I recently read an intriguing new book by Amy Sutherland: What Shamu Taught Me about Life, Love and Marriage. Sutherland talks about the new generation of animal trainers, particularly trainers of exotic animals. She becomes fascinated with how the ideas which motivate these animal trainers are helpful not just to those who work with animals but to all of us as we maneuver throughout the challenges of our own relationships. Her book inspired -- at least in part -- this posting.
Perhaps these thought are just too out of the ordinary for the therapeutic professions, and also for many who play the political game on its various levels, but in the field of animal training it seems to be becoming commonplace.
That is (I am using my own words and understandings here):
- Our work is not at all one of getting rid of undesirable behaviour, thinking, attitudes, etc.
- Our work is about assisting in bringing to life the person’s/animal’s natural desires and vitality into movements of relationship and ways of life which promotes the well being of all concerned.
- Our work is not the work of violence which the therapeutic domain has become accustomed to – that of identifying evils which, in turn, must be torn away.
- Our work is one of creation. Joint creation! Creating ways of life, being, becoming, relationship which are desirable and enhancing of the Alive within the varied relations which make up our world.
And, regarding the way we engage in this practice:
- This work is not primarily a work of words, not even primarily a work of relations between the givers of words. This work is about bodies which communicate, and words are connected to bodies which communicate. The responsivity of bodies to each other within a living moment of mutual engagement is the context whereby desired goods/gifts are brought further into the realm of life.
- This work is not primarily about the relationship between a practitioner/trainer and the one she/he is working with. This work is about community, it is about complexity, it is about the responses of many bodies to each other. If we have any influence at all, it is somehow within this communal realm (granted, it is possible that the communal can be awoken and influenced through one-on-one interactions).