Week 6: Connections
Hey, Robert Aubrey Webb here, back from my spring break in Tennessee.
This week was a particularly special week in terms of my senior project, as it ended up leading to me coming to terms with some of my own trauma from when I was younger. I had always felt anxious around horses due to an incident that happened when I was about four years old. I ended up startling a horse and nearly got trampled, and while I can’t remember a lot of specifics about the event, the anxiety around some of the horses I’ve worked with was still very much present.
That’s when my mentor made an unusual request: she wanted me to connect with the horses. I expected to be acting as a mock patient, but she was busy with clients, so after I finished tidying up the barn, I decided to go with her request to connect with one of the horses, Snuggles. He tended to be the feisty one whenever I was acting as a mock patient, being playful and full of energy, so I was anxious that he was going to perhaps get too excited and step on me. So, we started this connection with me standing on the other side of the stall, looking inside at Snuggles. However, this didn’t work. It felt like we were getting nowhere and weren’t fully getting connected. But that’s when something strange happened; I had the sudden urge to head into the stall, thinking that perhaps the stall door was getting in the way of us trying to connect. So, I went inside to meet Snuggles in his stall.
That’s when something special happened. It really felt like Snuggles was understanding my anxiety, but instead of being more reserved, he instead wanted to play around and hang out. I couldn’t really understand it at first; it was clear from his demeanor that he understood something, but he was still going ahead and being his usual self. But, then it hit me. I had only really thought of trust being built passively, slowly accruing it by not breaking it. Snuggles ended up teaching me what felt like an “active trust”, which was a massive revelation for me. He felt like he was breaking down my anxiety not by letting it sit, but by instead confronting it firsthand, going about his usual self in a manner that made me feel like I could trust him because he was taking an active role in proving that he wasn’t out to get me. It was probably the greatest breakthrough I’ve had in terms of my final hypothesis, to the point where next week, I expect to have my full hypothesis completely ready to share in this blog. Look forward to next week for that (and for more pictures of me with the horses).