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Socialising. Tuesday June 13, 2017

I have worked as a volunteer with rescue dogs for many years. Times have changed a lot. At one time it was all about basic care, feeding, bathing, walking, kennel cleaning.

Then came the importance of helping dogs, who were often traumatised by abuse, to relax with people, play, learn some commands. Volunteers were encouraged to get the dogs to socialise.

I find they fall into a few groups. Some come bounding out, totally engrossed in the sights sounds and smells around them, never give me a glance. I could be anyone, it's just great to be out and about. They hate being taken back to their kennel.

Others cower, refuse to come out at all, pee themselves, refuse treats. They will need one to one help, often for weeks, before they venture out.

Then there are the ones who are rather reluctant at first, but get into the swing of it, maybe chase a ball, give me a kiss, have a little romp. Then, next thing they are at the gate, scratching frantically. On goes the lead, and they pull me at great speed back to the kennel, joyfully curling up in their blankie.

Guess which one I relate to?

When invitations arrive, I don't feel a rush of pleasurable anticipation, on the other hand I don't actually pee myself. Sometimes I get irritated by the sheer persistence of some people, annual inviations to gatherings I have never attended. It is hard not to think they do it deliberately, some passive aggressive thing, forcing my excuses to become increasingly bizarre.

Even when I really like the people involved, as the day approaches I feel apprehensive. Sometimes I wish they will have to cancel, so I can get out of it without feeling guilty.

This does not mean I am a shrinking violet though. Once I get there, I can work a room with the best of them, especially with a few drinks inside me. People seek me out, I have been described as the life and soul, which probably means I have opened my big gob and said outrageous things. I feel I have done my bit, turned up, brought wine and flowers, and genuinely enjoyed myself.until...

I picture my kennel, my blankie waiting for me. Then come the consequences - a couple of days of feeling drained and disorientated. Conversations will be replayed, the moods of those I have met will have left a mark on me. A few days later I will usually have a crashing migraine.

"Experts" tell us that friends and relatives, a social network, are as essential to good physical and mental health as a good diet. It is now being said that dementia can be brought on by living an introverted life style. What about those of us who like to keep a bit of distance, dislike crowds, noise, cope with company in small doses? Or when most of your family have died, and you weren't too keen on them when they were still alive?

When you rarely make the effort to see old friends, why seek new ones?

What type of doggie are you when it's time to socialise?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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The woman whose feet don't touch th Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 6:40am

Last night I met a friend who had retired 4 months ago and may move away. It was lovely to see her - I thought though it would be that all life was easy for her. But she also had quite difficult decisions to make. It made me realise it was important and good for her to socialise too. It was a lovely evening and only 2 hours to take out of a day, which I think I will remember for a long time.

Thank you for writing an interesting blog I can see dogs bounding out of kennels in my minds eye.

LP Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 6:54am

Hi Valerie,
I think I also am an in betweenie. I too like being out and doing things, but find the planning off putting.
Someone once described that social "dread" of invitations so well by saying "She's got that hunted expression on!". I have found it really hard to commit to some things, not knowing how I'll be feeling on the day, but people seem to need to know and make arrangements.

I agree some people are SO persistent. It's lovely of them to think of me, a bit flattering even, but I often wonder if they are really thinking of themselves, they want something from me?
The company to go and do what THEY want to do when it's really not my thing.
Or to make up numbers, cynical I know.
Or worst of all, to sell tickets they want to get rid of!!! I've been caught off guard with hard sell type pressure in the past, leaving me feeling resentful and guilty at the same time!
These "friends" are quite strong personalities, who literally try to force and manipulate me into saying yes to things, working out ways to make it almost impossible for me to say no.

Of course there is also the knowledge that being a caring person, I find it hard to say no and have been inclined to put the needs of others before my own. I think they've pretty much got the message now though!.
I am there for them if they need me, but less so for the one who thrives on drama and drains every drop of empathy out of me until I feel like an old rag!
Are these types of friends better than no friends? Am I being arrogant and judgemental?

I am naturally a sociable person, but I seem to have filled my life with work, my older "kids" and a newish partner who isn't a people person and is very insecure about me going out without him.

Writing this however, has made me realise that I trust myself.
I have had a nagging fear that by distancing and not making an effort with friends and by spending leisure time almost exclusively with one person, that "all my eggs are in one basket..." not an expression I like or want to feel threatened by.
I do actually trust myself to eventually make changes, should I need to, so for now, I'm rolling with the circumstances that I have chosen.

Thank you for a great analogy Valerie! Love the idea of those doggies, all with different needs, sounds very rewarding. Good wishes to you and all. LP xx

LP Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 7:22am

Ps hope you don't mind Valerie, I didn't manage to comment on Lex's Shelf Development blog yesterday and would like to recommend a lovely little self help book called "Walking on Sunshine" 52 Small Steps to Happiness, by Rachel Kelly. It's lighthearted, uplifting, easy to read and full of really helpful tips. LP xx

Tychi's Mum Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 9:30am

Valerie, I really loved this blog. Being a dog lover (and a dog walker for a living) it really resonated with me. Like humans, each dog has it's own personality shaped by it's genes, environment and many other things. LP I love your reply. I'm really impressed that you have realised that you can trust yourself and your instincts. I own that book too. It's fantastic. She's also written a book about her experience of depression called Black Rainbow. The book also describes how words, poems and literature have helped her through the very dark times. I've found it really helpful and often refer back to the poems and prose within when I'm in the depths.

LP Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 10:19pm

Hi TM, I'm all about expressing myself with the written word too! I love word play humour and although I didn't realise it about the Author, or know about that book, maybe that's why I like it and connect with her. Thank you! LP x

Esther Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 8:13am

When I am strong, going out is not a problem. But somehow it quickly becomes stressful
I have adrenal exhaustion so I have low resilience.
So I overdid it on dealing with a hostile individual on Wednesday, contractor on Thursday,
Saturday- just went to see a dear friend in hospital. The situation resembled
a traumatic event I was in some years ago.
I thought I was fine. Until Sunday when I crashed and Monday was really bad. My 'strong' is
not really strong anymore. As an Introvert I can not keep on pushing myself; my nervous system
just burns up.
So I bound out the house full off the joy of movement and at the first sign of a lot of people ... run home.

Eva Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 8:22am

Hi Valerie, regarding friends persistence in asking you to things, I wonder if you could switch the thought around, although reading LP's thoughts may be not... I just wondered if your friends were inviting you because they wouldn't want you to feel excluded even if that invite wasn't your favourite thing? I know that I've invited folk to things when I thought that they probably wouldn't be able to make it, but I wanted them to know that they were welcome if they could come and that I wasn't leaving them out. I don't like the feeling of not being invited to things, it makes me wonder if I have slighted a friend in some way, or that may be I'm so unimportant to them that I don't matter. Whether I go or not is a different matter.

I think the alzheimers thing is the benefit to your brain of social interaction, (I am NOT an expert) I'm guessing it's so many different things, social behaviours such as smiling, serotonin production, networking (brain synapse connection as well as social) keeping brain plasticity flexible by learning new things, this can be done in an informal way through discussion where you end up taking in information you might never have thought of looking into because your companion is interested... I think though that it doesn't have to be a big deal it could be coffee with a friend, and I'm sure if you tried you could work out methods of keeping your brain healthy and engaged while staying in.

Just thoughts...

Eva Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 8:26am

I realise that I didn't tell you what type of dog I was, I was the bound out of the cage, play, play, play, play, play, play, collapse ;) now I measuredly bound out, play a little bit and then go back, but I'm looking forward to being able to play a bit more.

LP Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 10:37pm

Hi Eva, Yes when it's to a group thing, I think you are partly right, although I'm not really in their circles of friends, so wouldn't be left out. I sort of made friends individually with each of them from way back. I also think that they each love their kind of stuff so much that they can't see how anyone else wouldn't too! I always thank them for inviting me, it's just the persuasion that makes me uncomfortable. They probably also think that I need to get out more! :)

Pavane Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 8:51am

Hallo good peoples, lovely reading your blog, Eva, and the replies....

I wonder if any of you have considered whether you might be HSP - High Sensory Processors ? I have the same play/collapse, and a deep need for downtime and alone space...HSPs are not on the autistic spectrum, nor are they neurotic or weird, they just have ultra-highly receptive nervous systems (slightly different configuration of DNA) and therefore need to shut down more often, as they process more sensory input in a deeper way.

Dr Elaine Aron is the main researcher, plus there is a lot of proper neuroscientific trialling on this trait taking place around the world at the moment, so hopefully soon this sensitivity will become normalised out there - it is believed about 20% of us human beans are HSP, and the trait also exists in other creatures.

Knowing I was HSP, and crafting a life that allowed for this, has changed everything for the better, as the words 'depression' and 'neurotic' came up much too much from others, including NHS AND my family - argh.

A lot of people in the HSP community were being forced down the 'poor mental health' pathway before finding out about high sensitivity, and once they found the strength to accept and embrace that 'difference', despite sometimes being disbelieved, their lives have become truly enriched!

Do feel free to PM me if you want - I've been working with the trait since 1998, am HSP, and happy to send a PDF with resources - in fact, when time allows, might do a blog on here with resources, if that is allowed, Mods?!

All good things to you


Caroline Ashcroft Moodscope Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 9:19am

Hi Pavane, we'd love you to write a blog for Moodscope and we can include a link to your PDF of resources. Caroline

LP Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 10:39pm

Good to hear from you and welcome Pavane. HSP sounds very interesting. LP :)

Carol Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 10:05am

Hi great blog great answers I'm not sure which category I fit into I'm probably a heinze 57.
I also need that security of knowing I can always return home my safe haven. Sometimes reluctant to go out yet other times I enjoy going out socialising. I'm easily approachable chatty and can mix with others. Yet wary too I don't like been touched by that I mean inappropriately that's a big no no and I will bite.
I'm also quite happy to sit on the fence and watch find a great joy in watching others having fun. Also I can be very stubborn and set minded like a dog with a bone. I've just won a great battle refused to give up my mother was neglected in a care home and I won her case. I wouldn't let her or me become a under dog . Is that the terrier in me ?
I'm normally happy go lucky person apart from the storms in my life those grey dark clouds , waiting for the sunshine to once again emerge. Also set minded if I start a project I will finish it becomes obsessive. I took up cross stitching the more intricate it was the greater the challenge. Therapeutic too a great sense of achievement why do I do this to prove to myself I do have some worth that the abuse I suffered didn't beat me . Wounds do heal but the scars are always there waiting to become infected again I'll put these down as a episode dropped stitch that can once again be picked up try to save that run
I think we're all individuals we don't come with a pedigree or the temperament of one breed. Some moult more than others and she'd hairs not sure if what I'm writing really makes sense but these are my thoughts.

Charlie Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 10:11am

Excellent thought provoking blog thanks - they say we are all actors upon the stage, and indeed the majority of actors find it challenging, even stressful, to do the day job - but the rewards of getting out there, and managing to do what you didn't think you could is in itself hugely rewarding. And measuring / benchmarking with Moodscope one's progress is perfect.
As Picasso said "I am always trying to do things I can't do - that's how I get to do them".
But - introverts and HSP's, eccentrics and Bi-polars, getting out there when low takes a huge toll on the batteries, which have to be recharged before the next challenge.

The Gardener Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 10:22am

I am, as anybody who bothers to read my blogs and posts knows, a huge socialiser. Part training, I think - I stayed with my father when my parents split up - I was 15. My Pa had already pushed me into his social life from age 13 - terrified but got on with it. I found that people who knew my Pa well (he would abandon me in a room full of 'important' strangers) would make great strides to put me at my ease. At times when the chips have been seriously down I found what sort of dog I was - a large, friendly labrador who, despite kicks, believes he/she is loved. Mr G hates dogs - and now, with Alzheimers, does not even try and hide that hatred. When we lived in the UK, always in isolated houses, always had dogs from RSPCA - always bonded, sometimes embarrassingly. We had a Great Dane whose task (he believed) was to guard me from all harm. At a huge charity disco on our farm I got time to dance around 2 a.m. My partners were much challenged as Jason insisted on keeping his position next to my knee. Our German shepherd had been police trained - we only got him because his owners had to move into a flat. He thought he was an ace rabbiter - he loved riding in my open sports car - sitting up in the back like Royalty. His loyalty was scary, if any stranger should ever have touched me I think they would have found their arm in a vice-like canine grip. The Great Dane also liked to 'stand up' and put his arms round my neck. Smaller stuff now, a cat worn often as a fur collar.

The Gardener Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 10:28am

Excellent blog, sorry did not say so. The remark about Picasso (Charlie above) is not always true - me and carpentry never got on, and as for puttying a window, well!

Dolphin Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 10:29am

I love your dog examples - a thought provoking and different way of thinking of ourselves. I belong to a group called "Borrow my Doggy" which means that I walk canine friends on a regular basis. I've had two in my life and still miss the first who moved away....

Anyway, I'm the cautious dog type who can be very friendly once trust is established. HOWEVER, even with good friends, I reach my limit much earlier than others and haven't found ways to extricate without breaking up a party or without insulting my hosts.....

Nicco Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 4:02pm

Thank you for your lovely blog, Valerie. I have, over the years, learned to say 'no' out of necessity. I also often make 'loose' arrangements, ie, if I'm well and feel I can cope I'll be there, but if I'm not there it's because I haven't been able to make it for one reason of another (I don't know why I feel I have to justify myself sometimes!) When I volunteer to host something, as the date comes nearer I get a bit apprehensive - will I be well enough? Will something go terribly wrong? Will I make a fool of myself? Will I fall over or drop something? I have to remind myself that, if any of these things happen, the sky won't actually fall in on me and I will survive. And I very often find I enjoy myself when the day comes, whether I'm hosting or at something else. But, yes, I always look forward to the comfort of my own space at the end of it all! I, too, am picturing lots of contented doggies!

Molly Thu, Jun 15th 2017 @ 4:17pm

Bit late to respond, but I know exactly how you feel. Molly

margaret Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 6:14pm

Wonderful words today and ones that relate so very much to me. I enjoy all the blogs but today resonated highly with my feelings and although i feel desperately lonely and sad, and certainly need to be with people, I fear I would pull them down and spoil the moment for them.

It is the fear that they expect something from me and that I will not be able to contribute or meet their expectations. I am now trying hard to not expect anything of anyone and then being happily cheered by things people do. So difficult though.

LP Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 10:53pm

Hi Margaret, I have felt exactly the same. Tried to brave it out when I was feeling pretty low and worried that I wouldn't be able to hide it and bring others down. Worst case, close friends get it and I could slip away early. If your gut is telling you that you need company I would say listen to it and see if there's a small way of looking after that part of yourself. LP xx

Freya Tue, Jun 13th 2017 @ 6:39pm

Ah Valerie - this made me laugh - Or when most of your family have died, and you weren't too keen on them when they were still alive? - and feel not quite so alone as I might! I have rescue terriers, it's an interesting life. I am fascinated by how even the most damaged can learn to interact again if treated consistently. Great blog! xx

eleta Wed, Jun 14th 2017 @ 1:04pm

thank you valerie, your contribution has bought healing/release tears to my eyes.i have begun to walk a wonderful terrier 4 weeks now.the quality she has bought to my life is overwhelmingly awesome. i wake up "BURIED", your words have freed me. thanks and keep up the good work. x

Molly Thu, Jun 15th 2017 @ 4:26pm

Hi Valerie, I am late to reply, as I had a bad couple of days - but I love dogs and cannot think of anything more rewarding than working with them. I have never actually owned my own dog, but I have always looked after others. I could give you a good story about each one (or maybe bad in some cases, as three of them have now died) but I have my regular dog (known him all his life) and he is such a treasure. He was a rescue dog but so well trained by his owner, he does not need a lead even (illegal I know) but we seem to get away with it. He is so obedient, he is almost human. But he is getting old and my word, am I going to miss him when he is gone. I am not sure what dog I am, but I am probably not as well behaved as he is !! Molly xx

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