Feelings. I’ve had a love ’em / hate ’em relationship with my feelings. Have you ever felt that way? I wanted to write a little more here about our relationship with our feelings before moving on to more practical things this week. As I considered what type of image to use for the post, the wild horse came to mind. Have you ever felt like your emotions had a life of their own?
Believe it or not, we can tame our emotions. What is your response to that idea – taming emotions? Perhaps you say, “Oh, maybe you can tame your emotions” or “Tame my anger? Bahahaha!” or “My emotions define me – I don’t want to tame them!” Whatever your response, I want you to consider this idea: taming emotions is like taming a wild horse – it can be done; you just have to know how. And included in knowing how is a firm commitment to love the animal – because wild things respond differently to enemies. Keep that in mind. Emotions are not your enemy and they are not your ruler.
Monty Roberts is known as “the Man Who Listens to Horses.” (See montyroberts.com/about and see his video here).
In one of his youtube videos, Monty saddles up a wild horse for the first time in under half an hour. Now, I don’t know a lot about horses, but apparently this is amazing. And I realized that his methods can be used by us to tame our fears and other feelings. (Please note that “taming” does not take the life out of the animal being tamed. It just allows you to manage the behavior so that it can run wild at appropriate times and be calm at appropriate times … be useful when needed … and creates a relationship between you and the wild thing.)
So, without writing a whole book, I’ll get to the point. What are the correlations here between wild horses and the anger or sadness or frustration feelings that sometimes rule our lives? Here’s a short list:
- Monty gets the horse into a ring where he lets it run its course for time. So, when something triggers a strong emotion in you, take yourself to a safe environment (away from the source of the emotion – where you can express yourself with freedom but without hurting anyone) and then let it out. This might mean screaming into a pillow (or just screaming, if you are somewhere alone); venting to a trusted friend who is not involved in the situation; or writing everything you feel into a journal – no holds barred. There is no criticism in this phase. You are releasing emotional energy.
- Next, Monty stands straight and strong and looks the horse in the eye. For you, this means finding a way to state how you feel straight on. This is what we did in journaling a list of our fears. Fear responds very well to this type of approach. So does anger…even unforgiveness. Accept it. Name it. Make it yours.
- If Monty stares down the horse for too long, it will rebel. So he balances out the statement of control by then walking alongside the horse for awhile. Quietly, right next to it. This calms the horse and its pace slows. They are building trust – together. So once you’ve named your fear (or other emotion), sit with it awhile. Listen to what it has to teach you. Why is it there? What does it look like? What does it have to say?
- After a time of alternating between staring strong and walking alongside, Monty is able to place a saddle on the horse and ride it. It is tamed. It is still a beautiful, strong animal with a name. Monty recognizes it and loves it. But he is in charge. You can do this too. Your emotions matter, but they should not rule you. This is where boundaries come in. You decide when and how to express the emotion, how much energy it can have depending on where you are and who you’re with, how much time you will give it, etc. But building this relationship is a purposeful process of yielding, facing down, connecting and then riding in your chosen way at your chosen time.
We have all been taught different things about emotions: they have a life of their own, or we need to ignore them, or they are scary and we should control them (controlling is different from taming but that’s another story). I say, they are an energetic part of us. We should get to know them. Name them. Walk with them. Let them run in appropriate places and times. And learn from them. You are the owner. You are in charge.
So, in your relationship with your emotions, “who’s the boss?”