Why is change so hard?
Why does change feel so uncompromising?
Why are so many people and horses resistant to change?
When I was in high school, Science was not my favourite subject. I find the study of the natural world and its underlying logic and patterns very interesting, but I disliked science because the manner in which it was usually taught in schools made me frustrated. Science teachers were often devoid of social skills, (you know the type I am talking about we all met them and were taught by them!) and would come to class like a robot and follow state curriculum without one iota of creativity. That worked great for students in the class with that kind of mind. It did not work great with me and I was often left in the back of the classroom with my friends, eating dates secretly out of our blazers and socialising.
But for one year, when I was 15, I was blessed to have a science teacher who seemed to be just a human and a great teacher. She was able to explain science to me in a simple way which made sense and motivated me to work harder, and as a result, I finished the year with top of the class results in my exam, where usually I was at the bottom. She was also a young teacher, and very anti-establishment. Rumour was she famously loathed our ultra-conservative, staunchly Catholic foundation principal, and in a short time after I finished her class she left the school due to ‘mutual disagreements’ with the board. Hmm.
I often wonder what kind of hopes she had as a teacher, because she was seriously one of the best the school had. I wonder what kind of debates or private misgivings she had with our Headmaster. She was also the coach of my Volleyball team (compulsory sport found me playing Volleyball against my will for a year with other student sport drop outs, we never won a single game) and sometimes on the bus on the way to doomed matches, this young teacher could be called into relinquishing some carefully phrased opinions about our school to us… but credit to her, she was always professional and never over stepped the line and would zip her lips if we pushed her too hard for gossip.
I later found my self in the the school Headmasters debating team (another co-curriculum activity that runs strong in my family) and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that this man was seriously out of touch with the youth under his care and their education needs.
One day when writing notes up on the white board, in the middle of a sentence she drew a triangle, and then wrote onwards in English. I put my hand up.
“Miss Hanzis, what is the triangle for?” Totally confused.
“It can be used as a scientific symbol for change, a name for it is Delta. I use it generally in note taking to speed up my writing. ” she said quickly and then carried on with the task, totally non-plussed.
Since then, when I was learning something, or note taking, even up until a few years ago when I did my Equine Nutrition course, I use a triangle symbol instead of writing the word ‘change’ to speed up my note taking. I am also a visual/kinaesthetic learner so it actually helps me remember things faster. It is just a boring habit using symbols when taking shorthand notation.
Change is hard.
The triangle is the perfect symbol for change. Lets look at this shape in a broader context. In engineering, the triangle is EVERYWHERE. Why? It is the strongest basic shape known to us.
Look at bridges, nothing but a serious of triangles. Look at most tables, the legs are supported by cross bars which form a triangle when viewed together with the table top and the table leg. A triangle, when inserted into a structure, makes the whole structure stronger.
This wonderful Science teacher also brought the idea home for me when we had a double period and the class experiment was to construct bridges out of drinking straws and tape, and have a mini – competition to see which bridge could support the most weight by the end of the class. To the those who were paying attention, the most successful straw bridges were those with ample and intelligently places triangles installed into the structure. They could hold the most weight. When viewed as a metaphor for our life, that weight could also translate to responsibility.
I must then consider the relationship between change and strength. From a natural world view, is not change irrefutably intertwined with strength? The more change you have undergone, the more you might be able to responsible for. Responsibility is just the ability to respond to your environment. When we undergo serious changes and transformations, does that not give us the ability to be more responsible, once we reach the other side? Are irresponsible people simply those opposed to change? Let’s take an example. If someone sees a problem, like a paddock fence that keeps breaking. Horses escape too easily and then nothing is done to fix it. But when directly asked by people whose horses are at stake if they can fix it, and they reply essentially ‘No’ I must wonder if they are responsible. Are they someone familiar with change and how to make positive ones?
This is where I could make the case for Natural Horsemanship versus traditional or coercive horse training. Training of a horse designed to develop, spark, encourage and sometimes even DRAG a horse into change which makes them better, stronger, happier, healthier generally moves them into a more positive mental and physical framework or structure. Using positive change as a catalyst for relationship building, a horse can learn to trust you, because you have lead them through their insecurities or weaknesses, helped them, understood the issue and then created a better ‘feel’ for the horse to live with. ‘Feel’ to a horse is their life blood, their everything. A horse figuratively lives and dies on Good Feel or Bad Feel. Just like a dancer does too, I guess.
Traditional or coercive training, often called ‘horse breaking’ is the opposite, at least that is my weak understanding about it. These trainers take everything natural, instinctive, unique and intrinsic about a horse and break it, remove it, dismantle it until they have a totally pliable object devoid of any original semblance, in order to use it to their own will and demands.
As a former professional dancer… I know how those horses feel. I had a ballet teacher who would regularly say and I quote verbatim;
“I need to BREAK you Lachlan!!!!” as he held me with a piercing black eyed gaze and mimed breaking a stick over his knee.
“You must come into the studio every day and KILL yourself working”
Or a pedagogue who coached me not so long ago who said:
“Dancers. DON’T. Talk! NO. Speak. Just work”.
I really wish I was making those things up but they are word for word true. Burned into my brain.
At the end of my time training with one teacher I had almost zero emotional reaction to my training or work environment- positive or negative. I was totally broken and apathetic. Outside my training environment I was confused, angry and focused only on trying to feel better. That manifested its self in many different ways until I found horses. Horses 100% of the time, without fail, made me feel better. Horses seem to be a compass which shows me the direction of a Good Life, teaching me that accepting less than ideal situations through and even awful situations as ‘just a fact of life’ is a bullshit philosophy we simply must stop encouraging in ourselves. I am ready to let the good times come. And help others to get there too, if I can, by sharing with them the mistakes I made and how I use them as constructive things to move forward from.
I am in a time of change in my life. I have just left behind my career as a professional dancer, which the reasons for are becoming increasingly vibrant and sanguine as the weeks without dance start to pile on top of each other. I am left with an increasingly wider perspective on where I have come from and what it did to me.
With horses, I keep a central hope. I understand horses that were misunderstood, manipulated, broken or maltreated, because I was quite literally in their shoes for a very long time… a creature of movement and expression, robbed of a voice, performing for people who could so rarely be trusted.
Change is good, necessary and healthy. But change is hard. But if we analyse the word ‘hard’ we might just be misunderstanding this ‘hard’ or ‘difficult’ feeling for strength. What you feel which shows itself now as a trial and tribulation might actually be the process of becoming stronger. Just like when working with a horse who is having a hard time with life, I don’t hold it against them. Or when I meet someone who doesn’t like my ideas or the force of my opinions, or even me personally, I set a boundary and then move forwards. I might represent change to them. That can be scary.
For change to be successful, the less constructive elements you are altering have to go through a metamorphosis, and sometimes even a little death and drop off as unneeded baggage and left behind. All our paths in life are strewn with these little dry shrivelled remains of parts of us which used to be us, and are now no longer needed to survive or thrive.
One of my favourite life coaches, Iyanla Vanzant said
‘In order to change your life you have to be prepared to piss people off. Because people will hold you to your limitations, and don’t want you to change.’
Recently a path of change opened up before me and for Sanson. A chance to make positive change. But some people tried to hold me to my limitations. It was a very tiny, subtle attempt to hold me back, but I felt it. In a state of confusion or frustration, they tried to stand between me and my horse, which was a mistake on their part. Nothing can stand between me and Sanson, ever. I was obliging and respectful and compliant. But when chaos started to come into the mix, I was forced to stand my ground, and make it very clear that they cannot stand between the change I needed to make. I knew that setting such a clear boundary had the potential to break our contact, maybe even piss them off. But I had my back against the wall. My horse was in danger. I had a horse to protect. I wish it didn’t go that way. In the end, things came to a logical and calm resolution but not without a bit of trouble first.
I am FAR from perfect, and so is my horse. Our horses are a mirror. I hope we can grow to like what we see. Concentrating on mistakes, might bring only awareness of mistakes. I try to focus on things that grow. I don’t have much time to dwell
Changing my career is a lesson in realising: The unacceptable is simply that unnacceptable, and nothing else. This is one black and white truth I won’t run from anymore. If you feel bad, you feel bad. That’s a juvenile way to put albeit effective. Don’t let people manipulate you into telling you that bad feelings are good things.
We CAN change, we MUST change if you want to harvest possibilities just waiting for you.