The Fear Constellation

My mentee, Richard Griffin, wrote this heartfelt descriptive piece about his personal experience of a table top Constellation we did together during a four day intensive here at Silver Horse Retreat.

Sara sits at the end of the table, surveying the horse figurines she has placed in front of her. I am to her right at the side of the table. "Pick one to represent where you are today," she says. I look at the fifty or so horse figurines and try to pick one. I have learned over these four days of working with her that my logical left-brain will be of little use in choosing. The part of my brain that enabled me to get a PhD in Physics many years ago will only make me anxious if I use it to choose. Instead, I tune into my intuitive, relational, feeling brain. I choose a black and white pinto that looks young, energetic, curious, and eager, yet somehow hesitant. That is actually the way I feel in this moment. I place it slightly to my left and in the center of the table. "Good," she says.

 Richard facing his fear

Richard facing his fear

"Now pick a horse to represent the fear you spoke of." I quickly spot a medieval warhorse clothed in battle armor. The horse is black but his head is covered in a shiny metal helmet so only his mouth and eyes are visible. He has a silver and red saddle that can support and protect a knight in armor. His war blanket is white with red dragons emblazoned on it. A fearsome looking horse cloaked in mystery. I name him Fear. I place him directly opposite and facing Richard Now (the pinto). Richard Now must get past Fear to achieve his goal. Sara makes an appreciative comment about how the scene feels to her.

"Pick a horse to represent you after you have gone beyond or overcome the fear." I again choose to use my intuitive brain, and search the figurines. I spot a dark tan, powerful looking horse with a black face, mane, and tail. His right foreleg is raised as he steps boldly forward. This feels right to me and I place Future Richard slightly to my right beyond Fear. The three horses are now arrayed as follows:  Richard Now to my left but facing right, Fear in the center facing left, and Future Richard to the right of Fear and moving out into the Unknown.

 Future Richard in foreground

Future Richard in foreground

The fear I have spoken about reflects my concerns about being able to make a living on this new life-path I have chosen. I know I will need to market myself, be seen, be heard, and make proclamations about what matters to me. Thinking about this triggers a primitive fear in me. I know from past experience that if the trigger is strong enough, the fear will put me into freeze mode and can set me back hours, maybe even days. It wasn’t safe for me as a child to be seen or heard, let alone make bold proclamations. That's how you get a spanking. A spanking that is actually a beating.

Sara continues. "What is a word that feels like it would support you as you move toward your fear?" I think about it, feel into it, and decide to keep it simple. "Confidence," I say. "OK. Choose a horse to represent Confidence." I take my time and find a bold, strong horse with powerfully sculpted mane and tail. I place it slightly behind and to the right of Richard Now. The pinto is no longer alone and the feeling of support that comes from seeing this is surprisingly reassuring. I do feel more confident.

"I feel like your wife belongs out there. She seems very supportive of you, based on what you have told me." I choose a white horse that seems to carry the energy and spirit of my wife. Sara smiles and says, "The Gypsy Pony!" I laugh because my wife once played Gypsy Rose Lee in a community theatre production. It was her favorite role. I place Gypsy at the left side of the pinto. Richard Now has two horses supporting him.

I suddenly get an idea and start looking for another horse without Sara's prompting. She notices and lets me complete it without interruption. I choose a youthful looking horse, dark and powerful, slightly wild and tempestuous. A horse that is restless, wanting to move forward. I place it to the right of Confidence and just slightly behind the line of the pinto's nose. This is my daughter. Sara likes this and smiles.

 Richard's mother

Richard's mother

"What about your parents?" I don't like that Sara asks this. Both of my parents physically abused me. When I am feeling sorry for myself, I blame them for all my problems. Bringing them into this picture will complicate things, I think. But again I feel into my emotions and body. I imagine what it would be like to have parents who are supportive and proud of me. I can imagine that my parents, who are both dead, really did want me to succeed, really did wantto support my dreams. They just didn't know how. So I begin looking for Mother Horse. I see one whose face reminds me of my mother. It's a beautiful face, not a horsey face. This horse has my mother's good qualities. I'm a little annoyed that the horse has a garland of red roses draped across her withers. I don't think of my mother as a winner but, based on the feeling I am going for, I choose this horse and place her to the right of and somewhat removed from the pinto. I place her slightly forward of the pinto, and point her so she is looking at Future Richard. Somehow this feels appropriate. She's no longer here in bodily form, so her spirit being forward of me and looking at where I want to be feels supportive. Amazingly so, I notice.

I go through a similar process for my father and choose an Appaloosa. I place Daddy to the left of Richard Now and somewhat removed. Daddy also is slightly forward and looking at Future Richard. Again, this feels supportive. The way I wish my father had been.

I sense that this is now the full constellation. Sara makes no indication that I need more figurines on the table. We talk about how it feels as I look at the Fear Constellation. How it feels to have support. How it feels to face the fear. How it feels to see myself beyond the fear someday. "Does it feel possible that you will move beyond the fear?" she asks. "Yes," I say. "It does feel that way."

"What do you suppose will happen to the Fear horse when you move beyond it?" This catches me off guard. "Hmmm. What will happen?," I ask myself. I stand up, walk around to the other side of the table. I put my hands behind my head and survey the scene. "What will happen to Fear?," I say again and again to myself. Then it hits me. The wave of emotion that strikes threatens to overwhelm me. Adrenaline amps up my awareness. I become agitated and stop breathing. My eyes get large. I let go with a big exhale and step away from the table. I start to breathe again. After a moment, I come back to the table, pick up Fear and place it slightly behind and to the left of Richard Now.

 Richard with his fear behind him

Richard with his fear behind him

Fear has become Ally.

Richard Griffin provides equine-assisted coaching in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. He specializes in personal development and family relationship coaching using constellation work, mind-body integration, and learning tools based on brain-science and neuroplasticity to help you live a life in alignment with your deepest knowing – your True Self. For more information about Richard, go to richardgriffincoaching.com.

Photography: Sara Fancy