Pets, these “new shrinks”

It spreads more every day and anchors itself in our heads as surely as the heat waves now return every summer. A new kind of fear, that of seeing global warming make our world unlivable. This brooding machine – dubbed “eco-anxiety” – is now superimposed on the anxiety of the pandemic, confinement, the outbreak of war near us or nuclear winter (and we forget some) . A fear that some – and this is one of the rare certainties as to the future – will treat with their animals, these “new shrinks” that “the Obs” has chosen to put in a cover this week under the title “Animal therapy” .

Pets: those partners who do us good

Never have dogs, cats and other so-called “domestic” animals been so numerous in our societies. Never have they generated so much money. Never, above all, have they occupied such a place by our side. It is up to them to heal, soothe, console, heal, soften. It is up to them to help us manage our emotions, our own… “animal spirits” – to use the expression used by the economist John Maynard Keynes to describe everything that does not come under the most raw rationality. Like a transitional object – the famous children’s cuddly toy that helps them separate from their mother – which would no longer be transitional.

The sequel after the ad

Of course, this phenomenon is not new. It has been a long time since dogs or cats are no longer assigned only to a clearly established function (chasing mice, protecting the home against any intrusion, bringing back game, etc.). Long since the animal has joined the ranks of the family. And that the boundaries between the human being and his companion have blurred. Almost five hundred years ago, Montaigne already explained that he “to finds more difference from such man to such man than from such animal to such man.. Closer to home, Freud had found in his chow-chow female dogs the indispensable companions of the last years of his life, a bandage for his own sufferings and a useful presence during the sessions he conducted with his patients. As for Jacques Lacan – who spoke of“human animal” – he didn’t hide everything that his dog Justine brought him either.

But this “animal need” has taken on a new dimension in recent years, which says a lot about the world around us and our own torments. The animal is first of all a reminder of nature, a response to the growing need to surround oneself with the living, which we also see collapsing. It is also a presence, a permanence, a palliative for contemporary individualism and a remedy for isolation, affection too. It is a framework, a routine, refrains that punctuate everyday life, give meaning and help to combat the absurdity of a secularized world.

So many reasons that allow us to understand how households can devote a large part of their budget to their dog or cat in order to have “the best for their animal”, just as others want the “best for their child”. But which also explain that the animal can sometimes become the crucible of our neuroses, like the frenzied need to distinguish oneself from others: how else to explain the development of niches or leashes branded by the big luxury brands, which we exhibit on social media? More than ever the animal is a formidable mirror. A mirror of the human being and his time.

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