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 Post subject: Dealing with fear
PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:09 am 
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At the moment I am having a wonderful learning opportunity, because Lena and I are working on her fear when interacting with Pan. Objectively speaking, a lot of this fear might be labled "irrational", because she gets nervous as soon as Pan is beginning to wake up just a tad, so it's enough for him to lift his head and look in some direction in a somewhat curious way, and this triggers all sorts of horror scenarios in her mind of him breaking loose or running her over. But I prefer not to see fear as an irrational, harmful thing that you need to overcome.

Instead, I try to treat it more like a partner that I am interacting with. This means that when I feel my own fear, I am listening to it, speaking to it, and giving it its place. This takes away a lot of the "dark scary cloud that just comes and overwhelms me" character. For me, fear is a great thing, because it keeps me from doing stupid things and forces me to develop the right tools to deal with a situation. Sue has written a wonderful post about this here: Embracing your fear. So simply ignoring it would not work for me. However, just like with any other interaction partner, I do appreciate its suggestions but I do not want to let it rule my life - I want to hear its suggestions, consider them and then decide which of them are helpful for me.

Practically speaking, that means that when I feel fear, I focus on it and analyze it as thoroughly as I can to find out where it is coming from and how it changes over time. Actually, this very process of cutting my fear into tiny pieces and looking at them already makes a lot of it go away. I think that only a minor proportion of this is due to the fact that I am understanding it better. This might play a role, but what is more important to me is that this process makes me an active participant, instead of someone who is just being overwhelmed by IT.

In terms of actions, there are situations where my fear tells me that I should not do something. Sometimes I obey, especially if it is a situation that I am usually not scared of but suddenly I am. For example, some weeks ago Nora and I went for a walk with the big boys, and I was feeling insecure. I didn't know where it was coming from, because the horses weren't doing anything that was obviously alarming and usually I am not scared on walks at all. So I trusted my instincts and did not do any wild things with them, like jumping over a ditch. We simply walked our way around it. And then close to the end of our walk, Summy's reactions to my body language got rather slow and Titum started cantering with Nora on the rope. Not far and she could hold him, but this told me that it was a good thing that I had listened to my fear, because apparently the horses were in a mood in which they could easily get excited and then stop attending to the human (as opposed to their usual getting excited and then turning to the human, instead of away from him). So thank you, dear fear, for having kept me from getting us into danger! :)

But there are other situations in which I am scared of something that I cannot or do not want to avoid. For example, when we were on a walk on which the ponies broke loose (you can read about it on one of the first pages of Bacardy's diary), I felt extremely scared, but I also knew that we did have to get home somehow, and that we did have to cross a big road for this. In these situations I tend to get calm and serious, telling myself that it's good to feel that fear and that I am giving myself the time to look at it for as long as I want, but that ultimately we WILL get through that situation. So the fear can stay or leave, just as it wishes, but I will do it anyway. I will do all I can to make it as safe as possible, but I will not refrain from doing it altogether. This puts me in some sort of action focus, and often it even removes the subjective feeling of fear, because it becomes irrelevant.

In the next post I will write a quick summary of our specific actions with Pan. Please share your experiences and strategies of working with fear as well! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Dealing with fear
PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:26 am 
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This active interaction with fear is what I am trying to let Lena discover. She tends to avoid fear and it seems like her favourite strategy is "Don't think about it". But avoidance (both of situatons and of feelings) is one of the major factors in sustaining fear issues. Many people like doing it, because it gives some immediate relief, but in the long run it keeps the fear alive, because the person does not get the chance to learn about his fear and give it its place. Therefore, we go into a situation in which the fear will certainly come, and then we work with it, instead of around it. I'll keep it very short, because I want this to be a more general thread about the human's fear and not a diary, but here is some of our steps.

The first session was a confrontation. The focus was not on interacting with Pan at all but just on experiencing the fear and surviving it. ;) The good thing about confrontation is that brain cells aren't capable of continuously firing with the same strength in response to the same stimulation - they habituate. Thus, if you keep the situation constant and stay in it long enough, the fear will decrease. So we stood in a place that Pan tends to find somewhat scary, and just stayed there - first with me holding the rope while Pan was grazing and Lena just living through her fear while standing next to us, then holding the rope all by herself, then doing some small interactions with Pan (e.g. asking him to lift his head, walk a step backwards and graze again), and then gradually increasing the duration and difficulty.

It would not have been possible to be active right from the start, because in the beginning she could not move at all, and then later only do some very awkward moves - which is natural when you are that scared. So if we had let her interact with Pan earlier, this might indeed have resulted in some sort of desaster, because he would have been forced to ignore her and decide for himself (and perhaps just run off), because she could not give any useful suggestions. But as she got less scared, the quality of her actions improved. Her reactions to him got more immediate, her body language got more determined and more careful at the same time, and she had her own ideas for things that she could do. This made him attend to her as well, so as soon as she can manage to behave in that way, his nervousness hardly is an issue anymore.

Fast-forwarding three sessions, by now we can go for walks again on which Lena is walking with Pan all by herself. Slowly she is learning that the most reliable strategy to get him focused and keep him from being nervous is being faster. This is great, actually, because the behaviour that is required from her is so incompatible with her fear: She needs to walk in a quick and spontaneous way, like being on an exploration trip and just having discovered something interesting that she is heading towards. The reason why this is good is that body and mind influence each other. It is very hard to keep up your sadness while dancing in a light and springy way, and similarly it is quite a challenge to feel the same level of fear while walking like an explorer. ;) So it's a never-ending spiral of benefits, because it gets her less scared, it gets Pan more focused, which in turn gets her less scared, which improves her movement, which gets Pan more focused, which gets her less scared... so in the end it will all turn out to be great! In fact, their interaction looks so much more light and cooperative now - and we have to thank all of this to her fear, because without it she would not have needed to work. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Dealing with fear
PostPosted: Sat Jan 11, 2014 1:37 pm 
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I find my usual response to fear is to rush to try desperately to get safe again ( for me and Charlie ) which usually leads to Charlie spinning round or running off . I have found the best way to help me ( and Charlie ) is to stop , just don't play ball with my (our ) panic , take a second out to think why am I scared ? do I really need to be scared ? and , is being scared helping me ? I to find if I ignore it it just gets worse . Confronting my fear but slowly and consciously and carefully really helps me .

your thread has really helped me think about fear and how I should deal with it ..... thank you :kiss:

cheers :f:


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 Post subject: Re: Dealing with fear
PostPosted: Thu Feb 13, 2014 3:06 pm 
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Location: Bonn/ Cologne (Germany)
Oh, what a wonderful thread.

To go for a walk outside has become a scary theme :sad: for myself since the Törtchen broke loose for the second time a few weeks ago: I was totally helpless, Törtchen jumped around me, started cantering and I had no possibility to stop her 600 kilos. Since then I feel extremely scared outside. I get worried as soon als Törtchen lifts her head ... :sad:

So now we conquer the world outside step by step. Sometimes we go for a few-meter-walk to the next corner and back. But we are far away from a "real" walk.


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 Post subject: Re: Dealing with fear
PostPosted: Thu Feb 13, 2014 3:29 pm 
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cupcake wrote:
Oh, what a wonderful thread.

To go for a walk outside has become a scary theme :sad: for myself since the Törtchen broke loose for the second time a few weeks ago: I was totally helpless, Törtchen jumped around me, started cantering and I had no possibility to stop her 600 kilos. Since then I feel extremely scared outside. I get worried as soon als Törtchen lifts her head ... :sad:

So now we conquer the world outside step by step. Sometimes we go for a few-meter-walk to the next corner and back. But we are far away from a "real" walk.



The same thing happened with Charlie ... he bolted 1 mile down the drive and onto a road :ieks: we have also started to go for very small grass eating walks... but like you say VERY small walk , just a couple meters .... but it is progress :)
It would be nice to hear more about you and tortchen conquering the outside world :smile:
cheers :f:


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 Post subject: Re: Dealing with fear
PostPosted: Thu Feb 13, 2014 3:49 pm 
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cupcake wrote:
Since then I feel extremely scared outside. I get worried as soon als Törtchen lifts her head ...


Oh, I wish Lena could come with me when I will visit you next month. This is exactly the same problem she had, and I am sure she could help you so much. She has learned not to let herself be controlled by her fear but to actively and calmly reshape the situation into something productive, something that is about creating better alternatives instead of avoiding monsters.

Fear usually has to do with feeling or anticipating helplessness. It will most likely not arise if you are faced with the exact same situation but you know that you can change it for the better. For example, when the big Pan pony starts getting nervous, Lena's reaction was being worried, whereas mine was being positively excited - cool, finally he is waking up so that we can do some really interesting work. This is because the way in which we mentally continued the present situation differed completely.

For Lena it was more of an "Now he is starting to look and I won't be able to do anything, then he will get tense and I won't be able to do anything, then he will jump around and I won't be able to do anything, and then he will run off and I won't be able to do anything..."

For me it was "Now he is starting to look and I will be able to direct his look at me, then he will get tense and I will be able to bind him to my body language much more precisely than when he is sleeping, then he will jump around and I will be able to redirect that in a way that he will be doing those awesome passage steps that I usually never get, and then we will run together and have so much fun..."

The difference is not that Lena anticipated him to get nervous whereas I anticipated him to stay calm. The difference is in our assessment of our own capabilities in dealing with his future state, whatever that might be. This assessment led to a completely different evaluation of his nervousness and made Lena perceive it as scary whereas I perceived it as something awesome. And this, in turn, made her act like a bundle of fear that was only busy with harm avoidance and totally ineffective in her movements. Instead, it turned me into an excited something that was even faster than the pony, and in that way even asking him to get going. As you probably can imagine, it is hard for a little pony to do a challenging task that makes his human get all enthusiastic because he is so cool :cheer: and to focus on monsters at the same time. These things are just incompatible, so his nervousness did not actually turn into fear, after all.

What I meant to say with all these long-winded explanations is this: For me the main target in working with someone's fear is his perception of his own abilities. Yes, you can. Yes, the pony will look, and you can always, always get him refocused. Yes, the pony will get tense, and you will be able to use this for your own benefit. Do feel the fear, talk to it, and tell it this: Dear fear, I know you are worried about us. :pet: But I will show you that I can protect us, because I can be positive about the whole situation and turn it into something nice.

The rest is just technique and a bit of body language, but that is the easy part. :smile:


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 Post subject: Re: Dealing with fear
PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2014 9:08 am 
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Location: Bonn/ Cologne (Germany)
Romy, I really look forward for your visit. :cheer:
Unfortunately without you, Lena :huh:

Indeed it seems to be exactly the same problem. Its a very personal thing and not easy to handle. And it is not only a mind thing. I also react physically, my heart is beating faster and I fall for a few seconds (enough to loose the Törtchen and not get her sight back to me) into a kind of frozen condition.

Yes, indeed I am sure, that the technique is the easier part. :D


Faldor :f: Thanks for your reply. It helps a lot, not to be alone with these few-meter-walks.
I think about opening a diary soon. :yes:


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