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Our Neurobiological Requirements for Healthy Relationships


You may know the feeling: the room is crowded but for some reason you feel empty. The attendees may be people from work, fellow students, sales people hawking their prey for a sale. Somehow you muster a façade that will carry you through the occasion.

The event is brief so your effort to form meaningful relationships is mediocre. Once it’s over, you realize the best feeling of the evening is having it behind you. You’re heading home for slippers and bedtime. Your intention was to show up, that’s it. Success!

You invested your time, but little else. The prophecy has been fulfilled that you weren’t going to get anything out of it anyway. Perhaps this was a lost opportunity to forge a meaningful connection. You’ll never really be sure.

For some, if not most, these situations are difficult. Fortunately, we can manage the discomfort of pushing past our comfort zones to form healthy, life-sustaining connections with our fellow humans.

According to Dr. Dan Siegel, neurobiological research shows that our brain can form deep meaningful relationships with others if empathy, compassion, morality and a sense of integrity are present. This life science focuses on the anatomy, physiology, and pathology of the nervous system — how our brain power works. Without these pivotal attributes, we promote the formation of very thin connections with others in our lives.

At Rise Canyon Ranch we are fortunate to work with clients to help them access and develop their capabilities for empathy, compassion, morality, and integrity via the human-to-horse connection:

  • Empathy – The cognitive and emotional reactions of an individual to the observed experience of another (Lesley Univ.). Having empathy increases the likelihood of helping others and showing compassion.

  • Compassion – It literally means “to suffer together.” Among emotional researchers (UC Berkeley) it is defined as the feeling that arises when you are confronted with another’s suffering and feel motivated to relieve that suffering. Compassion is not the same as empathy or altruism, though the concepts are related.

  • Morality – The American Psychological Association (APA) defines it as a system of beliefs or set of values relating to right (vs. wrong) conduct, against which behavior is judged to be acceptable or unacceptable.

  • Integrity – According to the APA it is defined as the quality of moral consistency, honest, and truthfulness with oneself and others.

Addressing the yearning for deeper connections starts by understanding your fundamental thoughts and feelings. Trusting the science behind the building blocks of deeply connected relationships will improve the way you interact with others.

When you invest more of your brain’s power during an event or personal interaction, your return on investment will be fruitful. And let’s face it, the thought of slippers and bedtime will always be enjoyable.

If you or anyone you know would like more information about the benefits of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP) or Equine Assisted Learning (EAL), please contact Rise Canyon Ranch at 714-477-1630 (Orange County, CA) and 928-288-0780 (Yavapai County, AZ). Come for the horses. Stay for the self-discovery.

As discussed with: Dr. Theresa Dubois, PsyD, LMFT

Written by: Anne Kruse

Photo credit: Rise Canyon Ranch


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