Can a dog lose its voice?
If they can, ours should have lost his by now.
Responding to his demand barking created a monster, and Robert and I suffered through what experts call an “extinction burst.”
We wanted to break Zugspitze’s bad habit of barking whenever he wanted something or didn’t like something, which really meant we needed to break our bad habit of reacting to his barking. Our plan was to ignore the behavior, and that’s when we experienced the extinction burst.
It can be defined as “a temporary increase in the frequency, duration, or magnitude of the target response.” (Lerman, Iwata, & Wallace, 1999).
In simpler terms, our dog started barking louder, longer, faster, and more often. He’d stand in front of us and bark, move behind the couch and bark, scratch at the furniture and bark, and jump in our lap to bark in our faces.
Listening to this and watching him behave in this frustrated way was torturous--to our ears and to our hearts.
But, in the end, it was worth it. We hung in there as a team, stuck to our plan, doing the best for Zugspitze and for us, and are now enjoying peace in our home.
Last week, when I was recording my weekly vlog and talking about how God used my marriage to Robert to lead me into a closer relationship with Him, the Holy Spirit flipped a light switch.
I realized I went through an extinction burst.
For our one-year anniversary, I made Robert a photo album through Shutterfly. Photos to document our wedding day and the events of the next twelve months as well as stories of how we met and the things we did together fill the pages.
There were details I left out of my journaling, though. I stuck to the good things, appropriate for his gift, but I was overcome by feelings of shame while adding the photos. Every single event held a dark memory of my poor behavior.
The first blog post I wrote and published is titled Desperate and Needy. I wrote it July 27, 2017, three-and-a-half years after Robert and I married. I wrote about the awareness of my desperate and needy nature but was still searching and uncertain how to change it.
Today I’m able to say, by God’s love and grace, I take my desperate neediness to Jesus before anyone else—not perfectly, but more regularly.
I’ve released my husband from the heavy burden of telling me and reminding me who I am and whether I’m beautiful, desirable, and wanted. I was persistent in seeking God for the answers to these questions, quit answering for Him, and, in my heart, received His answers of acceptance.
I came to a place where I knew I was God’s beloved, all my wondering and wandering ended.
And then my good, good Father gave me another gift. He showed me how those first few years of marriage to Robert were my extinction burst, a time when I reached my highest levels of desperation and neediness whenever I wanted something or didn’t like something.
I went through an ugly time because my old habits, fears, and self-protective measures needed to go extinct. It’s still not pretty to think about, but along with my desperate behaviors ... the shame went extinct.
Now, I'm able to look through our album and be reminded of my blessings rather than my regrets. How the Lord blessed me with a husband who extended grace during my extinction burst, who hung in there, teamed up with Jesus, did what was best for me, for him, and for us.
And my eyes opened to God nudging and pursuing through each of those moments, waiting patiently for me to come to Him and allow Him to love me in a way only He can love, so I can love my husband and others in a way I’d never be able to do otherwise.
Extinction bursts are uncomfortable, annoying, torturous at times, patience-testing, and hard to live through, but when God’s involved …
and what remains …
is peace and
a purified vessel for the Lord.
Proverbs 25:4 Take away the dross from the silver, and there comes out a vessel for the smith.