Healing embedded trauma, neural patterns of stress and anxiety, and the genius within the madness:
Being exposed to severe trauma, specifically over extended periods of time during the development of the brain, can lead to the development of patterns of behavior that are not "normal". An imbalance within the autonomic nervous system; a predisposal to triggering the sympathetic nervous system. In horses, we see these as the "difficult cases", horses who, seemingly no matter how much training and time, go to a "10" state much faster than others.
When we see these cases, often times it is considered the only way to "remedy" them is to step up the level of intensity in their training. That's when we see techniques like round penning until they are in complete exhaustion, being pushed through the initial "flight" stage of trauma reaction. Continuing to push until the animal fully disassociates, to the "flag" stage where they revert back to the parasympathetic nervous system in order to protect themselves from what the brain perceives to be impending death.
Can you imagine doing that to a human who has suffered extreme trauma? Can you imagine the inhumanity of considering a person "healed" after their trauma levels had been pushed past the level of coping into full disassociation, rendering them passive and listless? That person, however, would go on to live with an even deeper and more intense trauma pattern routing their brain.
As modern psychology shows with humans, there are far more effective and more all-encompassing ways to treat and heal trauma induced patterns of behavior of both humans and horses - ways that don't involve cruel and unethical methods of nervous system hijacking. Long term therapeutic methods of empowering and re-routing the deeply embedded patterns of behavior, healing through stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system, bringing balance to the hormones and developing tools which can be used to stay present and not shut down.
Continued tomorrow, how these alternative methods preserve the authentic nature of the horse - and how, finding genius within the madness can help the healing process.
Photography by Eve Freedman.
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