As I have grown older I have perfected my own perspective on life and the brilliant thing is, it’s the correct one! From where I’m standing the view is pretty clear. I know that I always try my best. I know that I don’t deliberately get things wrong, and that I am usually make the best decision I can with the information I have. If I am late it is because my life is incredibly hectic and I just couldn’t fit everything in. If I am grumpy it’s usually because I am very tired, or something has happened which has upset me. If I struggle to learn a new thing, it’s not because I am not trying, it’s because it’s hard and it may be making me feel anxious that I can’t get it right easily.
I have recently been reading ‘The Chimp’ book (apologies to people I have bored or annoyed with comments such as, ‘That’s your chimp speaking!’ over the last few weeks) in which Prof. Steve Peters explains that we even change our memory of an event so that we come out looking ‘O.K.’. We find a myriad of ways to ensure that things fit with our perspective, and that the world makes sense according to the way we act within it.
It takes a BIG effort to imagine that your perspective might not be the same as someone else's. Or to offer someone else the same level of grace that we afford ourselves. So, for instance, if a friend is late to something which is really important to me, my immediate reaction could be annoyance, or to think that they don’t care. I might have to take a significant step back to consider that something might have happened which has made them late. Or, maybe they don’t consider this event to be as important as I do – who would have thought! The level of understanding which we apply to ourselves, because from where we’re standing we rarely do anything wrong, is not something we so easily extend to others.
Imagine now that you are a horse. No, can’t do it?? That’s because you have NO idea what it feels like to be a horse. Or what their perspective is. We can study them, we can use behavioral science and biology to better imagine what it might be like to be a huge herd animal, but we can’t really know. Just like I will never really know what it is like to be you.
However, as humans, we are extremely quick to blame horses for not understanding what we want. We think they are being belligerent, over-reacting, ‘taking the p***’ , or making our lives difficult. (Etc. Etc. Etc. ) We allow ourselves to have a ‘bad day’, but we expect our horses to be on top form every day (and the thing is usually - unless they are in pain - they are on pretty good form most days). We hold our own breath and keep tension in our shoulders, but want our horses to relax. We come with a mind full of nonsense, but want our horses to concentrate. We turn up expecting our horse to provide us with a ‘nice hack’ as we have had a hard day, and then feel disgruntled when our horse doesn’t completely comply with our expectations. We spend a lot of time, money, and effort keeping our horses, and very often expect them to ‘perform’ in return. I don't think they signed up to that deal...
We know how hard it is for us to change long standing habits (whether that be smoking, getting up late, or using your left hand with the same dexterity as your right hand) and yet we expect horses to unlearn old habits, learn new ones and not revert. And we want all of that to happen pretty damn quickly. The thing we may forget is that in addition, they don’t really have the same motivation as us to change these habits, as they tend to be things which are important to us, rather than to the horse.
I am pretty sure most people who read this blog are already aware of this stuff, but I know that I need to remind myself of it regularly. My horse does not consider the same things be important as I do. He really, really does not see the world the same way as I do, so when I begin to impose expectations on him about what I think would be reasonable, I do him a huge disservice. I am pretty certain that we both want to feel safe, relaxed, and inspired - but I might have to completely let go of my own expectations to make this possible for my horse.
I am now trying to apply this in my relationships with people too. Which is considerably tougher, as they are not big and warm with no expectations on me...