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The Horse and the Rider (How to Keep From Veering Off Course)

Not long ago, I went horseback riding with our daughter. We are not experienced riders, so it was a nice and easy trail ride with a few guides walking alongside us.

My horse's name was "Zip." The guides gave us a few basic commands and actions to get our horses to go, stop, and turn. They explained to me how to guide Zip with the reins gently this way or that, squeeze my legs against Zip and make a clicking noise to make him go, pull back gently on the reins and say, "Whoooaaaa" to make him stop. Everything seemed to work according to plan. Zip walked nice and calmly, following the horse in front of him along the trail, giving me an enjoyable experience as I admired the views around me. I felt like a genuine cowboy. Until...Zip got distracted. As we went along, Zip began to do his own thing. He would veer off the trail because he saw some tasty-looking plant he wanted. Or, it was time to start walking again and I would squeeze my legs and click my mouth, and Zip wouldn't budge. Eventually one of the guides would have to come along and expertly get Zip back on track. When Zip would stay in line and follow my directions, I enjoyed a beautiful, serene ride. But when he would get distracted, it derailed the experience and my intention of having an enjoyable trail ride. This is how it works with us and our emotions. You, the rational you, the one who thinks clearly, the one who sets intentions and goals, are the rider. Your emotions are the horse you are riding. Your feelings drive your behavior. When the horse is calm, the rider is in control. He is going the direction he intends to go. When the horse is in control, (or out of control), he is racing off the intended course. Here's an important observation: You are riding the horse. In other words, when the horse decides to go off the path, you're along for the ride. It's the same with your emotions. Think about it. You may have a goal that you are pursuing. Maybe it's to be a loving, present father. Maybe it's to go to the gym three times a week. Maybe it's to be more assertive at your job. Or maybe your goal is to not eat an entire pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream tonight (or maybe I'm the only one with that goal). Or, maybe you've told yourself a million times that you're going to stop watching porn and you want to stick with it this time. Great, those are excellent goals. All set right? Things are going well. You're making progress. You're doing that which you set the intention to do. But then, you wake up and just really don't feel like going to the gym. Or your kids are driving you crazy and you're feeling really impatient and irritable. Or you feel insecure, unsure, and small at your work. Or you've had a long, stressful day, it's nighttime, and the Ben & Jerry's craving hits you like a ton of bricks. Or, that familiar urge to watch porn floods you again, and it's just too hard to resist. Those are the moments when your horse is veering off course. It is derailing the rider's (your) plan. So what is the rider to do? The rider may try to aggressively yank and pull his horse back on course, but it only makes the horse more distracted. I noticed that when one of our guides came to bring Zip back to the path, she gently and calmly guided Zip back to where he should be. This is exactly how we want to approach our feelings as well. Specifically, this is how we want to approach the urge to watch porn. And how do you actually do that? The P.A.T.H. Plan. When you are going along towards your goal of being free from porn, and that familiar urge arises and threatens to veer you off course, pull out the P.A.T.H Plan. It is the most effective way that I have found to handle the urge and get back on course towards your goal. We're all riding a horse of emotions, whether we want to or not. And the truth is, we can't stop the horse from getting us off course from time to time. But, you CAN learn how to be a more effective rider. You can develop the skill of bringing your horse back on track more easily, and more quickly. Does this sound like something you want for you and your "horse"? Lastly, remember this: you, the rider, are on a path to an unbelievably beautiful and serene place. You can even catch glimpses of it from time to time. The destination is the fresh air of freedom. And it is absolutely within your reach. Next step, Dan

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