Last month we began a series of monthly tips discussing defense mechanisms and coping strategies. It’s common for these terms to be used interchangeably, but they’re actually quite different. Coping mechanisms are mental strategies that resolve stressful thoughts and feelings, while defense mechanisms are behaviors that attempt to avoid or hide from them.
This month I’ll introduce you to two new defense mechanisms and two new coping strategies. There’s a good chance you’ve heard of all four before, but hopefully they’ll remind you that you always have a choice when your thoughts and emotions begin to feel overwhelming. You can either hide from them, or you can overcome them.
Denial is one of the most common ego-defenses and occurs when a rider refuses to accept responsibility for their mistakes, mess-ups, and missed opportunities. Instead of admitting and owning them (so they can learn from them) they block them from their mind so they don’t have to deal with them. In other words, they deny and repress responsibility for bad events so they can avoid the painful feelings that accompany them.
Displacement happens when a rider denies upsetting thoughts or behaviors and directs them towards something, or someone, else. Throwing a baseball bat to the ground or breaking a tennis racket are common examples of athletes using displacement to satisfy a negative impulse. Our sport, however, is not nearly as forgiving. While throwing your gloves to the ground after a disappointing round won’t help or hurt; taking your frustration out on your horse with a smack or a yank is always unacceptable. Riders who have an ego large enough to allow them to do this need to ask themselves if riding is the right sport for them.
Sublimation occurs when you redirect negative emotions into positive, constructive, and empowering behaviors. For example, instead of directing anger towards your horse because of two recent falls, you instead channel that energy into a fitness program to improve your leg, seat, and core. The real benefit of sublimation is that it creates the habit of changing negative emotions into positive behaviors.
You can anticipate a potentially stressful event in one of two ways. By worrying about it or by preparing for it. Riders who use anticipation as a coping mechanism always select the latter; mentally rehearsing the efforts they’ll make to create favorable outcomes and overcome things that might otherwise overcome them. The idea behind anticipation is that proactively anticipating stressful events (instead of avoiding or denying them) makes those events feel more predictable and less threatening.
I really hope these tips help you become more mindful of the choices before you. You can either hide and deny uncomfortable emotions, or you can face and overcome them. In the future, always remember that what lies in front of you, and what lies behind you, pale in comparison to what lies inside of you!
I hope you enjoyed this month’s tip and that I’ll get the chance to teach you in one of my upcoming summer clinics. For more information on my clinics, or hosting one, please visit www.pressureproofacademy.com
This year’s Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event CCI5*-L will be the first five-star event to take place in the U.S. since 2019. The entry list has familiar names, five-star veterans, rookies, and many horses who have been eventing in the U.S. since they were 4 years old.
Are you following along with the action from home this weekend? Or maybe you're competing at an event and need information fast. Either way, we’ve got you covered! Check out the USEA’s Weekend Quick Links for links to information including the prize list, ride times, live scores, and more for all the events running this weekend.
The USEA has developed a rule change proposal schedule for the 2023 eventing season in an effort to keep the membership better informed about the process. As a reminder, all rules for eventing are under the jurisdiction of the US Equestrian Federation (USEF) and the U.S. Eventing Association (USEA) only has the ability to put forth rule changes proposals for consideration by the USEF.
US Equestrian is pleased to announce that beginning May 3, 2021, licensees of USEF competitions are permitted to welcome a limited number of spectators back to their competitions.