Fear Conditioning – Humans

Last month, we talked about two kinds of fear – the constructive kind and the destructive kind.  One is put in our system by God to keep us from danger. The other is programmed in us or our horses by pain, bad experiences and any other stimuli that cause the brain to send a message to your system to protect yourself.  The second one is called conditioned fear.  The more it is repeated, the deeper the groove in our brain becomes and the harder it becomes to overcome it.  To say it simple, we can get deep grooves in our brain that are called Psychological Hooks.  When the PH’s are negative ones, then we have work to do to replace that groove with a positive and productive groove. 

I get all kinds of e-mails from these articles and from my web site.  This month, I got an e-mail from a little girl asking for help.  She said that her grandmother wanted her to become a barrel racer, but she was afraid of her horse and wanted to know what she could do to overcome that fear.  I questioned her to find out where her fear came from and she wrote back that this horse had bucked her off when he was younger and green.  She had never recovered confidence in the horse, especially when she speeded up and felt more vulnerable.  Come to find out, the incident where she was bucked off was quite a time ago.   My next question was this:  “Is this your grandmothers’ desire or your desire that you barrel race?”  Her answer was that it was both. 

It is much easier to train a horse that has not been fear-conditioned.  It is much easier to work with a student that has not been fear-conditioned.  When you are working with both at the same time, it is a big challenge.  The horse and rider develop a dance together – the rider becomes afraid, tenses up in all muscle systems – sends a message to the horse to tense up and on the dance goes.  Or sometimes, it is the opposite – the horse gets afraid and sends the signal to the rider.  To change the fear grooves in this team, you often have to separate them to break the patterns of the dance. 

One big factor in overcoming and replacing fear-conditioning is DESIRE.  If this young person has a great desire to barrel race, our chances of helping her are very large.  BUT, if her desire is more to please her family, our chances of helping her are slim.  Why?   The answer is, because you cannot place your desires inside of another person.  It is desire that drives commitment, try, hard work and determination.  It must be inside the person who is trying to overcome fear.  I always ask parents and grand parents in situations like this to really take a look at who has the biggest desire here.  That is what will determine the outcome.   It is a matter of re-programming the brain.  Remember that it is the brain that sends the signal to the rest of the body to panic.  So, we have to start over with this child the same way we start over with the fear-conditioned horse. We start building positive hooks and grooves in the brain.  We start by putting the child in safe situations that build confidence and security.  A solid-minded horse that I call a packer will give a child more confidence that we can ever give them.  A packer is usually an older horse with one foot in the grave and one still trucking.  A child that is afraid needs confidence built by a horse of this type.  They need to go at the speed that they are comfortable with.  The child will push themselves when they feel ready and should not be pushed by the desires of others. 

I hope you are watching the Olympics this month.  You will see story after story of people who had to overcome great obstacles of fear or adversity to get where they are. They tell about training for 8-12 hours daily and giving up many other things in life to train.  Some have taken horrendous falls and had to learn to get up and try again to perfect their skills.  It can be done and the outcome is usually the developing of a champion.  Again, I believe that the biggest driving factor is DESIRE.  If we have the desire to do something – we will find a way.  If we don’t, we need to find something else to do that we enjoy and are desire driven to do.  There is nothing sadder to me than to see a child driven by a family member to do something that is causing her or him to be in fear.  And, there is nothing as fun to watch as people who love what they do and are doing it with complete confidence and security.

May all your Psychological Hooks be positive ones.  If not, start changing them today.  I leave you with this thought – it all begins in the brains – whether training horses or people.   

Sow a Thought
Reap a Word
Sow a Word
Reap a Habit
Sow a Habit
Reap a Destiny. 

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Last modified: January 05, 2014