“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” – Dr. Brené Brown

Take a pause to recall a moment when you felt truly connected. What was that like for you? Perhaps you felt a connection with another person, with an animal, or with yourself. Perhaps you’re lucky enough to have many examples of meaningful connections spring to mind, or perhaps this is something that’s been more of a struggle. No matter what our experience with connection has been, it doesn’t change the fact that we all need and deserve it.

Connection is medicine. It’s the antidote to our emotional pain and suffering. It’s the path to healing and transformation.

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

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

For a program that utilizes a concept called Connection focused Therapy, the word connection means everything. Connection is how we thrive and survive. What happens when the connection feels unsafe or promotes feelings of discomfort? How do you get people from feeling uncomfortable, vulnerable, or exposed by connection to a place where they can settle in and feel at home with others? It isn’t easy. It takes time and patience. For some people, being seen or heard can begin a process that promotes safety through relationships. For others, it might take a shared experience, or the awareness that someone else can see the world from a similar perspective. A moment of reconnection can also be a frightening feeling for someone who has experienced harm by another. Creating an environment where a connection is a possibility takes multiple steps and conscious awareness of fostering an environment of safety.

Reflections on “Connection” from trauma survivor, Jaycee Dugard

Sometimes connections are hard for me. I feel awkward making new friends. Always have, even when I was in school. Either they came and made friends with me, or I didn’t have any. I guess I can’t blame this trait on trauma. It’s much easier to make friends with animals. I had cats growing up and loved them with my whole heart. Still do to this day. Those kinds of connections are easy for me to make.

Horses have been a natural connection for me too. And through the connection with them, I have met a ton of other people that love horse too. They have expanded my connections all over the world, from our friend Carmen from Horse Sense North in Canada, to our friends in Europe and France. We have an exercise that we like to do to begin a workshop with yarn. We gather in a circle, and someone starts with the ball of yarn and says one thing about themselves and tosses it to another in the circle, but holds on to their connection with the string. The ball weaves in and out to each person and by the end it looks like a giant spider web with each one of us representing a connection. It shows us how we are all connected in some way, and that it’s important to remember that when we feel alone.

Reflections on “Connection” from horse specialist, Margie McDonald

Connection is the first goal I have in mind when I’m approaching a horse. I’m looking to see if the horse acknowledges me, is interested in what I’m doing, and questions why I am in their space. Successful connection with a horse happens when we are both working together in agreement, as if with one mind, and there is a feeling of alignment. In order to be in agreement with each other, there must be choice. This leads to connection and brings an understanding of each other’s intention. When a horse looks me over, decides if I’m safe enough to approach and makes a decision to come closer, this is the beginning of “connection”. If I’m lucky and the horse wants to be with me, then that’s when connection can lead to relationship, and perhaps, friendship.

Reflections on “Connection” from empowerment coach, Carmen Theobald

People come to work with the horses and I for many reasons. A common theme in the challenges people face, no matter what their background, is that they struggle to connect: connect with themselves, with others, and/or with their purpose in life.

For many of us, leaning into connection doesn’t come easily, usually because we haven’t felt safe enough to do so. Although connection is incredibly nourishing, necessary and healing, it can also feel highly vulnerable. When our vulnerabilities have been used against us, and our vulnerable moments are made to feel like weakness, this can take away from our ability and willingness to lean into healthy connection.

This is where horses have been completely transformative. When we’re with horses, they hold such an incredibly non-judgemental space for us to be exactly who we are. It’s from this place that true connection is possible. These powerfully kind beings also feel safer with us when we authentically show up with an open heart, allowing us to reframe vulnerable moments into moments of strength, courage and connection.

On many occasions, I’ve seen our horse partners position themselves in front a client, shielding them from the eyes of other workshop participants. I’ll often see them position themselves in this way when a client is experiencing a particularly vulnerable moment, giving them privacy with their large body. More times than I can count, the client will walk out of those sessions smiling, teary eyed, and saying how that is one of the most profound moments of connection they’ve ever experienced.

Now it’s your turn!
What does “connection” 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.