Resilience – Self-Care – Intention and the ’S

By Shawn Rodrigues - 05/14/2022


We all know about self-care, and resilience has become a word I seem to hear around every corner these days. The horse is the true definition of resilience. They have evolved from small pig-like, three toed creatures into the majestic strong animals I have the pleasure to work with every day. They embody the definition of resilience: “The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.” How do we develop this in ourselves, our children, our employees? 

While I am a licensed professional counselor and my perspective comes from my work in the Eagala ( model of equine-assisted psychotherapy, I hope I am able to help the reader see that this is relevant to everyone, every day, everywhere. 

In our Equine Assisted Growth and Learning Association (EAGALA) trainings we learn to use the acronym SPUD’S. We look for Shifts, Patterns, Uniqueness, and Discrepancies in the actions and words of our clients and the presentation and interactions of the horses. I chose to carry this out of the office and into my world. It forces me to pause and helps me stay objective. The SPUD is the easy part. It is the ‘S that gets tricky. We run entire workshops focused on the ’S. It’s the three fingers pointing back at yourself when you are pointing at someone or something else. It represents our own Stuff. As a therapist I need to continually be aware of my triggers, projection, transference, counter transference etc and how it affects my interactions in the world. I have to be willing to actively engage in my own therapeutic work as it presents. In the office, it can be easy to miss or to put aside the ’S. However, in the arena it is another story. The horses know when someone is incongruent and/or they know when we are bringing our “Stuff” into the arena. They will call us out right in front of our clients. We have to check our “stuff” at the gate. If there is something lingering out of our awareness they will call it to attention. 

Stepping out of the arena and into the world, want can we do to minimize how our “stuff” impacts our relationships? I believe self-care is key. I see self-care as having 3 levels – the big get away vacations and our own therapy, the common bubble baths, massages, treat yourself sort of things, and the moment to moment daily practices that become part of who we are. All are important, but it is in the daily practices that we build resilience. The resilience skills that we teach as daily practices become the pebble in the water. First an increase in interoception – with this comes increased awareness and mindfulness – followed by greater insight to identify the ’S and address them. By knowing ourselves better from the inside out, we can then better engage with those around us. As a bonus, when we have mastered these skills and regulate ourselves, others become better able to regulate themselves. Experiment with this… the next time your kids, coworkers, family members are quarreling or having a disagreement take a moment to pause and notice your breath. Maybe take a step closer if you can. Just keep noticing your breath. See what happens. I know it sounds way too simple. It is simple – it is not easy. This is where intention comes to play. When we can pause and be more intentional in our interactions and observations we can often step away from our ’S in the moment and feel more confident in addressing them in a professional manner. 

I tell our clients that the horses are here to meet them in the moment, without judgment and ask them to offer themselves the same. The last spin I will put on this blog is a reminder to look at your world through the lens of information. The lens of judgment does not allow for healing, growth or learning. Encounter your ’S with excitement in the knowing that as you address them you become lighter, brighter, more self-aware, and better able to engage in the world with clarity and intention. 

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