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Meeting the Other

When I tell people about the work I do with horses and leadership their response is often “Yes, I can understand that, horses are great mirrors aren’t they?”

And yes, horses often mirror us: the horse that seems afraid may say more about our fear than their fear; the cranky horse may very well be reflecting cranky me. I’d say this is true for horses, and it is true for dogs, children, partners, friends, colleagues employees and bosses, in fact I’d say it is true for any other. Given that, who knows who is mirroring who, the horse you or you the horse?

Helpful as it is to see our own reflections or projections in others, when all we see when we look at the other is ourselves, we are missing something; we are missing the chance of a true meeting with another being. In working with horses I have seen and experienced how something different happens when we really meet the horse as an other. It is almost as if, as an observer, you can see or feel the connection between the two beings in the ring in that moment.

Reflecting on this recently, I recalled a conversation with Anjet (van Linge), who facilitated the first silent language of leadership programme with me, where she said: “when people find how and who they really are – from that place in themselves they can connect with the horse”. Re-reading that sentence I realised that though people need to find themselves to connect with the horse, at the same time it is meeting the horse that seems to enable them to connect to themselves – in fact that’s what participants have often spoken to, finding parts of themselves, rediscovering those parts. Not the things they mirror to others, nor the parts they project on to others; they (re)discover parts of themselves they may forget about in every day life yet are essential to who they are.

We aren’t always invited to meet another as another, be it a horse or a human being. We often organise ourselves around busyness and goals to be accomplished, which may lead us to go about our day encountering mirrors or blank screens for projection; without time to become aware of the other. That’s one of the things my horses have been teaching me, meet me, meet the other – and notice that your projections and beliefs about me are just that – when you open up to a real meeting – something different can happen. We can both become present in a space were previously only thoughts were present. We can dance…

This is nr 8 in a series of 13 about my insights from 2013 which i took into 2014 ... These have been published on my earlier website and I am reposting them here because they still feel relevant.

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