Learning how to get along can be hard work. Let’s get some perspective from the dog and cat and perhaps also satisfy our basic need for fun.
If you’re familiar with households that have both a cat and a dog, you know that pets develop their own ways of interacting. The cat may be dominant; the dog may be dominant. (Yeah, right.)
Consider the dog’s point of view. Begging for attention and the mere promise of a cookie, she’s ordered around: come, sit, stay, even roll over. Meanwhile the cat runs the house, with prime food and superior sleeping arrangements. The worst affront—the cat doesn’t even care!
The dog’s perspective is that her life would be better if the cat were different. “If the cat would only change, everything would be perfect.”
Where’s the reality therapy connection? Have you ever heard (or said)…
“If my spouse would only pay attention, everything would be better.”
“If my children would only listen, everything would be better.”
“If my boss would only smarten up, everything would be better.”
Notice any similarity to the dog’s perspective? It’s that enticing sentiment, “If somebody else would change, my life would be better.”
It’s appealing. It may even be true. If somebody else were perfect, perhaps your life would improve! If your spouse lavished you with love and attention, maybe you would have a better marriage. If your children behaved perfectly, maybe you would have a happier household. If your boss became a leader instead of a dictator, maybe work would be better. Lots of things could improve if only others would improve.
So what’s the problem? You already know, don’t you? The reality is: we can only control ourselves. The only behaviour we can change is our own. It would be so convenient if people around us would act the way we know they “should,” but that’s not what we control.
Is there any good news? Yes! We can control ourselves. We can change our own behaviour. And if we are clear about what we want, how we want to live, how we want our relationships to be, then we can choose behaviours that will at least open up the possibility of a more satisfying life.
Next time we are tempted to blame somebody else for our unhappiness and dissatisfaction, remember the dog. Wishing someone else would change is about as futile as the dog wishing that the cat would change.
“If the cat would only change, then everything would be perfect.”
It doesn’t solve anything, but maybe it’ll bring a smile. And a smile might be just enough to remind you to choose a more effective behaviour.
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