The pet experiment
I am conducting an experiment, of sorts.
For a few years now I have been interested in a pet. The last was a relative's ancient cat, which died about six years ago. Most people consider having a pet provides enjoyment, they have positive feelings toward their pets and attachments to them, and even several studies have suggested that animal companions provide greater wellbeing, accounting for the presence of therapy animals. I was curious how this would relate to me.
I considered many factors and decided on the most appropriate sort of animal, and recently purchased one. I figured I would give it a go, and keep expectations neutral, and options open. If it works out, great. If not, for any reason, I can pass the animal along to someone else who will care for and enjoy it.
I did overlook one variable I have since observed though - the reaction of the relatives I am currently living with. I did not take into account the highly emotional nature of neurotypical peoples, and even though I may well not form attachments to this pet nor feel anything particular towards it, they almost certainly would.
These reactions seem extreme to me, and difficult to understand - we have had the animal less than a week, so it is not accustomed to us at all at this point. And yet, my relatives seem to be displaying a form of anthropomorphism towards it. I am aware that animals such as dogs do develop feelings for their human counterparts which we may be able to equate to our own understanding, but this is not a dog, and only very new.
This restricts my options - if I decide this isn't working out for me and I decide to re-home the animal to someone of a responsible nature, I will be dealing with my relatives' almost instant attachments. Attachments that will no doubt force them to keep the animal, and cast blame on me for "abandoning" it.
So far, all it seems to me is a nuisance. Money and time is expended and fuss is made, nothing more. I am curious if anything should develop, but so far, the regard I have for this pet is the same vaguely benign goodwill with which I regard all creatures. As my interactions with animals have been better for me than my interactions with humans in the past, I had hoped this might be a connection that would get though to me, but so far, that isn't the case. I will persist though, and observe if anything changes.
Has anyone else any experiences with pets as an alexithymic? Did you have any attachment to or particular feelings towards a pet? Did they differ from those of others? Can your describe your reactions?
I have a dog and a cat and I guess you could say I feel companship from them so I'm not so lonely. I think it just depends on who the person is and what the pro's and cons for of having a pet with Alex's. Its up to you to decide.
Well, it hasn't amounted to anything. No attachment, no affection. Null result, really.
What I have observed is the projection of others - I noted above that they immediately started anthropomorphizing the animal and crediting it with human-like psychological behaviour what was not only obviously (to me) not present, but that the animal, being as it is by its nature, is actually incapable of. Which is irrational, for supposedly rational thinking humans.
I have also noted the strange, almost desperate attempts people have begun to make by projecting the mixture of their own irrational anthropomorphization, and their own emotional norms, onto me - they seem to be trying to convince both me and themselves that I am responding to the animal the way that they are, instead of simply not responding at all.
I wondered why this should be, and theorized that alexithymia (and other forms of emotional divergence which involve a marked lack of staple norms, such as psychopathy) scares them, so they are trying to use this animal to convince themselves that I'm really an emotionally normal human just like they are, despite the fact that we all know it to be untrue.
Now, I usually think it best to simply allow people to believe whatever they want about me. I don't go around correcting people with facts that will scare them. But at the same time, I'm getting tired of this sentimental emotional projection. Any time I am kind to the animal (which I am - I have no reason not to be and a considered ethical philosophy to follow) they immediately start with the projection - they say things like "it's so nice to see you cuddling up with him," implying that I feel affection for it, which I do not. It makes me uncomfortable to be aware that this is going on in every interaction with it I have in their presence. They start reading in all these pink warm fuzzy feelings which I, as far as I know, am as incapable of as the animal itself.
Why I should care is a mystery, except for the simple fact that it's incorrect and I dislike incorrectness.
That's the long and the short of this rant - stop projecting at me, people.
This was not a good decision. Pets are a responsibility, they are expensive to care for (as you have discovered), and they are a 10-20 year commitment, depending on the pet. Never get a pet unless you already know you will be able to take care of it and want to take on the responsibility. They get quite attached to their owners, and pine for them when they are separated.
Perhaps one of your relatives will be willing to take the pet. Be prepared to face a lot of disapproval when you propose giving it to one of them.
That is a very formulaic perspective. And one not at all encompassing of reality.
It's very easy to say such things when you are not in the practical position of the other person. Relationships between pets and people don't work out, or change, for a lot of reasons and very frequently. Perhaps you move to a flat that disallows animals, or introduce a child that the animal attacks. There are plenty of reasons why animals are, and should be, re-homed. In fact I bought the animal from someone else who simply had too many of them to handle.
To phrase it "when you get bored of it" insinuates flippancy and irresponsibility, when in fact, deciding to re-home a pet if the situation is not working out is in my opinion the more responsible course of action. If I cannot provide a sufficient environment for it, then it should be passed on to someone who can.
No one can predict the future. No one can say for absolute certain that any situation is going to work out. All we can do is make the attempt and monitor the results, as I did.
Interestingly your response seems to be emotionally based, in the same fashion as my relatives' have been. To expect such a response from someone like me is part of the problem I found. In regard to an animal's emotional repertoire, yes dogs may become attached and pine, but other animals such as rodents, birds, reptiles etc customarily do not.
I don't adhere to absolute blanket terms of that type. Everything is conditional on circumstances, to determine the correct course of action, in my experience.
I’m Alexi, my dog is not.
He has been the greatest companion of my life and has taught me many things.