You Have an Animal Inside

Your Body as a Conscious Source of Wisdom

One of my teachers once said to me, “Always remember, Paul, that sitting across from you is not only a person, but an animal, and you have to try not to offend either of them.” Our bodies are animals…conscious beings and sources of wisdom. We can benefit greatly by learning to listen to that wisdom.

Sometimes mere words just aren’t adequate to express what I want to share.  This week, a poem says it best.

You Have an Animal Inside

by Paul Chubbuck

"Jaguar of the Malinalco" earth pigments, oil on panel by Kimberly Webber (c) 2005 - Click image for artist link.

You have an animal inside,
a stranger to you.

It is bolting like a startled deer,
or enraged as a sow defending cubs,
or frozen like a cornered rabbit.

You banished it because its pain was forbidden.
Now it needs something from you.

You must find out what.
I can point, but cannot tell you.
You must look for yourself.

Mine often needs to dance in sunlight,
like a cat rolling in rays of late day,
and sometimes to slowly wade rivers barefoot,
like moose do after the spring thaw slows.

Your animal does not speak English.
It is crying in wilder ways.

Listen…right now, with gentleness and curiosity,
as you would befriend a wild thing.

Don’t let the noise in your mind muzzle it.
Don’t neglect it with practical excuses.
That’s no way to treat a beloved animal.

Listen with your feelings,
See with your inner eye.

I can’t say what you’ll hear.
One friend listened and had to climb a mountain.
Another learned to sing.
What you hear may not be convenient.

When you look inside,
if you see anguished visions
it’s only because you’ve ignored it so long.

Hungry dogs grow vicious.

Later, once safe, well-fed, and brushed,
your animal will show you greater things.

How to run like the wind.
How to avoid danger at night.
How to lay down your bad habits.
Who your true mate is.
How to love them.

Have you forgotten how to gambol, prance, and pronk?
Then no wonder you’re missing joy.
You won’t find it prying answers from your mind.

Your animal knows these things.
Learn to tend and groom it well.
Let it teach you.


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Paul Chubbuck is a practicing psychotherapist in Fort Collins, CO, using Somatic Experiencing® to help people release unresolved trauma. He may be reached at 970-493-2958 or through his website at

Your comments, questions, and stories are welcome below. I will respond.

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    • Thank you, Paul for this gentle reminder.
      I would like to use your poem in a future Brains on the Range newsletter.

      • I’d be honored. Thanks. Please include a link to my website.

    • Mark

      Thanks Paul. Jaguar and I appreciate the reminder.

      • Yes, Mark, that painting must have fit especially nicely for you!

    • Dorothy Hanson

      Strange this message would come today. My animal has needed feeding for quite a bit of time…today I went down and applied to Big Bro and Big Sister for food for the soul….and I don’t care which I get …boy or girl….

      • Dorothy, I’m glad the timing was just right. Those kids will appreciate it!

    • LOL I did. Must not offend the person or the animal. Too true!

      • LOL back. How many times we have accidentally offended the animal, sensitive creatures that they are!

    • Suzy

      Paul, You are so amazing. The poem is so beautiful and really made me think. I have never ever thought about an animal being inside me. I am going to have fun today listening to my inner self and see what kind of creature(s) emerges.

      • Thanks, Suzy. Feel free to report back with your discoveries.

      • Suzy, may I use this as a blurb for my imminently to be published poetry volume? If so, May I use your name?

    • Barbara

      All I can say is WOW! This poem is great. I love the poem. Definately, something that I need to do. Great insight. Thanks for sharing.

      • Thank you, Barbara.

        One reason I enjoy writing and sharing poetry is that, unlike writing academically or scientifically, it does not invite argumentation. Either it emotionally evokes something for the reader, or it doesn’t, but it usually doesn’t provoke the need to disagree or disprove.

      • Barbara, may I use this as a blurb for my imminently to be published poetry volume? If so, May I use your name?

    • Hunter

      Thank you. Thank you so much. You helped me out more than you can believe. I was so angry. I felt like i was pinned to a wall with no where to go, like i was cornered with no escape. I found this poem and meditated. I imagined myself walking through the dense forests of my mind and found my other half caught, like he was caught in a snare. I set it free and it just stared at me. Looking into the very depths of my soul. I felt like i awakened from a dream. I went outside, looked into the woods in my back yard and yelled into the sky. I felt free. I ran hard, and fast. I ran like I never ran before. I owe you my life. You saved my from myself.

      • Hunter, you made good and courageous use of my poem. I am very happy that it served you. This is a powerful beginning, but still, it is just the beginning. Now you have met your animal and set it free. Now follow the advice in the poem. Get to know it. Treat it well and let it teach you. Allow it to remain free. Blessings.

      • Hunter, are you still out there? You commented 5 years ago about my poem “You have an Animal Inside”. I have a question for you. If you get this message, could you contact me through this website, please?