Cats and humans - are we really so different?
As a new cat owner, I have recently had the experience of visiting rescue centres and meeting a variety of cats to select the one that is just right for me. I thought it would be an easy task but having previously believed that we humans are very different from cats, I’m now not so sure.
Some walk with an air of confidence ‘strutting their stuff’ for the world to see and getting plenty of attention. They’re used to asking for what they want and getting their needs met.
Others are more timid and shy hiding in the corner under a blanket. They strive to find a safe place in a world that feels so frightening. They may not even know what their needs are let alone have the courage to ask.
Some cats could be described as aggressive or just plain nasty. Badly treated by humans they now expect to be mistreated so ward off, would be attackers with their hostile nature. They have very clear boundaries, “don’t come near or else!”
The conclusion that I came to on observing my feline friends was that they had all been impacted by their past experiences. The way they behave today appeared to be as a direct result of past experiences and relationships.
Our early experiences of relationships have a lasting psychological impact on the way we form relationships today. Children brought up with a secure attachment to at least one care giver find it easier to develop secure healthy relationships as they reach adulthood. Insecure attachments as a child can make forming healthy relationships as an adult more of a challenge. However, that does not mean that the absence of secure attachments as a child will therefore result in the prevention of healthy relationships as an adult.
Counselling provides an avenue for exploration into our past experiences and relationships. Through counselling, our lives in relation to others can be examined. We can answer questions such as ‘which relationships in my life feel healthy and secure?’ and ‘do I have any unhealthy relationships that leave me drained and exhausted?’ This type of exploration can lead to a better understanding of how our past and present are connected and provide the mental clarity that allows us to move forward and make better choices for our future. Gaining a deeper understanding of ourselves and our relationships can have a positive impact on our feelings of self-worth and offer long lasting and far reaching benefits.
To return to my story of the cat, I did find the right one for me. She was quiet, timid and very much afraid because of past events. After a period of safety, stability and plenty of love, I am beginning to see a more confident, content and loving cat. I have also come to realise that cats may not be quite so different from humans as I first thought.
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About Sian Maman
Sian is a counsellor and psychotherapist working within her own private practice and also within a counselling agency in Nottinghamshire. Her specialities include anxiety, panic attacks, depression and loss.
She has a BSc (hons) in counselling and psychotherapy and a BSc (hons) in healthcare studies.