Psychology Lessons from Bobby Coon

Psychology lessons and personal development tips are everywhere around us if we just keep our minds open enough to receive them, even from such an unlikely teacher, as Bobby Coon. I imagine that most of you are now asking yourselves who is this Bobby Coon that I’m talking about. Maybe he’s a great entrepreneur turned coach or a motivational speaker that travels the world in order to bring his message to thousands of people… or maybe he’s just a tiny raccoon named Bobby. Yes, a raccoon that is. And a pretty interesting one too, if I might add.

Where did I meet Bobby Coon, you ask. Well, we’ve met several weeks ago via one of Thornton W. Burgess’ books called “The Adventures of Bobby Coon”. Yes, an author dedicated an entire book to Bobby. He’s that interesting.

So, Bobby Coon the raccoon and some of his friends are featured in Mr. Burgess’ book and I think that although he may not know it, he provided readers all over the world with great lessons to help them understand their own inner dynamic and also the interactions we have with others.

Bobby is a fictional character, but the way his life is depicted in the book makes certain things very real and valid. And I will tell you why I think that you and your child should include “The Adventures of Bobby Coon” in your bedtime stories list.

Summary of the book

“The Adventures of Bobby Coon” presents several months in the life of Bobby, a raccoon living in the Green Forest that found himself one day in a somewhat problematic situation – someone was cutting down the tree that was his home – that meant the beginning of his adventures. Bobby’s tree’s been cut down by Farmer Brown and his boy who didn’t know the old hollow tree was someone’s house and when their dog, Bowser the Hound,  discovered the little creature with a broken leg, the young boy decided to take him to their farm until he will get better. In the following weeks, Bobby learns to trust Farmer Brown’s boy and takes a liking to living with him, but when he realizes he was missing the Green Forest and his friends so much, he decided to go back. So, Farmer Brown’s boy took Bobby back to the Green Forest and the little raccoon had to go through a new series of events until he found a new home. I will not reveal what Unc’ Billy Possum, Mrs. Possum, Peter Rabbit, Prickly Porky the Porcupine, Blacky the Crow, or Buster Bear had to do with all of his adventures about finding a new house to make a home, but perhaps you will decide to find out for yourself or let your child enter the Green Forest and meet Bobby too.

…and here’s why.

* OK, I may reveal a little. Thus, beware, spoilers ahead.

 What dreams are made of…

„Some dreams are good and some are bad;
Some dreams are light and airy;
Some dreams I think are woven by
The worst bind of a fairy.”

This is one of the explanations Bobby has for the creation of dreams, but two realistic facts that the book mentions are the following: Dream content may refer to a wish that hasn’t been fulfilled during the day – he dreams all these great foods he hasn’t found during the day, so he sees them at night, in his dream. However, he doesn’t get to eat them because they disappear before he does so, but why that is, requires a bit of in-depth analysis and we can’t ask Bobby to be on the therapist’s sofa, so we won’t approach this matter.

The other interesting thing Bobby finds out about dreams is that real stimuli, sounds, for example, can trigger specific situations in dreams – Somebody is knocking Bobby’s tree down and the sound of the axe makes him dream about a giant that’s hitting the log with a club. Also, the giant theme would be something worth analyzing too.

Fear can paralyze someone’s mind and body

When Bobby woke up and realized his house was being axed down, „He was too frightened to go and too frightened to stay.”

You can’t expect someone to know a piece of certain information unless you are sure it’s been brought to their knowledge

I know you may find it a bit strange that I’ve decided to state such an obvious thing… but it’s something that happens in our lives and we are not always aware of it.

Here’s the segment from the book and I’ll explain below…

“You see, all this time that Bobby Coon had been having such a dreadful, such a very dreadful time, Farmer Brown and Farmer Brown’s boy and Bowser the Hound had known nothing at all about it. Bobby Coon hadn’t once entered the heads of any of them. None of them knew that the big chestnut tree was Bobby’s home.”

So the people and Bowser didn’t want to cause Bobby any harm and yet they did because they didn’t know the chestnut tree was his home and that he was inside while they were taking the tree down.

Now… how many times have you been angry or felt misunderstood by someone in your life and perhaps never realized that it was not in their intention to hurt you, but they’ve just lacked the information to do otherwise?

“He brought me lilies…but I like roses… he should’ve known I like roses!” – Have you ever told him you prefer roses?

“She decided to invite all of her friends here on Super Bowl night. Doesn’t she know I wanted to see the game with the guys?” – Have you ever conveyed your intentions to your significant other?

“He/She never does anything around the house, I always take care of everything.” – Have you decided together what the tasks are and who is responsible for what?

etc etc.

We cannot expect people to meet our expectations if we have never stated them clearly and cannot consider them responsible for the negative emotions that follow…in fact, no negative emotion should emerge from such events because the expectation was unrealistic in the first place. Bad goal setting leads to disappointment…and guess who sets up the goals?

Back to Bobby, he labeled the people and the hound considering their actions and jumped to the conclusion that they were the enemies that he had to fight. He didn’t realize they simply lacked the information about Bobby and his house and had they known differently, their actions would’ve been different too.

Many times, what we think of a situation is worse than reality, thus making us react to the emphasized scenario in our minds rather than to the actual stimuli or contexts

„It’s funny how you’ll often find
That trouble’s mostly in your mind.”

Mixed messages can reveal the way to the authentic one

„You know eyes are sometimes called the windows of the soul. This means simply that as you look out through your eyes and see all that is going on about you, so others may sometimes look right in your eyes and see what is going on within your mind.”

Now, I’m not going to promote the idea that we can ‘read someone’s mind or thoughts” – a cognitive distortion actually, “mind reading” – but consider the following segment along with the previous one…

„Eyes will tell the truth when a tongue is busy telling a wrong story.”

So even when we try to cover up our true feelings or intentions by saying something different, the mixed messages can trigger a red flag and make the one we’re talking to dig deeper in order to find out which one is the authentic message we’re trying to convey.

“Is there something wrong?” – “No, honey. Everything’s fine.” (Lifts head and looks up, trying to smile). – “OK, tell me what’s wrong.” …Seems familiar?

People sometimes don’t express feelings or emotions because… they don’t know how.

„Bobby didn’t say good-by, because he didn’t know how.”

This is a complex topic and the way to express emotions when one doesn’t quite know how to do that – or even identify them -, it’s a step-by-step process… it takes time.

Sometimes we take things for granted…and shouldn’t. A bit of appreciation for the simplest things that make our life would be quite welcome.

„No one can fully understand what a wonderful and blessed thing freedom is until they have lost it and then got it again.” – Bobby was happy to return to the Green Forest after the time he spent in Farmer Brown’s house. He was there to recover and was being treated well, but after a while, he started feeling like a prisoner.

Also, maybe we should reconsider the fact that sometimes, even when our intentions are great, the result may not always involve a happy receiver of our affection. We need to make sure the other one needs the care we are willing to provide and not smother them with our love and affection.

We all need our freedom, even in the closest relationships.

When someone makes a mistake…

„It is bad enough to find out for yourself that you have made a mistake but to have other people know it makes you feel a great deal worse. So the kindest thing that anyone can do when they know a friend has made a mistake and it is too late to warn them, is to appear not to know of it at all.”

Now, I don’t agree with this hush-hush policy in order to protect the other one (I don’t think you’re actually protecting them), but I find something useful in the following approach: not jumping to point out the mistake and even blame the other one until you give them enough time and space to figure out the mistake on their own.

A way to protect yourself from teasing especially, but it can sometimes work with accusations and bullying too

„Now you know there is no fun in trying to tease one who won’t show he is teased.”

There’s a cycle… Someone teases you, you get angry and respond, the other one continues the teasing…you get angrier and respond, etc. You can stop this cycle by simply not responding and…yes…not getting angry. Un-touch-a-ble.

Ahm…yes… we can do crazy terrible things when in a bad state of mind…

„”But I’m your cousin!” cried Bobby, as he started to run.
“That doesn’t make a bit of difference,” snapped Buster. “I’m hungry enough to eat my own brother if I had one.””

Don’t worry, Buster Bear didn’t eat Bobby…but he was so hungry that he, well… chased him a bit. 😀  …now this part of the book is not necessarily great for kids to read, but fear and aggressiveness are part of our lives too… at least he didn’t get eaten as Red Riding Hood did. (Oh, oh, it’s okay…she escaped too. :D).

Being hungry, sad, frustrated, or even physically ill can increase our irritability and we may end up saying or doing things we don’t mean.

{Remember the Snickers Commercial, with Joan Collins?…something like that}

Intense situations increase our sensorial acuity

„Bobby looked about him, and fear made his eyes quick to see.”

When things get tough, have hope and don’t give up

…by this time, Bobby escaped Buster by jumping from a  big tree Buster could climb, into a smaller tree that made it impossible for Buster to put his arms around it and escalate.

„Once more Bobby began to hope.”


„No, Sir, Buster doesn’t give up until he has tried all the things he can think of.”

…Buster Bear started shaking the tree Bobby was in…

„The very first shake caught Bobby by surprise, and he very nearly lost his hold. Then he saw what Buster was up to, and he held on for dear life. He held on with arms and legs and teeth. Back and forth swung that tree and Bobby with it. It was worse, very much worse, than the hardest wind Bobby ever had been out in. But he grimly held on with claws and teeth, and over and over he said to himself: “I won’t let go. I won’t let go. I won’t let go.” And he didn’t.”

Hope and Will and Determination and…a Mantra. Bobby’s key to success.

There are two types of heroes…

„Real heroes are those who do brave deeds, knowing all the time just what they are about, what risks they are taking, what will happen if they fail, and yet do the brave deeds just the same. The other kind of heroes are not real, true heroes at all, but are treated as if they were and are made just as much of as if they were. They are the ones who do what seem to be brave deeds, but which in truth haven’t been planned at all and have been done unintentionally. People, who in trying to save their own lives happen to save the lives of others, always are called heroes and are much looked up to and made of when in truth they are not heroes at all.”

Now I’m not sure I’m Okay with the taxonomy… people who try and succeed to save their own lives in terrible contexts are their own heroes and by extension, they can be considered heroes for others too… don’t you think? But I agree that factors like intention and motives should be taken into consideration when analyzing the “hero” effect. This subject can also trigger complex analysis, but to keep things to the point… in the author’s view, Peter Rabbit had been no hero just because he trod on a dry stick while trying to see the whole Buster-Bobby situation better, got chased by Buster instead – because “a Rabbit on the ground was better than a Coon he couldn’t shake out of a tree.” – escaped and created the context for Bobby to run off too.

Find the positive in all experiences, even in the ones that seem to have nothing good about them

„Bobby has a sense of fun, and now he saw the funny side of all his experiences.”

When he was safe at last, Bobby was able to see the funny side of his adventure: he was just trying to find a new place to sleep, but instead mixed up houses, twice, got picked on by Blacky the Crow and his friends and he’s been chased by Buster, but he escaped and now he can look at it all in a detached manner and find the positive and even funny aspects of his adventures.

Explore, travel…it’s good for you

„You know it always is great fun to explore a strange place.”

So, these are the tiny but sometimes very significant psy lessons one can get by reading “The Adventures of Bobby Coon” by Thornton W. Burgess. It’s a children’s book, but adults can also find it to be a fun read and a simpler way to see complex things.

Let me know what you think of Bobby Coon or whether you’ve read other books in the “Bedtime Stories” series by Burgess – According to Wikipedia, he wrote “over 170 books and 15,000 stories for the daily newspaper column”, so there’s plenty to choose from. 🙂

…So yes, I actually took the time to list what I think to be psychology and personal development lessons from a fictional raccoon. And it was fun! 🙂

In conclusion, in Burgess’ own words…„This is a funny old world, isn’t it?”

* Read “The Adventures of Bobby Coon” by Thornton W. Burgess. Free. Included in the Gutenberg Project.

* Image Source

1 thought on “Psychology Lessons from Bobby Coon”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *