The Natural Herd Model
Releasing the fear that lies beneath the symptoms of mental health dis-orders
About 13 years ago I went on a foundation course to learn the very basics of equine therapy. I had no expectations and no ideas of what to expect but having struggled with my own mental health disorder in the form of severe Bulimia/Anorexia I was extremely conscious of the vulnerability and fragility of the human psyche.
There were six of us and after our introduction we were taken to an arena where two horses were hanging around expectantly. We were ushered into the arena with the horses…who completely ignored us, by two professionals….one I believe was a qualified counsellor and the other experienced with horses….both good people with the very best of intentions.
To get us started the counsellor gave a member of our group a head collar and asked her to put it on one of the horses. We all stood around watching as the young girl….a journalist who had come on the course to do an article about equine therapy. Everyone was silent, the counsellor, the horse expert and the five of us, watching and waiting as the girl fumbled, struggled, blushed and sweated as she battled to complete her mission to get the head collar onto the head of the horse…she could not work out which way up it was meant to be, or how to get the horse into a quiet enough position to tackle the task of getting it over his nose, let alone buckled into place. Our discomfort increased by the second as we stood quietly for 15 painful minutes until the counsellor finally called us all into the centre of the arena.
The girl was dejected and embarrassed by what she perceived as failure…we all felt terrible for her and were glad it hadn’t been us under the spotlight. The counsellor asked the girl what had been going on during the process…she really didn’t know, but admitted she had no idea how to put on a head collar, she’d never done it before. The counsellor then asked her. ‘Did it not occur to you to ask for help? Is this a pattern of yours to feel you have to do things on your own without reaching out to others for assistance? The girl mumbled that yes perhaps it was something she was prone to doing. To us it felt like a set up and we would all have done the same as she had…do our best to do as we had been asked to do.
My question is…from the depths of her humiliation a small piece of information was dragged into the open…the fact that she was inclined to try and work things out on her own without help. Has this piece of information been a healing revelation worth the anguish she went through? Has she acquired this self-awareness in a way that helps her heal by letting it go and moving on or has she been left the scar of humiliation that adds to her belief that asking for help is an unsafe option? What do you think?
Supposing instead she could have identified the fear that lay at the root of her belief that asking for help was an unsafe option? Could that have healed that scar…or even prevented the scar from occurring in the first place? Horses find the fear-filled energy within us created by the impact of negative past events and help us release it. Leaving us free of the symptoms.