I refuse to be faced with what feels like a problem without at the same time searching for a solution. I need this balance, and after writing my previous two posts – and as I work on my book – I am greatly in need of some new and deeper understandings.
I was blessed about seven years ago with having a very special horse woman show up temporarily in my life. She is long gone from this area and I doubt I will ever encounter her again in this lifetime. Yet today her words came to me clearly, “We must not be afraid to look at the world with SOFT EYES, like horses do.”
In remembering her words this morning I searched online and was gifted immediately with the perfect source of the information I am looking for. I highly recommend readers take a look here:
The website is titled ‘Shift – Journal of Alternatives: Neurodiversity and social change’
The article that concerns me is titled, ‘Horse-Assisted Therapy and Eye Contact ’, written by Rachel Cohen-Rottenberg. This article first appeared at ‘Journeys with Autism’. Cohen-Rottenberg has also published a book titled, ‘The Uncharted Path: My Journey with Late-Diagnosed Autism’. She also published in 2011, ‘
In the article — Horse-Assisted Therapy and Eye Contact — about her experiences in equine therapy Cohen-Rottenberg writes:
“A few weeks back, I had an interesting conversation with my instructors, Victoria and Frank, about how to make eye contact with horses. Victoria began by telling me that predators tend to have eyes in the front of their faces and that they stare at their prey in a very focused way. Prey animals, however, tend to have eyes on the sides of their faces, allowing for a great deal of peripheral vision that increases their safety. She encouraged me to try and look at the world like a horse by relaxing my focus and having “soft eyes” that could take in all the information in my peripheral vision. She then told me that I have to use soft eyes when looking at a horse, because if you make very focused eye contact with a horse, the horse will think you’re a predator, break eye contact, and try to get away from you. I had already noticed that making direct eye contact with a horse made the horse very uncomfortable, but I hadn’t understood why.” Read entire article by clicking on its title/link
NOTE: I am so SOFT EYED and correspondingly SOFT HEARTED right now when I looked at the horse’s eye posted with the above article I cried. My tears are not veiled from me right now….. By the way, survivors of early severe infant-child abuse ARE a neurodiverse group of people due to the changes traumatic stress caused in our physiological body-brain development!
Humans are by nature and by design both predator and prey. Those of us whose body-brain was forced to change in development due to extreme traumatic stress exposure during our earliest months and years of life are too familiar with being prey.
The interactions between an abusive mother and her infant do not allow the process to unfold correctly as our right emotional-social brain is forming that includes this same pattern described in this article. When infants are overly stimulated they will look away from the face of their caregiver. This movement accomplishes two main physiologically necessary objectives: (1) looking away diminishes incoming stimulation, and (2) during the time the infant is looking away it is not only down-regulating stimulation to prevent being overwhelmed, it is also processing and integrating the information it has just received into its rapidly developing right brain.
As I have stated numerous times before on this blog, adults do exactly the same thing with a ‘double twist’. When an adult breaks eye contact with someone in conversation and turns their head to the RIGHT, they are attempting to downplay stimulation at the same time they are accessing the OPPOSITE side of their brain to process the information – LEFT brain being predominately ordered and logical. If they turn their head to the LEFT they are exercising this same process but are using the RIGHT social-emotional hemisphere of their brain for this purpose.
Personally, as I work on this second draft of my book I am choosing to relax what could be or might be a more toughened, hardened, closed, defensive inner way of working that would be more likely to protect me from the emotional experience of my past and of my past as I write it NOW.
I am choosing to write with my SOFT EYES which creates an open, vulnerable, sensitive and risky position of exposure to an entirely different – and deeper – level of my truth. Because I am working to write an honest book based on my own truth and integrity, I have to write with these SOFT EYES.
I also mention that as I wrote in my previous post, +BLAMING MYSELF THAT I AM NOT ‘ALL BETTER NOW’, I can clearly see children’s SOFT EYES with my own SOFT EYES. I call this innocence in children that I believe is rarely seen in adult eyes in our culture, as Cohen-Rottenberg mentions in her article about the ‘nature’ of our HARD EYED culture.
I need to give myself permission to be MY OWN SELF, and this self I am right now is a SOFT EYED person. I was my abusive mother’s PREY for the first 18 years of my life – and she was one helluva predator. But the other side to this picture is that I am in my soul essence a SOFT EYED, sensitive, creative, gentle person. I suppose by nature I was at double risk as Mother’s prey. But I am not about to change who I am, although I often wish I had the flexible adativeness to have HARD EYES when I need them ‘out in the world’.
If I had the money I would love to participate in equine therapy. I NEED IT! Maybe someday… In the meantime it is helpful for me to understand that I live in a culture that is not matched to my personality or gifts, and that I would experience conflicts related to this mismatch even if I had not been so abused. Without the abuse, however, I would not have to deal with the very difficult-to-deal-with consequences in my body that complicate every single thing I feel, know and do in this lifetime.