Those Bad Habits!…

Habits can be the most bizarre thing – you do whatever it is that you don’t want to do, but it seems so natural that you don’t think about it and do it regardless. The good news is that those annoying bad habits can be broken and new ones established in their place.

Those of you who read my article on confidence will know that I like to tell stories – well, we all like a good story don’t we – especially if we can somehow connect with it. Well this one’s about a young lady called Gloria who got into the habit of jumping off her horse! Not a good idea if you’re out hacking up the road or taking part in a competition!

Gloria is a 28-year-old happy hacker, who enjoyed taking part in some of the local shows, mainly in the ridden showing classes. She has owned horses for most of her adult life, having longed for one since she was a child.

Before Gloria came to see me, a bad experience had made her become very weary of her horse, Star. She had seen her sister, Cathy, ride Star and watched in horror as he exhibited unusual behaviour by bucking her off. Cathy lay helpless and wounded on the ground having suffered a broken back. The air ambulance lifted her off to hospital where she spent many months recuperating.

Meanwhile, Gloria was understandably afraid to ride Star again and spent a while regaining her confidence. When she finally plucked up the courage to start riding again, she was fine for a while – a bit shaky, but managed to get back into it. Star was indeed a Star and was wonderfully patient with her. A little while after she had been able to ride again she suddenly began to experience flashbacks of seeing her sisters’ accident.

With every flashback, she would get a really bad feeling wash over her, grab at the reins and become so frightened that she would jump off. After a while it became a habit to jump off for what seemed the slightest little thing. When she got to the point when enough was enough, Gloria contacted me asking for help. She was in a catch-22 situation where she needed to exercise Star but was finding every reason not to. I think a lot of people have been there at some stage and can relate to that feeling.

We have two parts to our mind, the conscious and the subconscious. When we do something a few times it then forms a habit, as I am sure many of you know. This happens when the conscious part of your mind tells your unconscious part that ‘this is the way it is going to be’ and it then becomes the norm. So as soon as Gloria got those bad feelings, her conscious mind was telling her she would be safer to jump off – and then it became an automatic reflex.

When Gloria arrived at my consultation rooms in Crediton on the afternoon of her appointment she was in a proper old flap! She had been out hacking that morning when a tractor came toward her, normally it would be fine as Star was pretty good in traffic, but for some reason Gloria panicked and jumped off, cowering in a gateway, shaking like a leaf as the tractor went by. She felt she could not get back on Star and walked the half-mile home. “It’s getting worse” she sobbed, “I just don’t know what to do”.

After using some relaxation techniques to calm Gloria, we were able to talk and I was able to remove the negative feelings arising from the trauma of her sister’s accident from Gloria’s mind, so that even though she could remember it, there was no longer any emotional attachment.

With the trauma now processed, we could move on to sorting out the habit of jumping off. Using NLP techniques and hypnotherapy this was soon being resolved and she began to see her way forward into riding Star without those awful feelings of dread. After a few visits Gloria was reporting that she was now able to hack out and feel quite relaxed, no longer experiencing any feelings of wanting to jump off.

So as Gloria was once again feeling happy about hacking out, I decided it was time to really test out if she was going to start jumping off when put under a little pressure. It is all very well having therapy but unless you put it to the test you don’t know if it has been successful or if you are in need of further treatment. Gloria had done well but I needed to put her under a little pressure to make sure her treatment was complete. We were in luck as the moment of truth arrived for Gloria when a local horse show was advertised. After a bit of hesitation and prompting, she bit the bullet and signed up to do a few classes. We worked on her performance techniques for a session to ensure all would be well. The day of the show arrived and Gloria entered her first class with the greatest dignity; she was a little nervous but knew this was a good thing as it would help her perform to her maximum. Truth would tell now – would she jump off or stay aboard?

She was called into the centre of the ring by the judge and was awarded third place. Now the pressure was really on as people were watching and her sister was cheering in the crowd for her. She was asked to do her party piece so the judge could make a final decision and she performed beautifully. Star really was being a little trooper. She was moved up the line to second place and her smile gave the story away of how she was feeling. When she rode out of the ring with her second place rosette she was bursting with pride, she dismounted and was literally jumping for joy! Well done Gloria! The therapy had been a great success.

Categories: Anxiety, Confidence, General and Life coaching.