Sometimes when I don’t give my cat Charlie what he thinks he needs in terms of companionship/recognition, independence/autonomy, or safety/security, he snarls at me. He meows repeatedly and loudly, he rubs against my legs, he whines and demands. And although I occasionally find it annoying or bothersome, for the most part I usually find his behavior charming. Natural. Often a smile comes to my face as I recognize what he’s telling me.
Not so with people. When people complain that I haven’t spent enough time with them, or that I’m being too controlling, or that I haven’t been protective or supportive enough, I usually get defensive and reactive.
Why the difference?
Aren’t we all animals? Don’t we all have 3 basic needs for companionship/love/approval, control of our environment/autonomy/respect; and safety/security/certainty? Aren’t they all inherent/instinctual within us? And don’t we all get anxious, angry, panicked and/or shamed when these needs aren’t met?
So why is it so hard for me to stay curious about the behavior of a dear friend, a lover, a colleague or a partner rather than judge and/or shame their behavior? Why is it so hard to wonder what it is that they’re really trying to tell me? Why is it so hard to smile and appreciate that they might just be acting exactly like someone who isn’t getting one of their basic needs met?
Why am I instead tempted to label their behavior as someone dominant inType _ who’s functioning at a lower level of development? Where’s my compassion? My heart? My willingness to see another in the fullness of their humanity rather than as someone I can label and find reason for their “less than acceptable” behavior?
Where’s my curiosity? My discipline to sustain curiosity?