To be honest, the very last sentence of this chapter in my opinion reflects (no pun intended) very succinctly what it is all about: “The wolf chases on the outside what it feels on the inside. Nature is a mirror” (p. 129). But for the sake of learning let’s elaborate. There are a number of terms defined in this chapter that are interconnected, such as hard/sensitive dogs, emotional conductivity, Big brain/little brain, preyful/predatory aspect, to name a few. As I look through all of my highlighting and underlining and chicken-scratch in the margins, I can feel how easily overwhelmed I could get by trying to conceptualize all of this into a good summary; but I choose look at this from a big picture perspective. I’ve tried, in my own mind, to connect many of Kevin’s concepts in terms of how they seem to be associated with each other, but not necessarily placed in any particular order or hierarchy. So here goes:
Again, I am attempting to draw a connection among these terms and not so much implying that any one causes the other; but maybe there is some sort of flow to these as you start from the top and go to the bottom. Imagine the left side of terms to represent the front half of a dog and the right half to represent the back half. I’ll leave it to Kevin to correct me if I’m off base. Anyway, what we [dogs, humans, animals alike] see externally mirrors what we feel internally. The process starts here: emotion as energy is moved, or “conducted”, to ground by way of least resistance. This same energy starts from the predatory aspect/negative pole and is transferred to the preyful aspect/positive pole. He refers to the Big brain in the head and the little brain in the gut. Whether or not the big brain and little brain work together to manifest cooperative social behavior (i.e the hunt) depends on the prey-predator interaction – which in turn depends on how much resistance is in play – between two or more beings. In order for a dog to feel grounded, the little brain in the gut attempts to regulate, or “smooth,” the energy wave that connects it to the brain in the head. The big brain may process “nerve energy” while the little brain absorbs it through ingestion. This is a back and forth process that seems self-efficacious as long as the energy/emotion keeps flowing. If the two brains aren’t connected, you have a dog that is unplugged, ungrounded and resorts to pack instincts that prevent it from entering into sociable group behavior. In that case, whatever is in that dog’s surrounding in that moment is reflecting back at it what it feels inside: predatory/negative. Whereas, a dog who is connected with its prey is reflected back in kind because there is attribution to the positive within the dog. But realize the dog isn’t in control: its the prey on the outside that calls the shots.
Really, I just have a few thoughts that branch off from the meaty part of this chapter’s concepts.
Kevin talks about the animal mind as “an energy circuit” and he uses the example of an infant at one point. I think of our almost-five-month-old baby. The hunger/prey aspect of that circuit – the gut brain – is manifested by the stimulation of the this nervous system, which as a result turns into crying. As soon as we start to feed her the emotional grounding process begins as she ingests. A simple concept? Of course it is. Nonetheless, fascinating how it works and makes sense? Yes!
A distinction is made in this chapter between hard and sensitive dogs. Analogy – [hard dogs : larger prey : higher amount of grounding needed] :: [sensitive dogs : smaller prey : lower amount of grounding needed]. As a runner I can’t help but compare this to fast-twitch vs. slow-twitch muscles. As a sprinter in track you develop more fast-twitch muscles for speed whereas in cross country/distance running you develop more slow-twitch muscles to maintain endurance. If either temperament were a certain type of “twitch” muscle it might be hard is to slow-twitch as sensitive is to fast-twitch. In analyzing the twos dog s we have, I’d have to say Trace (Siberian Husky) is a hard dog: it takes a lot for him to get his drive going. He’s my “long-distance runner.” Bella (Chow-retriever) on the other hand has a lower threshold to “prey.” She is quick to attune to the bouncy bob and shiftiness of a squirrel. Just the other night we had a cricket scoot across the floor and pounce, she was on it. Bella is certainly our “sprinter.” At the same time, both dogs seem to tune into larger prey to similar degrees. However, Trace might actually be a little more driven. For instance, a few month back we went hiking in the woods and came upon a slight ridge that rose up about a quarter mile out (we’re talking Indiana here, not the Rockies). The trail bended a bit around a field of tall marshy foliage. Out of nowhere was a group of about 20 white-tail deer bounding up this ridge as we approached. I could feel the increased drive and Trace was on it first. Bella was right there with him. Of course they were both on leashes, so I had my hands full. The deer got to the top of the ridge and looked back at us from about two hundred yards. Both dogs stopped and gazed. When the deer proceeded the dogs began to pull again. It was quite serene, really. I found myself enthused, almost “one of the dogs,” more than frustrated.