As I watch how horses deal with confrontation, I truly admire their integrity. They bring up issues, express them and move on. We would like to think that herds are straight out of the Garden of Eden, and that animals snuggle, love and nuzzle each other on a regular basis. However, if you spend even one day with horses, you will see real emotions, behavior and relationships. And it can be far from a nuzzling buddy system. What truly amazes me is that even though horses may have differing opinions, they bring things up with each other and SETTLE it—moving on from the issue to a more peaceful existence.
Humans can be quite the opposite. In fact, we have adopted a wide range of behaviors designed to express opinions without having face-to-face interactions. With the popularity of social media, this faceless interaction is evolving. How many times do we believe what we hear even to the extent of making character judgments about a person or business or stereotype? When emotions do come up, passive aggressive attitudes cloak true feelings because someone may not know how to handle their own anger, fear or sadness.
There is something truly refreshing about seeing conflict truly resolve and things move on. Animals also do not discuss things behind each others’ backs. When they have an issue it gets addressed. Their hooves may kick and their teeth may come out, but expression is certainly not held back. It is not like they try to mortally wound each other—that happens when we nail the metal equivalent of brass knuckles on their hooves. Horses do not have a verbal language; they dialogue with body language, energy and expressions. Therefore, when humans see the intensity of the expression (especially when it is anger) they may react with fear or anxiety. Physical expression to us is very intense.
Now, to be clear, I am not saying for us to bring out the boxing gloves. Human feelings can be expressed with vocabulary — we learn words so we don’t have to use fists. Why do little kids throw tantrums? They often do not have the words yet to express their feelings or needs. When this development is established, we can communicate and the physical expression does not have to be so intense. How we use our words and with whom we choose to express topics determines the basis of settling issues. Human social structure is complex. Why do we choose to talk about issues in a cloaked manner or in a mutinous form?
Non-confrontation is really not peaceful and, in fact, it settles nothing. In the horse world, the expression of emotions may be intense, but most of the day is actually spent in a peaceful manner, grazing or playing, usually being alive and happy. In the human world, non-confrontation creates an atmosphere of gossip, deception, distrust and doubt. Little time is spent being productive or happy (unless a warped sense of happiness exists).
The art of confrontation does not have to involve intense energy. In my existence, I have taken notes from the horses. And I choose to have fun, be happy and productive. If there is confrontation, I take a deep breath and think about my emotions in the situation. Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” I find you can tell anyone anything if you say it from your heart. We relate by feeling similar emotions, so when you tell someone about how you feel sad, feel inferior, rejected, or ignored (etc.), they will usually empathize. Before long, you are hearing their side of the issue and experiencing an exchange of information. At the end of confrontation, we could actually understand each other a little better. Ray Hunt, expert horse trainer, once said, “We can all get along together if we try to understand each other.”
In human interaction, there are those cases where things go haywire and that person screams, yells and may throw things. While that person is still in their toddler stage of emotional expression, you can decide if it is worth your energy to participate in that relationship. Behavior is always a choice, no one can make you act or feel a certain way, that is completely owned by you.
We learn behavior from our surroundings, but also from our own internal drive. Even if you were raised by wolves, you can learn a new way to behave and act. This takes an amount of self-realization, but when we are open to learning, then new strides can be achieved. We also choose to be stuck in our own behavior patterns. At the end of the day, we all have free will.
We can certainly learn from horses in matters of confrontation and honesty. Settling it means moving on and experiencing peace. Our time on this earth is limited, and how we spend the majority of our time is important. Happiness is a trust that all is well with ourselves and surroundings. Gossip and non-confrontation is the antithesis of trust and validity. We don’t have to kick and chase each other, but we can experience honesty and truth with each other and settle it, evolving into understanding of each other.