On Friday evening, Michele put a post down on the camp buddies page to ask who else was eating Pizza and playing trival persuits to remind them of camp. Love it! Who else was?
I have to confess that I wasn’t – partly because I am back to being a vegan now but mostly because to be honest, I’d forgotten that it would have been camp that weekend. Not because I didn’t want it to happen or because I wasn’t thinking of any of you, just because I’d moved on.
Around the time that second lockdown was announced I had a conversation with Tracy who owns the lovely Prince, about how sad it was that we would have to cancel. A few of the things she said made me change my attitude. It would have been Tracy’s birthday whilst she was at camp. What a great place to be to celebrate! She had a lot to be sad about too but she wasn’t letting it spoil her day and by then end of the conversation she had me thinking about what else not doing camp would enable me to do instead. You see there is always a bright side to everything!
Sam asked me why was I always positive about things and since she did so I’ve thought about it a lot. Believe me, it’s a learnt behaviour because I never used to be! I used to listen to myself bringing conversations down, knowing I was doing it and hating it, but I didn’t really know how else to respond. I would look at the negatives in most things because I’m a problem solver and I like to be prepared (for the worst of course!) But then you know what, it got really, really boring. I found myself drawn to people who thought the same and we’d spend hours discussing our problems – this is common apparently! Think about it next time you’re sitting round the table with friends talking horse (it will happen guys, I’m sure of it!) How many times do you talk about how awesome your horse was? How many times do you tell everyone how brilliant he was over that ditch or river that you came across? Or is it all about he spooked at this leaf on the floor or that damn car that passed too close or how no matter how hard you try he won’t go past those pigs!? I’ve learnt something about this lately, it’s called trauma bonding and we do it all the time.
Trauma bonding gives us connection, the people we are having great conversations with about our troubles just get it. They’ve been there, they understand exactly where you’re coming from, they respond agreeably and it feels like there is a real chemistry between you. The energy flows, the determination to solve this problem dwindles and before you know it, you walk away from the conversation thinking, ‘Well it’s ok, they’ve got issues too, it’s not just me and none of us know how to solve it anyway! We’re all in the same boat, so it’s fine.’
There is a chance someone in the group has had a different experience but won’t say so because that makes them stand out. It might break the unity between those who are part of that discussion and instead of bonding, create disagreement, possibly conflict and maybe exclusion of the one who didn’t agree. How uncomfortable would you feel if you were the one breaking those bonds? You know that feeling, when you speak out and the conversation halts and everyone looks at you…oooh it’s sends shivers down your spine!
Now do you get why we don’t try to change the direction of the conversation so easily? Even if we don’t agree?
Conflict is feared for many reasons in my experience. When I was growing up it lead to shouting, doors slamming, someone leaving or someone getting hit, hurt or both. In later life I found myself attracted to people who dealt with conflict in the same way. I understood it, I knew the pattern and predictability equalled safety. I knew when to duck or run! What I didn’t know how to do was resolve conflict.
Not until I learnt that you can’t talk your way out of an argument with a 600lb horse! I didn’t listen to those who told me to beat her until she showed me some ‘respect’ aka fear. I’d been scared all my life, I didn’t want her to feel like that too! Running away from her wasn’t going to help. She was glad to see the back of me! But I had to find a way to get my firey little thoroughbred to like me, to want to be with me and not to be scared of me. Equally so, I had to find all those things in me. She’d kicked me in the face and broken my jaw. The ultimate turning point of my relationship with horses I think. I had two choices, run like the wind, never look back and walk away from horses altogether or stand up and learn to resolve the conflict between us. It was a long journey but we made it and my life would not have been what it is today had we not taken it.
I have no issues with conflict these days, sometimes I am maybe a little too honest and if I say the wrong thing in the wrong way I will be the first to apologise, I have no issues with admitting that I’m wrong either! But learning to resolve conflict in my life has helped me look at things in a way that perhaps others don’t. To me, I achieved the impossible – everything seems impossible until it’s done!- I’d got back on a horse that my father would have happily shot and no one but my friend Simon would touch! Not only that we went on to have some amazing times together. She taught me so much about myself, horses and people.
By now you might be wondering what conflict has got to do with positivity and trauma bonding. Well, I guess it’s hard sometimes to be the one who disagrees with people’s low opinions of themselves or their horses. It can be hard to stand up for yourself and what you believe. I find myself constantly challenging people, my last boss actually told me I was very challenging! But it’s easy to challenge the norm when you know that something good stands on the other side of it and I know, that if you guys believe in yourself and your abilities, there is some good stuff waiting on the other side of it! Unfortunately, and possibly especially at the moment, it is normal to join in with the negativity and forget that you have an amazing talent – the ability to resolve conflict with a 600lb animal. It’s easy to sit around and think that not going to camp is bad or it could be that, whilst sad, how cool was it to have a goal to work towards in winter? For me, it’s allowed me the time and space to develop the Find Your Way With Horses program that I know will help a lot of people resolve conflict within themselves. How can that be a bad thing? Better still we’re opening up the one to one programmes – how exciting is that?
I find myself frequently surrounded by people who expect the worst and I still go there myself sometimes, but then I remind myself that expecting the best brings excitement vs. misery, possibility rather than inevitability, I actively look for the good, for the advantages, for the resolve of issues. Everything happens to teach us something if we’re aware and awake enough to listen. I swear horses find us because they know we’ve lost our way and want to put us back on track. I’ve no doubt that most of you can think about 10 things that your horse has done that you’d really rather he hadn’t. Think about 10 things you would never have learnt about him or yourself if he hadn’t done them. Does your spouse/partner/teenager drive you mad? Think about 10 things you love about them. If you can’t even think about one, imagine how you would feel if you got that phone call. Now try again.
The interesting thing about positive people is that they’re pretty hard to find. Sometimes they’re hiding in plain sight and just need to be encouraged out of their protective shells. They think great things but are afraid that they’ll be called a nerd or worst still dismissed if they share those thoughts. In Australia they call it Tall Poppy Syndrome. You have to be brave to stand out like the tall poppy. It’s speaking out and making changes that makes you stand out. You have to know that doing things differently isn’t always going to be well received. But you also have to believe in yourself and be strong in those beliefs. Soon people will join you and eventually you become a positive poppy, proud of the fact that you stand out and encourage others to do the same. You can give people someone to look up to, someone to believe in, someone who is prepared for the best. Let’s face it, no one ever followed anyone who made them feel bad as easily as they did someone who made them feel alive and capable! Remember that awesome instructor who knew nothing about you but made you feel amazing?
You can be the tall poppy among your friends. You can turn the conversation around without being controversial, just be honest. Tell them the conversation is negative and ask them to list ten good things instead. If you were there at a couple of the goal setting talks in summer, you will remember the change when the conversations flipped from what you couldn’t do to what you were going to do! The energy was so negatively charged at first, then suddenly it was raising the roof off the piggery!
My horses make me feel this fluttery kind of joy inside me when I think about them, even after they’ve chucked me off. It bubbles up occasionally and makes me laugh out loud when I’m in Tesco – I haven’t been thrown out for being nuts yet but give it time… What they don’t know is just how nuts I’d be if I hadn’t found this resolve, thanks to my horses, that keeps me sane.
Go laugh out loud in Tesco. Make the guy in line behind you smile. Change someone else’s life by being happy. See what happens when you smile at your horses or you dogs. See what happens when you expect the best 😊 x
Hey Folks, I'm Lorraine and the picture is of one of my horses Tara - in our office! I really am the luckiest person alive to get to do what I do.