What my horse has taught me about… dealing with confrontation.
Let’s start by defining what I mean by confrontation. Confrontation in the context of this conversation refers to any moment where you’re required to hold your ground in the midst of an opposing energy. That could look like…
- Having a conversation with someone and them disagreeing with what you’re saying
- Making a decision that you believe is in the best interest of you and your horse and having others around you chime in with their unwelcome thoughts that challenge what you are doing
- Finding yourself in a situation that you realize isn’t healthy for you and needing to get yourself out of it
Imagine then for a moment what it feels like to be in throes of a confronting experience. As you stand there…
- Your body registers a potential “threat”
- It creates a sympathetic response or activation in the system
- You feel a mobilization of energy
There are two options that are possible at this point (well, there are way more than two but for the sake of discussion, let’s keep it simple):
- You understand this energy increase as the natural response of your body to meet the moment
- The activation in your system automatically triggers a fear response, sending you into your “favourite” modus operandi in the face of discomfort or dis-ease, which will assume some variation of flight, freeze or shutdown.
In order for us to be able to negotiate confrontation effectively, two things need to happen.
- We need to have a healthy and robust connection to the fight response. A healthy fight response is what allows us to connect to our backbone, to hold our own in the midst of discomfort, and to have a felt understanding of the basic essence of our humanity: I matter.
- We need to be able to hold activation and energy in the system without it feeling unsafe, and consequently triggering a survival response. Many of us have coupled together with this sympathetic uprising with an automatic feeling of concern. This takes us out of our own agency and means we are no longer discerning about when to stay, when to leave, when to use our voice, and when perhaps the best option is to call it a day. We no longer get to choose; our body essentially takes over.
What I have described above is an essential piece of what I teach and what I practice. My horses have taught me all of this.
My work starting Dee and noticing my concern at various points has taught me that activation in my body is not necessarily something to be afraid of, but simply my entire being preparing to do something hard or that challenges me.
Nadia has shown me that I can create space in my body to allow energy to flow to ensure I stay active in the moment and don’t freeze up or shut down by letting things get stuck or contracted.
All have taught me how to separate out the responses of my body from the stories of my mind. And it continues to be a work in progress.
Working with horses can be a transactional process or a transformational one. For me, the joy exists in the latter.