When I work with people in Horse Facilitated Learning or in other contexts, I primarily use my intuition. When clients try to connect with a horse or verbally describe a situation for me, I can intuitively feel when there are activated emotional states in the client’s body. I cannot feel what these states precisely contain, but I can guide the person to direct their own attention into the emotional state anchored in the body, and thereby achieve contact to this emotional state. In these moments, I have the same experience that Peter Levine describes when he helps his clients with healing trauma. When I help clients to become aware and feel an emotional state, they experience flow in the place in the body where I sensed their emotions. In that situation, the horses are an enormous help in the healing process.
Here is my guide to how emotions can be handled:
- Learn to discover how and when emotions come. Many people are not aware of their active emotions.
- When emotions arise, attempt to accommodate them and recognise that they are present. Some emotions are overwhelming and so difficult to cope with that you just want them to disappear. By training the mind to work with emotions, for example by the use of Jon Kabat-Zinn’s MBSR method, it is possible to learn to welcome them, accommodate them and accept their presence.
- When you are able to consciously accommodate your emotions, you will be able to explore what message they bring. For example, if you feel anger arise, you can investigate who or what is making you angry. If it perhaps is your partner, it is important to dare to be honest to yourself about what you feel – without regard to what your partner’s intentions were or are. If you feel that your partner has been unfair, it is right and necessary to feel anger. In other words, you must allow yourself to feel the anger inside, regardless of whether anyone else thinks this is appropriate or justified. Whether you choose to express the anger must then depend on careful consideration. It may not always be the best solution to express the anger, but what is most important is that you recognise and accommodate your own anger internally.
In some cases you may have to call up an emotion inside yourself. If you have lost a dear friend and do not feel grief, it may be necessary to search for these feelings inside yourself, perhaps by awakening old memories you have of this friend. However, it is important not to force anything, and remember to feel your boundaries to discover when you must stop.
There may also be people who unknowingly cross your boundaries and do not perceive your desire about keeping a distance. In this situation, it may be necessary to turn on a little anger and, as described under the section setting boundaries, maybe take a little step forward. The important thing is to feel anger inside you and that often is enough. Words may be redundant.
At other times, you can give your feelings too much space, and it may be necessary to put some limits on their expansion. When this is the case, the answer lies in your logical abilities in your left hemisphere – in other words, you must think your way to a smarter solution.
Our emotions are active most of the time. They arise in almost everything we do. When we have conversations, when we cooperate with other people, when we raise our children, our emotions arise in a very complex pattern moving around in our body, as described earlier in this book. In the next section, I will describe the areas in our lives where bodily emotional states have most influence. When emotions arise in a part of our body, it can be experienced as one kind of emotional state for one person and another type of emotional state for another person. It is therefore not possible to describe which type of emotion is active – just that there is an active emotional state.
When I work with people and their emotional states arise in their bodies, one state always stands out more clearly than others. It’s as though these emotional states have a hierarchy. We have to stop what we are doing and focus on this clearest emotional state. As regards the process of creating flow in the emotional state, the experience is unique to each person and quite impossible to describe.
This experience cannot be understood by reading about it – you have to try it in your own body. In the same way, I cannot further describe the progress and work with the emotional states in the next chapter. I can only try to draw your attention to the situations where emotional states may be active, to give you the opportunity to discover them for yourself.