We asked aromatherapist and master herbalist Nayana Morag of Essential Animals to explain the significance of animals mirroring our actions or moods and how our emotional or physical state can affect them

A new horse arrives

I was 23 and working on a ranch in Oregon, USA when I first understood how powerfully our emotional state and projections affect our animals; how, god-like, we create them in our own image. A wealthy lady was moving to our community from the East coast and sent her horse on ahead of her. I was responsible for the horses, and my instructions were to treat the new horse as one of the herd and take care of her as I would the others.

She was a beautiful Arabian mare, friendly and curious. She settled in with the herd, after a few days across a fence, and we started to integrate her into life on the ranch. Once I had checked she was safe to ride, the teenagers took over. She was a perfect horse for them and they would ride out in a group of three or four almost daily.

Followed by the owner

Then, about a month after the horse arrived, her owner rolled into town unexpectedly. She came to the barn to find her horse. “Oh she’s out with the kids,” I said, “She’ll be back soon, she’s doing really well”.

Unfortunately this news triggered near panic for the owner! “Oh no, she can’t be ridden by children she’s much too unsafe. And she shouldn’t be out with the other horses, she doesn’t get along with them!”. The air was thick with her anxiety and irritation. Nonplussed, I pointed down the valley where you could see a group of chattering teenagers, legs hanging loose, reins down as the horses sauntered home, heads low. “Here they come now, safe and happy, everything is fine!” Again, owner not pleased.

Jekyll and Hyde

And lo and behold, as her owner approached her the horse transformed. Head raised, eyes alert. She became the spooky Arab she was supposed to be. Extraordinary. And that’s how it was. The presence of her person could transform this lovely, kind little mare into a flighty dragon.

Unfortunately, instead of being pleased that her horse was more calm and happy, after about three months of watching the mare living quietly with the herd, the owner decided she needed a stable and the company of other Arabians. So she sent her all the way back East!

Focus: from the animals to people

This whole episode was a turning point for me and changed my focus from working with horses to working with people. If I could just get the person to be aware of themselves and what they were feeling, to find a space of inner quiet, the horse/dog could calm down too. It’s one of the things that drew me to essential oils. The whole process of animal self-selection, where the human sits quietly and offers the oils for the animal to choose, allows the person to calm down and get quiet. This immediately gives the animal space to relax. Less stress, more health.

Another thing I quickly noticed is that sometimes the animal would select an oil specifically for their person, because of course, we can’t offer aromatics without being affected ourselves.

Sitting quietly and offering essential oils

So what is animal mirroring?

Animals live in their senses, aware of all the energy and emotion that is in their environment. They want to keep their environment safe and harmonious and are hard-wired to align with the pack or herd so they don’t come to harm. You can be pretty sure that if your animal is expressing a behaviour it’s because he or she thinks you want it. On an unconscious level it’s what you are expressing through your body and internal state.

Cats relaxed and mirroring each other

As humans we tend to live in our heads, disconnected from our senses, guided (or misguided) by mental activity. We have the ability to say one thing and feel another, to behave as if we are feeling brave when actually we are scared. We are unaware when our breathing changes and our autonomic nervous system gets activated. Or we may be aware but we then try to suppress or deny it. Animals pick up on all of this and respond on an instinctive level. They may mirror our actions or moods.

The lunging barking dog

For example, a very common case of mirroring is a dog who lunges and barks when on the lead, especially when they see a man they don’t know. The person calls me to help because their dog is ‘aggressive’. Upon further investigation we are likely to find out that the human has always been a little nervous when walking alone, especially when they see a strange man. It may be part of the reason they got a dog. So, when they see a man their grip on the lead tightens, their breathing stops and the good dog says, “Uh oh, we’re in trouble, better protect my leader,” and starts barking and lunging. This is a downward spiral of course, because now the person is going to get twice as anxious when they see a strange man because of her ‘aggressive’ dog.

Is this dog mirroring - highlighting their owner's fears and protecting them?
Mirroring: Is this an aggressive dog or is their owner afraid and they are protecting them?

Afraid to ride

Another example is the horse who has recurrent lameness, or refuses to be ridden, because their person is actually afraid to ride. The good news is, that once we are aware of the mechanism of the cycle we, as thinking humans, can start to consciously change it. It’s as simple as taking a breath, feeling our feet and coming in to the present moment. When we self-regulate and relax, the message is immediately received by our animals.

Mirroring: Is the horse “not quite right” again or is the owner afraid to ride?

A call for help

Often times when we are asked to see an animal we find that the animal is calling for help for their human. Animals will even mirror illnesses that their humans are carrying and often they will demonstrate an emotion that their person is afraid or ashamed to express. Once we start to explore that, making it conscious, and offer essential oils, things can shift.

My colleague Lisa Tully, animal communicator and fellow APA** practitioner and teacher, has been guided by animals to develop a technique where they choose a flower essence remedy for their human. When a human is open to work in this way the healing is profound for both parties.

Increased awareness promotes healing

Animals will always show us our own truth one way or another. The more we are open to hearing the message the quicker healing can start. Which is why for me, one of the most important things animal guardians can do is understand how they affect their loved ones, and how their own world view will colour what they see in them. By increasing our self-awareness and understanding what makes us tick, we often discover that what we thought was the animal’s problem was actually our own. Sometimes a problem is only a matter of perception. Other times what we are seeing as illness is the final outcome of a break down in communication. So we owe it to our animals to study ourselves.

At the very least, by knowing what is going on inside ourselves we will be able to see our loved ones more clearly without misinterpreting what they are saying, and therefore help them better.  There is no act so huge as that of  taking on the responsibility for the welfare of another being, whether a child or an animal. For many of us that act has led us down paths we never expected to explore, and led to our own healing.

Animals offer us a powerful tool for self healing when we choose to look in the mirror.

Animals offer us a powerful tool for self-healing when we choose to look in the mirror

**Animal PsychAromatica, a complete holistic animal wellness system

Useful Links

Lisa Tully

The Aromatic Cat by Nayana Morag and Julie-Anne Thorne – book review

Blogs about essential oils

Nayana Morag

Nayana Morag, the founder of Essential Animals and head teacher, is a qualified Animal (and human) Aromatherapist and Master Herbalist. She is also trained in kinesiology and has post-graduate certificates in 5 Element Theory and Aromatic Energetics, Equine Acupressure and natural nutrition. She has been teaching about essential oils for animals since 2000, lecturing worldwide to vets, trainers and animal lovers of all kinds. Combining her varied skills and the understanding that reducing stress is essential for health, she developed Animal PsychAromatica. A completely holistic animal wellness system.

She is the author of “Essential Oils for Animals: Your complete guide to using aromatherapy for natural animal care and management”, “The Aromatic Dog” and “The Aromatic Cat”. She has a passion for helping humans and other animals understand each other better, so they can live in harmony and health.

Nayana makes her home in Portugal, where she lives what she teaches every day. She has created a dream environment for her herd of horses, 3 dogs and 2 cats, where they can roam freely and select their medicine every day. She learns something new every day through observing their interactions with nature and the aromatic plants that abound at  Over the Edge Farm.

Disclaimer – Where blogs have been created by a guest author, CAM4Animals has reproduced this in good faith but cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies of information in it or any use you make of this information

This blog may also contain an element of consumer opinionWhilst CAM4animals welcomes positive recommendations for holistic healthcare products, we don’t necessarily endorse the product or the author’s opinion. We acknowledge that each animal is an individual and may react differently to the highlighted product/s. There may also be other products available that produce similarly positive results.

The veterinary Surgeon’s Act 1966 restricts the treatment of animals (usually other than your own*) by anyone other than a qualified vet. Always consult a veterinary surgeon if you are concerned about your animal’s health. *For full details visit the RCVS website