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When the Mind can't say NO, the Body will do it for us...

31 January 2022

As Gabor Maté reminds us throughout in his book ‘When the Body Says No”, when the mind or ego-personality simply cannot say no, then our body will take the necessary action for us.

For people with a history of trauma, particularly early childhood developmental trauma, and high sensitives, this can be a particularly agonising issue which can persist well into adulthood if not healed and worked through.

Our body acts from its non-verbal, primal state, purely aimed at our survival and our best well-being at all times. Whereas, our mind and personality have grown and molded to the best behaviours that kept us safe in a given set of conditions and behavior patterns during our earliest childhood environment.

Deeply ingrained patterns, beliefs and difficulties following our true needs and wants can leave us in the most tricky of binds, as try as we might we just can’t summon up the courage to say no to people or situations that we know are not in our best interests. It’s vital not to blame and shame ourselves when this keeps happening. It is our legacy from childhood which likely has been reinforced throughout our adult life, especially during those rare times when we did pluck up the nerve and say what we think, express our needs and dare to utter that terrifying word: “No”. We might have been badly burned by a friend, partner, colleague or boss in the past which has reaffirmed our skewed beliefs that to express our wants and needs only leads to the very thing we fear the most: rejection and abandonment.

Still, it’s vital that we keep on trying. For the sake of our healing and ability to life the life we really want to live, we must keep stumbling around this challenge, with support if possible.

As ever, we can look to horses to help us in this most basic of abilities and relational qualities, for they have no sooner issued a direct and firm ‘no’ to a fellow herd mate, than to be seen standing quietly beside them grazing just a few moments after. To them, saying no and protecting their own immediate personal space and body is simply a part of being a horse in a social herd. Unladened with fears of rejection, they issue their ‘no’ with clarity and intention. Once we experience this ourselves with them AND they don’t then leave us in a huff, then we can begin to exercise this basic human need and right with other people, and start to learn how to protect ourselves; our precious bodies, mind and soul.

At Eponaquest this is a core piece of our approach to interacting with horses and each other. It forms the foundation from which all else follows and it continues to be revisited, in my experience, with the vast majority of people throughout our work together. There are always new layers to be explored and of course, certain horses trigger different levels of awareness in different people around boundaries. It seems that we have become something of a people-pleasing species as we’ve modernized and moved further away from our body and instinctual needs. That’s why we spend a lot of time learning about and practicing non-verbal communication, body language, honing our intuition and developing energetic sensitivity.

We can start to recognize violations for what they are and begin to steadily reverse a lifelong habit of appeasing the other; of people-pleasing and fawning, and of always, always thinking of the other person’s needs as more important than ours.

When the mind can’t do it, our body WILL turn away from someone we sense is not good or right for us. We may not return their calls immediately, but rather give ourselves time to consider our response instead of instantly reacting to gratify an old fear-based compulsion. We will notice and reflect on the sensations arising in our body, old pain returning or new pain manifesting; what happens to our body language, facial reactions, state of body posture (erect or collapsed), and levels of anxiety and nervous system arousal at maybe even the very thought of that person. And, slowly and very gently, we commit to starting to listen and make some changes now.

Be kind to yourself in this practice, for some it feels like the biggest mountain of all to climb and can take many, many years to really muster the will power and ability to ‘stay with our vulnerability’ as we try once more, to face our demons and find our ‘no’ from somewhere deep inside…

Angela Dunning, 31st January 2022

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