Your body has a lot to say about how to choose your friends
Image by Mabel Amber on Pixabay
I was sitting beside a friend the other day during the lunch break at a course we were attending. In the past, I’ve had a somewhat uneasy relationship with this friend because I viewed her as an authority figure. After we finished discussing something that had come up in the training, the conversation drifted into other areas. We ended up having a wonderful time just talking about mutual friends, telling stories, laughing at the funny ones, and commiserating over the sad ones. When I think back to this experience, the picture that comes to mind is of two young, school-age children sitting side-by-side on a playground bench, swinging their legs and kicking the dirt. They are laughing, telling stories, watching the other kids play, and watching the clouds go by. They are taking delight in the moment. They are also of an age where friendship doesn’t pay gender much notice: they could be two boys, two girls, or a boy and a girl.
What was also memorable was the physical, sensory experience of that lunchtime conversation: I felt relaxed, completely at ease in my body; not worrying about whether my friend was enjoying the experience as much as I; knowing that it would end when lunch was over, but being OK with that; not trying to make it last longer; and being aware that the two of us were in our own little world, even though we were surrounded by the other participants. This present-moment, world-within-a-world experience was particularly pleasing to me: sharing a little bubble of pleasure within an arc of our lives that paid no heed to time.
This type of sensory experience plays a significant role in the work I do: when a client has their first Equus coaching session, I include extra time to explain how horses can help us learn to use and understand the wisdom of our bodies. I always mention that horses are often aware of our emotional states even before we are. One of the ways horses stay safe is to be aware of the emotional states of nearby horses—when one horse spots danger, the other horses immediately become alert and look in the same direction. Apparently, the human nervous system is similar enough to a horse’s that they read us like an open book. One advantage of this is that people take in and consider feedback from a horse with greater ease than from a human: When the observer has no agenda for you, it can open the door to significant change without the need for a lot of drama.
I often ask my Equus clients if they have ever seen two horses standing head-to-tail, swishing the flies away from each other. I believe horses love the feel of this physical arrangement. They will do this even when the flies aren’t a problem. Not just any two horses will do this, though: they need to get along well and have some shared history—they need to be what we would call friends. I suspect that this head-to-tail arrangement for horses produces a sensory experience much like that of my lunchtime conversation—it feels great and time stands still.
When horses sense a similar emotional state in a client, they usually come close enough to stand right next to the client. This most often occurs when the client has realized some significant truth about themselves or a situation in their lives. They have reached what I call a state of congruence or alignment: their logical mind, their heart, and their body are all on the same page. The horse seems to love the feel of it and, for the client, learning how to recognize this state in the everyday world can serve as a useful compass for navigating their life.
Because I understand the value of recognizing shifts in physical and emotional states, the lunchtime experience has been profound for me. It marks a departure from the previous state of the relationship wherein I felt less than, not worthy, and where I felt the pull of codependence: How can I be the person that will make you like me? This condition had nothing to do with my friend—it was all my own creation, the product of years of doubting my own worth. That I was able to enter this childlike state of wonder and bliss tells me how far I have come from those old, limiting feelings.
It also marks a new phase of the relationship: I think differently about it and my role in it. I come to it with confidence and excitement, knowing that I bring something of value, and that nice things are likely to happen. I come to it with the memory of childlike joy playing in my head. And, strangely enough, knowing that I will feel pain should the relationship end feels empowering to me: I feel more adult, more in control of my destiny and of the types of experiences I will have in the future. I now have a greater appreciation for healthy risk-taking in the realm of relationships. I look forward to friendships that don’t yet exist. I’m excited to see how my current relationships are changing. It’s all good.
I think this idea of letting your inner child have some say in the choice and nature of your relationships is worth exploring. For example, can and should it inform how we choose our romantic partners? I’ll have more to say about that in a future blog.