Desensitizing and Counter-Conditioning

by Emily Symonds

Make me remember I don’t love you. When you approach,
my stomach flutters, my cheeks burn, even while I’m thinking,
“I don’t miss you.”

                                The brain thinks out of conditioning,
the body reacting because of memory, not necessity.
Pavlov knew this. My dog does not actually miss me
when I leave each day. She knows it’s only a few hours,
that I’ll return, but still she acts as if each departure
is a Greek tragedy: the epic absence of the mistress.
My dog devours blankets, counting the minutes
with each thread. The solution: Break her down so
she’ll remember what she already knows. Make her think
she’s crazy for reacting so intensely because of me.
Desensitize her. Daily, I grab my keys and don’t leave,
walk to the door and then walk back, put my jacket on and
sit down, until—so the experts say—she no longer cares.