Introduction to Puppy Training

I count him braver who overcomes his desires
than he who conquers his enemies;
for the hardest victory is the victory over the self

- Aristotle

The goal of this course is nothing less then developing the skills and faculties that enable you to follow your path of greatest advantage rather than yield in the direction of least resistance. The of exercise will requires:

  1. Clear understanding of your Core Values and Hierarchy of Motives.
  2. The ability to resist the influence of stressors and temptations that would motivate you to defect.

Now that you know where Incentive Motivation ranks in your Hierarchy of Motives, you are ready to develop the creature you inhabit so that it can perform its heroic tasks. The effort of will is mostly the effort of puppy training. My collaborator is the puppy trainer, and our job is to work together to

the creature you inhabit to respond mindfully to the challenges it is bound to encounter.

This ambitious challenge requires that we each play our parts well.  There is little conflict for me. My job is to give you access to the tools of my profession that can help you do your heroic work. Your challenge is much more complex: You are both the entity we seek to change through our collaboration, the bio-psycho-social creature who is bound to the cause-and-effect principles that influence such creatures —  also know as the Experiential Processing System — and the entity who appreciates your Core Motivation as well as the cause-and-effect principles that influence the creature's motivation — my collaborator, also known as, the Rational Processing System [see Two Minds for a more detailed description of these entities].

I stress our collaborative relationship because of the common tendency for people seeking to change their ways to accept the "patient role" and tturn responsibility for change over to an external agent [doctor, treatment provider, spiritual leader]. However, to overcome dependence, you must be the primary agent of change; there is no external salvation from dependence.

Moreover, there is no single solution or path to change that is effective for everyone. This course will help you discover the cause-and-effect principles that operate in your subjective universe. Unlike conventional treatment — e.g., inpatient and outpatient group programs —  that offer the same protocol to each participant, here you direct the course of change and modify it on the basis of your observations. If, at any time, you seek an external perspective or expert guidance, please contact me by phone: (512) 343-8307 or email.

My Collaborator and the Puppy

If you lacked a Rational Processing System, you would be like a puppy that has no choice but to follow the path of least resistance. Unlike a dumb creature who would be taken in and possibly injured by a baited mousetrap, you can predict what will happen when the trap's mechanism is triggered by an attempt to get the cheeze. The cogntive gifts that enable you to appreciate the long-term consequences, in addition to the immediate consequences, of an action make you less vulnerable to simple traps designed for mice. Despite the wonderful gift of rational processing, you are nevertheless, bound by the cause-and-effect principles that determine the reactions of bio-psycho-social creatures. The challenge of the Action Stage is to use what you learn about cause-and-effect to train the creature you inhabit to follow the most advantageous path considering your interests and principles.

This challenge is so difficult because: When your cognitive resources are unavailable—as will be the case when you are in a high-risk situation—the puppy, not your fabulously resourceful Rational Processing System, will be in the driver's seat. The puppy wants to do its best, but is not really interested in your Core Motivation and is vulnerable to a range of traps — even th most obvious ones. If only the rational part of you could prepare the puppy for the challenges it is bound to encounter, and do it in a way that did not scare the puppy or make it feel defective, incompetent, or shame-worthy.

The rest of this section describes tools and strategies to prepare the creature for the challenges ahead as rapidly as possible, and in ways that protect it from the recursive traps commonly associated with such efforts. Among the goals of this training:

  • The ability to keep your head despite local conditions that might evoke a high-risk, state—e.g., craving, hoplessness, low self-efficacy.
  • The ability to recover your head—that is, to shift from a high-risk state to a more resourceful state, in which you have access to your good cognitive skills and your Core Motivation.
  • The ability to perform as intended, even when you don't feel like doing so.

Notes for the Puppy Trainer

Puppy training lacks the glamour of the insights and epiphanies of talk therapy. However, the puppy needs the attention and the firm but gentle training. Generally, my greatest challenge as a therapist is training the trainer. Learning how to talk to and discipline the creature you inhabit is perhaps the most important important skill in the development of will. The trainer must be especially kind and patient [lean over backwards here] because the puppy may not want to work the problem if it gets too much punishment for doing so. Keeping the puppy motivated and engaged in the training is the essential task of the puppy trainer.

The Experiential Processing System is much stupider than the Rational Processing System, and the benefits of training will come much slower than you expect. Many trainers are inpatient and find it difficult to hang in there long enough to do what needs to be done. You may take it for granted that you will follow through on the puppy training, especially since it sounds so sensible and easy. Think again.

Perhaps by now you will agree with me that performing as intended during the high-risk situation is much more challenging than most people realize. However, I would like you to go a step further and consider your intention to do what it takes to train the puppy. Even though you may be highly motivated to do the exercises at one moment, the motivation to adhere to commitments tends to slacken with time. If follow-through turns out to be an issue for you (and it probably will), the Intentions & Action Form will help. 

Note: To add insult to injury, any failure to perform as intended is demoralizing. Demoralization is our foe's most powerful weapon to get you to capitulate and relapse completely.  Because I have so much respect for the difficulty of this task, I have included this section of forms and protocols to help you structure your training sessions. This may be the most important part of the course for you.

As one Rational Processing System to another, my advice is, "Don't be reasonable with the puppy." You must make it as easy as possible for the puppy to learn by rigidly applying simple implementation intentions, with no possibility of negotiation. Even though you must be patient and forgiving in training the puppy, you cannot be moderate in your dedication to puppy training. You must do whatever it takes to develop the faculties and skills you will need during the crises you are bound to encounter. However, you as the Rational Processing System can and should be reasonable about how intensive the puppy training needs to be.

We do not want the training to be painful, boring, or excessive. In fact the art of puppy training is keeping the puppy engaged by protecting it from excessive, overly detailed, or onerous training sessions. A good goal for the trainer is to do the least amount of training necessary to assure that the puppy can cope with the high-risk situation to be tested. Not knowing how much detail you will need, I will be describing procedures with the maximum amount of detail. Feel free to streamline the methods described. However, if you encounter setbacks, use the more detailed procedures described.

This is a formidable challenge, but you can succeed if you accept responsibility at two levels:

  • Be a good Master: It is your responsibility as Master to author the plan by which you will achieve your goals. Forms are included to give you some structure, but the specifics must be yours. Your goals, your training regime, your responsibility.

  • Be a good Puppy: Training can be difficult, frustrating and sometimes boring. Hang in there and do what you have to do, with good humor. The role of the heroic puppy is to do what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, whether you feel like it or not.

A switch in metaphors from puppy training to martial arts training is appropriate at this point.  Bruce Lee performs well during the emotional crisis of a fight, because he has developed a range of competencies such as  appreciating the kinds of attacks that are likely, identifying the particular threats and how to cope with them, executing his coping responses well at the critical moments, etc..  Just as a dedicated martial artist can develop complex skills to the point that he can perform them spinally during a crisis, you can—and must— do the same.  Skill development does not come out of thin air; you have to acquire it through practice. 

Some of the coping tactics our collaboration develops for you to test may be surprising, or require that you do things you’ve never done before.   We will not know if they are effective until you try them out during high-risk situations.   This is expensive research, because it requires that you execute the coping tactic, when doing so is particularly difficult— during high-risk situations. The stressors and temptations of a relapse crisis will be so disruptive that you will have to practice the coping response slowly in a safe controlled environment for a while before it is strong enough to test under the adverse conditions of a personal experiment.  While I encourage you to be creative in developing personal experiments, do not think that you will be able to execute the intended coping response during a real crisis without considerable preparation.

Preparing the Puppy to Cope with Crisis

The Implementation Intention is the format for coping tactics: When situation X occurs I will execute response Y. So we need two pieces of information:

Warning Signals > >

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