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Why does the brain need rituals or how to "get off a horse that's dead"?

Have you come across the phrase: "If you notice you're riding a dead horse, get off it"? I was given this invaluable metaphor in a dialogue on my social networking page. The conversation was about whether to "repair" something that can no longer be repaired.

The ancient wisdom of the Dakota Indians says, 'If you notice you're riding a dead horse, get off it.’ But in situations like this in our working lives, we use modern problem-solving strategies:

  • We get a stronger whip.
  • Replace the rider.
  • Say, "that's the way we always rode that horse."
  • We pay for a special group to analyze the dead horse.
  • Exchange experiences with others to see how they ride dead horses.
  • Raise the standard of riding a dead horse.
  • Organize a committee to revive the horse.
  • Attend courses to improve jockeying skills.
  • Compare different dead horses.
  • Change the criteria for assessing a horse's deadness.
  • Hire high-caliber dead horse riding professionals.
  • Harness dead horses to make them go faster.
  • Declare that no horse is so dead that it can't be used.
  • We seek out a dead horse's hidden reserves to increase its strength.
  • Pay for profitability studies for consulting services.
  • We buy something to make the dead horse run faster.
  • Declare that our dead horse is "better, faster and cheaper than the others".
  • Organize a development committee to find a use for the dead horse.
  • Change the work rate for dead horses.
  • Introduce a separate cost item for dead horses.

Let's be honest, almost everyone has such a dead horse in their life, and maybe more than one. Outmoded relationships, boring jobs, toxic family members, a "pulling back" environment. Why do we "keep sitting by the horse's corpse" and hope for its miraculous resurrection?

Reason 1

There are quite a few situations where there are secondary benefits of 'suffering through a dead horse'. How do you identify what they are? Think about what your  'dead horse' allows you not to do? For example, you can continue to stay in a job you hate, justifying yourself with a host of good reasons that will convincingly prove that you're a hero-sufferer. And it's precisely in the "hero-sufferer" state that all sorts of advantages from extra attention and sympathy to excuses for not wanting to take responsibility can lurk.

There are a lot of situations like this around. They are visible to outsiders, but not to the people who are in them. And if the sufferer also has benefits, you will face indignation, resentment, indignation, and reproach if you try to tell them.

Reason 2

There may be "getting stuck" in situations. It's like you know the horse is dead, but you sit there and can't leave. It is as if your whole life is concentrated in a "breathless body". It seems that there will never be another one, it will never work, and it will never happen. When there is an understanding that "the horse won't move anymore", chances to change the situation improve. In this case, "brain rituals", are a kind of "mental burial" help.

Their basic sense is that a person gets an opportunity to grieve and cry, for example, for the lost business and the hopes that collapsed with them, unfulfilled dreams of a large and close-knit family. To weep. To learn lessons. To see that the future exists and is real. Move on.

Of course, such techniques are more effective with the help of a mentor or a coach. Because the brain will desperately resist and not want to leave the "corpse of your beloved pet". Nevertheless, there are steps you can take on your own if you realize that you are stuck in something that can no longer be reanimated.

Step 1. Write a story about what happened. Then write it again, this time in the third person, as if it had not happened to you.

Step 2. Specifically, point by point, write down what was lost? What exactly "died with the horse"? A dream of a large family where everyone supports you? A future where you are free, independent, and successful?

Step 3. Then write down what was good? What did you enjoy? What was inspiring about the things that died? Specific moments, emotions, feelings. Think of all the good things.

Step 4. Afterward, describe the lessons you learned. What valuable insights and important experiences did you gain?

Step 5. Describe your successful image for the future. What do you want to be? Include the brightest things that were valuable, that you liked.

Step 6. Allocate days and time to yourself, 10 to 15 minutes. You can do it 2 or 3 times a week. First, mourn the "dead horse" and then imagine your successful image in the future.

Keep doing this until you feel that the past is in the past and you are looking to the future.


Anna Matyagina

psycotherapist, certified coach ICI, MRI, AC; specialize in Jungian sand therapy, metaphorical maps, PhD in Engineering

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