• Alex Gulland

Eye-to-Eye Contact

Growing up I was extremely sensitive and comically shy.


Why comically?


Well, for the first two years, during my time at my comprehensive school, in South Wales. I wore my coat hood up in a bid to try and be invisible — as you may have already guessed - it didn't work of course,


I still remained a fully visible, chubby, teenager, but in my head it helped.


I actually looked a lot like Kenny from South Park - a character who’s oft-muffled and indiscernible speech was the result of his Parka hood covering his mouth

Putting the 'hood fascination' to one side, I also had a terror of talking with any of my school mates, as it would mean looking them in the eye.


Conversing with teachers and answering questions in class was also a completele 'no-go' area and would lead to an on-the-spot nosebleed.


During this time if I had to talk with anyone, the only way I could just about do this was with my hood up and staring doggedly over the top of their heads.


These days I guess an expert would probably try and chart me somewhere on the Autistic Spectrum.


However, at the end of the day, I put all these strange habits down to being constantly anxious about life in general — the world was just too big for me.


They say some people are frightened of heights - well I think i was also frightened of widths!


I also had a very active imagination and a morbid fascination of my imminent death in a gruesome accident


I wasn't always shy of course — at a very early age I showed great promise and according to my mother, I used to randomly accost passersby with a cheery 'Hello Gorgeous' shouted from my pushchair.


There was a gap of at least a quarter of a century before I comfortably returned to this habit — minus the pushchair, of course.


When I wasn't worrying about going to school, even more bizarrely I lived in fear of my family being scalped by Native American Indians.


Yes people, as in Cowboys and Indians!


I have to add at this point that my parents were exceptionally patient and loving people.


I know that I am not alone at being engulfed in a permanently anxious state during childhood.


For instance - Elizabeth Gilbert, (author of 'Eat, Pray, Love' and 'Big Magic') spent a great deal of her childhood, like me, being perpetually worried.


So I would like think I am in good but potentially anxious company.


What's the point of telling you all this, apart from confirming that I've actually lost the hood now...


Well, the only place where I have truly felt at home was with my dog and also when in the company of horses.


I had worked out at a very early age that horses and dogs don't judge, they just take you as you are. If you want to talk then talk, if you want to just sit in golden silence then that's good too.


As a child the only place I was truly happy with my hood down, was when I was with my four legged friends.


A real turning point for me, was when I learnt about how horses viewed the world.


A horse has monocular vision, which means that the area in the right eye’s field of vision, is perceived and processed by the brain separately from the area in the left eye’s field of vision.


This totally blew my mind as a teenager — how amazing would Christmas be if we had monocular vision, we could see all our presents twice.!


However, in practical terms for the horse, this type of vision comes from them being prey animals and having to be always wary of potential predators.


So a horse has to see images from both sides of his brain before determining whether its friend or foe, as viewing objects with one eye doesn’t adequately acclimate him to them.


I think this is a pretty cool way to be, they have to check us with both eyes before they are comfortable with their environment.


Now, I know this is extreme, but imagine if this type of vision was true for humans.


How much more care would we take when approaching friends and strangers. It would certainly slow us down a bit — which I think the world needs to do in general.


Now I am not suggesting that we have a 'Go To Work As A Horse Day’ although that would be sort of cool.


Imagine a client running into a meeting room, observing you once with one eye, then leaving the room for a minute and slowly coming back in again to greet you with the other eye— 'What Larks Pip'.


I managed to extricate myself from Wales and move to London at the age of 19.


Away from Wales I found a way of reinventing myself.


I eventually managed to look many wonderful people directly in their eyes and learned that communication, was actually a beautiful thing and could be satisfactorily achieved without a hood.


During the next 25 years, I worked in the creative industry at many top agencies

However, when I got stressed with this world, my heart and my head would always lead me back to being with horses.


These days I love working as an Equine Facilitated Practitioner and I am learning something new about horses and myself everyday.


I feel as if it was something I was born to do.


Horse Practitioning did not feature very prominently on my School Careers Advisor’s radar.


I was told I could possibly make a living out of being a hairdresser!


Now I love hairdressers but I think that the only reason my advisor pointed a monosyllabic me in that direction, was because she saw I that I had nice hair...


Anyway, putting my hair to one side (excuse the pun).


When I now look back on my early years. I am pleased that I went through my 'Kenny Hood' phase, as it taught me how to watch and observe people, but more importantly it also gave me my love of horses.


Horse Practitioning could be beneficial to people of all ages especially if they suffer from anxiety, stress etc.,


If you feel that that you want help taking your own metaphorical hood off, then please visit my website and feel free to call me direct for advice or further information.


www.contentedpeople.co.uk


alex.gulland@contentedbrands.com






















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