Animal Mediated Therapy- one reason it works!

Many of the young people who come to Farming Connections have had trouble making and keeping friends, getting along with others  —   including members of their own family.  It is not uncommon for people who do not feel comfortable around others to avoid looking at them directly – even when they are talking to someone.  This lack of eye contact makes it impossible for them to become good at reading the expressions and movements of others.

While one cannot go back and redo what happened in early childhood or modify genetic predispositions, it is possible to improve one’s ability to notice nonverbal cues and translate them.  Starting this communication education with animals makes it far less threatening than starting with peers or authority figures.  Animals, after all,  do not judge us they simply respond to us. Our farm teachers are quite good at letting us know how things are going.  Making a mad dash away from us is hard to miss or to misinterpret and a slobbery lick while trying to fit into your lap is equally transparent. While these behaviors are easy to read, more subtle animal speak can also be mastered.  This mastery and the accompanying self-confidence it brings can become a springboard to improvement in communication away from the farm.

Now what does that mean??

Below is an excerpt from an article that relates to how we can improve our ability to connect with others:

What do neuroscientists know about what happens in the brain when we are more “socially intelligent?”  One finding is that what one person does…exhibit empathy, for example… affects their own brain chemistry as well as the people around them. One person’s behavior “powerfully leverages the system of brain interconnectedness,” wrote Daniel Goleman and Richard Boyatzis, authors of “Social Intelligence and the Biology of Leadership” in September’s Harvard Business Review.

Scientists found the existence of “mirror neurons;” when we become aware of someone else’s emotions via his or her behaviors, our mirror neurons mimic those emotions. The neurons create an “instant sense of shared experience.

Intuition also is located in neurons called “spindle cells.” These make it possible for a super-rapid coming together of beliefs, emotions, and judgments that result in our first impressions of people we’ve just met.  It’s our social guidance system, Goleman and Boyatzis wrote.

The surprising thing to me about all this is that if you’re motivated to have more social intelligence, take heart. You can. Once you become aware that your SI quotient is low, you can  learn and practice new behaviors and thoughts, which lead to changes in emotions…”

The Eyes {sic} Have It

Just as many animals do, we humans communicate a lot of information with our eyes.   Some among us, for one reason or another,  do not pay attention to this valuable source of interpersonal information.  By not looking at another’s eyes much of what is being ‘said’ is lost.  Whether this failure to make eye contact is due to  insufficient arousal in the brain, shyness, fear, etc. ,  the bottom line is that a chance for a more complete understanding with another person or animal can’t happen without it.  In a group setting, failure to scan eyes and accompanying facial expressions can result in a real lack of understanding about what’s going on.   Those who do not routinely read the eyes of others may feel disconnected, confused and alone.  They  can be shocked by things they could have seencoming.  Being social creatures, this is a very real problem.  It is very difficult to make and keep friends without tapping into this valuable source of communication.

Working with animals and observing their nonverbal behaviors can help develop the skills needed to notice and readeye language.

In watching animals communicate with each other, clients can witness the power of what is not being spoken.  Learning something by watching others is called Observational Learning.  Now how perfect is that!100_0166100_0165