June 25th, 2014
By Peter G. Vajda
Sometimes life feels like we’re trapped on a merry-go-round. The same old things keep coming up again and again. If the issues you’re facing in your life are same ones you faced last year, or the year before that, or even earlier, then you’re effectively carrying a dead horse around on your shoulders. And that’s a very tiring, debilitating and self-sabotaging burden to bear.
Dead horses are all those “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” that drive our lives. They are the things you do that don’t help you, but you keep doing them nevertheless.
Often we’re completely unaware of our dead horses. They lurk in our psyches as self-images that we think we need to live up to, as beliefs, habits and routines that subtly affect our lives. They show up as the relentless demands and expectations we make on ourselves.
These dead horses are forever popping up at work, at home and in our relationships. And yet, for no apparent reason, we continue to try and ride our dead horses despite the fact that they send us into states of regret, agitation, anger, frustration, resentment and even depression.
Perhaps right now you are spending precious time and energy trying to resuscitate your dead horses, painfully dragging them along into today, tonight, tomorrow, next week, next month and next year. We make ourselves believe that if we just try harder, keep on going, that these dead horses will come back to life better than ever. Or well tell ourselves that if we are less demanding and more accepting, these dead horses will generate renewed energy and live to ride again.
Or perhaps we are hoping that a miracle will happen and our dead horses will suddenly become healthy so we can ride off into the sunset. Just like TV fantasies and fairy tales.
Maybe we’re trying to kid ourselves that our horse really isn’t dead, that all it needs is some good old “R&R.” So we reject our reality and distract ourselves from the truth of our situation. And after days, weeks, months and years of resisting, rejecting, and distracting ourselves, we’re still waiting for the dead horse to show some life, and so we wait, and wait, hope and pray, but to no avail.
Then there are those of us who try to convince ourselves that life will be fine if we just carry the horse – like it will come out of its coma at some point. So, we just haul it around hoping that life comes back into it. We think that if we nurture it, support it, and help it, it will resurrect. It won’t. That’s called denial.
It’s denial, too, to tell yourself that if you just “stick it out”, all will be well. We dig in our spurs, but move nowhere. Or we’re stuck on a plastic horse on a merry-go-round, moving, always engaged in “doing”, going around in circles, but in reality, going nowhere.
People who ride “dead horses” every day know what they have to do when they get up. But they have no idea where they’re going.
At the end of the day, the bottom line is simple. When the horse dies, get off!
A year from today, your life will be different. Guaranteed! Whether it is “good” different or “bad” different, is your choice. Much depends on whether the horses you’re riding are healthy, energetic, purposeful, meaningful and positively supportive – or dead.
Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D, C.P.C. is a founding partner of True North Partnering, a US-based company that supports conscious living through coaching, counselling and facilitating.