Sunday, October 20, 2019

Trauma Informed Horsemanship: The Next Big Leap

Do you know what an ACE score is? You need to know and understand ACE if you care about the people around you.

Check out this important website. Read it deeply and often: . I have spent years learning about and experiencing the impact of trauma, vicarious or direct, in my career as a juvenile court prosecutor  who handles primarily cases of crimes against children, family violence and sexual assault.

Every riding instructor should be trauma informed and every riding program should constantly review its practices to insure that their program is trauma informed. A trauma informed riding instructor is constantly on the look out to understand how past experiences shape the behaviour of their students. A trauma informed riding program replaces competitiveness, bullying, cliquishness, and judgemental behavior with inclusion, acceptance and healing.

Few things get in the way of understanding others as much as being judgemental. Nothing gets in the way of that understanding as much as being judgemental without having any understanding  of what shaped the subject of that judgment.

As it has been aptly put, the question must be, "What happened to you?" instead of "What is wrong with you?" Without doing so, one goes through life judging those around them only through the narrow prism of one's own life experiences.

It is all to easy to say, "I would never behave like he does" without recognizing that had you been abused as he was your behavior would likely mirror his. It is all to easy to say "That was years ago. She has to just get over it", while doing nothing to help her "get over it." It is all to easy to avoid contact with a difficult person instead of seeking understanding.

Trauma informed living is merely an exercise in advanced empathy. And one must work to learn how to have advanced empathy.

Some might think that while all of that is fine, their program teaches how to compete in hunter-jumper events and is not a program to deal with complex social problems. That is simply too bad. You have no choice. The problem is there. You can choose to ignore it but you cannot opt out of your responsibility to others.

Ultimately, every single youth group, Scout troop, Little League team, or dance class, is also a suicide prevention program. One might night like hearing that fact, but that makes it no less true. One can not opt out of being a suicide prevention program. One can only decide to work to be a program that makes the suicide of kids in the program more or less likely.

When I was little we had a boy in class who was much bigger than most of us. Aside from being naturally tall and strong, he had also failed a few years and was older than the rest of us. He was a bully and one day three of us were talking about his behavior on the playground. We agreed to discuss that matter with our parents that night so that someone would make him behave better.

The next day my two friends proudly announced that their mothers were going to meet with the principle right away to make sure that he was punished.

I was embarrassed at Momma's reaction. I did not want to tell them what she told me.

She said that maybe the reason "Jimmy" was so mean on that day was because it was a Monday and that Jimmy's daddy drank real bad and got mean and beat his family on a lot of weekends. She said that Jimmy did not have friends that understood how things were and that the best thing would be for me to be his friend and make sure that he had someone to play with at recess.

My friend's mothers could not see the problem through Jimmy's eyes. My Momma could. Although he was a good a person as one would ever find when sober, when her Daddy got drunk he had been violent to the point that my great uncle once had to pull a gun off of him that he was threatening his young daughter with.

So kids in our program sometimes "act out." So adults in our program do too. We could simply expel everyone who does not wear a fake, sunny facade of happiness all the time. We could get rid of "problem" kids and adults. We would then be left with a program of people who smile at each other incessantly.

We could all laugh and play at recess. But a church that works more on excommunication than on evangelizing is an institution on its way to collapse.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Attempting to understand why & having empathy goes much further than "punishment"!