Marshall Miles Interviews Jane Strong, the Equus Effect

We wanted to give you an update from our place in Sharon and offer a couple of additional tools to help you stay grounded, clear and more equipped to handle the collective uncertainty we are now facing.

The Equus Effect | Experiential Learning with Horses

First, the Update

Once this storm is over … and it is safe to re-engage in the community, we plan to offer our services to the docsnurses and EMS teams who are on the front lines in hospitals and emergency services. Like warriors, they are in the midst of turmoil and chaosUnlike warriors, they are facing this battle against an unseen enemy… sometimes without the tools to fulfill their oaths. We expect that the trauma and moral injury is going to come in waves, just as this virus has traveled around the world.

How does our work with veterans fit for these folks?

In a recent 60 minutes interview, Dr. Gul Zaidi of Long Island Jewish Hospital explained, “We’re all scared. I’m scared. But, I have to lock those fears away in a box because once I set foot in the hospital, it’s all about the patient.”

We at The Equus Effect know a lot about the cost of ‘locking fear away’.  It is precisely what lands our veterans in the stuck situation where their nervous systems can’t settle down after the crisis passes.

In addition, like many veterans we see — especially medics — we expect to meet many professionals who are struggling with the moral injury that comes from having to decide who to save and who to let go.  No one is ever really trained for that.  As the dust settles, we believe that we’ll have our hands more than full.

To this end, we will also offer sessions to individuals who are having a hard time feeling grounded or moving forward and will keep you posted on the timing for that.

The Neuro Science Behind our Work

For those of you who are interested in the science of what goes on when we are having a hard dealing with circumstances like this, here’s what’s happening and here’s why body-based, experiential programs like ours can help 

What’s happening:  Trauma does not live in the thinking part of the brain.  It resides the emotional brain and the nervous system. It takes us from the parasympathetic (relaxed, safe, calm) state to one of sympathetic fight, flight, freeze activation. That’s what’s happening to a lot of us now as we shelter in place and watch events unfold that are way beyond our control.

Why our work ‘works’:  Our horses offer a kind of connection and attunement that is particularly impactful in terms of settling us down. Their heart rates are about half of ours so when we put our hands on them, our own hearts slow down. They also completely accept us as we are right now, not for what we may or may not have done in any other parts of our lives.

For more insight and information about how body-based practices and attunement are a tremendous antidote to trauma, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s highly acclaimed book The Body Keeps the Score is a great resource. Dr. van der Kolk is a friend and colleague whose understanding of trauma fits with and informs our approach. David Brooks refers to his take on the mental and emotional toll of this crisis in the NY Times last Friday.  In case you missed it,  Mental Health in the Age of the Coronavirus: The struggle between fear and comfort.


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