Yet we tell other people about our problems, and they frequently go right into problem-solving mode when what we need is connection, understanding, and empathy when we’re worried.
Most pets, particularly dogs, are naturally good at it and genetically predisposed to it.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware of how lovely it is to return home to a pet that has been anticipating your arrival for the whole day. Our fascination with pets shows what we desire from human relationships: to be fully understood, appreciated, loved, significant, and unique.
1. Pets pay close attention to our social circuits in the brain.
Isolation is distressing since it is not our natural condition. Our brains have social circuitry that prioritizes our basic desire for tight bonds and partnerships. Our survival code is engraved with them. Before we become autonomous, we are fundamentally linked. This is obvious from the moment we are born; we rely on our attachment figures to supply our fundamental requirements as neonates.
These connections don’t have to be human-to-human. To emphasize the necessity of humans’ interdependence, most (but not all) developmental delays in children are caused by their caregivers and environment failing to meet their requirements. For many sufferings, pets may take up the slack when other people cannot (Daddow, 2022).
This is intuitively correct. The strength of our attachment ties with others is ultimately a consequence of our ability for self-regulation, confidence, success, and self-comfort. Pets are ideal for this since their primary purpose is to connect with us, read us, be present for us, love us, and show up emotionally.
2. Pets are unadulterated.
Yes, dogs will sometimes pee on the carpeting to show how much they miss you. Pets, on the other hand, have no hidden agendas. They won’t attempt to extort money from you or use you as a scapegoat. They’ll never desert you to attend a friend’s party or seek a mistress; you’re everything to them, and they’ll be passionately, unwaveringly devoted as long as you treat them fairly (and frequently even if you don’t, but please treat them well regardless, they deserve it!).
Feeling appreciated, loved, significant, and unique is one of the most corrective and restorative feelings. In fact, for traumatized people, experiencing these feelings may help them, later on, have stronger connections with other people, as long as they don’t become unduly reliant on their dogs and isolate themselves from other people.
3. Pets are only aware of and live-in connection.
Although most mental health practitioners aren’t properly qualified to write emotional support animal (ESA) letters for clients who need them for plane travel or housing, maybe we should learn to do so. Perhaps greater training on how dogs can assist with mental health issues like trauma and depression should be included in mental health graduate schools.
Nonverbally, pets comprehend us. They’re emotionally in tune with us and aren’t distracted by language or other complexity or nuanced aspects of human interactions. They won’t debate with us about politics or whatever side you’re on when it comes to the Neil Young, Joe Rogan, and Spotify fiasco; they just adore us regardless of what’s going on.