In this fractured world, confusion can be rampant. There are so many shocking events and experiences that can leave us bewildered and confused, wondering what just happened, why the world is like this, or what the true meaning could be.

Whether we feel confused with the world at large, or with things on a seemingly smaller scale, confusion has a way of dysregulating us. It creates an internal tension, removing our real or perceived sense of safety and control that is present when we think we understand what is going on around us. Many of us jump to feeling frustrated or angry as a way to diffuse the stress. We might also feel embarrassed or ashamed that we don’t understand.

Confusion can also become a wonderful moment to take a pause and get curious about whatever is going on. Confusion can be like a sign post, alerting us that there is more to be discovered here, about ourselves, about others, about our environment, about our world. This shift towards curiosity helps our brains, and our bodies, become more receptive to learning and discovery, opening new doors of possibility, and regaining a sense of safety and connection within ourselves, and with those around us.

As you read through the following reflections by Dr. Rebecca Bailey, Jaycee Dugard, Margie McDonald, and Carmen Theobald consider what “confusion” means to you.

Reflections on “Confusion” from trauma therapist, Dr. Rebecca Bailey

Confusion is a state I am personally quite comfortable experiencing. I can tolerate confusion to a point and then BAM suddenly I need clarity and I need it now! When I hit my threshold, I need my herd to help scrape me off the ceiling and remind me that there was indeed a time when the confusion was in fact clarity. Their not-so-gentle reminders don’t always seep in quickly, and can take time to process. Sleepless nights and countless pages get written down until it hits me. Confusion is my creative process. Confusion is when I learn the most. I readjust my biases and apply a new lens to things I thought I had already discovered and sorted out. Frequently I find myself remembering what I already knew, and becoming clear again that some things are not absolute. I have learned that my worldview is somewhat unique. It is wonderfully unique and at times fabulously frustrating. Confusion is where my brilliance was born, and often where I return. I cannot pretend it is always pleasant, but as the years go by, I have learned that it is familiar.

Reflections on “Confusion” from trauma survivor, Jaycee Dugard

Mean people confuse me. Mean people, like Phillip and Nancy Garrido, and all the mean people that hurt other people just because they feel like they are entitled to do so. People that abuse animals confuse me. I can’t fathom what makes a person beat or torture a living being. But it happens. It happens more and more. I guess I should consider myself lucky for being confused about these types of people. I really don’t ever want to understand them or why they do the things they do.

On a simpler note, I confuse my lefts and rights all…the…time! This is especially apparent when I’m given directions and I turn the opposite way I was told. This even happens when I’m riding my horse and my trainer Margie says turn left and I turn right. My confusion often turns into embarrassment.

I feel like there is a lot of confusion in the world and trying to figure things out – sometimes feels like my rights and lefts. I can do it, but I must concentrate, picture it in my mind, and my confusion dissipates and becomes clear.

Reflections on “Confusion” from horse specialist, Margie McDonald

Each horse I work with has at some point become confused about what I’m asking them to do. The horse’s personality type will determine how the they will react to something that’s confusing to them. Horses that have had a chance to be calmly presented with a way to solve a problem will not overreact to confusion. Some horses just need a bit more time to think things over and come to a decision about what to do.

I find that if there has been some kind of broken trust between the horse and human, then their response can become defensive and reactionary. It’s almost like a little confusion can go a long way to upset the horse because of how they were treated in the past when they didn’t know the answer to a question. For example, I’ve worked with horses on loading into a trailer and when asked to go in, the horse goes into a complete panic, wants nothing to do with me or the trailer, refuses to even look at a possible solution and tries to bolt. I think most of us have run into this scenario or something similar. If you look at it from the horse’s perspective, loading into a dark black unfriendly hole can be very confusing. Adding to that, if you have people who are in a rush, nervous, or angry, then that can teach a horse that confusion may lead to punishment and danger.

Confusion is just being unsure of what to do. It’s not personal. It’s helpful to slow down, try to get some clarity about what is happening and realize that confusion is often just a way for a horse to ask a question.

Reflections on “Confusion” from empowerment coach, Carmen Theobald

Although I don’t enjoy feeling confused, I’ve come to see it as an important part of transformation. Sometimes that’s a personal transformation. For example, I’ve been confused by my own behaviour, not sure why I did or said something. These moments of confusion expanded my conscious awareness, allowing me the chance to honestly reflect and get to know myself in deeper ways.

Other times, confusion leads to transformation in my relationship with others. When I’ve been confused about another person’s behaviour, it has offered two very different opportunities for transformation to take place. In one way, it’s opened the door to closer relationships. When I got curious, I’ve been able to learn more about their perspective and experience, ultimately opening the door to more meaningful connection. In the second way, my confusion has been a sign post to help me get clear that another person’s behaviour was unhealthy, and possibly harmful. Sometimes, others have actually wanted me to be confused, as this would allow them continue unhealthy behaviour patterns with me. When I got curious about my confusion in these unhealthy relationships, it helped me get clear that I needed better boundaries, or that these were no longer relationships I wanted to keep in my life.

Even if transformation isn’t comfortable or easy, it’s a necessary part of growing, healing, and gaining wisdom. As upsetting as confusion might be, it could be pointing to a key area that will unlock our path of being who we are meant to become.

Now it’s your turn!
What does “confusion” mean to YOU?

Dr. Rebecca Bailey
Author: Dr. Rebecca Bailey

Dr . Bailey is a leading trauma therapist who specializes in complex case scenarios. She has over 30 years of experience in the field and continues to be dedicated to the notion that authenticity, common sense, and kindness are the most important elements of effective treatment. She is a lifelong equestrian and animal lover who continues to believe animals, in particular horses, have much to teach humans about curiosity and compassion.