Sometimes we are closer than we think. Sometimes we exert way too much energy making things way more complicated than they need to be. Sometimes we focus too much on the wrong part of the equation trying to control the outcome. Sometimes all we need to do is to apply a little pressure and follow up with a little confidence. Sometimes all we need is a horse to teach us all these things in less than an hour.
I'm always a little surprised what happens in the arena. I'm a little surprised how hard it is for me to sit and watch waiting for the lesson to happen. That's when I realize how hard it is for me to be a co-therapist instead of THE therapist. I'm grateful that Sparrow humors me. I usually forget how difficult tasks are in the arena for most people because most people haven't spent over 300 days around horses every year for the last twenty years. A simple lunging exercise turned out to be way more difficult and illuminating than I had planned for. Of course, everything that happened was exactly what needed to happen.
Couple dynamics are fascinating. Giving two people something to do that neither have any experience in can bring up all kinds of nasty messages. It's a pretty quick way to see what a couple does in their 'real world' without the censorship of self-report getting in the way. The session starts with a decision to try the task together with the option being to pick one or decide to go at it as a team. Going at it as a team is significant in some obvious ways. Watching to see how hard each works to solve the perceived problem illuminates some pieces that may be a little less obvious.
With the first half of the session the over-functioning part of the couple is clearly over-functioning. Sparrow isn't moving a whole lot and neither is the other half of the couple. It's amazing how hard people will try and get a 1200 pound animal to do something. It takes a lot of effort and energy. The over-functioning side of the couple is also only about three steps from heading in to treatment. You can answer for yourself if she should be the one spending the most energy. She's also not willing to address that she shouldn't be running and dragging a 1200 pound animal. Regardless, it's clearly not working and the over-functioning one feels stupid, depleted, and frustrated. The help she's getting from her team is marginal. While she's focused on dragging Sparrow around she's hardly engaging him and focused on solving the problem as the answer was defined. She keeps looking to the arena for the answer. The answers are rarely that external of ourselves.
At this point ignoring the third party in the room but expecting it's participation is a mistake. You have to learn to take some power over Sparrow if you want him to do what you need him to do. The eating disorder is usually the third party in a couple that no one is really talking about. Facing Sparrow created a great deal of fear- even before the connection was made that he represented her eating disorder. In fear we tend to fight, flight, and freeze. A simple redirection to focus on applying pressure to something if we want it to go away and there is a lot of freezing.
It's hard to have confidence when you don't know what's going to happen. It's hard to commit. It's also important to realize that we are closer to the answer than we think we are. Even when we aren't. It's the willingness to commit to believing that makes the difference when we are too often willing to give up after only a few tries. We give up when we are tired, depleted, frustrated, and feeling stupid. We listen to these words more than the words that tell us we are over the hump, close to the end, or more than halfway there. Committing to ourselves takes a lot less energy than trying to control a 1200 pound animal.