Would you say you’ve experienced trauma in your life? Most people would say no.
If I were to ask those who said yes what those traumatic experiences were, they would most likely share things like a car accident, serious illness, near-death incident, war, losing a spouse or child, becoming an orphan, or being sexually or physically abused.
But what if trauma wasn't only these notable dramatic moments in time?
The more I learn about trauma, the more I’ve come to understand that experiencing trauma isn’t about a dramatic event but about how you feel about an event.
So what does this mean? If there have been moments in your life when you have ever felt abandoned, terrified, never heard, never valued, worthless, waste of time, then you have experienced trauma.
When we experience trauma, we go into fight, flight, or freeze/shut down. We aren’t safe to express ourselves, or worse, told not to. When our nervous system enters this sympathetic state without being able to complete the cycle - process emotionally and mentally what’s happening and it is met with empathy and validation from another human - then those emotions become trapped inside our nervous system.
For those of us who perhaps didn't realize what trauma included, we would most likely have thoughts like: “Oh jeez, my childhood was great! I really don’t have anything to complain about,” or “sure, I was bullied, but it wasn’t that bad, they were just kids and didn’t know what they were doing after all.” This denial is a safety mechanism to keep that trauma locked away deep inside us to protect us from the pain.
When we start learning what trauma is, we can begin to free ourselves from it. If, for your entire life, you were trying to tell yourself that what you went through wasn’t a big deal and to get over it, those painful emotions stay trapped. What you felt was real! What you felt was painful and traumatic.
Learning how to overcome my trauma has been the gateway to understanding myself. Trauma is the root of anger, frustration, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicide, self-harm, and more. All of a sudden, I’m not “messed up.” I’m emotionally and mentally wounded, and I need to heal.
If you relate to this, I want to personally invite you into my Facebook community. Inside the guide section, I have a free 30-day transformation - Chomping at the Bit: Transition from Guilt to Freedom. This will help you get started on your healing journey. Click HERE to connect with others who want happiness, hope and freedom.
Learning to heal has transformed my life to find happiness, hope, and freedom! Becoming more whole has helped my anxiety and depression; it helps me be a better mom and prevent passing my trauma down; it’s immensely helping my marriage.
Yesterday I hauled Ace and our new horse Greg to the arena. It was barrel practice night, and this was the first time going for all three of us.
Ace has been really learning to let go of his anxiety and fears during rope nights with my hubby's help, so I personally hadn’t ridden him the last few times he was hauled. On the drive, I mentally prepared myself to be a relaxed and confident leader for Ace while listening to a podcast. (The Journey On Podcast with Warwick Schiller interviewing Jane Pike)
This podcast really explained things in a way I had never thought of before, and it helped a lot! I want to share a few of those with you now summarized in my words.
My body and mind are amazing. It created defence mechanisms to protect myself during stressful/scary/traumatizing situations when I literally couldn’t process it. I am thankful my body has this ability -- but I am now aware it's time to release these defence methods as they are no longer serving me.
When I feel anxiety, stress or fear, it's like internal energy becoming bigger than my body that I cannot hold it in anymore. I am learning to tune into what my body is telling me and respond before my emotions become bigger than my body, creating a fight/flight/freeze. This is my body trying to protect myself from danger - which again is a beautiful thing! Accepting that nothing is wrong with me is extremely important.
When I start to feel anxious, an easy method to help refocus my brain is to move my body: wiggle my toes in my boots, tap my thumb against each fingertip. Yesterday I also became aware of how I wanted my body to feel to Ace while riding. I envisioned my body being connected to him through my seat and thighs, like in Avatar minus the ponytail hehe. I wanted to feel soft, relaxed, gentle and curious about his own movements. This helped me ride so much softer I was shocked!
Everything I learned about myself is exactly the same as my horse. When Ace reacts anxiously or fearfully, this is his natural response to keep him safe and protected. I don’t want this to disappear, or if a bear ever came for a visit, then he would be in trouble! I want to show him he can trust me and that I’ll keep him safe.
His anxiety can feel so big it's pouring out of his body, putting him into fight/flight/freeze; it is up to me to recognize when his cup of anxiety is getting too high and help him empty it before it overwhelms him.
Asking him for simple body movements can help him come back inside his body, getting his mind off his stress, but it's important to keep things very simple and basic, so it doesn’t become an additional stress source.
There is nothing wrong with feeling fear or anxiety or stress, for either you or your horse! This is an instinct meant to keep us safe from harm. Learning to accept this is the first step to understanding and moving past our fears. Invite your fear to sit at a table beside yourself; what would you say to it? Invite your horse's fear to sit at your table; what would you tell it? Loving ourselves through these feelings is so important.
Thank you, Jane, for the amazing reminder.
Finding freedom feels impossible; independence? What’s that! This child needs me 24/7. Flexibility vanishes and is replaced by structure, nap times, play dates, sports, school and more. It’s exhausting to simply not go crazy and manage everything the family needs. You feel endless guilty for wanting a bit of the “old you” back when the decision to ride or not was entirely up to you, and it didn’t require endless planning and rescheduling to make happen.Read more...
I was that girl who would ride any horse, anywhere. I didn't care if I knew I was likely to get bucked off; I was determined, brave, and thrived on the challenges of a difficult horse. Then, everything started to change...
I can remember it like yesterday. I felt the excitement of pregnancy, all the ideas, visions, and promises I made to myself before I had my first child. I’m not going to stop being me; I’m not going to let my baby needy, so I can’t go anywhere alone. I’m still going to ride a lot, not as much as now, but a few times a week will be easy. Our baby will go everywhere with us so that we don’t have to be isolated, restaurants, play days, coffee dates, travelling to see my parents or for holidays. There’s no way in hell my girl will sleep in our bed, this is my bed, and she will learn to sleep alone right away. We will be a family who still rides and rodeos! I never imagined it would be my last summer to rodeo.
I can’t help but laugh at my naivety. The second my first daughter was born, every preconceived notion I had, every plan, evaporated like the morning mist. Perhaps you can relate? We have this idea in our heads for how life will be like once we become a mother; I can guarantee we were all in for the shock of our lives.Read more...
How often do you hear that little voice inside your head natter on and on about how you have no business training your horse. You aren’t good enough; strong enough; knowledgeable enough; big enough, small enough, skilled enough. Hearing this voice, I like to call her Negative Nelly, sucks you down to the endless pit of disbelief, self-doubt, no confidence, anxiety, and even fear.
In this blog, I want to address what I believe to be the biggest problem we all face that will sabotage your relationship with your horse. Your mind.Read more...