I seem to be talking about glasses a lot these days to people. No, not the type we wear when our eyes start to get blurry but the metaphorical kind. The glasses you wear when you just became obsessed with rock climbing and now you see the world through your rock climbing glasses; “Could I climb that wall outside of the super market?!” When we spend time and energy thinking about something, we start to see the world through that lens. If we put attention into our breath, we start to notice when we hold our breath, what that does to our mind, what that does to our body. Becoming aware of ourselves and our lenses in therapy is called “tracking” where you follow your thoughts, feelings, and emotions as you go about your day. What is also interesting is that you start to notice other people through your glasses, like your friends who hold their breath, maybe you even notice when people are starting to get anxious before they even know it!
For every unique person in the world, there is a unique set of glasses. Many of us see the world through the religion we grew up in, the messages our family and mentors told us, the lessons we learned at vulnerable times… and some of us have glasses that make everything an adventure and heartfelt and others have glasses that make us feel hopeless and lost, many of us have both.
My curiosity started around this about a year ago while I was sitting at a horse clinic and I heard some people say, “Wow! Look at this beautiful pair!” Of course I was curious and had to come take a look. In the ring was this gorgeous mare prancing around the arena while the rider was holding on for dear life. As I sat there behind a small crowd of people, listening to them talk about how spectacular this pair was and how in awe they were of the rider, I couldn’t help but blink a few times because I couldn’t see what they were seeing. Through my glasses, I saw a rider with a death grip on the horse’s mouth with a very severe bit where the horse’s head was tucked into her chest. The rider was accidentally spurring the horse every step, making the horse jump out of her skin, which made the rider pull harder on the bit. The horse’s muscles were tight from bracing and her back was sunk, I’m assuming from the rider’s very defensive and nervous seat. What I kept looking at was the horse’s wide eyed fright and the rider’s similar look in her eyes. Neither looked like they were having fun or were relaxed in any point in their body, and yet there was a crowd discussing and commenting on how beautiful the pair was. I went home and wondered what had happened that day. I started to step into the shoes of the audience, they saw a horse of great breeding and movement and a rider that could stay on. That was beautiful to them. What makes me sad is that often the good riders that are totally relaxed and help a horse be totally relaxed go unnoticed. I hear, “Oh that is just a good horse” or “what a simple ride that horse is.”
We don’t give credit to the riders with invisible aids that calm the horses’ down, and help the horse’s find their better potential. We praise the ones that look like they are going through hell and manage to live another day! No wonder kids (and adults) bully and create drama to get attention. We don’t see the ones that are calmly doing their lives and quietly finding their highest potential! We like to look at the accidents on the side of the road, on youTube, in our lives, and we skip looking at the beautiful, clear, soft moments that happen around us.
A horse trainer recently told me that she took a year away from showing horses to work more deeply with her horses on a non-sport horse level. When she returned to showing, she couldn’t believe how much more violent and aggressive the riders had become! Then she realized, the riders had always been this way, now she just saw it more clearly because her glasses had changed.
To me, no matter what glasses you wear, there is going to be both ugly and beauty in how you look at it, and it will look very different from person to person. I think it is more about making a conscious decision to wear the glasses we want to wear and change the lenses when we see fit. Ideally the glasses we wear on the outside, match us on the inside. If we want to see kindness and softness in the world, we become that on the inside as well as look for it on the outside. And if others don’t see your point of view, that is ok. If they want to borrow your glasses to look through at some point, they will. Honor what you see in life and don’t be afraid to try other people’s glasses on as you might see something kinda cool that you have never seen before, and it might change your life.
Kaia Livingstone is a psychotherapist who runs a private practice outside of Boulder, CO. She specializes in helping horses and humans bond in order to help them relate and connect on a deeper level.