Originally posted on Animal Quills.
In my own experience, very few children take responsibility for their actions when angry.
“He hit me first!”
“He called me a sissy!”
Thankfully, most children grow to learn how to take responsibility for how they express their emotions. Anger and frustration are natural defensive responses to a situation like being pushed around. Violence, however, is a choice. Self awareness – the ability to step back and examine our own thoughts as they happen – affords us the ability to choose how we will respond to our own emotions. This could very well be the very definition of the term responsibility (response-ability).
Some, however, do not learn this valuable lesson. Some go through life a slave to their emotional responses and the ideas of what they’re supposed to do with them. If they are angry with something, they hurt it. If they are afraid of something, they either run from it or fight it. If they desire something (or someone), then they pursue it. I can recall a number of instances in which larger classmates, after having beaten me silly, blamed me. If I hadn’t talked back to them, you see, they wouldn’t have had to hurt me. That’s the universal cry of the bully. “It’s your own fault.”
Learning this lesson takes time, however, and some self-exploration. One has to think about the roots of one’s actions and emotions, and learn why they responded as they did.
“Why did I punch him, knowing he would beat me senseless?”
“Because he was laughing at me.”
“Why not simply walk away?”
“People were watching and laughing. I didn’t want them to think I was weak.”
“Why do we care what they think?”
“Because I have to care. If I don’t stand tall, they’ll ALL laugh then.”
“So this is about pride…”
“Hey! If you don’t have pride, you’re nothing! I have to defend my image!”
(and so on and so on…)
It is not entirely surprising, then, that some animal people, upon encountering their animal aspects, erroniously believe that their animals are to blame for their emotional responses. Animals, after all, have a reputation for passionate responses to threats, dangers, or hungers. Animals are seen as wild and free, and believed to do whatever they like, responding to everything by instinct. Having an “animal nature” can offer up a temptingly quick and simple explanation (or excuse) for one’s emotional actions. It takes time to look past the “inner animal” for other explanations, and not everyone is ready to do it very readily.
It can be especially confusing when one first encounters their animal aspect as a child. Now, I can not speak for anyone else, but I know that I, myself, have always been more aware of my animal when I was feeling very emotional. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because strong emotions – especially “fight or flight” emotions – intensify awareness. When I was bullied, it often felt as though the bear seemed to leap up out of somewhere deep inside me when I was pushed around, and I reacted by clawing and growling. It’s a simple step from that perception to thinking that the bear was responsible for what I did. “It leaped out and took over.”
I think that I may have originally feared “the beast” because I thought she was “making me fight.” I was supposedly acting like an animal because of her. I pushed her away, mentally locking her in an imaginary cage and trapping her deep inside, because I wanted it to stop. That may have been the very beginnings of my own lessons in emotional responsibility.
I can look back now, of course, and realize that the bear was always there. She and I are one. I simply became more aware of her – and every other part of me – as I became angry. I chose the violent response to the situation, myself. The presence of the bear only meant that I clawed instead of punched and growled instead of yelled. I can easily imagine, then, that other animal people draw similar conclusions.
These days, after so much time exploring my image of “Mama Bear” and I, I’ve come to see us as essentially strong, both physically and emotionally. Strong enough to stand against the flood of our emotions. Strong enough to be able to choose to walk away. I have a strong sense of my own “response-ability.”
…But I can only speak for myself.