Last night, I saw an amazing blog written by an incredible person. Some of you already know her, but for those of you who don't, let me tell you a little about her.
Gabrielle Harris is an inspirational leader in the marine mammal community. She is a shining example of an experienced animal caretaker in a leadership position who has never lost sight of the animals' emotional welfare. She is a conservationalist, serving the needs of animals both in aquariums and in the wild. If you've been to an IMATA conference, you've probably seen some of her amazing presentations. Oh, and she paints like this:
But today, I had to share with you her latest post. Many of us have probably experienced someone telling us to bottle up our emotions when it came to working with animals, especially in a crisis. This is especially true as you make your way up the ladder.
THANK YOU, Gabrielle. Thank you for addressing this issue so gracefully. And thank you for letting me share your latest blog entry!
Emo Animal People
Emo Animal People
What provides liberty to do our jobs as animal trainers? The difference between what is required and what the professional industry expects, is real. When we are employed as animal keepers, we are told to leave emotion out of the equation. Or we are criticised for being too emotional. Our careers are halted because we feel too much.
Heck, many of us don't even want to go further. We just want to work with the animals. Also, there are some really good animal people out there who also make exceptional managers - and why? Because they not afraid to feel.
Problem. Promoted animal managers manage intuitively. Doing what they do and ensuring that stuff gets done - because the welfare of the animals is the cause. More than that, intuition is well developed in a good animal trainer. So they know how to feel what needs doing. And this does not seem to be the accepted management technique. So we are sent on management courses... To put us in a box and teach us to fall in line. Stop feeling.
Scientifically it is not possible to be intuitive unless you feel.
In the normal run of the mill management circles there are strict rules.
Rule number 1: Be objective - at all costs.
Rule number 2: Don't let emotions cloud your judgement.
Funny story that. Because you cannot know whether emotions are clouding your judgement unless you are feeling them and recognising them consciously. And if you don't allow yourself to feel them, you will loose touch. Not only with the people you are managing - but sadly, also with the animals you care about.
Because as any true scientist will tell you - the ability to be completely objective is impossible.
In truth - rules rob us of our ability to be true. Because we give ourselves away to rules and no longer make sound judgements. We use rules to control, so cannot feel anything except whether we are winning or losing. Competition sets in and our egos take over.
There is a better way. Just feel. This keeps you conscious. and helps you to see what needs doing. I long for the management lesson that animals teach - that it is okay to feel. Just be conscious. And work on that ability. To the point where you can truly see - so when you feel, it is just guidance as opposed to a reaction.If we have learned anything as animal trainers, it is this. Because when we are being guided we are able to move through our communication with the animals that we care about. And the reason why we do - because we care about them.
This is a picture of one of my greatest teachers. Her name is Frodo. Frodo's rule - feel and be right here, or go play in the traffic. What an honour to know and be taught by her. Over and over. Just when I think I have learned the lesson I sit in front of her and realise again that I am distracted from her when she looks at me sideways and backs away.
The ultimate Zen master(-: Just feel... And for her - the feeling is BIG LOVE AND RESPECT!