I am a sensitive person. And I don’t just mean that my feelings can get hurt easily—but a truly sensitive person that experiences the world differently than many people. It’s taken me 40 years to understand myself but now that I have a better grasp on what often feels like both a blessing and a curse, I am also more acutely aware of what I am supposed to do with it. As an empathic healer, my life has included unique connections with animals, nature, and the processes of life & death, as well as experiences with the spiritual world. Combining this innate ability with a traditional education in psychology led me to pursue work experience with adults & children with mental illness and/or autism. It was after many years working with people that I turned back to my passion for animals and developed the energy healing.
I have learned that animals and children are not so different. Now, wait—hear me out for a minute. I’m not suggesting that your 5 year-old is the equivalent of a dog. However, I can’t deny the energetic and spiritual similarities between animals and young children. This is actually a magical thing. Childhood is that beautiful time in a person’s life when they exude a natural innocence that has not yet been tainted by the world’s harshness or jaded by negative experiences. Animals live out their lives in this spiritually pure and ego-less place. They have even been shown to display empathy and compassion. But our children are not dogs, cats, birds or horses. They are humans who grow and mature into their human brains--developing sensory-motor skills, memory, language processing abilities, as well as learning abstract concepts such as kindness, empathy, inclusion, and truth.
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As I listened to the World News Tonight segment about yet another horrifying tragedy, I became aware of another sound, besides the guttural screams and cries coming from the TV. I heard a faint whimpering coming from the edge of the kitchen and looked over to see my senior Siberian Husky crying and staring off into the distance with her normally sparkling blue eyes.
“What’s wrong, Nala?” I asked. “Does something hurt?” She glanced briefly at me and then back into the distance, continuing her cries and added a mournful “wooo” to really get her point across. I muted the TV so I could pay better attention to her, at which point she stopped crying, sighed, and rested her fuzzy head down in peace.
That’s odd, I thought. She seems to be okay, though. Except that she did it again the following night—during another tragedy that was graphically being displayed on the news program. The segment was complete with the traumatic sights and sounds of the latest crisis. Again, when I turned the TV off, she calmed and went back to sleep.
And that is how my dog taught me about the power of negative energy coming through our media.
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I want to be clear that this is not a media-bashing article. I’m not spouting, “Fake News!” or blaming individual journalists for how they bring information to us. What I am bringing attention to is the systemic dis-ease that we are all experiencing in this country, how this is critically affecting our children, and what we can do about it.
Bad things happen. The news media gives us this information and keeps us informed. However, in this process of being informed, we have become inundated with endless tragedy. Mainstream TV is now competing with the overwhelming access to information in the world of social media. So what must they do to maintain ratings? Give the viewer MORE! More sights, more sounds, and more emotions of tragedy so that we can truly feel as if we are experiencing it ourselves. Good? Well, maybe if done once or twice to try to increase one’s sense of empathy. But on a daily basis? We become desensitized to all of it. It becomes normal; just another day; and in essence, others’ suffering becomes commonplace. It’s not because we don’t care or are all sociopaths. It’s because we must cope with the flood of incoming crises and somehow find a way to continue on with our daily lives. People cope in various ways—some tune it out, some embrace denial, some become emotionally and/or physically ill, some experience a sense of “learned helplessness” or despair. And these are the adults that I’m talking about.
Consider, though, if these are the symptoms that occur in adults living in today’s world, then how is it affecting our children? Also, the news media is just the tip of the iceberg when examining the amounts of negativity pouring into our lives on a daily basis. It used to “just” be crime, car accidents, and the occasional weather event. Now, we are all faced with the very real threats of political turmoil, racism and hate crimes, extinction crisis, climate change, the development of superbugs, the acidification of the ocean, and so on.
We are waking up—reaching a new level of consciousness, which is a good thing. It’s something that must happen in order for us to grow into a better version of humanity. We can be a species that values and respects each other and our environment. One that supports other people and treats them with love and kindness. One that values truth and that places integrity higher on the list of priorities than money. We can change, and we will. But we have a lot of work to do.
Many children around the globe have already begun this work. They want a new world…they are begging the adults to get on board and wake up so that we can help them begin the systemic changes that need to happen now. They are fighting political entities that are so focused on money and power but to everyone else’s detriment. We must all work together to create the change that is needed on every level in order to heal our hearts and redevelop our society.
Let’s step aside from the horrors of the real world for a moment and take a look at the entertainment that we offer children. First, I think we can all agree that entertainment is supposed to be fun, yes? It’s supposed to be an escape from reality, whether that be into far off galaxies or fairytale worlds where imaginations can run wild. But overall, entertainment, especially for children, really should follow the definition of “…providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment.” Now I know that some people find enjoyment in getting a little scared or perhaps like the rush of adrenaline that they get from action movies. But we are adults—we can cognitively and emotionally process these things differently. And even then, I personally believe that adults are on sensory overload from negativity and violence whether they know it or not—but that’s for another article on another day.
But is it possible that children, who are living in the same frightening world that we are today, along with their daily stressors, do not have the emotional maturity to be entertained by violence and darkness? Kids today must face everything from ordinary growing pains to less ordinary, yet sadly common, instances of bullying. And the bullying is not just on the playground now, but with the added touch of social media so that the attacks can follow them home. Oh, and they also get to fear for their lives just by going to school these days, too. If we hear of someone murdering people on a school campus, we are forced to describe it as “another mass shooting.” Now add to this child--this 7, 8, 9, 10-year-old child—some “good old” entertainment with lots of violence, darkness, destruction, and villains. What could go wrong? My response to that question would be a solid, “what could go right?” And the answer is, “Not much.”
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When we first reached out to agents 3 years ago after writing the Betty Dog Series, a trilogy of early chapter books that inspire kindness, empathy, inclusion, and truth, we received some “good” rejections. We were told that the books were good; the stories were nice; the messages were inspiring; but what kids really wanted was “dark and edgy.” Well, it appears that “dark and edgy” is exactly what kids have gotten from our society over the past 3 years, both in entertainment and in the real world. I would ask you though whether this trend has led to the development of empathetic children? And is it possible, that kids don’t want dark and edgy? Perhaps they want what adults tell them (and show them) has value?
I’m not suggesting that we play Leave It to Beaver 24/7 or pretend that we are all living in Pleasantville. But can’t we provide children with just a little bit of balance? Maybe even some guidance and moral development along with their entertainment?
Well, as Betty Dog (also known as BD) would say:
“I’ve noticed that sometimes when badness shows up, it can get a lot of attention and almost seem exciting at first. Like a tornado I saw once on the news. When the black funnel cloud moved through the sky, I could see it was powerful. But then it started ripping up trees. And people’s homes. And destroyed everything it touched. It left behind a mess. And a lot of sadness. I’ve seen some bad people who remind me of tornadoes. At first they seem powerful. But then they destroy everything they touch. They leave behind a mess. And a lot of sadness. No difference. And there’s no difference between a little bad and a lot of bad. Because it’s all bad. But what I do know about bad—is that it always loses. It always falls apart. It’s always found out. Down deep, it is always weak. But good can wipe away bad. Because good is always stronger than bad…You know, I believe that when we go through life doing the right things, good comes. When we go through life doing bad things, then bad comes. It’s a no-brainer. I choose good.”
Betty Dog’s Special Gifts