Not only is "What Happened To You" the key question if you want to understand someone, it is the key question if you want to understand the brain.
Bruce D. Perry MD, PhD. and Oprah Winfrey. This quote is taken from the book by Dr. Perry and Oprah that just released.
I love that quote for humans and I also love it as it relates to horses.
Meet Hoss, our rowdy, rambunctious paint who was rescued from an abusive situation when he was around two years old. He was then placed in a foster-to-adopt program. He was adopted by a family, but due to his aggressive behaviors, they had to let him return to the rescue program to find another family. Hoss found his way through a couple different families and then came to Gateway Family Services. Hoss, a 15.2 horse, who often uses his size to navigate situations and would often operate from a place of survival. This approach can appear as if he is trying to intimate, but he is responding to the situation based off of his early life experiences.
Thinking about Hoss' relationship patterns, his brain had developed a highly sensitive stress response. His life experiences had taught him that human relationships are not safe nor are they consistent. His brain had adjusted and operated from a place that it was better to be aggressive and dominate so others would not hurt or control him.
I (Michael) bought Hoss and many people did not approve of my decision because Hoss was a little much at times. A 1200lb unpredictable animal does not exactly seem fitting for an equine therapy program, however, it was exactly what Hoss and many of our clients needed. As we think about Hoss and his past, it was critical for us to view his brain through Dr. Perry's question--"what happened to you." Just as we would view a client with a challenging past, we needed to understand Hoss' deep need for genuine connection and healing. We all had to begin asking that question to understand why his brain operated in the way that it did. The more we wrestled with that question as we interacted with Hoss, the more we were able to understand some of his behaviors. As we worked with him through some of his challenging behaviors, we helped pull back the layers of trauma, abuse and negative relational patterns and began to help Hoss find healing.
Through the years of journeying with others to find healing, Hoss has been doing some of his own work as well. As of this blog, I am happy to say, Hoss has become one of our most consistent, compassionate herd members.
I am just beginning to unpack the rich content from "What Happened To You" but I can only imagine the countless lives (human and horse) that will be positively changed as we make that shift from "what is wrong with you" to "what happened to you?"
Michael Remole MA, LCPC, NCC, NLC-C, EP