Full disclosure and legal disclaimer: I’m not a pet person. I’ve never been a dog owner, don’t have cats, and don’t understand what having pets around the house is all about. The most Iâ€™ve tolerated was allowing the kids to have hamsters and gerbils during their tender formative years—partly because those critters tend to have a limited lifespan and so become good opportunities to teach the kids “first lessons” about death. My opinion about dog owners has not been helped by my experience of them on walking trails or jogging lanes, but that’s a rant for another day.
Given that attitude you can understand how puzzled my family is that I’m such a fan of Cesar Milan, “The Dog Whisperer.” Milan has a TV show on the National Geographic channel that I try to catch as often as I can–even the repeats. My kids don’t get my behavior. The typical exchange goes like this:
“Dad, why do you watch that show? You don’t even let us have a cat!”
“I love this guy! He’s great!”
“But you don’t even like dogs!”
“It’s not about the dogs.”
You can appreciate how much I like the show by the fact that, despite that typical exchange, the kids got me the complete first season of the show on DVD for Christmas! Milan’s program provides some of the best examples of “emotional process” I’ve seen. I don’t think Milan knows much about Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST), but he understands emotional process better than a lot of folks who’ve been studying the theory for years. He has the ability to tap instantly into the emotional field of whatever home he enters where there is a troubling dog and bring about change. But that change has more to do with changing how the dog owner (the “leader”) functions than about trying to change the dog’s behavior. It really is quite amazing to watch the process and to watch him work. (Our favorite segment of the program is those occasions when Milan has to bring a recalcitrant dog into his kennel to “meet the pack.” It involves introducing the acting out dog into a large area with about fifty dogs! It’s quite a sight to see how quickly a dog’s self-regulation is facilitated when you change the emotional field, and when thereâ€™s a bona fide â€œpack leaderâ€ present.).
Attached is a little think piece on Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, and the emotional process of leadership: Leadership Lessons from the Dog Whisperer. Iâ€™ve thought of doing a presentation on this on and off, but havenâ€™t quite figured out how to do it. To really appreciate Milanâ€™s work with the emotional field phenomenon, and its power to influence functioning, you have to see it in action. I hope you’ll watch his TV program, (You can see some clips here) it’s a great teaching tool for learning emotional process–one of the hardest concepts of BFST to “get.”
“The pack leader doesnâ€™t project emotional or nervous energy and neither should you.” Cesar Milan.
Date posted: Monday, May 14th, 2007 9:45 am | Under category: bowen family systems theory, handouts
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