Saturday, September 10, 2011

Ashamed I Fell Off

You know that feeling where you really want to do something, but somehow can't bring yourself to do it, or don't feel right even when you do, or continue to have feelings of dread and anxiety when you think you should be happy because you're doing something you want to?  This is hard stuff for me to write about, but one thing I try to do in this blog is be as honest as I can.

I think I'm beginning to understand where my dread and reluctance to ride and work with my horses is coming from - it's because of the feelings I have when I think about riding, when I get ready to ride and even when I'm actually on board, although the negative feelings are usually reduced when I actually ride. Some of these feelings are ones I'd rather not experience, so like many of us do, I work hard to cover them up, replace them with activities or distract myself from them.  But feelings that aren't acknowledged and experienced don't go away, and often fester.  Horses have an advantage over people in this - they have feelings and the feelings are right there, expressed more often than not by behavior and body language.  Horses (that aren't shut down emotionally) pretty much don't stew over things, or fear their emotions - they just experience them, which can allow horses to get over things more effectively.

So I've been trying to take time - time when I'm not doing anything else, or distracted - to sit with my feelings, to allow them to emerge, without my attempting to shove them back down, or avoid them, or cover them up with activities.  As I do this - and it's an ongoing process - a lot of feelings want my attention - feelings of shame, fear, anxiety, irritation and lack of worthiness.  What I'm trying to do is just to let those feelings be what they are, without judging them (or myself for having them), or arguing with them, or rationalizing them, or trying to change them.  It's really no wonder that, when I approach working with my horses, that I feel disinclined - there are too many unacknowledged negative emotions simmering down there just under the surface.  I find that, if I can just let those emotions be properly felt and experienced, they can begin to loosen their grip on me and I can start to see a clearer path.  Just not riding except when I feel like it, or cutting down on my riding to reduce the pressure, isn't really a solution - as long as the feelings were unacknowledged, that really didn't help.

Shame is the dominant emotion right now - I'm ashamed that I fell off Pie in June.  (It's pretty clear to me now as my broken memory has slowly returned that I didn't have a cardiac problem that caused me to fall - it was a spook/spin at some fast-moving bicycles with flags on the back and the cardiac problem was likely due to the serious head injury.) It doesn't matter whether I should or shouldn't be ashamed, I just am.  There's a lot that goes into this - wounded pride (warranted or not) in my riding abilities, a feeling that I let my young horse down, a deep-down feeling that maybe I'm not good enough - a good enough rider, a good enough leader for my horses (I feel this in spades when I take Pie on the trail because his nervousness is a good "tell" that I'm not coming through for him),  or a good enough trainer to help my horses make progress on the way to being solid riding horses - hence the feelings of lack of worthiness.  Once again, I could argue whether these feelings are "valid" - justified by reality - but that really doesn't help since the feelings still need to be acknowledged in order to get past them.  And of course I'm afraid of getting hurt again - I've never been seriously injured in a riding fall before in all my long years of riding although I've had a few concussions - and don't trust my body to necessarily be up to the job of staying on - even though I could perhaps argue that it is.  My fear is actually primarily fear of the shame of failure - failure to do what I want, to do it effectively or to do it with the joy that I'd like to be there.  And so I've been approaching my riding with anxiety and irritation - everything bothers me and the joys, even the small ones, are washed out.

I'm hoping that beginning to acknowledge these feelings will begin to allow me to exercise the compassion towards myself - just letting even negative feelings to arise, be felt and allowed to pass through - that will give me a path back to the joy I know is there for me with horses.

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