My cat is very handsome with a black silky coat and a white bib; but in personality he is loud mouthed and bossy and likes to control the entire household. If a door is closed, he shouts for it to be opened, if he is thirsty he howls that he needs to drink from the running tap, if you happen to go into the kitchen, he’ll set up a low, discordant moan with every breath until you feed him (or send him out into the garden). So when he was silent for a couple of days all we felt was relief. On the third day, we compared notes and realised that he hadn’t been asking for food and he hadn’t drunk much either. I booked him into the vet and started him on a course of homeopathic remedies. The vet looked at us with sad and accusing eyes: hadn’t we noticed the ulcers on his tongue? Well, no, it was the last place I would’ve looked.
I came away from the vet with antibiotics and a spinning sensation of having reversed roles with my cat. Normally I am the Victim of his bossiness but now he was ill I was being cast as the Persecutor who had failed to look after her maltreated cat
Taking it slowly
Sometimes a bit of theory helps with self-reflection, and this is what I did with the quick version. I used the Drama Triangle which has three roles, those of Persecutor, Victim and Rescuer. The victim is weak and has a “poor me” mentality, waiting for someone else to take responsibility. The persecutor is strong minded, knows what they want and can come over as a bully, especially in the eyes of the victim. The rescuer spends their life doing things for other people. In the normal run of things, my cat is the persecutor, and I am the victim, with no rescuer. But through the vet’s eyes, the Drama Triangle gets changed around: I am now the persecutor, the cat is the victim and the vet is the rescuer. In terms of the ulcers on the tongue, she is right. Probably many of the animals she sees are victims as well.
This reflection nicely demonstrates the value of looking at a situation or an experience through someone else’s eyes. It’s a technique that can really help your self-reflection. By turning things around so that you consider what happened from their position,,, you can get a less prejudiced view of the whole.
With regards to my cat, my ego would like to argue that it was unreasonable to expect me to notice the mouth ulcers. Maybe it was, but I need not be smug. There is a bigger issue I should look at: why did it take me so long to realise he was unwell? My inner critic starts to tell me off, “it took you three days to notice. By then he had become dehydrated. You neglected him.” (my inner critic always talks to me as “you”) This sort of self-talk is very destructive and most unhelpful, so it’s best to bring it to a halt as soon as possible.
So I just soothe myself, saying, “I’m sorry that my cat was ill, but we did get to the vet in time. He is normally such a noisy cat and it was a relief when he was silent, it’s not surprising that we didn’t think anything of it. I’ll be more alert to anything like that in future.” Soothing yourself is a valid part of self-reflection. It takes the edge off any self-criticism and prevents any long-term damage to your self-esteem. It’s simply being kind to yourself.