“Whatever undermines autonomy will be experienced as a source of stress. Stress is magnified whenever the power to respond effectively to the social or physical environment is lacking or when the… animal or human being feels helpless without meaningful choices… Emotional competences is what we need to develop if we are to protect ourselves from the hidden stresses that create a risk to health, and it is what we need to regain if we are to heal.” – Gabor Matte, When the Body Says No: The Cost of Hidden Stress.
These words resonate profoundly with me, both personally and professionally. As we move forward from the holiday season and embark on the new year, I face a chance to explore the delicate balance between my sense of autonomy and the attachments I form with the world around me. Navigating the maze of social expectations, commercial pressures, cultural traditions, childhood memories, and the reality that envelops us during the holiday season can be overwhelming. I find it helpful to slow down, pay attention to my body signals, step out of the constant mind narration, and identify the guiding force in the moment. Everything changes when I show up as the wise and experienced adult or the little girl who needs support to feel safe and valued.
It may sound like a manageable practice, but I regularly seek substantial support: guidance from fellow coaches, friends, and educational sources. Some of the most transformative experiences occur when I am in the presence of horses.
To foster a genuine connection with horses, authenticity becomes paramount. I follow a set of steps to ensure that I show up authentically: – Slowing down: every aspect of my process, thinking, breathing, and even moving, is deliberately slowed down to enhance my presence during interactions with horses. They struggle to connect with someone who is physically or emotionally detached.
– Physical awareness: connecting with my physical body, which inherently knows how to keep me safe, enables effective communication, as horses excel in reading energy and body language.
– Feedback and reflection: welcoming feedback from horses is a sign of connection and an opportunity to refine my clarity and expression.
– Mindful presence: becoming aware of my surroundings and feeling a sense of unity with everything allows me to experience the moment without anxiety or distraction, much like horses do.
– Acceptance and authenticity: practicing acceptance of the way things are, freeing myself from judgment, and creating space for receiving, giving, and creating fosters authenticity. Horses remain authentic to their nature in the human world, choosing behaviors that serve their true well-being even when faced with the challenges of domestication.
The culmination of these steps allows me to experience myself in the healthiest, most balanced state – feeling autonomy and in a relationship simultaneously. It is the closest feeling to what I imagine about the generosity of horses’ nature toward us humans.
Upon returning to my regular life, revitalized and regulated, I practice clarity regarding what serves me, establish healthy boundaries, and nurture my inner child when she seeks my attention. I feel more equipped to embrace my life, the reality, the people in it, and even the holiday season. I experience integrity within myself, acceptance, and peace – all which serve as a source of nourishment to make the most out of my life.
“Emotional competence requires the capacity to feel our emotions, so that we are aware when we are experiencing stress; the ability to express our emotions effectively and thereby to assert our needs and to maintain the integrity of our emotional boundaries; the facility to distinguish between psychological reactions that are pertinent to the present situation and those that represent residue from the past.”
While Gabor Matte may not have gone through Equus Coaching training, I believe his words resonate strongly with the ethics and purpose of our work as Equus Coaches. We strive to support our clients in regaining and cultivating autonomy, fostering less stressful lives, and building healthier, more authentic attachments and connections with others.
As we step into the new year, let us, especially the coaches, not forget the invaluable gift of being with and around horses. May this year bring you moments of connection, self-discovery, and the continued pursuit of emotional competence.
Wishing you a year filled with growth and authenticity.