Ep 58 // Grief and Shame in Horsemanship
In this episode I am joined by Julia Alexander and Bex Tasker for a discussion about grief and shame in horsemanship.
We talk about perfectionism, getting "lost in our heads", allowing ourselves to be learners and to make mistakes, and so much more. It's a really important conversation that I hope you will take the time to listen to.
This episode was recorded for TWE Academy in 2020, and we decided to release it to the public as a follow up to our most recent podcast episode, Episode 57 // A New Outlook on Equine Assisted Therapy with Julia Alexander, LCSW. To watch the accompanying video and to hear more conversations like this one, join the Academy! Enrolment opens in July, and you can jump on the First-to-Know List today. We would love to have you!
More about Julia Alexander and the work that she does:
Julia provides compassionate therapy, education and consulting services rooted in anti-racist, social justice and liberatory frameworks. She offers a safe and accepting space to alleviate shame, heal trauma and discover inner resilience. Her approach is founded on an unwavering belief in the healing power of safe connection, and a deep knowing that sustained relationship to nature plays a major role in human healing. She specializes in providing eco and equine-assisted psychotherapy in the areas of childhood relationship trauma, coming out, systemic oppression, and shame held by white-bodied people. As a social justice educator, she offers customized consulting, curriculum design and group facilitation to individuals, teams, and organizations who want to understand their experiences and beliefs in the context of systemic oppression. She combines her expertise as a therapist and social justice educator to offer a unique form of equine-assisted psychotherapy rooted in the ethical inclusion of horses in human treatment. Through this work, she loves supporting people in exploring connection, dialogue, choice and consent.
More about Bex Tasker and her work:
Bex lives on a small farm in Western Bay of Plenty, New Zealand with her animals and young family. She runs classes for dogs and their humans, junior animal trainer classes and regular horsemanship clinics from her home property. She also travels around New Zealand and overseas to deliver clinics and lessons to horses and their passionate and dedicated humans. As well as the "real life" teaching, she has a thriving online membership community, and run regular coaching intensives with students from all over the world. In early 2019 she partnered with her good friend and experienced youth worker Brooke Friend to establish a successful youth programme, focused around ethical animal training, life skills and mental health.
[00:00:00] Welcome to season four of the willing equine podcast, the podcast where we chat about all things, horses and being the best horse people we can be for our horses. My name is Adele Shaw. I'm a certified behavior consultant, and my passion is for creating positive relationships between horses and people.
[00:00:23] Hey guys, welcome back to another TWE podcast episode. This episode is going to be fun and unique. This is actually a throwback to 2020 when I had Bex and Julia visiting me. We did an exclusive conversation slash interview for the TWE academy, but I've decided to release it on my podcast as a great follow-up to my last conversation that I had with Julia in the previous podcast episode. This particular episode is going to be about grief and shame and horsemanship, and just talking about our past experiences and maybe how we've changed and how we feel about some of the things we used to do, or didn't know in our previous time as a horse person, and I really hope you guys enjoy this episode. I'm interviewing Bex Tasker of positively together and Julia Alexander of Julia Alexander counseling. So if you're interested in learning more about them, their bios will be in the show notes, definitely check out their websites and to learn more about them and what they do and their professions. In the meantime, I do apologize for any poor sounding audio. This was recorded in my house, in the living room. And there was a little bit of an echo. So it's not the greatest for podcasts, but hopefully you can still have a lot of takeaways and it's beneficial to you and you can enjoy the episode.
[00:01:38] So I think we should all introduce ourselves just for the sake of the video and everybody is watching. So I'm Adele Shaw and you guys all know me and I know you guys and I run The Willing Equine and I have too many horses, too many horses and I guess you could say my profession is horse training. But I feel like it's so much more than that. And that's part of the reason we're all here is because it is so much more than that. It's so much more, as far as building the relationships with our students and our clients and building community and helping people on their journey. I actually was talking to another trainer and they mentioned that they were a horsemanship mentor and I felt like that was a really good label, like a title. If we were going to pick up a title, I feel like I'm more than just a horse trainer, you know?
[00:02:24] Yeah, totally. Okay. I'm Julia Alexander. That's my last name. And I'm a therapist, so I'm a social worker by trade. But in my previous life, I was an educator. Both of those things seem to go well together. So my area that I work in mostly is around trauma and how we all, we all have a story, right? We all have a story. And you know, a lot of the times we try to separate parts of our story from ourselves and this could happen within a day or that kind of life. And so I worked with people to hear their stories. And I also, I've been riding horses and have had horses in my life for a very, very long time, which is a part of my story, but how that's happened throughout is, there's some shame there and that's something that I had to work through taking my skills as a therapist and playing with myself.
[00:03:19] Oh yes. That's one more thing to teach somebody else. And it was a whole other thing to say, okay, this applies to me.
[00:03:27] Right, right. To take your own advice. So since I've been learning about positive reinforcement, I'm just like blown away by all the overlaps with trauma, where I'm with people and how we create spaces for people. So it's very exciting.
[00:03:47] It is exciting. It's exciting to talk to you and yeah, I'm Bex Tasker. So my business is called Positively Together. And similar to Adele, people say, but what do you do? And I, I always had this lost look up at the sky and ponder before I answered, because the easy answer that people will understand is that I'm a horse trainer, but really I'm a people teacher. And you know, you're talking about being a mentor, I feel that way too. I would almost say that I'm like, at times, I feel like I'm delving into the world of therapy on many levels between humans and the horses, so inspiring and educating humans. The thing that I find myself after all these years becoming the most passionate about really is inspiring and educating the human side. Because I feel like that is the way to reach the most horses. If I can train a horse and I can make their life it's as, as great as I can, but if I can, if I can inspire and educate a human and every animal that they come into contact with for the rest of their lives is going to be affected. So that's, that's the real driving force behind what I do. And yeah, what we're going to sort of talk about today is a big part of that for our students. So, yeah.
[00:04:59] So let's go back Julia, to what you were talking about with just the shame around horsemanship and what we often, as we're going through our horsemanship journey experience, as we recognize maybe something we used to do, isn't what we would do now and how to move forward with that and to kind of be okay with it and, and compassionate towards ourselves and understand that well, for me, at least I want to recognize that that was valuable because I can't be here unless I was there first, like I had to start there to be here. So that has been a major factor for me in being okay with everything I've done to horses in the past that now I would never even like, want to do ever is a very serious situation. But and just how I, we just kind of want to talk to you about. Maybe what you might counsel somebody on as far as that goes.
[00:05:59] I pull in a lot of Brené Brown's work. So I'm trained in her curriculum, which was really life-changing for me, because I was able to start to define the difference, right? Between shame and guilt. So they're very different and they have a different physiological presence in our bodies. And then they're also different because they predict different outcomes for us.
[00:06:23] So guilt is the feeling of having done a bad thing. And it's actually really predictive in the research of, of an increase in changed behavior. So it's adaptive, it's a really adaptive feeling. And I think most of us have felt guilt. Like, oh, I got to work late and I feel bad about it. And so, you know, tomorrow I'm going to set my alarm earlier and that can be applied with anything.
[00:06:49] But shame is this visceral body feeling that there is something that's inside of me, a part of me that's bad. I did this thing and so I am bad, it's very different than guilt. It sits with us differently. And it actually, I mean, we live in a culture that you use as shame often to produce change. But what we see from the research is that it actually doesn't produce change, it produces an inward. Right. So really we just get, we retreat inward, we get quiet. We don't talk about what we're feeling or what we're doing. Right. And so. We first really want to make that distinction between shame and guilt.
[00:07:33] And once we do, then we start to figure out how to identify shame in me. Right. So when I think about, you know, just to put myself out there in a vulnerable way. When I was six, seven, I learned to engage with horses in a way that incorporated a lot of violence. And that was just like what I learned. And I think throughout my life that's come up for me in lots of different scenarios as this very visceral feeling. Right. Of like, is there a part of me that's bad because of this thing?
[00:08:05] Do you, do you think the influence of that is increased by the age that you were at when these things were happening?
[00:08:10] It's a really good question. I think probably I think we do lots of things when we're young, we don't have the answers to, and we are learning from the adults around us that are supposed to protect us and keep us safe and, you know, lead us and, you know, the path that is healthy
[00:08:29] And perhaps if we learned something at that young age, perhaps we struggled to understand that being who we are versus what's been taught to us because we don't literally remember
[00:08:40] Yeah, I think absolutely. And I think for me, my story around trauma was really directly connected to what I was taught. About how to engage with horses, it's really hard to disentangle that. So it's been a really, a beautiful experience for me that my healing has happened as I learned how to engage with horses in a more kind, compassionate way. That's helped to untangle my story too and help me own in different way. So. Your original question was about shame and I, yeah,
[00:09:13] But I, I honestly didn't know the difference between shame and guilt. So that's huge for me to be able to separate because yeah, there are things that I have done and ways I've acted towards my horses or throughout the rest of my life that, that there is that deep visceral shame, but then there's things like, should I work too late? Or I, you know, it was a little short tempered with my kid tonight. You know, that's more of like a guilt and I know I can do better and I can fix. And it's not me. I know. I recognize that it's not me. It was an action, a choice at the time that I can change. That's different than identifying myself as "I was, or am this person," and I don't like that. And it makes me feel terrible about myself.
[00:09:58] Yeah. Shame is just, it's this feeling that because something in me as wrong or bad than I am less worthy of love and belonging, less worthy of connection with people. And that's the biggest fear with shame is that it will lead to disconnection.
[00:10:14] So I'm picturing a scenario where we've done a particular thing that we feel guilt about? Is it, is it therefore fair to say that in one individual that action, right, let's talk about I don't know, we've smacked our horse. One person might feel guilty about that and therefore do something different tomorrow because guilt produces change of behavior. Another person might internalize that as being something wrong with them and feel shame at that. Yeah. So it might be the same scenario, but it's a different way that we are responding to.
[00:10:50] Yes, because we bring all of ourselves to any relationship that we're in, even the relationship with our horses. So the person that feels guilt comes in with a different story.
[00:11:01] So the healthier way to deal with something is to feel guilt over it, rather than shame. Is that true?
[00:11:08] Yeah, I think so. I think that if we have resilience enough to say I did this thing that I don't like, or I did this thing that I feel like is not the choice that I want to make again, or I reacted, or was reactive. If we have enough resilience to say, that's not because I'm that, there's not something inherent in me that's bad, we're much more likely to be able to move to something that feels better, you know
[00:11:34] What's so cool about this. And it's not something that I predicted when we started talking about this, is that all of us have done Dr. Susan Friedman's Living And Learning With Animals course, and, and Dr. Friedman talks a lot about labels and unlabel me, and labels being something which we are putting the blame into the inside of the animal. So your animal is dominant and it's a vicious circle that has no end, versus seeing it as simply a behavior that the animal is doing, which can be influenced or changed. It's the same thing.
[00:12:10] Yes. It's externalized not internalized. Yeah. That's huge.
[00:12:15] Yeah. And there's something about. Dr. Susan Friedman that just really exudes kindness and compassion.
[00:12:22] And peace.
[00:12:22] Yes. And so, you know, I'm not promoting people feel guilty. Right. But it really is important because we all have those sensations come up in us that we really start to get, you know, become detectives of our bodies. Right. And how we piece apart guilt and shame, because we do know that guilt can move us, where shame really keeps us stuck.
[00:12:46] For me, because as you're talking, I'm just like thinking through this helps me identify why some of the stuff in my past was that I'm still holding on to. I might even perform that same action now, but I don't hold onto it the same way, because I'm not identifying myself as that person. It's just, it was an action at the time and I'm like, okay, that was not what I wanted, was to change that and do better. Whereas I look back at my past self and I almost identify my past self by those actions. And so I feel shame over that past self. Does that make sense? So that would, that is interesting to me cause it's, it helps me identify why I'm more resilient now to, I guess that's the right word, to a mistake I might make that might closely resemble something I might've done in the past. But they process different in me. Thinking about past self versus okay, even something I did in the last year, you know, some more current self. I don't have any shame over that. Like I'm like, well, it was a decision I made in the moment. It wasn't the best one. And now that I know better, you know, all of that, but then I look 10 years ago past me and I feel more shame over that.
[00:13:56] So the question then is how can those listening to this conversation make the same journey that Adele has because it's not certainly passive for itself. You've gone through a process to reach this point. So what tools are there or what yeah. How can you, how can people make that journey?
[00:14:13] Well, I mean, I can offer some ideas around shame resilience, but I wonder if, if it would be helpful to just share a little piece of what you felt like you've done.
[00:14:24] Oh, I see. I don't even know if I know. So part of it is like I had, I had no way to identify. I just knew it. I think a knowing that I'm constantly seeking to do better, but, but also understanding that there is no necessarily, like, this is the absolute truth and this is the absolute right, because there was even a middle ground where I did have that sense of, I must do it this way for it to be absolutely right and true. In any slip up in that, created more of a shame feeling. Right. Whereas now I'll do something I wouldn't necessarily promote or agree with. Like, I don't even agree with it and I just did it, type thing. Cause I'm human. I make mistakes. I'm like, okay, that's part of the learning process. Like that was, I didn't set that up the way I wanted it to, you know, I take a step back and I start instantly, or even over time, it takes time to process through what caused that to happen. But I don't identify myself as that mistake.
[00:15:22] If part of the thing that helps is our own education about from the animal's perspective. Right? So, so one thing that I'm super interested in and passionate about is the transfer. Between the humans. So how concepts that we applied to our horses apply to us. So behavioral science theory and whatever applied to how that also applies to ourselves, but because you have become aware in the intervening period, you've become much more aware your fog has lifted, so to speak, around the science, behind learning. You know, and in order to have the knowledge to train with positive reinforcement effectively and well, just to train effectively full stop you've now got much, therefore you must have much more compassion for the animal and you must be looking at behavior because labeling an animal et cetera isn't helpful and acting reactively in the moment isn't helpful. And you know, this consciously now, like I just wonder if, do you agree that maybe that learning about how to train the horse, it's helped you to be more compassionate to yourself?
[00:16:25] Absolutely. Because now I can recognize my own training. Yeah. Even if I'm applying it to myself, like -shine the spotlight on you-. Yeah. There's not necessarily, it doesn't have to necessarily be like an external trainer, like somebody who's, you know, manipulating my behavior. I can, I'm still learning and all of the science still applies and because, you know, the way we think we can kind of retrospectively like, okay, analyze a situation and say, what can I do? Where was the reinforcing factor in that? You know, how was I set up, you know, was I set up for success? Was I not? What are the approximations I could take to the steps I can make to make that better next time? Do I need help? Like, I might need to find somebody to guide me through this. And like you mentioned also it's a process. It's a journey. So when I first started recognizing all that science and all that, it was still super black and white. It's still very right versus wrong. Very, like, this is how it should be versus, you know, and so and then now my learning process is more of like, it's way more gray, like shades of gray. The science obviously is all still the same, but how it applies in a non vacuum situation and to the individual learner and all that changes. And that gives me more grace too , like the ability to say, it's not as simple as this happened, then this happened and you did right. Or you did wrong. It's, there's more layers. There's more layers to the situation.
[00:17:56] It becomes more nuanced. Yeah. And, and because of that nuance, I'm able to be okay with the fact that we may not have gotten it quite right that one time, you know, like what, what changed? What were the factors that made it not quite the way I wanted it to be that time, versus I did right in that time, or I did wrong in that time.
[00:18:15] Well, one thing that you mentioned that I'll bring back to kind of the shame piece is that I think you alluded to the fact that you're, you're not attempting to be perfect, but there really isn't such a thing as perfect. And I think oftentimes when we're learning something new, it needs to be black and white for a little while, so we can really integrate it. And that's okay. But I think that perfection and perfectionism as well, is one of those things that is really it's really a shield, right? It protects us, or it, it seeks to protect us from feeling shame. So if we find ourselves feeling like we have to be perfect, I'm guilty of this. You know, perfection is, is, is just not a real thing. And it's, it's really an armor. It's an armor that we put on to, to avoid that vulnerability of I'm gonna make some mistakes and it's just inevitable in learning. And I create the same learning environment for my horses, or for my clients, for myself, one that's compassionate, one that says, and we don't expect our horses to be perfect.
[00:19:18] Yeah. I mean I use this a lot with my youth, I teach a youth program program and tell them, you know, we talk about how we need to be as kind to ourselves as we are to our horses. So hard to say, and you know, you can take that in a surface layer and say, yes we need to be nice. But so much more than that, right. Yeah.
[00:19:37] So Kristin Neff is she's a researcher she's actually in the area . And her research is on self-compassion and she works closely with Brené Brown. And self-compassion is really hard to do because it kicks up things in us where we maybe didn't do that or didn't get that. And so there can be resistance to it being effective
[00:19:57] And I can definitely see how, I guess I'm like the ultimate, like shield myself with perfection person. Don't give me that look, I know you know. It's been a journey to be okay with not being perfect. But you mentioned the shield aspect and it's so true because in my mind, I'm like, well, nobody else is going to have compassion for me not being perfect. So I have to hold up to it because they're not going to have compassion for it. So I'm just going to have to like, have like no slack for myself because they're not going to be forgiving. It's like, so I'm going to put myself in a very vulnerable situation. They may attack me or hate me or whatever. Because I'm not perfect. And I make a mistake or whatever. In our horsemanship journey, I started to recognize then that as soon as I'm in a situation where there's other people that I feel like are expecting me to be perfect or expecting me to showcase whatever, I put that on the horse. And what do you know? It all falls apart. They don't deal well with the agendas. They don't deal with agendas. So. I especially in group situations with like clinics and things like that. There's so many people and I don't know these people, so I feel super vulnerable. It feels very vulnerable. And I feel like I have to be perfect. And then the horse is doing what I didn't expect them to do. So they're not being perfect, which is making me not be perfect. Now you're, you know, I don't feel safe and anyway, and then I can easily go back to the horse.
[00:21:31] And it can lead to shame spiral. Right? And then it goes back into, I've exposed myself in this way. And you know, then there's this feeling, this, whatever, your shame physiology, as we all have our own, you know, but shame is a physiological sensation. Then it goes back to that and we can get really inward, right? We can, we can want to, everyone has a different reaction to shame we can want to hide and we can want to you know, we move, maybe move towards people and get combative, or we move away, or get people pleasing. You know, there's so many things things that we do, but the reality is, is that vulnerability is so brave, right? It's what leads us to compassion and joy and creativity, both of which you are doing right in spades, right? The bravery of coming out with a different way to engage, a kind way to engage, reinforces it.
[00:22:27] And so when we expose ourselves I think sometimes we have to get really clear on what feedback is important to us. And we talked a lot about this. Yeah. When you're on social media, it gets really hard, but I love what Brené Brown says about feedback. Right? We have feedback from people who are also doing what you're doing, putting themselves out there, being vulnerable, trying, and then we get feedback from the cheapseats. From people that are not you know, walking in, in values that you share or not being brave and that feedback is not helpful.
[00:22:59] And I think too, like, I think we need to guard against imagination of what that feedback might be like. So, I mean, Adele is the master of vulnerability, in my opinion, in terms of the size of your social media reach and the amount, like that's immensely brave the way that you put yourself out there, especially considering what you just acknowledged around, struggling with perfectionism.
[00:23:20] And you know, but, but even, I mean, I see this in clients, even in one-on-one lessons, so there's no one else around, but they are paralyzed with their need for perfection and their need for the horse to be right, so that they can be right. And that's only in front of one person who is completely got their back and created a safe space. So there's that, not only does it happen in these, these really large audiences, but also even in their own heads to ourselves? And so then,
[00:23:47] Like, we were talking about the other day those, where is that coming from? And a lot of times it might be coming from like being in a boarding facility and needing to prove that we can ride our horse or the pressure of trying to keep up with that- me even -who's showcasing some more advanced behavior on social media. Like my intention is never to make somebody feel guilty about what they're doing with their horse. But sometimes, you know I can't not show stuff, but I, you know, just thought it was really valuable and we can talk more about this where just where those sources that are causing you to feel that way. Like, why not? Why are we not just enjoying that process and being there with the horse where they are now, if you're enjoying what you're doing right now, what does it matter? Like why, why are we worried about it being perfect. Or,
[00:24:37] And that can really take some introspection sometimes I think, to identify the source, you know, I like when I start feeling pressure or shame or frustration or anger or any of those kinds of feelings, like, is that really coming from inside of me? Am I putting expectations on the horse? And if so, where are they really coming from? Are they coming from what I think that person over there, who I've noticed is glancing over at me from the other side of the barn. And is that in fact even real, but does that even matter? Yeah
[00:25:07] Absolutely. Yeah. I can think of so many examples of my own life of, and this comes much more strongly for me with my dogs because I've been on that journey with them for a little bit longer, but there's so much shame about past ways of engaging with them. And so I think I catch myself in moments of, oh my gosh, this trainer's coming over and I really need to be perfect and maybe just show them everything. And in reality it's so self-protective for me because there's pain there from the past. Right. Of, of what that process has been like, what that's looked like and, and not, not working through completely you know, that shame, not having shame resilience around past things, which is an ongoing evolution.
[00:25:49] How does, like how does, like, if you are worried you're going to be judged for posting this or like people are being like, oh, she's not a good enough trainer or, or somebody else might say, you know, you're not taking care of your horse the best way that it, according to their mindset, like how does that play into that guilt shame spiral?
[00:26:07] I think it's huge. I think it's a really tough thing. And I, I think it's a different sensation and experience when you are talking about having a public forum where anyone can comment. But people are going to feel it at their barns. Like, I mean, part of the reason, like we brought up this before. You know, they may not feel like they know a whole lot about clicker training, but they're out in the middle of the arena right in front of an audience. Cause they're always right next to the barn and you're clicking and feeding your horse food. And everybody else is like, what is that crazy person doing? Right. And so you're worried about being judged and then your horse makes a mistake. And then you start feeling guilty or shame or whatever it is, I don't know what, or just fearing the repercussions of what are going to happen from this. You know, I mean, it could go all the way up to, in some extreme cases getting kicked out of your barn. So how, how does that play in?
[00:27:02] That's a really good question, so I can speak from my personal experience of just the feeling of extra pressure of needing to get it right, right. Or needing to prove that this is this way of doing things is appropriate and safe and effective. So I can't speak to the logistics in terms of there might be situations where it's just not a good fit, right. In terms of barn and horse and owner. But I have a list of values in the back of my mind ? That lead me in everything that I do. So for me courage, compassion, kindness, and wellbeing. So I say, okay, am I walking the walk here? I am doing this because these are my values. Right? And that's why I am risking, right. Well, that's why I am being vulnerable, putting myself out there being brave, right. Having courage, because that is one of my values. Because I believe this is the kindest way that we can be with our horses. And I, and I believe that it's worth the risk, right. Putting yourself out there, but it doesn't mean it's not hard and we will fall. Right. And I think this work of shame resilience helps us figure out, how do we get back up from those falls, right? And how do we, cause when we put ourselves out there, it's inevitable, right? That's part of being brave.
[00:28:24] I think for me. And maybe, cause I'm just going to add, it just what's helps me is recognizing that as much as many of us are trying for that perfectionist state. And there's no such thing as perfect and nobody, and everybody's trying to be perfect, but nobody's actually achieving perfection. So it's okay that it didn't achieve perfection in that time. And it, that may sound like that's like a baby step, recognizing that they may not achieve perfection all the time. And then, you know, you work your way down to like, it's okay to be non-perfect and all that. So, and, and working towards being perfect less often, that's something it's taken years for me to just be like, okay, my house is a mess or it's okay that my kids got upset at the grocery store or it's okay that my horse nipped up my shoulder jacket, right then like in front of a bunch of people, my horse is not perfect. I'm not perfect. Things happen and it's happening to everybody else too.
[00:29:20] And you're not alone. And I think that's a really important thing to remember when you're feeling those things is that you are in company of other people that have experienced or are experiencing that.
[00:29:32] To me, that's a really important antidote to these feelings. It's not that I'm on an island, but even if we are surrounded by people who are judging us or that we fear are judging us, that we perceive are judging us, that we find our tribe, that we find our community and surround ourselves. And that may be virtual, but it gives you at the very least, even that scenario will give you peace that you're not, you're not the only one in the entire world. And there are actually lots of us out there because I think that the obvious next step for many people, the unfortunate next step for many people in that scenario is that they then get even more closed down and they do it even more secretly because they don't want to be judged, which means that the person just down the aisle of the barn, who was also feeling that way and they won't even know they exist or the person in the same town as them. And they'll never find each other. My clients always talked about how isolated they are. And then yeah, when they come along to a clinic and they started looking around at 20 other people who are from the same geographic area, and are like, I had no idea!
[00:30:39] There was somebody three miles on the road for me. And I felt even, even me who was this huge social media, whatever. I'm like there's somebody, three minutes down the road that's interested in this. That's crazy to me. And I live in a really big city with lots of horse people and a big social media platform. But to me it still feels very much like everybody's like on the other side of the world, like you're in New Zealand and I am Austin, Texas. So like, I mean, it still can feel that way. And so but I do have, I feel like I've worked very hard and you have too Bex, and Julia, you have a community too where even if you are all the way on the other side of the world, this is a safe place for you to come and to share.
[00:31:17] And that is the good side of social media, right? And this is why social media can be a real positive thing in our lives. If it's carefully managed.
[00:31:26] Well, I think you're talking about a really essential part of resilience to shame, which is community, and community provides empathy, and empathy is the biggest antidote to shame, right? Because when, I mean, shame is like mold, right? It likes secrecy, it likes darkness, it likes to kind of just like fester, it's that voice of who do you think you are? Or there's no way you're doing this right. Those little gremlins. But when we find the tribe that you're talking about, we can say Oh I just had this feeling when I was out working at the barn. I felt like so-and-so was really giving me funny looks, and this is what it brought up for me. And then you can have another person say, Hey, I totally get that. And you know, I'm here. I'm just here listening. Or here's some advice if that's what you need. Right. That's good. That's what we need. That's the key.
[00:32:17] Yeah. And another thing that helps me was recognizing that I'm not the only one carrying the torch, so to speak. Like I don't have to defend how I'm doing this and I'm not, I'm not to this make or break. Like, I'm the only one out here and it's my job to convert everybody. And my job, it really, really is as far as like, I train people to do things way, but it's still not just on me. And then for my students, I want to strongly encourage them or share with them that they are learners that as we all are. But especially when you're in the beginning of a journey of a change, it's not your torch. Like everybody, it doesn't matter how you're training horses. It doesn't matter even if it's about training horses, it could be anything when you're in the beginning stages of learning something. Yeah. Those people, if they're looking at you and expecting you to prove the best results of this training method can prove, they're looking at the wrong source. And, and not that you can't be a really good beacon and it really, and start those ripples and those changes, but it's okay to be learning. It's okay to be still figuring out how to do things, I mean I'm still figuring it out. We all are. Like, I feel so like, I'm like way at the beginning of this very long journey that we will never complete. Yeah. Yeah.
[00:33:40] And that we can, we can own this and not apologize for it. I see a lot of them particularly. People in the community on social media apologizing constantly. Yeah.
[00:33:51] That they don't do it quite right. Or they don't know as much.
[00:33:55] Or sorry about my rubbish riding or that sort of, that culture of apologizing for who I am. We can own the fact that we're not perfect without apologizing to the world.
[00:34:07] Yeah. Sometimes strengthen that. Sometimes it's really passive. Like as far as it's subtly put in there, Or I've seen some very obvious ones, which I have done before. It's like, disclaimer, you know, like I didn't brush my horse today or whatever. Like why am I apologizing for that. Like my horse is well taken care of and he's loved and I'm doing the best I can.
[00:34:27] And we all are. That's the phrase we really want to come back to. And I, and I encourage all of us, including myself to really have empathy and compassion for ourselves and for other people on this learning journey, but also to have compassion and empathy for the people in our barns that are doing things really, really differently, because that is how change happens. Right. We don't change people by shaming them. We change them, I think you said this actually in your clinic, we changed them by just modeling, being an example.
[00:35:02] We changed the world through our example, not our opinion. I can't recall where that quote came from, but I use it a lot because it just, yeah. I feel really strongly about that. I think we need to just go out there and shine the light and you be you and just do your thing. Right? Do what feels good in your gut. And what your horse is telling you feels good for him, correct? Yeah.
[00:35:23] And I think that will really help people not to get stuck in this, I have this information in my head, but if I try and go out and do it, I know it won't be perfect. So I'm not going to do it. It happens to me too, I'm like even in shaping things like, Bex, I've watched your videos of you training ,shaping these long chains of stuff. And I am, that is I recognize that's a learning, like I still need to work on my learning process there. Yeah. Well guess what I haven't done is gone out and actually practiced doing it. Like I would have, I'm really, really good at like the practical stuff, like shorter chains or whatever it ends the idea of just going out and like we were doing at the clinic, teaching her how to pick a hat up and put it on someone's head. Like I have, my brain goes, holy smokes. I don't know what to do with this. Yeah. It's I'm not going to get it right. I'm probably going to mess it up. So I just never do it. I just never do it. And I'm the same, I've done the same. So there's an area of horsemanship that I'm dying to learn more about, and then I know it would help my horses. It's more of the the biomechanics and the classical dressage and in hand stuff. I think talking about this for well over a year, but I haven't done yet. Yeah, exactly.
[00:36:35] And you get paralyzed by yeah, the unknown and, and thinking, knowing that you will mess it up, like recognizing that we are going to be the learner and we are going to be novices at it is frightening. I think for me too, just to add another layer to that, something that I've been doing a lot of thinking about is, am I making excuses or am I making choices? So the reality is that, although I've been talking about wanting to learn that new skill set and learn how to do that, it is going to take some time and it's going to take some study. And those of my friends who do a lot of that are people that have spent a lot of time training. Like I'm not, you know, you spend a lot of time learning how to do that stuff. And the reality is in the last couple of years that hasn't actually been an option and that's okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
[00:37:23] Recognizing when something is a priority and when you're choosing to not make something a priority for right now,
[00:37:31] Because I don't have the bandwidth to learn that. But I want to make sure that the reason I'm saying that is truly because I don't, and not because I'm afraid of failure.
[00:37:41] And I think the difference there, like recognizing and making sure it's that difference is one is going to get you stuck and you will idle out. You're just going to be in this one place forever. And the other one is just saying not right the second, but I'm going to come back to that. Right. Or that is a goal of mine. And I will like, I'm going I'll even for me, I know I don't have the bandwidth for this specific thing right now. I have a couple of things on my mind I'm thinking of. So I will slot out like, spring 2021 is when I'm going to start this project. And I have a deadline of, this is when I'm going to create the bandwidth, because that's the other thing is people who are short on time, you have to intentionally clear space, right. To make space for this new information that new, that learning, that learning process, which does take effort, time, vulnerability.
[00:38:29] I totally connect with that because I'm, I'm new at this with horses. I'm new with positive reinforcement with horses, I've spent a lifetime with dressage, jumping and, you know, hunters and all traditionally trained. And I bought a, a filly about a year ago and you know, I'm like, all right, here we go. But I find, you know, you were joking about this at the clinic that, you know, it's really hard for me to record. Is it hard for me to record because, it's hard for me to record or am I afraid of the feedback? Right. And, and recognizing I'm me, and I know this is part of my work as it is, I think all of our work is that is that we can be imperfect, right? And sometimes I actually make that an intention today. I'm going to go out and I'm going to be imperfect. And that is my goal. And I can't mess that up. Right.
[00:39:21] That's a great intention.
[00:39:22] That is actually, you know, that's really, I hadn't labeled one of the steps, that I've been taking to, I don't want to imply that perfectionism is like this fault, but it can, it can handicap us.
[00:39:36] So if we allow it to, right. And so for me, trying to balance that out, I will have, like, there's been times, like, I'm trying to imagine an example, but, you know, when we were organizing the clinic, there were times where, you know, lots of questions are coming at me. Like, what are we gonna do? How are we gonna set up this? And then in my mind, I'm like, I know what I want it to look like. I know what perfect world looks like. And so I stopped and I have this intentional little internal dialogue where I'm like, where's my priority at, my priority is that enjoying this experience. And it's okay if it's not like Pinterest perfect. Right. And I love Pinterest, so I'm not implying that Pinterest is bad, but I, I choose and I prioritize the more important thing, because at the end of the day, when I go home, which am I going to have enjoyed more, and which is going to have filled me up more and been more reinforcing, getting to sit and listen to you talk, or having made sure I recorded every little thing you said, and set up all the cameras and made sure the lights were just right in there's flowers here. And this dish was perfectly done and all. The the day longevity, like what's going to feed me long term, it's going to be having enjoyed that experience with you. So yeah, I don't know. That's a step that I took to help.
[00:40:58] I acknowledge that time internally and appreciated it. Because, you know, that actually nourishes me as well, to have you there with me and for us to be able to share thoughts afterwards and that kind of thing. And I yeah, that was, you did that very, very well.
[00:41:15] I try very hard.
[00:41:16] And I enjoyed the outcome of the clinics. I would love to hear about example like recent examples of things that came up for either one of you.
[00:41:23] Like an example where I felt guilt or an example of where I had to intentionally choose to be vulnerable in that I knew it wasn't perfect for.
[00:41:36] I think an example of maybe something that felt, you know, quick or time pressured, where there wasn't so much of a conscious choice, where you acted and then after the fact something came up for you.
[00:41:48] Whether an action that we did that maybe we look back on where like that wasn't quite what I wanted.
[00:41:53] Yeah. I have one from relatively recently. It was my own horse where there was various pressures and I was trying to get him on the trailer. And after the fact I felt I'm going to say guilt, possibly shame. I remember feeling like I remember labeling myself with hypocritical. That word came up in my head where I, you know, I did things I responded in ways that I wasn't proud of or that I've regretted. And we're not talking about anything particularly dramatic.
[00:42:26] But no, I mean, I've had the similar situations, especially in, because we're referring to the trailer. I mean, I've had the situation with my filly when she was much younger and I was super proud of the fact that she would load into the trailer anytime. Like I just open the door and she'd get right in. Right. Well, we had gone to back to back vet exams and she was done, she was so done and I had to get her home. She couldn't say five hours away from home. And it wasn't crazy. It wasn't dramatic. I just applied some pressure and release and cause we were done with the food we were done with all that stuff. And we could go on about. You know how to make that better, all this stuff. But I didn't talk about it for a long time. Cause I felt very hypocritical. Like I just had to do this thing to my horse and I felt bad about it. But now I look back and I'm like, you know, that stuff kind of like, it happens and it's okay. And I can do better next time. But it was very hard for me at the time.
[00:43:16] Yeah. I have those examples too, with my horse and with my dogs and with the people and it happens because we are not perfect. We can't always be regulated. Right. And I think that, you know, when we start labeling ourselves, well, I did this thing, so I must be hypocrite, this thing so I must not be a good trainer. I do this thing I must be a terrible therapist, whatever it is, right. That is the shame. And so when we practice shame resilience, there's four steps. We, we start to get really good, one at identifying what does shame look like in our bodies? How does it feel? Some people are like, well, I have this feeling on my chest and or I have this thing in my stomach, or my vision starts to get wonky or whatever. So we recognize that the physiology of shame first. And then along with that, we recognize where the triggers are for shame. So we all have shame triggers. And one way we can tell what our shame triggers are, is by thinking about- this is not a fun exercise, but I encourage everyone to do it. But thinking about what's the worst thing you could be perceived as. We think about judgment coming in from others.
[00:44:27] We don't need to do it right now, but just to get your juices flowing. What's the worst thing you could be perceived as, and often times we can go to the other end of the spectrum and say, how do we want to be perceived? What's the ideal, right? The perfect, which is not possible, but that's often the areas where we overcompensate. So when we find out what are the worst things of how we are perceived, we can recognize, oh, that's probably a shame trigger for me. Right. If I am concerned about someone thinking that I'm not smart, for example that might be a shame trigger for me. And that might mean I need to overcompensate by, you know, doing all the stuff, which I do. I take lots of classes. So for me, I recognize okay. Being perceived in a particular way, as smart or not being perceived that way is something that, that triggers me. So recognizing your shame triggers, recognizing okay, is it when I get frustrated with my horse in this particular situation, is it when someone else is watching and they see me do this as it, when I'm alone and I do this what am I doing? Right? Is it pressure and release? Is it something else? But we have to figure out what sparks or what moves those physiological reaction. So that's the very first piece of shame resilience. So I practice this when I work with my horse. Right. And I leave the barn and I'm like, Ooh, like I'm feeling, what is that?
[00:45:47] Then when we start to practice critical awareness, why would we feel shame? Right. Why would we feel shame about this particular thing? What does our society tell us about women and smartness, that's my example, or positive reinforcement versus negative reinforcement versus punishment. What have I done in the past, along those continuum? So practicing that critical awareness is really important. So there's the first two steps.
[00:46:11] And the next step is reaching out. So this is where the tribe comes in, right. Just finding a way to reach out and to be able to practice communicating with others. So shame, like I said, is like a mould. So we need empathy, right? So empathy is the best antidote to shame. So if you feel this thing, normally we, if we're like, oh I'm such a hypocrite, it's like, well, I'm not gonna tell anybody that, but really we want that to come out so we can realize actually, no, like you're walking in your values and you're human. And sometimes we make mistakes. Right? We need, sometimes we need an outside sources to remind us.
[00:46:53] Could you put any, I'm assuming that the answer would be yes. Would you put any caveats on it? In terms of which particular something you choose to expose you?
[00:47:02] Yes. Yes. It was so important. I'm so glad you asked, you know, when we're vulnerable like this, we need to share our story with people that have earned the right to hear it. And people that have not earned the right to hear it are people that may shame us for that experience.
[00:47:18] So we're not saying jump on Instagram. Send it out to the universe and open yourself up for what judgments, which will then cause yeah.
[00:47:28] Yes. So talk to your best friend, talk to your parents, talk to your grandparents, talk to your trainer that you've built years of trust with, right? You mean find the people that can hold you with empathy and compassion.
[00:47:42] And the last piece is naming shame. So I'm getting better at this I, in my work life, this comes up a lot. If I miss something or if I'm, if I'm late or if I make a mistake I will say, oh wow. I was really in a shame spiral right then. Just say it, I'll give voice to it. And I'm lucky that the people I've surrounded myself with are like, totally get that. Right.
[00:48:05] So four components to shame resilience. You can practice them anytime, anywhere they can fit with you in your back pocket.
[00:48:14] And is there a particular book, for example, Brené Brown, she's got multiple books, is there a a particular resource that people should be referring to?
[00:48:21] That that's a good question. I mean, I recommend all of her books They are fantastic. If you're not somebody who wants to dive into a book, you can YouTube her, just go to Netflix. She has done an Netflix show. So yeah, absolutely. Kristin Neff, who I mentioned before she has a website where you can take a self-compassion quiz and she just has tons of meditations on there. I personally love that. So that's where I would start. Okay. Be kind to yourself.
[00:48:48] How, what do you feel, or at least for me, something that's helped is with my horsemanship and not any, this goes along with the perfectionism and the feeling judged and all of that. One way I can protect myself a little bit and, and feel more confident in practicing something out and exposed and not trying to hide away is, or feeling shame even, or guilt over my horse doing something against what I thought they would do or not against, but you know what I mean, different than I thought, what I expected, is not basing my identity on my horses actions or even on, meaning if we're going to go even deeper, the results of my training, like the results of my training are not necessarily my identity. Yeah. And I feel like that has really helped me feel more confident and a little bit more less likely to feel that shame spiral because yes, my horse didn't get in the trailer. That's not who, that's not me. Like, I mean, sure. We can, I can make changes. I can actively work towards making this a better situation. And maybe I did or did not prepare her enough or so on, but it's not like the end all be all of who I am. It's not my identity. Yeah. And so I feel like that kind of fits in.
[00:50:05] Oh my gosh, everything we were talking about, it's just so important. And I can think about that as, as parents, as partners, as friends. Right? I mean, it, it is, you know, I think that when we identify what our core values are and we try hard to walk in those daily. Sometimes we don't. Right. And because we're human, but I think that our identity is, is tied to what we do to try, right? Yeah. Yeah. We're all gonna. We're all gonna make mistakes. Cause none of us are robots, which I'm really happy about. Yeah, exactly.
[00:50:47] Well, this has been super awesome. Thank you guys. All for such a treat. Traveling here to my little home, talking. How can people reach you if they want to get more information and or do you want them to?
[00:51:07] So I don't have a really big presence on social media. So emailing me is the best way, and I imagine you can like put in my website. Yeah. And I would love to hear from people. Yeah, absolutely. And we'll put our own information, obviously this is being included in our stuff, but yeah, so it was awesome. So exciting. We covered a bit of everything that was perfect. It was really fun.
[00:51:39] thanks so much. If you enjoyed this podcast episode, I would love if you left us a review on wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you'd like to learn more head to our website, the willing equine.com, where you'll find a bunch of links to our different social media platforms. We have Instagram, Tech-Talk YouTube, Facebook, pretty much everything.
[00:51:57] We also have our blog, our training services and the TWE academy where you can enroll in the foundation course that opens a few times a year. Thanks so much for listening. Forward to chatting with you in the next episode.