‘Irrational’ fears

What are they?  Where do they come from?  Is there anything we can do about them?

This blog has come about because of Dax, one of the horses who lives with us.  I’d noticed that he wasn’t himself during this last week, not rushing in for his food as he normally does and seeming to be distracted by something in the distance.

He was still eating and seemed to be well in himself, but something was obviously bothering him.  At first, I couldn’t work out what it was.  I couldn’t see or hear anything myself, so I couldn’t understand what was holding his attention to such a degree.  Then yesterday morning I followed his gaze and saw that there are some new neighbours in a nearby field.  The farmer has put some cattle in a field that joins onto one of ours.  The cows have a large area in which to wander so they are not always visible from our land, but Dax was clearly acutely aware of their presence.  His owner had told me that he isn’t comfortable around cows and now I was seeing just what effect they have on him.

This got me thinking about fears, specifically the ones that seem to trigger us into ‘excessive’ behaviours.  These could be severe, ‘phobia’ type responses, or simply going out of our way to avoid whatever is unsettling us.  Common triggers can be spiders, heights or enclosed spaces and these can be easy for others to understand, however sometimes the cause of our fears can be simple everyday objects such as buttons, beards or cats.

So where do these fears come from, and why do they affect our behaviour in ways that sometimes seem to be out of our control?

I believe that these fears have come from some form of ‘trauma’.  This can be ‘Big T’, or ‘little t’ trauma, and will be very subjective, but it will have been sufficient to have appeared to cause some form of threat to the person’s safety.  Remember, though, that many of our ‘irrational’ fears have been held for a long time and are very deep seated.  We might even feel that they’ve always been there.  This probably means that they were created when we were very young, further back than our conscious memory.  The perceived threat would therefore have to be understood from the viewpoint of that younger self.  Rationally, it might be hard to understand why someone is scared of spiders as an adult – after all they’re so much smaller than we are and, in the UK at least, they’re unlikely to cause us serious harm – however, from a child’s perspective they could look quite scary.

We can also inherit fears from others; for example a parent who hates spiders, or who has experienced a dog attack, might pass on their fears to their children.

Another important point to be aware of is that when we experience a trauma, our brain takes a snapshot of the moment, in an attempt to avoid any similar situations in the future.  The downside of this is that the snapshot captures all the details of that instant, even the ones that weren’t part of the trauma.  This is why we can develop phobias about innocent objects such as buttons, and why animals can react to very specific things such as people wearing a red coat.

Triggers can bring on huge anxiety, resulting in ‘fight or flight’ type responses, ie adrenaline, fast heart rate, sweating palms, dry mouth, shaking, a need to run away or even burst into tears.  Rational thought can be lost and our ‘survival instinct’ takes over.  When someone is in this state it can be difficult, or even impossible, for them to ‘snap out of it’ or ‘get a grip’ on their feelings.  If you find yourself in this situation – or you’re supporting someone who is feeling this way – find a way to help yourself (or them) to feel safe again.  This might mean moving away from the situation, if possible.  Take some slow, deep breaths, and focus on feeling the air going in and out, perhaps counting along with each breath, for example: breathe in 1-2-3-4, breathe out 1-2-3-4.  Bring your awareness back into your body – you can try focusing on your feet, becoming aware of them on the floor; or of your body sitting in the chair; or of the feel of your clothes against your skin.  This will also help to bring you into the present moment and away from any racing, fearful thoughts and images in your head.

This practice can help you in the moment.  If you would also like to explore more long-term ways to support yourself you could try:

  • mindfulness and meditation – these allow you to explore your feelings and to regularly practice relaxation so that it becomes a part of your muscle memory and is therefore easier to recreate, even in moments of stress
  • journaling – this is a great way of exploring feelings and the thoughts that underlie them. It often brings deeper understanding which is a great way of developing self-compassion and insight into our deeper needs and how to provide for these
  • EFT (emotional freedom techniques or ‘tapping) – this is a very effective way of releasing traumas and deep-seated fears that are no longer serving us. EFT is easy to learn, in order to practice on yourself and is something that you can use any time, anywhere.  It’s good to start off working with a practitioner until you are familiar with the technique, and for some issues it can be best to work with someone subjective and experienced.
  • Reiki – again this is something that you can learn to practice on yourself, or you can book a session with a practitioner. It helps to rebalance your energy, grounding you and enabling you to release long-held tensions.
  • Hypnotherapy – another great therapeutic tool for helping us to deal with issues that can be buried deep in our subconscious.
  • Trauma release exercises (TRE) – when we hold a trauma over a long period of time it actually becomes ingrained into our muscle memory. One of the main muscles for holding emotional memories is the psoas, however it is deep within our body and often cannot be released with simple massage.  These exercises allow the psoas, and other muscles, to let go of tension which in turn helps us to release trauma.

If you would like to know more on any of the above, please contact me.  I offer sessions which draw on some of these techniques and can refer you to some wonderful colleagues for the areas that I don’t cover myself.

As a first step, you might like to take a look at this article on Mindfulness.

I’d love to hear from you.  Please post any comments or questions below.

 

 

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A Perfect Storm

perfect storm is an event in which a rare combination of circumstances drastically aggravates the event. The term is used by analogy to an unusually severe storm that results from a rare combination of meteorological phenomena. (Wikipedia)

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where one thing after another seems to be going against you?  It can really zap your energy and optimism!

Recently it’s felt a bit like that here.  When we moved to this beautiful part of the world, we knew that there would be some work to do on the outbuildings, and managing the land, but we thought that the house was sound and all we needed to do was move in and we could do any necessary repairs, etc, at our own pace.

However, this has turned out not to be the case.  Of course, this summer was one of the driest on record – even here in Wales.  But the day we moved we had storm Callum, and then in this last week we had storm Diana.  All that wind and rain tested the solidity of the buildings and revealed leaks that weren’t apparent on our earlier visits.  We’ve found that water is coming in, in several places – through roof, doors and walls.  All of this of course means extra expense, which is scary when you’ve just moved house!  There are also leaks in several outbuildings, and the roof on the cabin was threatening to lift off.  We lost a panel off the side of one of the storage buildings and several items were blown into the stream.

The winds also turned poo picking into quite an adventure!  One afternoon I lost my hat, barrow, rake and poo skip – all blown away from me.  The horses were rather spooked by the waving branches and the sound of the wind in the trees and hedges.  Dax quickly settled once he got some hay, but Rika was more uncertain.  She seemed to gain confidence, though, when I stood next to her and reassured her.  She pushed in a couple of times for a scratch and it was lovely to think that my presence put her more at ease.  Thankfully both have still been keeping warm, despite the weather.

Added to this is the fact that we still haven’t been connected to the internet and phone.  TV is also part of the package that we’ve ordered, so we don’t have that either.  This has been a big challenge in many ways and my husband is finding it particularly frustrating.  I was managing reasonably well, using WiFi in a local café as and when I could, but when hubby was away with work for the night of the storm, the sense of isolation from a lack of contact with the outside world, hubby’s frustrations and the fact that he is very unhappy that we’ve moved here, concerns about the effect of the weather on the horses and financial worries, all piled up, and I suddenly felt hopeless and just wanted to rage at the world!

This made me think about what I could do to support myself, when I felt I had run out of energy and resilience.  These were my tips to myself:

  1. Remember to breathe! A simple thing, and it might seem small and insignificant in the face of the storm, but it helps you to be more grounded, to find balance and perspective when the storm is threatening to blow you away.  Also it can be heartening to know that you are still holding on.  When you look back and see what you’ve managed to come through, it can build your confidence and awareness of your inner strength.
  2. Take one step at a time. When you’re in a ‘perfect storm’, everything seems overwhelming.  Each issue appears to be too huge to manage.  We can feel lost and uncertain of where we’re going or what the future might hold.  But keeping moving, even at the slowest pace, means that we’re taking action rather than getting stuck.  And again, we can discover an inner strength and resources we were unaware of, which is a great boost to our confidence and esteem, and contrasts against the things that seem to be knocking us down.
  3. Don’t make any big decisions. When you’re struggling, feeling lost and out of your depth, it’s not a good place from which to make important decisions.  If others are pressing you for an answer, it’s ok to say that you need some time.  You need to be able to restore your sense of balance, perspective and hope, reconnecting again with your inner sense of who you are and what matters to you – your inner compass – before you can hope to make a choice that will serve you.
  4. Spend time with those who lift you up. When you’re struggling to find anything positive or hopeful inside of yourself it can be good to spend time in the company of people, music or books that soothe and encourage us.  I’m very fortunate to have some wonderful friends to call on.  I rang one the night that my ‘perfect storm’ hit, and she immediately suggested getting together.  We’ve arranged to meet up tomorrow and having this to look forward to, I suddenly felt a little better, almost as if I was drowning and had found a rock to rest on allowing me to catch my breath and have the space to regather myself.  It’s said that we become like the 5 people we spend most of our time with, so pay attention to the people – and the energy – that you hang out with.  Are they uplifting?  Encouraging?  Supportive?  Reassuring? Optimistic?  Do they build you up?  Encourage you?  Believe in you?  Reignite your passion?
  5. Take time to rest and reflect, and be gentle with yourself. When everything seems to be yelling for your attention, it’s important to take some time out for yourself. Peace and quiet are invaluable for helping us to recharge and think about where we would like to be once the storm has passed.  For me I noticed that getting outside into the woods, or into the fields with the horses, helped me to put some distance between myself and most of the things that were stressing me.  It helped to restore my balance and sense of positivity.
    Also, don’t be too hard on yourself for being in this situation.  Life can throw us curve-balls.  Finding yourself in the middle of an emotional storm is not a poor reflection on who you are.  It’s our responses to our situation that show our true character.
  6. Take good care of yourself. In the midst of the storm, everything seems to be demanding your time and attention, leaving no time for yourself.  But this can lead to draining your batteries, leaving you exhausted and even ill.  At times like this it’s important to eat healthily – including lots of fresh, preferably organic, produce, including fruit and veg of a wide variety of colours to boost your vitamin and mineral intake – and to get as much sleep as you can.
  7. Hang in there and remember that even the worst storm passes. Suddenly something will shift, or it can be a slow and gradual change that you don’t even notice at first, but then, one morning, you look up and there’s a glimpse of sunshine poking through the dark clouds.  For me, I arrived home yesterday to find a strange car in the driveway.  When I went into the house, I found hubby talking to a lovely bloke who turned out to be, in my husband’s description, “a jack of all trades, and master of all of them”!  In short, it appears that we might have found the guy to help us put our place in shape and get us through the winter intact.  Of course, it’s going to cost money, but those financial concerns seemed to fade into the background when presented with this solution to our other worries.  Also, the fact that hubby was now in a much better mood lifted my spirits immensely!

So, what about you?  What are your tips for dealing with a ‘perfect storm’?  I’d love to hear from you.  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

If you ever feel like the ‘perfect storm’ is building, and you need a break away to think, take stock and recover your balance, you are very welcome to book a session here at Equenergy.  I offer Reiki, Emotional Freedom Techniques (‘tapping’), mindfulness through reconnection with Nature, and workshops on rediscovering that sense of ‘Flow’ in your life.  Please contact me for further information:

Or you can see more on my website:

 

 

Giving our horses the time they need

Friday 2 November

Often, I think, our horses need us to give them more time and space than we realise.

An example of this came up just this morning.  I was poo picking in the fields and I noticed that Rika was yawning.  She seems to have been finding the transition to Wales more challenging than Dax; but then more of this has been new to her than to him, since she has also left her people, as well as her herd and her place.  I hoped that the yawns might mean she was releasing and starting to relax a little more into her new home.

I’d been spending some time scratching Dax and Rika had approached us, so I thought I would offer her some scratches too.  At first she seemed uncertain, so I stepped back to get a clearer idea of what she was trying to tell me.  I sensed that she was just a little unsure but still open, so I gently took a step forward again.  She accepted this so I continued with scratches and a bit of massage.  I heard some long, loud gut sounds and it seemed that she was relaxing a little into my touch.  I decided to offer some rebalancing of her energies along her bladder meridian.  As soon as I started her eyes began to blink, long and slow and I could see that she was working through some stuff.  I only got about half way along her neck when she walked away, putting some distance between us.  She didn’t stop until she had crossed the gateway into the next field.  She stood there for some time, just processing whatever had come up for her.

Part of me would have liked to continue encouraging her to release, and trying to build a bond with her, but I think that to have done so would actually have pushed her further away and perhaps have caused her to shut me out.  I knew that my desire to carry on in that moment was coming more from my need than from ‘Rika’s – my need to connect with her and for her to be happy here.  A part of me wanted this to happen straight away, rather than allowing ‘Rika to find this balance in her own time.  I had to remind myself that horses, like humans, need time to adjust to change.  Everything here is new to her – the place, the people, the food, the grass, the ‘herd’ – so it’s a lot to take in.  Horses can take up to a year, or even more, to fully settle into a new environment and to really feel comfortable enough to ‘be themselves’.  ‘Rika has only been here 3 weeks so I need to be patient and proceed at her pace.

In our human world we are so conditioned to expecting instant results.  So many things are at the touch of our fingertips: news, information, entertainment, even food.  I’ve been made very aware of our dependence on this due to our lack of internet access following our move, and the remoteness of our new location, which is taking us back to slower ways of being.

Horses live to a different timescale from ours.  They tend to be thoughtful beings, weighing things up and exploring them from all angles before deciding what action to take (except of course in the case of instinctive responses to potential threats).  Because of this, they are generally better at being in the present moment – with more of an awareness of the wholeness of their being – and they are less ‘in their heads’ than we tend to be.  We often want them to respond within our timescales, and with the exact movement, or whatever, that we’re asking for.  If this doesn’t happen, we ask again and again until it does, often increasing the volume or adding more energy.  How must this appear to these gentle, slower-paced animals…?  In fact, when we work with horses, it’s often a case of ‘less is more’ – the quieter and more subtle our signals, the more responsive the horse becomes.

There is much that we can learn from horses in this.  Spending time with them and sharing their energy can help us to take on that slower pace, allowing us to let go of the stresses and pressures of our everyday lives in order to find greater grounding and balance.  This has huge benefits for our wellbeing.

 

 

Saturday 3 November

This morning I went up to give the horses their hay as usual.  Dax is always the first to push in for a mouthful, whereas ‘Rika hangs back, knowing that he will move her away if she comes too close.  I dropped a few leaves from the bale in one of the feeding spots then, while Dax tucked in, I called ‘Rika to follow me to where I would place some more hay.  I left her happily munching while I put out the rest of the hay, then came back to check in with each of them, as I do every morning.  ‘Rika was nearest, so I approached her first.  Normally she adopts a very defensive stance when I come up to her when she’s eating.  On previous days she would tense, become very watchful, put her ears back and sometimes block me with her hindquarters, but today there was none of this.  Her ears stayed forward, or tuned in to me, she appeared relaxed and she even turned to say hello.  Shortly after this she approached me and accepted some gentle stroking.  This is a big change in her behaviour.  Nothing earth-shattering maybe, but she definitely appears to be a more settled and engaged horse this morning.  I believe that listening to her request for space yesterday, and allowing her to take the time she needed, has helped to build more trust and respect between us.  She is such a big-hearted girl and beautiful soul and hopefully she will find contentment here in this wonderful place with us.

 

Alice Griffin, writing in a recent edition of Horsemanship Magazine (Issue 109), about her time on a horseback tour of the Alentejo region of Portugal, says:

“In this increasingly busy world there are few places that offer a true sense of peace; where roads are empty, passersby rare and where we can truly find a way to switch off and be submerged in nature.”

She noticed that the Alentejan people are

“… often teased for their lackadaisical approach to life, but I can’t help thinking they are all the smarter for refusing to get rushed along by expectation, instead choosing to soak up every moment with deepened relish”

I too, think there is something very special about being able to slow down and reconnect – both with ourselves, and with the animals and nature all around us – and to be able to appreciate the richness and wonder of it all.

Alice goes on to say that:

“Somehow animals – unlike humans – have not lost their ability to be at one with the earth, remaining unchanged in their effortless navigation of rivers, rocks, hills and valleys despite the centuries that may have passed.”

If Portugal isn’t for you at this time, you can still experience a little of this magic of Nature and horses for yourself here in the UK.  I offer mindfulness and wellbeing sessions here at our wonderful retreat space in rural Wales, not far from Abergavenny, Wales (map) Just get in touch to find out more:

Or take a look at my website: www.equenergy.com

   

Lessons from Dax

If you’ve been following my blog over the last few weeks and months, you might be wondering about how things are now with me and the amazing horse that I took on in May.  We’ve had our challenges and our ups and downs, so what has worked for us, and what hasn’t…?

Well, I can tell you that Dax is a different guy to how he was just a month or so ago.  He has really softened and relaxed which is wonderful to see.  He’s choosing to come with me when I ask him to – sometimes he needs to think about this for a second, but that’s fine by me.  I want him to engage his brain and to think about things, even if that means that it takes a little bit longer while he considers his options.

He’s recently had lots going on in his life – the dentist, the trimmer, a worming treatment and 3 of his buddies moving to another yard.  The trimmer (Caroline Andresen of Hoofing Marvellous) has been a few times now and he soon learnt that he can trust her to take good care of him and to make sure that he feels safe and comfortable at all times.

His dental appointment was the first since he had come to Bristol, so it was a new dentist and a different experience for Dax, but he was amazing.  I was so proud of him!

The loss of his 3 buddies hit him the hardest.  His special friend Belle was one of the 3 and he called for her for a day or so, obviously missing her and wondering where she’s gone and whether or not she would come back.

But Dax is a resilient fellow and he settled again, just in time for a new arrival.  We now have a young filly – a 2 year old Exmoor pony – on the yard.  She’s the cutest little thing and so independent!  She’s well able to take care of herself despite her size.  Dax has been a complete star too, and has been looking after her, which completely made my heart melt!

Looking back over all that’s been happening I’ve realised that I’ve learnt so much about myself since Dax arrived.  My relationship with him has been like a metaphor for my life…  It struck me the other day that the more I ‘resisted’ the challenging behaviours that Dax was showing, the more fear I felt, and the more fear, the more I resisted.  It became a negative cycle that wasn’t helping either of us.

The change has seemed to come in steps.  For example, one day I got the sense that Dax saw my attempts to be more assertive, and defend my space, as a game.  He wasn’t being nasty, he just wanted to play, but his play was scary to me – and because of his size, mass and strength, it could actually be potentially dangerous.  The important thing was that this realisation wiped out most of my fear and gave me a very different perspective.  I began to be able to respond with humour – or at least to be able to laugh at myself, and sometimes with Dax, rather than getting scared and anxious and only adding to the tension.

In the last week Dax has started to use his lips to nuzzle, rather than going straight in with his teeth.  I felt that he wanted to offer some mutual grooming – he loves a good scratch (as you can see in the video above) and I felt that he wanted to connect by offering something in return – however I was too nervous of those big teeth of his to let him try.He might always be a horse who likes to explore things with his mouth, and he might never be good with hand-held treats (he gets over excited and can become nippy and pushy) but he his now starting to offer a more gentle connection and engagement which is really helping me to relax more around him.  This in turn helps me to breathe more easily, rewarding him with softness and calmness and encouraging him to respond in the same way – a much more positive cycle.

Dax has taught me that I should have trusted my gut from the beginning and just listened to him and to my own sense of what was right for me.  This relationship is between the 2 of us.  Another horse, or another person, would bring a different response and what has worked for us might not work with that combination.

I would just like to encourage everyone reading this to really listen to your own inner wisdom.  Do what feels best to you, in your situation, with your set of circumstances.

If you’re struggling to do this, don’t worry.  It’s very easy to get out of touch with our own intuition and inner guidance, but there are simple steps you can take to reconnect:

  • One very powerful tool is mindfulness – taking some time every day to be fully present with whatever you’re doing.  You can practise this while doing simple daily tasks such as cooking, eating or brushing your teeth.  You can also take a familiar object and explore it with new eyes – and indeed all your senses.  Try to avoid any labels or judgements and just focus on what you can see, feel, smell, hear and even taste.
  • Another way to reconnect with your inner wisdom is by journaling.  This was something I thought I’d never be able to do but I surprised myself by how easily the words flowed when I made a start!  It gave me so much insight into my thought processes and the feelings behind them.  It also helped me to observe patterns in my behaviour and to see where these were supporting me – or not!

If you feel that you would like some support in reconnecting to your inner self, I offer workshops on how to Feel Your Way from Stress into Flow.  I will also be offering Mindfulness sessions at our new premises in Wales where you can spend time tuning in to the peacefulness of the surrounding woodland and / or sit with the horses.  If you’d like to know more, please contact me:

www.equenergy.com 

robyn@equenergy.com 

07980 669303

The Beast within

Those of you who’ve been following this blog – or even who’ve just read last week’s post – will be wondering what I meant by Dax’s ‘darker side’.  Let me start by saying that overall this boy is very sweet and he has a cheeky, playful, intelligent character, but as the weeks went by following his arrival here in Bristol he would occasionally show a ‘grumpier’ side, where he would suddenly turn round and threaten to nip.  This was usually more of a threat than anything else as he rarely made contact, let alone actually bite, but it made me wonder about what was going on inside his handsome head.

Then one day, one of the others at the yard, and her partner, were putting all the horses back out after we’d been putting up a track on the land.  (I’d had to leave a little before the work was finished and so I wasn’t there to help with the turnout.)  Dax knows these people well as he sees them every day and up to this point there had never been a problem.  But that night, something was different.

As the horses went down the lane and out into the field, Dax got separated from the others, so my friend went to gently steer him back towards the herd.  This guy is one of the nicest, quietest and most gentle guys I know, which made what happened next all the more upsetting when I heard about it later.  Dax suddenly spun round, ears flat against his head, teeth bared and started to charge.  Only the quick reactions of both people saved this lovely man from being attacked.

We have no idea what prompted this sudden – and frightening – shift, but it alerted us to the fact that this horse’s behaviour can suddenly switch.  To me, it showed that he is still carrying scars from his past.  I didn’t know what to do for the best.  People were advising me to send him back and my husband was afraid for my safety as, I have to admit, was I.  But at the same time I was worried for Dax.  I don’t want him to be labelled as ‘The Dangerous Horse’ because I think that’s often a self-fulfilling prophecy, causing fear in everyone and triggering the horse further.

I believe that our shadow side comes from our fears.  I therefore think that this sudden outburst from Dax came from fear, perhaps a triggered memory from his past.  We don’t have much detail about his early life.  The stories are sketchy and uncertain but it seems that he was taken from his mother at 1 month of age and left to starve.  There was also a rumour of him being attacked with a hammer…

I also realised that it brought up my fear when I heard about what happened, and that I was bringing this feeling into our relationship and interactions.  This was only making Dax more unsettled and uneasy and I knew that things could spiral downwards from there.

My journal entry around the time said:

I think that generally Dax is troubled, confused, hurt, even angry at the changes that have happened in his life. Perhaps he was beginning to trust that he was in a stable place in his previous home, with [his owner] and his pair-bond horse, but we’ve changed all that…
I would love to just put him in a field with a herd, sit with him and observe him, to learn more about him and allow him the opportunity to explore and work things out for himself… but in a yard, there are routines and ‘rules’ which I don’t think suit the place that he’s in at the moment.
I feel that inside him is a beautiful, loving horse who wants to come out, but doesn’t quite know how to trust enough to do that. I want to give him the space to find his way… but I’m worried that this might just be wishful thinking and I’m viewing him with rose-tinted glasses…

Others are suggesting things that just don’t entirely resonate for me – moving of feet, dominance, that sort of thing. I’ve just finished reading Equus Lost and would love to interact with him as a cognitive, social, intelligent, sentient being. But I still need to keep myself safe, and also the others who interact with him (on the yard, plus of course farriers, dentists, vets etc.)
Using strong discipline, and ‘dominance’ theories, doesn’t sit comfortably with me, but he definitely needs boundaries.  And perhaps this is a lesson he’s come to show me, as I’ll admit, my boundaries probably aren’t as defined as they could be!

Following this, I made an effort to be more consistent with my boundaries around Dax, hoping that this would give him a structure that would help him to feel more settled and safe.  It helped a little, but I realised that I was still carrying quite a bit of fear and that this was getting in the way of our relationship.

Fear is behind so many ‘negative’ emotions – the shadow side that we so often seek to hide from the world.

But what if we could view this another way and see our fears as needs that are not being met.  This would then allow us to explore ways to meet those needs, and would also allow us to develop greater awareness, compassion and empathy, both for ourselves and then for those around us, as we realise that any behaviour that we dislike in them is probably driven by their fear.

I decided to explore my fear to see what insight it might bring.  I wrote in my journal:

I think sometimes our wanting is so strong, and can have fear attached (of failure, or whatever) and this makes it difficult to see with clarity, perspective, balance and objectivity.  But we don’t have to be perfect, or to do everything ourselves.  Animals bring us these lessons.  They push us to look into the dark, hidden, shadowy areas of our lives that we, as busy humans, often want to close our eyes to.  But in facing our fears and ‘imperfections’ we are set free.  This is the amazing gift that caring for animals offers us – to open our hearts, to liberate us and to teach us acceptance and unconditional love.

So my dilemma was, where should I go from here?

  • Is Dax really ‘unsafe’?
  • Can the ‘ beautiful, loving horse’ within be encouraged to be brave enough to come out?
  • What would be the best way to work with him to give him boundaries while keeping myself safe and not feeding his fear?
  • How can I learn the lessons this is offering to be the best person for Dax that I can be?

I knew that one important step was to rule out pain from the equation as this can often be a cause of apparently ‘angry’ behaviour.  So I started by booking in a session with Helen Jacks-Hewett the McTimoney and Sports Massage therapist.

Next week I’ll tell you what she found and how things have been progressing since then.

Keeping Things Real

In the last couple of posts, I’ve shared some of the techniques that I’ve been drawing on as my life has been going from ‘busy’ to ‘more than a little crazy’!

I’m aware that reading this sort of thing can sometimes make it sound that the writer – in this case me J – has got it ‘sussed’, and that it’s obviously ‘easy for them’ in some way, but it still seems out of reach for you, the reader.

I therefore thought I would share a little more of the realities of my day-to-day experiences during this time to hopefully let you see that I’m nothing special, and that this is possible for anyone!  If I can do it, then you can definitely do it too.

My journal during the month after Dax arrived was full of feelings of overwhelm: 

May 13

“Today’s been a real roller coaster, much of which I’ve spent feeling completely overwhelmed and wanting to cry and run away. I’m feeling caught in the middle of a lot of people with strong views on horses…

I’m a little better now, just absolutely shattered”

May 26

“I feel like I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole and all of my ‘stuff’ is being triggered at once. This has hit me hard, emotionally and physically, so I need to take some time…”

This was where I needed to remember to breathe and to take some time out to support myself in order to keep my sense of balance and perspective.

I’m very fortunate to have a great friend who offered a sympathetic ear and a calm voice of reassurance and encouragement.  She helped me to take a step back and explore my feelings.  This allowed me to be more objective and to see the bigger picture.

I realised that I was afraid of failure and of letting people down.  My friend helped me to put these fears into perspective and to realise that, while it’s always possible that things won’t turn out as we hoped, that doesn’t mean that we’ve ‘failed’.  It’s actually an opportunity for learning; not least, learning about ourselves, our needs and our strengths.  It also helps us to realise that reaching out to others can be a great way to make wonderful connections.  In addition, I came to see that this support wasn’t only one way.  I was able to give, too, which helped to restore my sense of self worth and confidence.

It hasn’t been an easy time as it’s brought me face-to-face with some old hurts, but this has given me deeper insight and the chance to acknowledge the pain and to take steps to release it.

Isn’t it funny how we can think that we’ve ‘dealt with’ something, only for it to raise it’s challenging face again?!  This can be disheartening, until we realise that it’s actually another, deeper, layer.  It’s not quite the same as the stuff we dealt with before – we actually have dealt with that – but now we’re ready to clear even more.  How amazing is that?!

Life is always giving us opportunities to move closer to Love and to Freedom.  Sadly, we’ve sometimes become blinded to these due to our conditioning and the limiting beliefs that this brings, but if we can stay open, trusting and curious, then suddenly opportunities are all around us.

Sometimes we need to reach out and ask for support in seeing and responding to these opportunities, but that’s ok.  It doesn’t mean that we’re broken or need another to ‘fix’ us, it’s just that we sometimes need a reminder of how to access the truth of who we really are.

With Dakota it was interesting as I could see strong parallels between us.  There is a sense of disconnection about him and he appears to be afraid of allowing others to get too close.  This is similar to me when I feel overwhelmed.

He shows strong independence of thought and decision making, but also there’s a sense of abandonment, loss and isolation about him, as if he feels that he needs to guard himself against rejection and being unwanted.  I can empathise with this, too…

My dream is for the 2 of us to have the space and time to find our way to connect together.  I know this will be a unique path, special to us and what we each bring.

And I think we might just have found the perfect space!

If you’ve been following my blog recently you’ll know that my husband and I have been looking for a new home.  Well, we think we’ve found the perfect place.  It’s a sweet little cottage set in 8.5 acres of Welsh countryside.  There are woods and paddocks and although it feels like the middle of nowhere it’s actually only 15 minutes drive from Abergavenny.  I’m hoping that this will give Dakota and myself the peace for reflection and building of trust and understanding to build that special bond.

I want to find ways to hold space for Dax, so that he can find his inner balance, confidence and strength.  In doing this for him, I hope to then find my path to achieving the same for myself.  So often we learn best by offering to others what we need for ourselves.  Perhaps this is why we can set out intending to rescue another only to find that it was actually ourselves who needed rescuing!

6 further tips for when life feels a bit crazy!

Last week I started sharing some of the things that I’ve found helpful when I start to slip into stress and overwhelm.

Below are some further thoughts on this:

  1. Having trained in a range of energy therapies I am very fortunate to be able to draw on these when I feel triggered and emotionally raw.  Two of these techniques are:
    Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT / Tapping) which helps to lower the intensity of my feelings, again helping to keep me from slipping into overwhelm and allowing me to keep a better sense of perspective.
    Reiki which helps to restore balance and to bring my body back into ‘rest and repair’.  This supports me in several ways:
    • breathing, digestion and circulation function more effectively so that my body is able to stay healthy
    • I sleep better, meaning that I feel less tired and can think more clearly
    • I feel more grounded
    • it supports other therapies, such as the EFT mentioned above, meaning that they are then even more effective
  1. Using these therapies on myself is obviously good, but sometimes, when I’m tired, my resources are at a low ebb and I’m feeling overwhelmed and loosing the ability to be objective, I need to turn to others for help.  This is ok!  It’s not a sign of ‘weakness’ or ‘failure’, but rather a sign of strength and the wisdom of recognising that we can’t do everything on our own – nor are we expected to.  This help can come from friends and family, and also from professionals.  There are many wonderful therapists out there, offering a wide range of approaches.  It’s good to ask for recommendations and to have an initial chat to see if you feel they would be a good fit for you.  Remember that this is about you.  It’s ok to put yourself first and to be ‘fussy’ on who you choose to work with.  Don’t worry about hurting the therapist’s feelings if you decide not to work with them.  They too will want you to find the person and the therapy that is going to be the most effective for you.

  2. Through my healing journey, learning and practice, I have realised that we really are all doing the best that we can do with the resources that we have access to.  Also, that our perception is a very subjective thing which is deeply coloured by our past experiences.  This has given me a greater capacity for compassion, both for those around me, and for myself.
  3. I’ve also learnt the importance of having a sense of humour!  The ability to not take myself too seriously has been of such an enormous benefit to my wellbeing.  That’s not to say that I can always laugh at things, but generally I can catch myself and gently remind myself that everything will be ok and that things are not nearly as serious as my fears would have me believe.
  4. Another important lesson, which might seem to be almost the opposite of the one above, is that’s it’s ok to be ok with not being ok.  In other words, it’s ok to feel sad / angry / guilty / anxious / depressed / etc, I just need to remember that these are only ‘e-motions’.  That is, they are energy-in-motion.  They bring me valuable information about my needs in a situation and when I tune in and listen I can address these needs, allowing the feeling to process and be released.  It’s when I suppress my emotions, holding on to them or resisting them, that they cause me the most pain, and can even lead to illness.
  5. I’ve also needed to pay attention to my self talk.  We can tend to be our own worst critic and when we’re triggered into stress, it brings out the most negative inner voices.  Often these are voices from people who have been significant in our lives, such as parents, teachers and peers.  When our confidence levels are low it’s all too easy to accept – and continue – this critical voice, but it doesn’t serve us.  There is a saying: ‘Take the thought to court!’  Look at the evidence.  Is your inner voice telling you the truth?  We can probably find evidence to both support and contradict the voice, so why, then, is it so much easier to listen and believe, rather than to laugh it off?  There will be several reasons for this:
    • we’ve been listening for so long that our neural pathways around this are very strong.
    • we are evolutionarily geared to look for the negatives (see Our Brain’s Negative Bias)
    • we trusted the people whose voices we’re repeating

So what can we do?

    • we can choose to remember to look for the evidence that proves that we are actually thoughtful, competent, skilled, caring, intelligent, capable, beautiful etc
    • we can choose to believe this evidence and to hold it up every time our inner critic raises its head
    • we can recognise the fact of our negative bias and understand that this is just our ego’s way of protecting us.  We can then thank the ego, and let it know that: ‘It’s ok, I’ve got this covered!’
    • We can use techniques (such as EFT and other energy work) which help to support the breaking of old habits – by releasing the beliefs and emotions behind them – and the creation of more helpful ones.

Remember to be gentle with yourself.  Old habits have taken time to form, and will take time to change, but each step along the way will bring greater insight and move you closer to greater balance and wellbeing.  Also, even small changes can have a huge impact on how you feel.  The important thing is to approach this with an open mind, with curiosity, lightness and a sense of humour!