Horse Therapy – Living Without Defenses

Three weeks ago I had a Horse Therapy session with Tonya Crady in Festus MO.  It took some coaxing for me to do it, but I finally agreed, having been called in many ways to find out more about this mysterious healing modality.  This was my chance.  I knew Tonya, and I knew she was good people.  The therapy itself gave me plenty to chew on, with Tonya’s support in assigning meaning to each of her three beautiful horses and seeing what they did when they encountered me.  During the session, Tonya gave me a task to complete and watched how I went about doing it, and took pictures of me throughout the session.  She also instructed me to pay attention to the other animals that showed up in my life on the day of the therapy, during the therapy and afterwards.  Days after the therapy we went through the pictures she had taken, which told me a whole lot about myself, what I’m up to on a social and emotional level, and a whole lot of other things I could have never learned in traditional psychotherapy.  Today I am arriving at some very exciting new realizations about defenses I have used against intimacy and what the Universe is trying to tell me about it.

The therapy session itself was kind of puzzling.  Trying to figure out what it all meant, trying to do it “right,” trying to do it efficiently, as my mom was kind enough to wait for me in the car while I did it, circumstances as they were.  We were there anyway, she encouraged me to do it, so I did.  After it was over, we all got into Tonya’s jeep and she proceeded to drive us back to her house where Mom’s car was.  It had gotten quite dark and when we were about halfway to Tonya’s house we all saw the possum with his gleaming eyes staring us down, there in the middle of the road.  Tonya slowed down to a crawl in her jeep, assuming that the creature would run and save itself, but when we got to where the animal was, we heard a sickening bump as the vehicle struck the animal.  Or did the animal strike the vehicle?  Tonya looked at me with an agonized grimace.  It had not been her intention to kill the little guy.  During the next several days, more dead possums showed up along with Skunk and Armadillo. Armadillo is said to represent armoring as a defense.  And Skunk also showed up representing defensiveness.  They all showed up as carrion, though.

What I’m coming to believe is that this phase of my life is about living without defenses.  The primary defense that was put on the chopping block that night was Possum, followed by Skunk and Armadillo.

Possum freezes, plays dead.  His nervous system shuts down so that his predator thinks he’s dead (or gone), and often the predator will lose interest and leave him alone long enough for him to escape.  Freezing, playing dead, shutting down until the danger is gone, and then leaving when the coast is clear is exactly what I learned to do, watching my sister Tracy’s attempts at independent thought, questioning authority, or fighting for her rights in the family, which brought a whole lot of noise and resistance from our parents, and sometimes even what seemed to me like violence.  It all felt like too much.  Individuating seemed like something I, personally, would never be able to pull off, being 4 years younger and so much smaller, so I avoided all that and did my best to get along.  I had defenses at my disposal, like stinking up the place with stinging criticism or an unflattering “truth” when the opportunity presented itself or if backed into a corner.  And for sure I armored myself to the hilt.

This might explain why I was so shy and felt so generally unsafe to be playful or controversial or vulnerable around groups of people.  Instead I was serious and hardworking.  I was “the good one.”  I listened carefully and did what I could to offer support.

This also might explain why I am affected the way I am when a loved one escapes injury or experiences a close call – with my daughters in particular.  While talking to Tracy yesterday I was explaining how when my oldest daughter told me about a close call she’d had, and how thankful she was to be safe, I noticed that the image of the disaster she escaped was still stronger than the information I got with my eyes when I saw her, all intact and smiling afterwards (more than two weeks ago).

I don’t have much in the way of childhood memories, but I get a strong sense that when we were younger, and Tracy was being threatened with violence and when there was a lot of noise and angry discussion going on, I must have been terrified for her safety and mine, and probably dissociated, and didn’t ever quite recover from that.  Unlike Tracy, who was duking her way out, knowing what she wanted, and believing that she could cause a ruckus and still have a family and a home afterwards, she moved through the normal cycles of discomfort, vocalizing her discomfort, getting various reactions from our parents; sometimes getting her way and sometimes not.  In any case, she didn’t learn that resistance was futile, as I did.  She could feel the rewards of her small victories, which at my age probably didn’t make much sense to me, whether it was fighting to be able to listen to a popular radio station, watch a TV program, stay out an hour later with friends or get an allowance.

Through Horse Therapy, I learned that I can get what I want and need, I am way more powerful than I ever imagined, and I have not only adoration, but also support and cooperation from those around me.  What is required of me is to believe in my power and worth and ask for what I want.

Here are the other animals that showed up:

The support Tonya received to help her prepare for the session and set the foundation for the session:

  • Barn Swallows – sun rays and playfulness; showering home with love and protection
  • Frog – connects us with world of emotions; supports us in time of change
  • Turtle (with missing foot) – take it slow. Be gentle.  Abundant wisdom.
  • Groundhog – Ability to watch out for danger and move to safety; family, community.

The support Tonya received during the session:

  • Fly – abrupt change regarding lies, gossip, dirty; impurities

The support I received to help me prepare for the session and set the foundation for the session:

  • Deer (in a large group with babies) – Sensitivity, intuition, gentleness; fertility

The support I received during the session:

  • Lightning bugs – Illumination

During the night after the session, I spent some time lying in the bathroom floor with cramps.  I processed some old memories about an ongoing trauma from my late teens having to do with my first husband and how our relationship began.

The support I received after the session for processing and release:

  • Armadillo – helps you define your space; armoring
  • Skunk – defense mechanism; prudence, valor, awareness
  • Possum – protects itself by dissociating, playing dead, becoming immobile

My old, automatic defenses are useless to me now, they don’t really protect me.  I can’t armor myself, cause a big stink or play dead anymore if I want to get what I really want, which is deep and rewarding closeness with other people.  I release the need to use these defenses any longer.  I allow myself to move through life in my power, using my voice to communicate with others about who I am, what I want, and what I need.

The support I received even later, for processing and release:

  • Pooping Hawk – awareness; sharp eyesight. Release.

The support I received even later, for processing and release:

  • Pooping Squirrel – Don’t be so serious; have more fun. Release.
  • Baby bunny – fertility, innocence.

Another important thing to note is that the session was on Saturday, two days after the full moon.  Lots of planets were retrograde.  We were still in the very powerful activation of release, with a need to slow down and just be where we were.  All of this served to kick up what had been in the shadow, so that it could be released.

Animals that have visited since:

  • Groundhog – watch out for danger, boundaries, and hard work; helps us bring up stuff to work on
  • More squirrels – fun, playfulness
  • Cricket – cheerfulness, good luck
  • Grasshopper – good Luck. Trust your inner voice. Take a leap of faith and jump forward without fear. This has to do with change on a larger scale, and has to do with how you perceive myself.  You are taking the right steps to move forward in your current situation. Go ahead and move forward, to get past what is hindering you.
  • Blue heron – immerse yourself in the world of feelings and look for your own truths.  If you only ever look at yourself in a negative frame of mind, you never really understand your true potential or see the opportunities that come your way.  Heron tells us that we need to really reflect on our feelings and get to know who we are intimately to find our true calling in life. He tells us to claim responsibility and face the enemy that lives inside us all.    Sometimes he wants us to find balance with our truths inside, work on our inner weaknesses and develop the inner strengths we possess so that we really own our spirituality.
  • Deer – sensitivity, intuition, gentleness; fertility
  • Turkey (maybe) – a spirit animal closely associated with honoring nature and the Earth. Symbol of abundance, this totem animal encourages us to honor our sources of nourishment, whether they are physical, emotional or spiritual. The turkey reminds us to develop a harmonious relationship with the land and our environment and consider them as foundations to our well-being and sustenance. The Turkey totem is a powerful guide to unlocking the fullness of life and feeling content with what we have instead of accumulating material belongings to seek happiness.
  • Cardinal – in this case, cardinal symbolism is reminding you to be clearer with your intentions. Moreover, setting a clear and insightful goal for yourself will accomplish everything you are asking for and more. The key is to focus and set your intentions clearly to expedite matters.
  • Hummingbird – lightness of being, swiftness, independence, courage, sensitivity, determination, love, beauty, endurance, wisdom, vitality, hope, and enjoyment of life.
  • Owl – intuition, transition, wisdom, silence, observation, quick wit, independence, power, intelligence, and protection. Prophecy and wisdom.

You can find Tonya Crady here.  Drop her a line if you want to set up an appointment.

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