Flow Around

April 3, 2010


This is an old post from when we were first starting to find success with the Constructional Aggression Treatment as a method for rehabilitating aggressive dogs. 

The Momentary Mentor: Flow Around 9/2/06

A rather surprising thing has begun to happen in my life.  The things I’ve worked hard to achieve are coming to fruition.  It’s amazing, incredible, exciting!  My education, career and family are all coming along beautifully.  Hard work, sacrifice and persistence do eventually pay off. 

I would be able to say it couldn’t be better but for one disconcerting result of my fledgling professional success.  It’s pissing people off.

But it turns out that’s okay.    

I never set out to be in competition with anyone and it came as a complete surprise that some people want to spar.  I mostly like sorting out problems.  I have been interested in aggression in animals as well as humans for a long time, and the opportunity to help Jesus Rosales-Ruiz develop an aggression treatment procedure that also reveals some heretofore unrealized facts about behavior is an amazing experience. 

But what makes it even better is when other people take the procedure and use it in their work in creative and innovative ways, developing it, making it even better.  When people send me emails or call with news of their latest success, it is the absolute best thing ever!  What could be better than doing work that people can actually use successfully to make the world a better place?  In my view, that’s the ultimate success story.

And yet there are people who aren’t happy that we’re working with canine aggression, and they’re even less happy that we’re telling the world about it. 

That’s okay.

When we first began this research, I was just plain excited about it and talked about it a lot.  People soon began to criticize what we’re doing without knowing much about it.  How maddening!  But once I sat down and thought it through, I realized that many of these folks have been getting their reinforcers from working with aggression for a long time.  Many of them are darned good at it.  I’m the new kid on the block.  They deserve what they’ve worked to achieve.  I must still earn their respect if I’m to ever have it.  And maybe I won’t.  Others are struggling to make a name in the highly competitive world of dog training and animal behavior.  They see me as a challenge.

And that’s okay, too.  The thing is, I’m not competing.  If I have my way, they will become as successful as they are willing to work to become.

When I realized that even when someone is being unkind or even threatening, it’s still just behavior under the influence of the environment, it became easier to take.  It became much more natural to step back and look at things reasonably rather than taking everything personally.  It’s still not fun to receive criticism or to hear about it second hand.  But it is a different experience now than before I understood what they are working for.  From their perspectives other peoples’ successes in their field puts their access to their reinforcers in jeopardy. 

 When one person approached me, almost daring me to try to convince a certain group of highly experienced experts that our procedure was better than what they are doing, I realized that convincing people who don’t want to be convinced is not what I’m in this work for.  If they don’t want to be convinced, nothing I can show them is going to change their minds. 

As soon as I realized that, things began to get better for me, fast.  It wasn’t anything psychic or an intervention from the mystic collective unconscious or anything like that.  It was a simple change of focus.  Who does want to learn about our procedure?  Who needs it?  Who is willing to give it a fair shot at success?  That simple change of focus brought me new clients, new speaking opportunities, more professional options, and much less worry. 

I’m doing this work because I want a career where I can help people and animals.  A few paragraphs ago when I wrote how excited I get when people take our research and use it in the real world?  That’s where my reinforcers come from.  Not in breaking through to people who don’t want to be convinced.  So I stopped trying to convince them and went where there was no resistance. 

There are an estimated 4.7 million dog bites in this country each year according to the National Centers for Disease Control.  There are plenty of aggressive dogs to go around.  I don’t have to fight the current experts for the same dogs they’re working with.  That will just mean I’m fighting, fighting, fighting all the time, and that won’t get me any closer to the reinforcers I value.  What I have to do is find the people who care about some dogs’ behavior, who are looking for answers, and show them that I can do something to help. 

It turns out that’s as easy as water flowing down a stream. 

The first time I told this story, it turned into a parable.  In the two weeks since I first told it, I’ve found the opportunity to tell it several times.  In every case the listener has told me it made a difference.  I hope it will make a difference for you.  If not, just keep it stored away.  There may come a time when you can use it. 

Trying to convince those who are fighting not to be convinced is like water trying to flow through a stone.  The stone is strong and valuable on the Earth, but it is stone.  Instead of trying to penetrate stone, flow around.  In a hundred years the stone will still be strong and stationary, perhaps worn down a little on the side where the water has flowed around it, but still a stone.  But the water will be miles away, far along on its journey, transformed by the plants and animals that drink it, part of the clouds above it, part of the earth below it.    

If you come across people in your life who fight or resist you as you try to be everything you can be, honor them in those things for which they deserve honor.  Then flow around.

This is a rock.  I am water.  Flow around.

Kellie Snider

Copyright 2006

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2 Responses to “Flow Around”

  1. Laurel Says:

    Thank you Kellie, I SO needed this today, a few rocks have been thrown on the path this week, I will allow myself to flow around them, it did help to think of it in those terms! thank you.


  2. You’re so welcomed. I’m glad it helped. It comes up again and again, and it can be really powerful to go with the path of least resistance!


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