What is an I-Thou Contact?

24-IMG_4045_360-240An I-Thou relationship involves being in the moment and present. Being fully open to contact and communication with another being. Engaging in contact with that being in a manner that respects the unique presence of the other for who he or she is – horse, human or any living being. Any and every I-Thou contact is dynamic and unique, and offers opportunity for change and growth.

Horses support our capacities for contact because they are innately predisposed to engage with others. They offer us an authentic contact and the opportunity for connection, presence and validation.

This means that contact with horses has the capacity to trigger and evoke feelings. It provides an opportunity for deep connection and oneness that can help us move away from impersonal, superficial and isolating forms of communications. It offers the rewarding, soul satisfying  closeness of authentic and fearless inter-personal communications. As we allow ourselves to see and be seen as we are without judgement, the nature of our connection to ourselves and to each other changes. It deepens and enriches us. We hear and we are heard. We see and we are seen. True dialogue and self sharing becomes possible.

In an I-Thou relationship, we are no longer alone. We are no longer separate. In an I-Thou relationship to others and the world: We belong.

Martin Buber is the thoughtful thinker behind the I and Thou philosophy. Written in 1923, his book by the same name examines the manner in which humans relate to one another, and to their world. Buber suggests that humans routinely view people by their functions rather  than as individuals. He calls this an “I-it” relationship. These relationships tend to be one dimensional, emotionally limiting, and can lead individuals to act in certain ways or modify emotional expression to “fit in”. This is the antithesis of authenticity. An I-it relationship by its nature limits the potential for true and deep engagement with others, or expression of our true self.

I-Thou relationships cannot be manufactured. They come from the heart and the soul and we know we are experiencing them though we may call them something else. Being in synch. Being as one. Peace. Serenity. Happiness.

I-Thou relationships evolve and transform constantly as we do. Buber believed that we can have an I-Thou relationship not only with other human beings but to the world and every living being or living thing in it, with whom we share a breath on Earth.Animals, flowers, trees, sea, sky, earth. In an I-Thou relationship, we are aware, open, present. We see and we allow ourselves to be seen and in doing so we become connected to something much greater than ourselves. This gives us a sense of peace. We are no longer alone, transitory, insignificant, lacking but singular, unique, meaningful.

Buber tells us that beauty can lead us to experience an I-Thou state. Poetry, Art, Music are all sublimated expressions of shared human experiences through which we can feel connected.

At Epona Brae we believe that every single person in the world has the right to be whomever they want to be and live their life fully as they wish it to be. A right to exist without constant anxiety, self-hatred, fear, insecurity or pain. A right to feel loved, welcomed, heard, seen, included.

More and more research is showing us that nature therapy is very powerful. Working and nature and with horses can help reconnect us to what we have lost or never experienced but nonetheless crave. It can also help young children who have never felt connected to their world to reach an understanding of others and themselves in a safe and supported environment. Feeling in harmony within ourselves and with the world. Finding our happy again.

We believe that horses can help humans experience moments of true I-Thou connectedness and pave the way to being able to experience I-Thou relationships with others. Why? Because:

Horses Know What’s Going On.
Horses are very Good at Letting Go of The Past
Horses are very Good at Living in the Moment.

Impervious to a person’s social status, history, weight, relationships, horses have the unique ability to see a person’s inside just as clearly as they see their outside. They are masters at living in the moment and appreciating the simplest things: each other’s company, grass, a nap in the sun, a playful romp, a good scratch. Gentle and intensely social, horses are also flight animals, very careful with their trust on which depends their survival. To be a horse’s friend, we must show ourselves truthfully, or he will never reveal his true self to us. He may follow us automatically and operate by rote but his mind and spirit will stay safely locked away, unwilling to engage and risk being broken. But see a horse and allow yourself to be seen, gain his trust and stand by him, touch him with gentle respect and you will experience something that words cannot describe. Many have attempted to put into words what happens when they “drop in” with the horse.

Time melts away, walls and boundaries fade, a feeling of wellbeing and lightness spreads erasing mind, body and spirit wounds and scars. Just for a moment, we are transported to a place that nourishes our very essence and returns us greater then we were. Once we know what an I-Thou relationship feels like, and that we are capable of one, we can become the kind of human being that welcomes I-Thou into their life by embracing ourselves and others in new and authentic ways.

Our practice is designed to facilitate experiences between patients and horses in a safe and judgement-free environment. We help patients along their path towards happiness through self realization and a greater sense of connectedness.

At Epona Brae, I-Thou communications is not work. It is how we strive to live our lives day by day, blessed mo­ment by blessed moment.

© Coventry Psychology at Epona Brae. 2015. All Rights Reserved.