds right. As kids we’re not equipped to question our parents judgment so we internalize what we can’t externalize verbally and therefore assume their judgment. Your pressing in on your father affected him exactly the way Diva’s pressing in on you affects you, only now you deal with it in the equal but opposite way, guilt, of your father. Your father’s anger is internalized in you as guilt, but expressed by the dogs toward each other as what it really is, anger.

  12. kbehan says:

    That article is correct but they have it backwards. It’s not what the people project on the dog, it’s what the dog picks up in the people. This then manifests as its personality and behavior which then attracts the peoples projection as in some end up aligning with this dog and then identifying with that dog, and vice versa for another in the family.

  13. Heather says:

    My poor dog!

  14. […] Hopefully I’ve been able to clarify the Emotion of your dog.  I’ve mentioned a couple of other things here that will require further explanation, (Such as “Flow”) but we’ll get there.  I want to  a link to Kevin Behans post that talks about energy.  http://naturaldogtraining.com/frequently-asked-questions/whats-the-value-in-using-a-vague-term-such-… […]

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Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan

In Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
  Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.
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