How I Tamed My Wild Horse of a Mind

mind

“The ego is kind of a big, unwieldy thing.  It’s not so easily tamed or subdued.”

– Alan Ball

Completely Untamed

I don’t remember when I first began feeling anxious.  Perhaps it was in high school, when I feared that I would not get into college, find a job, and live the life I wanted.  The fear of failure was there even before that.  It is quite possible that I have experienced anxiety and panic attacks through most of my life.

There was always this tremendous fear of the things that lie ahead, and a positive outcome would not relieve it.  I feared getting into college, until I did so, effortlessly.  But the 6 years I spent working on my bachelor’s were spent worrying about whether I would find a job after graduation.

During that time, I also worried about whether my boyfriend would marry me, and after he did, I worried about whether he would stay with me, whether I was good enough.  I worried about money constantly, confident that once I got that job, I would stop worrying.

Of course, I got that job easily, but now I worried about keeping it.  I became sick to my stomach at every end-of-the school year mention of layoffs.  I was terrified of a bad review and beat up on myself whenever I made a mistake.

The irony is that this constant anxiety made me behave in ways that led to fear becoming reality.  Because I was afraid of not having enough money, I didn’t keep as tight of tabs on the budget as I could have, and we often overspent.  My panic over not having enough after this overspending led me to make more destructive choices with money, leading us to always be broke and stressed out.

I feared losing my marriage, so I kept secrets.  I hid any mistake that I made that I thought would anger my husband.  I didn’t set boundaries, because I feared that I would lose him if I did so.  I sacrificed my needs in my efforts to please him.

I was so terrified of losing my job, that I also became unable to establish boundaries there.  I would offer to do more than I was capable of doing, leading to repercussions and more promises that I couldn’t keep.  I became an outcast, because I was afraid of forming relationships with my co-workers.

My mind was constantly in fear, and I found myself resorting to addictive behaviors in order to soothe it.  I drank in the evenings, I overate, I spent more time online than talking to people in real life.  I became clingy to anyone would provide me with attention, validation, and understanding, because I could not give these things to myself.  Of course, I was terrified of losing such a person, and my clinginess nearly always drove them away.

My mind was a wild horse, running freely and wrecklessly in the blind terror of being imprisoned by walls it couldn’t understand.

The Taming Begins

It was in my tenth year of teaching that I began to see that the walls that were imprisoning me were actually my thoughts.  Someone suggested that I note all the labels I had been giving myself.  This initially led to more anxiety, as I didn’t know what was “real” and what was not.

My growing understanding led me to leave my job and move across the country.  I was certain that this would stop the cycle of fear, but it did not.  I was terrified of losing my new job, people seemed to be stabbing me in the back, and the pattern was repeating itself.

It was much easier to see the repeating pattern after moving.  While the pattern was the clearest at work, I also observed that I was continuing to have the same financial and marital fears and patterns as well.  I saw that I was imprisoned, I saw that I was stressed, but I could not find a way out of it.

I actually began having more panic attacks during this time, because I was afraid that this pattern would be my life, that there was no way to break it.  Simply becoming aware was the first step, but it would require many more baby steps in order to gain that wild horse’s trust and, ultimately, to tame it.

How I Tamed the Wild Horse

During the 2 ½ years after our move, I worked closely with a life coach, who helped me to gain the tools to help me calm my mind and find a way to stop all of the fear-based patterns that had kept me trapped for so long.

It was slow work, and at times it felt like I was going two steps forward and one step back.  But, in the end, I found that I worried much less.  All of my relationship grew stronger, and I no longer sought attention, validation, and understanding from those around me.  I was now able to find these within myself.

Here are some lessons that I learned from my journey:

1. Make basic needs a priority. If I didn’t eat healthy meals, get enough sleep, and drink enough water, I was highly likely to have a panic attack and experience more fear than if I had met these needs. When we don’t meet our needs, our minds go into survival mode, constantly scanning for possible threats.

2. Focus on relaxation. The most important thing I learned is that my fears were not based on reality.  Even when my mind was unable to believe this, I would take the time to do breathing exercises to calm and reassure my mind.  Doing this helped to stop all the stress hormones and allow me to think more clearly about the situation.

3. Redefine limiting beliefs. With my life coach, I learned a process for redefining the beliefs that were behind my fears, so that I no longer experienced the fear.  Even when I am afraid or anxious now, I can use the tools I learned to question and redefine the thing that is causing me to be afraid. Redefining is an important step, because it “convinces” the subconscious mind that the fear is not true. Simply repeating affirmations only affects the conscious mind, so the fears are likely to return.

4. Be patient with yourself. Overcoming fear and anxiety takes time, and trying to force changes too quickly will only lead to more anxiety.  Change must be slow, so that the mind can accept it and feel safe.

When you take the time to tame your own wild horse, you will find that the power and energy that your mind has been putting into fear can be re-channeled into creativity and brilliance.  Take some time to give your mind some attention, to see the reality beyond your fear and patterns.  What could you possibly have to lose?

mind

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16 thoughts on “How I Tamed My Wild Horse of a Mind”

    1. Thank you, Jan. I remember thinking of the wild horse analogy about year ago, when I realized that my powerful mind was a gift, if I could learn to tame it. That’s really true for everyone.

  1. Mr. Kieran Pavlick

    I was born with two circumstances that kept me in check, at the cost of being wealthy. A poorly educated mother, and uncles and aunts, also poorly educated and with no ambition. Until I was 12 my mother never dated again, that one time she did,I was produced and she was forced to raise me alone. We never talked about girls, because she was one. I had no male influence to comment on a woman’s appearance. Even raunchy ones. So I figured you just keep going and something happens and you end up married. I didn’t have a car or much money so I didn’t feel it was right to start dating, as I couldn’t compete with other boys. I didn’t know much about high school, as I would be the first to attend. And I thought college was like going to high school. Five days a week, so many weeks a year until you finished. With just a high school education, no motivation to succeed in making money and becoming rich, my life has been good. I’m not rich,and I never cared what others thought. I never felt inferior, as I never knew I was missing anything.

    1. Thank you for sharing, Kieran. I am so glad that you have been able to create a life that works for you, regardless of the criteria that many people use to define “success.” Happiness and peace come from within, and many people become disillusioned when monetary wealth and material success don’t lead to inner joy.

  2. Great stuff Bethany! I love how you talk about being patient with yourself. I know for me that has been huge! I used to get so frustrated with myself and that would just lead to more negative energy and leave me feeling powerless. Loving myself in the midst of my process has been crucial for me in my journey of freedom!

    1. Thanks, Adam! I think one of my biggest realizations is that life-changing work takes time. Getting though a situation can be done short-term, but making lasting changes to perception and thought processes can not be done quickly.

  3. Thanks for your insights! Although not to your extent, I suffered through a lot of anxiety and negative self talk in the past as well. I found that a consistent meditation practice to clear my thoughts and a habit of questioning my negative self-beliefs and changing them really helped.

    1. Thank you, Norman! Yes, calming the mind, then questioning and redefining those beliefs is key. It’s amazing how those simple steps can change our experience of reality.

  4. Hello Bethany!

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    I’ve learned a lot from this, but what I will definitely remember is that worrying about future problems may only bring them on quicker.

    Another thing that I may add is that we should not undermine our own strength. Whatever we fear will happen to us, we should know that we will have the power to overcome it.

    Cheers,
    Nelu

  5. This is a truly powerful, transformative article for me. I really enjoyed it and look forward to future articles from you.

  6. Hi Bethany, I have just discovered the Change Blog (now on my reading list) and your article is exactly what I needed to read at this point in time. I suffer from anxiety especially at times I am in a depressed state and your post has helped put a few things into perspective.
    Thank you : )

    Paul

  7. Hi Bethany,
    Have just read your post and was wondering if you are able to elaborate on how to redifine your limiting beliefs.
    It’s just that I have had OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) for 30Plus years.
    OCD makes one believe that the thoughts are theirs, so at times it’s hard to convince the sub conscious that the fear is false.
    Thank you for sharing your story and I thank you in advance for your time.
    Regards Rita

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