Just a guess, of course, but now many people have even considered the concept of a “private animal language” with their significant one(s)?
Ah…as I thought: Effectively none.
Since we live a very unconventional and inquisitive Life – which may offer some useful findings – our almost 19-YEARS of using a “private animal language” is worth a discussion.
First: What is an “Animal Language?”
I had this idea about the time I got married (#3 and last time), that one of the reasons people don’t stay married (or in committed relationships) is that there are emotional holes that don’t get filled.
Instead, we highly-evolved upright apes force ourselves to get on the words of textbook language. Which, if you haven’t figured it by now, are not always wholly communicative.
The problem is that most words have multiple interpretations and these – more often than not -trigger adverse reactions. That’s because they trigger “hot emotional reactions” that the other partner may not be aware of.
What IF there was a completely non-verbal way of communicating some key EMOTIONS that didn’t have to rely on the “shared look-up table” (of bespoken English) to have meaning? What would such a language sound like?
Well, there we were, sitting on our sailboat in San Francisco circa 2001 near as I can remember, where by then we had evolved a nice – non-verbal – language that handled a good deal of the emotional exchange between us.
Two: Which Animal are You?
As we considered this “second language” that would help us to ensure solid communications (despite the shortcomings of speech), we got to talking at some length about which “animal” each of us thought the other to be.
Elaine, as it turns out, having been victimized by a number of men in her life by men (as many attractive women are), thought of most men as dogs.
Dogs, as we know, come in all types. Being good-looking, she seemed to attract the less subtle breeds. Men who were like pit bulls and such.
So, I asked her what kind of Dog I might be.
In other words, a good dog.
“What about you…what animal am I?”
Well, I confessed she is rather feline, so yes, she was a Cat.
We’ve kicked it around, over the years. Ideas like role reversals came up with alternative animals. Instead of being The Cat, Elaine’s canine aspect would probably be a Pomeranian.
My feline aspect would be a kind of “urban tomcat.”
Three: How Does is Work?
We “drop into animal language” whenever the use of English doesn’t play “nicely.”
And, when we use “the animal language” we’re mindful to keep both sides of the communication in the animal/emotional (direct) mode.
Here’s an example: Let’s say I’ve just come over from my office after a 12-hour workaholic stint. Elaine’s been working on her stuff for 12-hours, too.
Since I might want a drink and some food, rather than use words that could be easily taken out-of-context by two tired adults, I drop into animal language.
I might hang my tongue out and pant. Or, I might mimic (though people do it poorly) of a dog sitting up and begging. (Holding a bowl in the mouth makes it comical and fun….)
If Elaine’s busy, all it take is a simple gesture at whatever’s got her attention and a responsive cat “word.”
If she’s busy, the response might (*like a Cat) be a hiss and a pretend swipe with her fingers gesturing like a cat with claws out.
On the other hand, if she’s sort-of engaged in something, but acknowledging that yeah, it’s getting on toward drinks and dinner-time, she might respond (again as a Cat) with a “Meoow…”
The magic in the meow (or for me, the use of pseudo-barks) is that they can cover the entire gamut of emotional ranges. If there’s a human word used as a predicate (“OH, meoow…”) that communicates that the cat has heard dog but the cat has an agenda, too…
If the Cat is not real busy, she might go to the freezer, haul something out and pronounce the “Meoow.???” as a question.
To which, the Dog can respond with pleased yips, a Scooby-Doo quizzical, or a growl. Depending on what’s been offered as a dinner idea.
The “meows” and “woofs” have an almost infinite tonal and expressive range. But, the beauty of them is that they never trigger a disagreement. It’s just one animal communicating its position (without assigning guilt, blame, or any of the other baggage that comes along with English words from our life-experience lookup tables.)
Getting back to the “finishing up work” mode, if I got to the house and Elaine meets me at the door with a cold toddy…and makes a “purring” sound… Well, dinner can wait.
Five: What’s the Benefit?
Human emotions for (both of us) are sometimes hard to express. Not that we don’t have intense, deep feelings. All people do.
It’s been our observation that a lot of relationships get screwed-up because the principals get “triggered.” One will use the wrong word or phrase and the next thing you know, there’s a semantics battle going that brings out other emotions and as one old wound after another is picked at in the memory banks, the tensions escalate and now the relationship is unnecessarily contentious.
We have not had a single “fight” – or even raised our voices – in 19-years. When things go that way, as it will because no two people are purfectly compatible, one of us will point at ourselves and either bark (me) or meow (loudly) claiming alpha or prevalence in a given situation.
A third benefit is that our “animal personas” can make observations about the world that might otherwise be misinterpreted.
They can also ask questions without a long, drawn-out social interaction. For example, (as a Dog) I can walk into the house where Elaine’s working on a project and make a few canine sniffing sounds. A slight raising of the head, and two loud “sniffs.”
It’s actually more efficient that wandering in an using the verbose language (“Hi dear, what are you working on?”). Two sniffs versus seven spoken words. That’s, er, 3.5-times more efficient that “higher speech.”
The concept is useful in social situations, too.
If Elaine sees an incredibly studly other male when we’re out to dinner, she might utter a low-pitched meow. Ah, so, the Cat finds that interesting, eh? On the other hand, a beautiful woman might prompt a dogly-male to offer a guttural “…rrraaaarf!”
If another female (in a social setting) says something catty, a mere “meow” from Elaine – depending on the expressiveness applied – will convey that not only was the remark catty but her expression will advise reveal Elaine’s judgement of whether this other cat’s remark was well-founded, or not.
Talk about linguistic efficiency!
The use of animal language provides for emotional content to be covered in “the immediate mode.” Without this highly-compact language, a large number of daily “emotional content” of life would come down to wasted time as couples first have to “get on the same page” recalling an emotional context from from earlier time and then use the higher brain to do all kinds of translating.
All this because emotions were not handled in the IMMEDIATE MODE but instead were stored away for later reference. What a waste of processor clicks in your brain, huh?
It works around home, as well. When I dress in a particularly well-groomed, strack-looking way, there may be an approving “Meeeeeoooow!” in it. Or, an anxious Dog looking lustfully at the Cat and panting while issuing “rarf! rarf! rarf!” barks. There’s even a meow for “Not now, Dog, not interested, I’ve other priorities are running, so come back later…” Again, an emotional spin on the meow and fourteen words (and their potential for miscommunication) become unnecessary.
Benefit four is it’s useful at night, too. Ever have a spouse say something like “Are you AWAKE, dear?” Well, obviously, that’s going to tend to wake you up, even if you weren’t before. The reason? You will have to fire up the language center of your brain and start making decisions about which word(s) to respond with.” Hmmm…do I use the word “dear” when I’ve just been wakened from a sound sleep and a cool dream?”
In contrast, a simple “rarf” or “meow” answers all the questions “Yes, I’m here, but not into speaking or waking up…” without having to engage something more than prehensile brain function. (I visualize this as having the option to respond from the brain-stem rather than the cerebral cortex. It’s reptilian brain, not high-level human… My personal belief is that it’s a lot less stressful than turning on high brain for everything. Leave that for problems like differential calculus, writing the Great American Novel, or something than can be seriously monetized!
Should we mention many family dynamics are more easily emotionally “digested” as animal relations with offspring? When we tell any of the “boys” that even at age 50+ they are still pups, it puts things in perspective. You see, it’s another tool set and useful contexts for creative communications abound.
Six: What’s In It for Me?
It’s our experience that people in today’s world are not especially tuned-in to the emotions of others. We live in a #mee-too kind of world. It’s all about the Me’s out there.
Adopting the right “animal persona” gives you a different awareness of your partner’s emotions and it opens a non-verbal way of communicating what are still the animal spirits within.
Allegorically, Dogs are always chasing Cats, too. There’s something some-how reassuring about that. Since in today’s world, when we turn on our animal senses, it seems to us like giraffes are chasing fish.
“Rarf!” when you get it…