With the holidays progressing rapidly, and the state of the economy on a fast decline, finding ways to improve mood is now more important than ever. However, as with most things, when they are needed most, is also when they are hardest to attain — think the ones who are hardest to love and how they need it the most. And while the truth is that being around horses will certainly not stop the difficult holiday reminders many people suffer, or in any way improve the economy (horse owners would attest to this point), but it just might make a person feel a little better in one of the following ways.
As sinuous advertisers and marketing consultants cleverly concoct strategies encouraging the masses to flock to their perspective stores in droves and spend unheard of amounts of money, merge with consumers unabated appetites for the latest and greatest gadget, device or fashionable gift, the result is a prime example of what authors, John de Graaf, David Wann, Thomas H. Naylor and David Horsey so sagaciously dubbed “Affluenza.”
As the title of their book Affluenza: The All Consuming Epidemic suggests, affluenza is a method of describing America’s proclivity for overspending as an actual disease, and one akin to an addiction. The authors further state that, like any disease, affluenza comes with a host of symptoms, from depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol addiction, physical health problems, to a variety of stress-related conditions.
Clearly, this disease is yet without a cure — that is unless you consider the current state of the economy a cure — and at the same time, one that desperately needs treatment. Is it possible then that equine therapy can be helpful in the treatment of affluenza?
Equine therapy, just as with traditional therapy, houses many theoretical orientations, which we could all argue about for decades, and resolve nothing except that we hold different beliefs. Clearly, for those who practice from an experiential, or psychodynamic perspective (7 years training in my case—this is not meant to be “pejorative”), the relationship between the client and the horse is the integral agent of healing, just as the relationship between the human therapist and client would be.
For those of us, understanding how it is a client can be alleviated of his projections without experiencing a relationship in an honest, safe and healing way, is challenging. On the other side of the coin, for those who employ EAP for teaching principle, this is surely not the case.
People have always been fascinated with horses. From mankind’s first experiences with them, either through the parochial methods made timeless by the Spaniards (and later the Spanish riding school), or through the natural horsemanship techniques first mastered by Native Americans, horses have represented a power greater than man.
For centuries (and many would argue still today), horses were associated with wealth, and the pillaging of towns and villages frequently included the theft of many horses. Not only have horses represented power and wealth to man, but the mystique of something that is both not entirely understood, and not fully controlled.
In considering man’s long history with horses, and the endless fascination we have always had with them, it’s not hard to see why we would be equally intrigued with the idea that horses can, in some way, help heal what we cannot seem to heal ourselves.
While many of us are familiar with the organizational dynamics of a group of like minded people, and the concept of a herd of animals, the psychological benefits of existing among a herd are much less understood. For this reason, this post is dedicated to examining this very concept. The following is an excerpt from the book, ON THE BACK OF A HORSE: Harnessing the healing Power of the Human-Equine Bond.
“Where does your rage go?’ Dr. Heidel sat back in his chair and adjusted his tie. The cookie that had been “tempting him all day,” now tempted me. Anything to avoid answering that question.
It took him eleven minutes to ask it. I had looked at my watch when his secretary apologized for tardiness, and assured me that it was no reflection of his desire to meet with me. “He has been very busy today. But he wants you to know, he does want to meet with you. If you can just be patient he will get to you.” She leaned over me as I sat on the bench outside his office. She must be a mom. Either that, or she is used to assuring people waiting on Dr. Heidel.
“What?” I was buying time.
I had come to his office to ask about addiction. How it begins, what it does to people, and what happens if it is not treated. In searching for the answer to my question - if avoiding emotions was a way of functioning at all, I discovered a new world. A vast community all focused on one thing. It affects every facet of the population, and aside from the war, is what the government spends the most amount of money treating, and cleaning up after. No longer do we associate it with skid row, but instead, Rush Limbaugh – and after his stay at the prestigious Sierra Tucson, many other celebrities as well. Addictions are now ubiquitous. About as common as the flu, I realized.
For most people, the practice of equine therapy itself is completely foreign, let alone a gestalt approach. Even those in the field of equine therapy may be unfamiliar with this unique way of utilizing the energy and space shared between horses and human. Yet, there is one such organization that specializes in just that.
The Gestalt Equine Institution in Colorado, founded in 1969, not only has been around much longer than many of it’s competitors, but it also prides itself on it’s one of a kind two year training program. Here is the brief description provided by the organization:
Personality is one of the most common recipients of a multitude of behavioral attributions. More often then not, when the actions of another defy understanding, it is the “type of person that he/she is” that becomes the reasoning for these otherwise incomprehensible features of a person. We even have specialized segments of personality that characterize behavior that exists outside of the “normal spectrum”of behavior. Some examples of this are “addictive personality,” “abusive personality” and “survivor personality.”
For each of these personality subtypes, behavioral traits are understood to be consistent for that subtype. However, as research into what separates those who seem to survive, and even thrive, in the face of extreme stress, from those who are debilitated by it, the idea that a personality that is “biphasic” is more adaptive to stress has emerged.