So many people in my world seem to be struggling with huge amounts of stress caused by situations completely beyond their control. Thank goodness they have horses in their lives to help them learn how to handle it all.
Most average folks are still digging themselves out of the debris of a financial meltdown they had no part in causing. There’s a lot of uncertainty and even fear about the future and that creates a constant low-grade worry that follows people through their days.
In the depths of the presidential campaign and all the regional and local political races, it doesn’t take too many functioning brain cells to realize most of the candidates are spending obscene amounts of money every day just to force-feed us lies about how our country is really doing and what our futures are likely to bring. And even if you seek to ignore the TV ads and hang up on the robo-calls, they cause another low-level worry to seep into your life.
Big corporations seem to have forgotten such niceties as service and ethics and customer loyalty in their ravenous race to suck every last dime out of every single human on the planet. Not much wealth seems to trickle down from these insatiable greed machines, but I sure see a lot of people practicing their arrogance, sense of entitlement and notable absence of ethics and morals. It’s impossible not to interact with some of these people and companies, and that’s another niggling stress in people’s days.
So when I see someone melting down over an issue or incident that seems trivial to me, I remind myself that it’s not necessary for me see the importance. Just because an action, a word or a situation seems minor to one person doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal to someone else. It might be just the last in a long line of frustrations, indignities and slights that person has experienced today, this week, this month. The proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.
When stress levels are so high and the world packed full of thoughtless, myopic people and institutions, it can be a challenge to maintain a sense of yourself, to hold those around you to a standard of ethical, respectful, courteous behavior. It’s frankly much more tempting just to curl up in a little ball, literally and/or figuratively, and let yourself be carried along on a tide of acquiescence.
I think it’s especially easy for women to fall prey to this, to go along to get along, to not make waves, to sublimate their fears and frustrations so often that they just give up. It happens all the time. We get conditioned to think that it’s not okay to get mad – and say so – when we’re discounted, disrespected or disturbed.
Assertive women get labeled “bitches” and “complainers” and told they should just “get over it.” What a load of horseshit. If someone treats you badly you should tell them so. If someone screws up and it negatively effects you or your family (including the four-leggeds, of course), you should say so. You should do these things for yourself, out of respect and love.
You can’t make the transgressors take responsibility for their wrong actions, their unkind words, their breach of trust. You cannot prevent them from making choices that disturb your peace of mind, threaten your livelihood or upset your home. But you can certainly stand your ground and say “No. That’s not acceptable to me and here’s why.”
They may not grant your requests, retract their words, make a heartfelt apology or even appear to understand that they did wrong. But you can do yourself the justice of making clear what you deem to be inappropriate behavior.
I’ve been very proud to see many of my clients and friends recently stand up for themselves when they felt disrespected and take emotional risks for the sake of themselves and their horses. Several of these brave, self-respecting women are people I have watched grow into their assertiveness through interaction with those very horses.
If you want to learn the fine points of aggression, assertiveness, acquiescence and agreement just ask a horse. If you’re too passive with a horse, he’ll bully you just like a human will. If you’re inconsistent, he’ll mistrust you. If you’re aggressive, he’ll escalate the fight right along with you and if you insist on dominating him into acquiescence, he’ll give in but he’ll never respect you as a partner.
I don’t always manage to step up and stand up for myself, but when I do I give most of the credit to the horses who worked on me from a very young age to learn to do that in a reasonable and appropriate way. I’m happy to have company on that path. Thanks, ladies, for being brave and standing strong.