What would your relationships be like if you weren’t constantly worrying about how your partner perceives things? What if you weren’t worrying about how they perceive you?
Before we dive in, take a moment and watch this video clip from one of our client sessions (and no, you don’t have to watch all 3 minutes):
What was happening there? What do you think Jove was trying to tell her? What was she trying to get Jove to do? How do you think each of them were feeling?
Each individual person who watches that video will have different answers to those questions, based on their own unique “lens” or “filter” through which they view reality. And those filters are created based on their own unique lived experiences.
So really the question that is most important to ask after watching that clip is: What did you feel while watching? What did their interaction mean to you?
Part of the reason that Jove was such a powerful teacher is that he was able to connect, mirror, and highlight what each person was needing to feel and experience… whether they were in the round pen with him or whether they were outside of the round pen witnessing.
When I first started doing the equine facilitated experiential learning work for myself, I often worried that if I wasn’t the one actually in session with the horse, I wouldn’t get anything out of it. But I discovered that I could get just as much if not more from watching and observing my own inner experience of what was happening with the horse and the person in the round pen.
And then when I started co-facilitating the sessions with Jove for our clients, I learned this particular lesson over and over again. Each time, we would start the work with a client, I would be reminded that my experience was just as powerful and transformative for me as it was for our client… simply by watching with an open mind and heart.
AND… my perspective wasn’t any more right or wrong than the other person’s. It was just mine. And theirs was theirs.
Sometimes in group workshops, I would have a client who would talk about their experience of watching someone else in with Jove as though that was exactly what was happening. They would say something like, “Well, when Jove went over to you, he was trying to tell you that he wanted you to scratch his back.”
At this point, it was my job as facilitator to remind them that their experience wasn’t necessarily the truth for the other participant. That it was the observer’s truth, and the lesson they got was what they needed in that moment.
I would then suggest to them that they try again, but without inserting their own perspective. That might sound something like, “Well, when Jove walked over to you, I felt that maybe he was itchy and wanting a back scratch. To me, this felt sweet and engaging, and I wondered what that was like for you.” Or something along those lines.
There’s a subtle, but extremely important difference here. Could you feel it? What did you notice?
Have you ever been telling a significant other or friend about something that happened in your day, and they immediately jump to a particular conclusion? What does that feel like?
I don’t know about you, but that is often really frustrating for me. It feels somehow invalidating and disempowering… as though my perspective is assumed to be the same as the person doing the assuming.
One aspect of healthy relationships is being able to “stay in our cylinders” – in other words, you experience what you’re experiencing without jumping in to fix. The reason this is important is that you can never really know what someone else is feeling and experiencing. And it’s not your job to know.
Jove had utter faith in his own individual perspective. He didn’t try to change or fix. He wasn’t concerned about what our clients were experiencing. He didn’t nag them. He simply gave them the opportunity to see their own actions and emotions mirrored for them. And to get immediate feedback about how those actions and emotions were perceived by others around them.
You can use this understanding to improve your relationships right now. Remember watching that video and having your own perspective on what was happening… one that didn’t necessarily apply to the woman in the video.
Now apply that to your relationships by staying in your own cylinder the next time you’re having a conversation with someone. Notice how often you want to go out of your cylinder. Notice what happens in your body when you’re worrying about what is going on for the other person. And then notice how differently you feel when you are listening and allowing their perspective to be shared openly.
Our relationships, our experiences, our entire lives are shaped by the way we perceive what goes on around and within us. And it is 100% possible for us all to be “right” about our own unique perspectives. The implications of that understanding are profound and far-reaching. I invite you to join me in recognizing the power of perspective and in practicing the great art of staying in your own cylinder. An ongoing process, for sure…
P.S. Did you notice that this whole post was actually an “experiential learning” session with Jove? Pretty cool, right? Even from the other side, he’s still offering his wisdom and guidance to us all. Thank you, sweet boy!