Wise Words on Intuition from Linda Kohanov (and Horses!)

739035_2008-half-arabian-chestnut-mare_photo_1_1419540419_imgI highly recommend Linda Kohanov’s book “The Tao of Equus: A Woman’s Journey of Healing & Transformation through the Way of the Horse.”

Kohanov, a leader in equine-assisted therapy, combines her personal experiences with emotional trauma, horse training insights, spirituality, and “horse whisperer” philosophy to help humans learn to be better humans — from horses.

Here are some of Kohanov’s best quotes on the power of intuition, a key theme in the book:

“Staring into the vast reflecting pools of the equine mind, I realized that healing was less about helping someone analyze her childhood, or work toward some preconceived goal, than reconnecting with the world from a position of empowerment and compassion, expanding her awareness to see things as they were, moment to moment. Only from the vantage point of fully experiencing and participating in the present did the past make sense and the future show potential.”

“We have a culture in which the nourishing, life-giving waters of emotion, empathy, sensory awareness, gut feelings, and other forms of nonverbal awareness have dried up in the heat of our obsessive reliance on all that is light and logical and conscious enough to be mapped, explained, and controlled.”

Instinct is:  “a natural or inherent aptitude, impulse, or capacity; a largely inheritable and unalterable tendency by an organism to make a complex and specific response to environmental stimuli without involving reason and for the purpose of removing somatic tension; behavior mediated by reactions below the conscious level.”

“Our culture tends to value thought over emotion, logic over intuition, territory over relationship, goal over process and force over collaboration, competition over cooperation.”

“Children are taught to narrow their attention, cling to the past, and focus on the future, thus losing their ability to fully function in the present. They become dependent on authority figures who themselves only excel in highly specialized environments and situations.”

“Most people deny and sublimate their feelings, keeping them well below the conscious level until the somatic tension becomes so overpowering that the emotion overrides reason and finally expresses itself, often in violent and self-destructive ways.”


Relationships: Stand Your Ground Against Dominators


dog-bark1I just came back from walking the dogs and witnessed Reilly’s calm, assertive pack leader style in action, with Pack Leader Psychology lessons for human relationships as well.

Another dog was off leash and for no reason came running down the trail very aggressively, charging directly at Reilly. Reilly stopped walking and stood her ground very calmly. She didn’t become anxious or run away or charge back at the other dog. It was so amusing to watch the other dog literally skid to a halt on her back haunches, wood chips flying, inches from Reilly’s face, as he became aware of Reilly’s Pack Leader authority. The bluff charge stopped instantly when Reilly did not back down, cower or countercharge.

Of course, I also stayed calm and watchful, which may have helped dissuade the other dog. I sped up to be right next to Reilly and was ready to take action against this dog, but I did not over-react in anxiety either.

I was also aware that dog trainers say the most dangerous dog is not usually the one who charges. These dogs are actually scared and insecure, and can be frightened off easily. The dog who is growling and standing its ground is the one to be most cautious of. This dog means business.

More people need to behave as Reilly and I did. Sadly, most human Dominators are like this bully dog. They are used to bluffing and threatening their way through life. They argue and scream and tantrum and criticize, or worse, become physically abusive. Then others around them cower (Submissives), argue back, (Dominators) or avoid the situation (Avoiders).

Just yesterday I was working with a patient whose ex-girlfriend and the mother of his son is an extreme Dominator. Like a dog that charges for no reason at all, she constantly is blaming and shaming him and others in her life. This provokes him to anger and he feels the need to argue back to her, which quickly escalates into loud fights and even physical violence.

I tried to help him see that by countercharging the ex-girlfriend’s Dominating behavior with his own Dominating behavior, it is exactly what she wants to provoke. She enjoys these fights and can have more ammunition against him:  “I told you so… you are aggressive and violent with me. It’s all your fault.”

As difficult as it may be, he needs to stand his ground calmly, respectfully and firmly, but not counterattack. She may eventually learn that her threats and attacks do not work.

It is a Dominator’s low self-worth and emotional insecurity that cause these bluff charges. Dominators want to keep everyone else cowering, because they have learned that this often keeps the criticism at bay that they have such difficulty handling emotionally.

Instead, Pack Leaders have strong self-worth and feel no need to intimidate or threaten others. They can handle criticism without feeling emotionally attacked. They can spot the Dominators as they start to rush down the trail and know that these insecure people are no real threat, that this charge is merely a bluff backed up by no real personal substance or character.

As I discuss in “Pack Leader Psychology,” this is why we need more Pack Leader people and stronger Packs:  So we can teach Dominators how to behave correctly and improve the emotional and behavioral health of everyone who is harmed by these bullies. Until all of us band together to stand up to the Dominators, they will not stop their threats and drama. Every time we allow them to get away with intimidation or aggression, it reaffirms that this bullying works and encourages them to repeat it.

Every day in my psychotherapy practice I deal with the results of the havoc these dysfunctional people sow: disrupted families, unhealthy marriages, depression and anxiety, child abuse, substance abuse, domestic violence, and crime.

Just as Reilly tried to teach that charging dog a lesson, we must all commit to stopping this epidemic of Dominator behavior in humans to help improve the emotional and physical health of current and future generations.

The Link Between Procrastination and Surfing

What? The link between procrastination and surfing? This article is an excellent take on how avoiding difficult feelings or conflict can lead to procrastination. But if we all face life like surfers we’d be better off. (Hint: Each ride, whether an epic curl or a heinous fail, ends how?) Great advice for everyone, but helpful for therapists to use with clients, too.

New Findings in Intuition and Emotional Intelligence

Sept. 12, 2012

Toddlers apparently have finely tuned emotional judgment on whether someone is overreacting to a situation and whining or whether the person truly deserves sympathy. A study published in the current issue of “Developmental Psychology” journal suggests that we are born with the ability or learn very early on how to read the emotional validity of others’ reactions.

The study watched the reactions of 3-year-olds when they witnessed adults who were distressed in various situations, such as getting slightly bumped by box or getting their artwork cut up. The results show that when a toddler witnessed a justifiably distressing incident, the child’s face showed concern. But when the child judged that the event didn’t warrant distress and the adult was over-reacting, the child’s reaction was much less empathetic.

I just love these studies showing that we humans are probably born with tremendous emotional and intuitive abilities. Love that!  We really are social creatures and come fully equipped with the skills to live with others. I am fascinated that children have very good emotional intelligence at an early age.

But I become distressed when I realize that some of us have these fabulous and powerful skills trained out of us by our parents and society. We are taught not to value or exercise these tools of intuition and emotional and social intelligence. Many of us are taught to react solicitously to others’ pain, whether real or put on, but not to feel or value our own emotional responses. Religions also teach us not to “judge” others, so we learn to blindly accept what others do, even if that behavior steamrolls over us. These “Submissives,” as I call them in “Pack Leader Psychology,” don’t trust or value their emotional responses, sublimate their own emotions, overvalue the needs of others, and become inept at reading the emotional cues of others. Sadly, this makes them naive and gullible in relationships, possibly with abusive consequences when a manipulative “Dominator” is on the scene.

I guess we all need to act like little children! Of course, dogs also have very good emotional barometers.