“I love horses. I love being with them, riding them. But every time I have time to go out and be with the horses, I find something else to do. The other day my husband took our children out for the day so I could have the whole day with my horses. I went out — and spent all my time cleaning the yard and didn’t even groom them. What is wrong with me? I do feel nervous when I ride, but I feel like I am throwing away my dream.. I want to ride but I just can’t do it — what’s stopping me?”
This happens to a lot of people — we finally get the right place, the right horses — and a great partner who will give us the time we want to be with our horses and then suddenly, we don’t get around to riding.
We do everything BUT ride.
And if we DO make it onto a horse’s back it’s only for a few minutes and we are very quick to get off again — when we get off we breath a sigh of relief that we survived.
And that is what this is all about — your unconscious gives the fear, the distraction and the anxiety to keep you safe and help you survive.
In an earlier note I wrote about how our unconscious does a great job of keeping us safe without us really having to think about it. For example, if we sprain an ankle, within a few hours we are automatically not putting weight on it as our unconscious takes over and stops us from hurting ourselves.
If we put our hand in a flame and it hurts — we don’t even have to think about avoiding flames in future — our unconscious takes care of that for us.
How great is that? If we had to consciously think about everything we do every day to stay safe I am sure we would go mad with too much stuff in our heads — so our unconscious is doing a very useful, very helpful job. If it didn’t do this, then we would be spending so much time thinking about these things we would not be able to do anything else!
So our unconscious has an unconditionally positive intent: it is ALWAYS trying to help us.
Fortunately it is very good at this.
Unfortunately, because most of us don’t know this is going on, we don’t realise that the unconscious needs to be told when things change and it doesn’t need to protect us anymore.
I know people who YEARS after spraining an ankle, still won’t use that leg first when climbing stairs. In physical therapy, there are many people who have twisted bodies, sore muscles from YEARS of compensating for a broken bone that healed within 8 weeks. But their unconscious is still causing them to move in ways to avoid hurting that broken bone, avoid the pain.
Post-injury physiotherapy is useful partly because it reprogrammes the body to work properly again after the original injury heals.
So let’s say we love horses. Let’s also say that we are a bit nervous about them — if every time we get on our horse we are nervous, what is our unconscious going to think?
It is going to think — well, if you are nervous of doing this, let me keep you safe from that feeling — let me stop you from getting on at all — then you won’t have to deal with this.
And so you find yourself going out to your horses and by the time you have cleaned up the field and yard, and groomed your horses — well, there isn’t really time to ride. Perhaps you have to get back to your children
So your conscious mind says — lets get our partner to take the children out for the day, then I won’t have to worry about that — and we go to the yard, clean up, groom – maybe we notice that the tack room needs reorganising…
Our unconscious is helping us to not be worried — helping us to not be nervous, by keeping us busy noticing other things that need to be done so we don’t have to face the fear.
Part of us wants to ride, wants to enjoy this time — wants to get closer to our dream.
But part of us is scared of what might happen, what could happen — and wants us to stay safe.
The frustration we feel, the disappointment in ourselves — comes from the conflict between these parts.
What if we could get them working TOGETHER?
After all, both parts want us to be happy, right? One wants us to ride as be happy, the other wants to be safe — and we want to be BOTH — so what if, instead of letting our unconscious hold us hostage to our fear — what if we can get these two parts to NEGOTIATE a settlement they can both live with?
What a great idea — but, like all great ideas, its one thing having the idea, its quite another knowing HOW to put it into practice.
There IS a technique that can help with this – and that is what I am going to share with you in this note.
Some parts of the technique might seem a little weird — but its based on what actually works for real people in these situations — so use it, and it works for you.
The first thing to realise is that all these voices and feelings are coming from inside you, therefore they are all in some way, looking out for you and your survival. Every one of these voices and feelings has a positive intent for you.
So since they all have a positive intent, once we can work out what that is — it should be possible to get them all working FOR us rather than what they so often appear to be doing which is working against us.
The easiest way to explain this is to write it out as a series of steps — have a read through and then go through the steps as written and you will feel the change.
1. Open up the lines of communication:
Invite the part of you that wants to ride to come out and talk to you. This is the easy one so we will do this one first!
Give this part an image, or a feeling and a name (for example mine is a centaur and is called Fred). The more specific you can be here, the better — size, colour, shape, feel, smell…. One of my friends has a yellow bob called sunshine…so it can be anything that feels right to you.
Ask this part “what is your positive intent for me?” and listen to the answer that will just come into your mind
Then say “thank you — and what does that do for me?”
Repeat the “thank you — and what does that do for me?” three, five or seven times — to make sure you get to a deep answer rather than the first thing you think of. The more specific, detailed answers you have for what this part does for you, the stronger it will be in the negotiation.
Work out WHERE this part of you is when you are talking with it — you can invite it to move to an easier place. For me, this part usually sits on my left shoulder, and when I want to talk to it, it moves down to the palm of my left hand.
Say thank you to this part of you and ask it to hang around while you talk to another part of yourself.
2. Make sure you can talk to BOTH sides:
Now ask “the part of me that does not want me to ride” to some out. Remember this part is in your Unconscious so might be a bit wary of coming out, you may need to say something like “I know you are trying to help me and want to hear more from you so I can pay you the attention you deserve” to encourage it to trust you and come out to talk.
Give this part an image, or a feeling and a name Funnily enough for me this part is a bit like Brian Blessed (I know, isn’t it strange how our brains work? That friend of mine has a dark blue cube she calls “blue” – whatever feels right to you)
Ask this part “what is your positive intent for me?” and listen to the answer that will just come into your mind. If you don’t hear anything — just ask again. Now here’s the important thing — whatever comes into your mind, accept it and say thank you –even if it sounds ridiculous to your conscious mind. If it helps, think of your unconscious as being like a 3 yr old child trying to do the right thing — all good intent but not necessarily able to explain things very well.
Then say “thank you — and what does that do for me?”
Repeat the “thank you — and what does that do for me?” three, five or seven times — to make sure you get to a deep answer rather than the first thing you think of. Sometimes this gets a bit emotional as you realise that a part of yourself you thought was a problem is actually working very very hard to keep you safe and sound and genuinely has your best interests at heart. Really listen to what it has to say — the more it believes you are taking it seriously (when previously you have tried so hard to shut it down and keep it quiet) the more helpful it will be. Sometimes it gets quite talkative, so be patient.
Work out WHERE this part of you is when you are talking with it — you can invite it to move to an easier place. For me, this part usually sits on my right shoulder, and when I want to talk to it, it moves down to the palm of my right hand.
Say thank you to this part of you and ask it to hang around and join in the conversation
So now you have both parts of yourself out and really understand the positive intent they both have for you. For some people, just at this point they feel a huge sense of relief — instead of fighting inside themselves, they now feel they are coherent and heading in the same direction.
3. Make it a DIALOGUE:
Now the next step is to get the two parts to talk to EACH OTHER.
First, ask the part of you that wants to ride, what it would like to say to the part that wants to keep you safe. And let it talk…
Say thank you — then ask the part of you that wants to keep you safe what it would like to say to the part of you that wants to ride.
At this stage, you will hear a lot of common ground between the two parts — they will already be talking to each other constructively rather than in conflict…
4. Find out what “you” want:
Now ask the part of you that wants to keep you safe, what the part of you that wants to ride would have to do for the part of you that wants to keep you safe to ALLOW you to ride…
Take your time here — this is your unconscious telling you what it needs to let go of the fear and let you move forward — listen carefully.
This is where you will find out what you need to do to be confident and not afraid.
5. Find out what they will agree to:
Now ask the part of you that wants to ride what it will AGREE to do to keep the part of you that wants to keep you safe, happy…..
You will notice that they are starting to work together now – in fact, sometimes at this stage the conversation takes on a life of its own and you don’t need the script any more…
6. Draw up the contract:
Now you as a mediator can take what you have heard from BOTH parts of you, and draw up a contract. This will sound something like this “ so, if the part of me that wants to ride does a,b,c, and d, the part of me that wants to keep me safe will let me spend time with the horses and do a,b,c — but if I do anything that causes me to go above 5 in my confidence score, then the part of me that keeps me safe reserves the right to stop me and make me nervous so I don’t do it…”
This will be the working agreement you will stick to — so make sure BOTH parts agree to it, and work until you DO find agreement. Usually, the first contract will be quite limited as your unconscious needs to learn to trust you — so agree to a limited amount of things (eg you can groom but NOT RIDE) — but limit the time frame as well –agree to this for, say, one or two weeks and then do this exercise again.
7. Give a good-will gift:
Before you finish the conversation, make sure we finish on a good note — ask each part to give the other part a GIFT — you don’t have to know what it is consciously, just put your hands together so the two parts can exchange their gifts.
8. Stick to the contract!
The hardest part — you have to now go out there and STICK to the agreement — you are NOT allowed to change it UNLESS you renegotiate it with both parts of yourself.
After doing this, you feel more relaxed, more coherent — and able to do things you previously avoided.
How does this process work? By bringing your unconscious mind into a conscious conversation, you increase your awareness of yourself and your true feelings, remove denial and stay safe — that is how this works!
Ok — go and do this, and when it has worked, let me know what impact it has on you…
yours in confidence