Uncertainty is a constant player in addiction recovery. It is something that affects someone from the very beginning of their own recovery, as well as each step they take on their journey. Uncertainty can even be a barrier for people seeking aid for their addiction in the first place, as each person may not be aware of the recovery path or what it will look like. This uncertainty at any step breeds anxiety, all of which can come together and make recovery very difficult. However, uncertainty is a part of recovery as each time someone makes progress, learns a new skill, or attends a group therapy meeting, there is always a possibility for surprise. While it may not be possible for someone to eliminate uncertainty from their lives completely, there are ways that someone can learn to navigate around the feelings that accompany it. One of the greatest teachers for navigating uncertainty comes in an unlikely ally — equine companions. A horse’s unique ability to help us better understand ourselves can ultimately aid in recovery.
Many Kinds of Uncertainty
Being able to navigate uncertainty is important both in therapy sessions, as well as in life as a whole. There is a degree of uncertainty to what the future might hold each time that someone attends a therapy session, goes to a job interview, goes on a date, tries something for the first time, or a number of other life experiences. Learning to navigate uncertainty is akin to instilling skills that allow someone to face sudden and new situations and remain calm and confident in themselves in order to make the right decision for their own health and wellbeing. Uncertainty, however, is more than just randomness. It can also take the form of an outcome that is expected but not necessarily guaranteed. Without being able to navigate this space, uncertainty can quickly give way to anxiety and doubt — both of which can have their own negative effects on someone’s emotional state and progress in recovery.
Being able to navigate these uncertain spaces can help someone keep control of many aspects of their lives. Doubt can bleed into someone’s mind and frame even innocuous conversations and decisions in a detrimental or distrusting light. This can lead to possibilities of relapse if someone isn’t confident in themselves or is looking for anything to grasp onto during stressful times. Most importantly, someone will have a very difficult time feeling self-fulfilled and self-actualized if they are not confident in their ability to address uncertainty on a daily basis.
The Role a Horse Plays
Equine therapy is particularly effective when it comes to navigating uncertainty. Horses, being able to intuit someone’s emotional state and respond to their feelings beneath the surface in an immediate, moment-to-moment manner, can help someone reflect on their own uncertainties. If someone is not confident in their ability to reach out to a horse, the horse may remain unresponsive or possibly disobey commands. A horse’s ability to reflect the emotional state of the people around them can help illustrate to someone their own uncertainties and anxieties — ultimately providing a physical representation of their feelings, thus producing a way to safely practice and confront this aspect of each individual. Horses are spontaneous and intuitive, and therefore allow someone to not only experience the uncertainty of the horse, but also see it within themselves. No two interactions with a horse will necessarily be the same, and each person will have an opportunity to practice their own strategies for navigating this nuanced difference each time they interact.
Using Their Bodies to Mirror the Mind
Uncertainty can oftentimes lend itself to binary kinds of thoughts, or a “black and white” type of thinking. However, neither recovery nor life tends to operate in this kind of binary. Rather, there are natural peaks and dips for each person as they go through recovery, and there can be highs and lows to each day in life. Horses can once again illustrate this effect on a physical level, simply by going for a ride. The natural movement of a horse, the swaying of side to side, or the ups and downs while on their back can all demonstrate what uncertainty can look like for a person. The ride is never a straight line, nor is it ever impossibly smooth. Rather, there are times when someone has to hold on tighter or loosen their grip when they have to trust a horse to make it through the path, even if the destination of the ride never changes. There are always ways for each person to reach their goals, even if there is uncertainty along the way. Navigating this uncertainty requires practicing this trust and willingness to move with their support systems and loved ones through a bumpy, rough patch.
The more that someone puts into their time in equine therapy, the more time the horses have an opportunity to be the mirror to each individual’s mind. There is always going to be uncertainty. Rather than fearing the innumerable amount of outcomes technically possible, the horse is able to use their own strategies to continue moving towards their destination, all while responding to the individual needs of each person. Horses navigate uncertainty every day with each person they meet and use that ability to instill the confidence and trust needed for each person to be able to do the same.
Recovery has many uncertainties along the way. The horses and use of equine therapy available at Emerge Resilient are just the beginning of the various programs available to help you confront this difficult subject. Equine therapy, used in conjunction with our group therapy sessions and a heavy focus on customizing treatment for each individual, all work in tandem to create the whole picture that someone may need to address their own uncertainties. Additionally, we provide programs that focus on the unique needs of the LGBTQ+ community. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and/or mental health issues, please do not hesitate to reach out to us. Our knowledgeable staff can help you find a treatment program that is right for you or your loved one. For more information about the programs we offer, call (858) 280-1525 today or go to https://calendly.com/emergeres/connect to set up a free, 30-minute consultation to see how Emerge Resilient can help you today.