Freedom from “Nose to Tail” Surviving


I went trail riding last summer as part of my vacation. I’m not an avid horse-rider, and though I have this admiring affection for them, I was still afraid. The guides assured me that these horses had ridden this trail a thousand times- they knew exactly what to do and where to go and there shouldn’t be any surprises. It was true. Though some parts of the trail were more open and gave a little bit of freedom, these horses fell into a predictable nose to tail pattern. We switch-backed down through a steep valley; they plodded along with steady, consistent rhythm. But what had intimidated me at the beginning of the trip was there all along; these were big creatures, strong and powerful. And even though they were controlled day by day with reins and the predictability of the trail path, they had all the potential to break free and take me for the gallop of my life.

Nose to tail, nose to tail… plodding along the same path. What happens when a person’s full potential isn’t valued? What happens when a person is actually valued for being less than all that they are, or for doing things (or not doing things) that please only someone else? Value is placed on the wrong thing. In the powerful dynamic between a child and a parent, the child will automatically strive to be more of what their parents value. As a child, I knew I was valued for being good and right, so I strived to be that way. Or what if there is little interest shown at all? Maybe a parent is physically present, but shares no emotional  interaction, doesn’t give of themselves or seek to know, really know, their child? The child assumes that she isn’t worth pursuing, her whole self isn’t worth pursuing. Or maybe, her whole self is “too much” to handle, too much to pursue, not worth the effort.

These were the deep conclusions I had drawn about myself that were at the root of my depression. Over time, what I was valued for was becoming far too cumbersome and burdensome to maintain. Like weights around my shoulders, pulling me down… All my effort to be right and good created endless shoulds and should nots and guilt guards and striving . What I was not valued for was still deep down inside, but so afraid to come out, unaccustomed to interacting with others, unsure of whether or not it would be accepted.  I did not know that it was valuable, and I didn’t know how to value it myself.

This is the work I am doing. Chiselling out more understanding, more understanding, deeper and deeper. Uncovering these root beliefs truly is the door to freedom for everyone still plodding along nose to tail, nose to tail. We are each filled with unique and amazing potential and value beyond this trail.

14 response to "Freedom from “Nose to Tail” Surviving"

  1. By: Carla Dippel Posted: 13th April

    In a nutshell (well, a now cracked open nutshell…) MYSELF! 🙂

  2. By: MaryAnna Posted: 12th April

    Carla, I am curious. What was it that you were hiding inside yourself that you have now let out?

  3. By: BetterLateThanNever:-) Posted: 2nd April

    One sad thing for me is that I honestly tried to figure out what was so palpably wrong with my childhood and fix it when I raised my children, but I didn’t get it figured out right, and didn’t really know how to affirm my daughters for who they were when I still felt such a deep lack of value…just as my own dad had not known how to affirm me for who I was because he himself had been abused and devalued and no one had taught him differently. One of my daughters is doing great despite my lack in this area, another daughter had abuse added to her mix and decided to look for pain relief from everything that had played into her life in “marriage” to another girl. As it turns out, that in itself has been an amazing journey towards healing for me…having God meet me in the midst of that confusion and disappointment and teach me things I really needed–both for my own emotional and spiritual health and for my relationship with my daughter. We have a wonderful relationship currently because God is teaching me grace and unconditional love.

    • By: Carla Dippel Posted: 2nd April

      I don’t have children, BetterLate, but I can imagine the pain of seeing the cycle repeat itself. My thoughts are that as adults, each one of us has the power and the choice to pursue our own wholeness for ourselves, grown adult children included. We can do our best to mend broken relationship in the past and also welcome the freedom and real living that is available for us in the present. It’s great to hear that you have a happy relationship with your daughter today, and it sounds like there are really good things happening between you. Thanks for sharing again!


  4. By: Carla Posted: 2nd April

    Patricia~ having an emotionally absent parent can be one of the hardest hurts to put your finger on (at least, it was for me!) It’s hard to describe what wasn’t really there… As I continued on in my life and noticed other parents interacting with their children differently than mine did, I started to see what I had missed. Thankfully, I am free to re-define my relational life today and to pursue my own wholeness. Thanks for the comment Patricia!

    Hi Edde! Nice to see you here. Thanks for the note!

    Vivian~ powerful insights. Thanks for contributing them. Anger can be a really healing tool in the process. For me, it was also confusing because I believed for so long that I was being self-centered or “bad” if I was angry. Have you heard of “The Angry Book” by Theodore I Rubin? I highly recommend this book in terms of broadening and affirming anger as an important part of being human and healthy. Very insightful point about the lead horse kicking the ones behind… Wow. Thanks Vivian.

    BetterLateThanNever~ yes, you are so not alone in your feelings! I also can really relate to equating approval with love. Approval for being well-behaved or for fulfilling someone else’s desires is very different than freely given affirmation that we are valuable for being ourselves. As kids, we crave approval and have no way of knowing that we are being taken advantage of. But as adults, we can embark on the journey to stop living for other people and live for our own unique purpose and fulfillment. Hugs to you as you continue on this journey!

  5. By: Carla Posted: 2nd April

    Wow- I am blown away by all your comments and all that you have added to deepen and “enrich” my post. Thank you so much for interacting with what I have said here.

    Jimmy B- Just like Darlene said, your thoughts and humor were so insightful. Thank you for sharing so honestly from your own story. You expressed it so well- we get mixed up in the messages and find ourselves in this spin. It takes courage and a desire to live true and free to forge our own trail and actually gallop. I love that you are galloping and free from the “brown shit” you had accepted as normal before.

    Susan, I haven’t heard of Colin Ross but his model sounds very close to the one used in my own therapy. I think what you describe is very very common- children being used to validate their parents worth. In writing these posts, I want to say that even though it may be common, it isn’t loving and the long term effects can be devastating. Thank you for visiting and commenting!

    Debbie/Mom~ thank you for sharing straight from the heart! How you describe one generation following the other- yup. I want people to know that it doesn’t have to be that way. We can be free to break free and not keep ourselves confined to the “status quo”. Mom, I hope your courageous heart will forever ride and gallop free and in whatever direction you choose, exactly like you’ve described here!

  6. By: BetterLateThanNever:-) Posted: 2nd April

    I can soooo relate to the idea of feeling not worth pursuing. And also to the thought that what I was NOT valued for was still deep down inside. Powerful. Thank you for putting these thoughts into words… they are things I relate to deeply but have never been able to identify clearly enough to express.

    Also, from something else I read—on the Emerging from Broken Facebook page—I didn’t realize until today that I have equated approval with love… or at the very least I have NEEDED approval very badly for some reason. I think I am still somewhat afraid both to express anger and to disagree, especially with people whose approval I really crave. I think that being afraid to express my anger turned the anger into passive-aggressive anger that is more covert, and I was almost completely oblivious to it.

    After many years of searching for answers to the pain in my life, God is doing a restorative work in me! And His plan is awesome and perfect…He is weaving all the circumstances of my life into a beautiful tapestry that will bring Him much glory when all is said and done! Imperfect and in-progress as I am, He is already touching the lives of others through me, and it is such a joy!

    Thanks for your posts–they touch my life deeply.

  7. By: Vivian Palmer Harvey Posted: 2nd April

    It’s amazing how deep those roots go and how tenacious they are, wrapped around each other, penetrating deep into our souls.
    It’s painful and threatening to tear up” old roots. I’ve only been able to do so when I’ve found myself angry..furious with the contradictions and imposed “values” from others.
    This is great writing. Thank you..
    Besides all know what happens when one horse follows too closely to the one in front; he gets a painful blow with the lead horse’s heels..I’ve been whacked pretty hard trying to follow too closely,just trying to stay “in the right place” which was not truly mine.
    Taught to be “sheep minded” all of my life, it is liberating to find out it’s ok to “be a peregrine falcon”
    Thank you for sharing these insights..

  8. By: Edde Posted: 2nd April

    beautiful… thank you

  9. By: Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker Posted: 2nd April

    Darlene, you describe my mother quit well. She was never there emotionally for her children. My sister asked me a few years ago where mom was during her childhood. She never remembered mom being around. She was physically in our lives but not emotionally. She was so shut down that she didn’t seem to feel at all.

    My role in our family was that of family hero. I made good grades, excelled in school and was always a teacher’s favorite in whatever class I was in. I even took on my mother’s desire to teach Special Education to ease her guilt over my younger brother drinking kerosene and becoming a slow learner.

  10. By: Debbie Posted: 2nd April


    Parents, like myself, who raised children believing that they were born with a sinful nature which needed to be constantly “checked”, really missed out on the experience of discovering their children as the amazing human beings that they are. As I follow your blog posts it becomes clearer to me personally that the core belief of the parents is what will determine how they raise their children, and the impact that it has on them both. Insecure parents place unfair expectations on their children in order to find the value that they don’t realize in themselves. As I search for healing myself and start to discover my children as individuals (not an extension of myself) I realize that there is a whole new relationship waiting to be discovered. It is also very freeing.

    I could compare the “nose to tail” example with generations as well. One generation plodding along behind the other, simply because that is the way we were taught. Thank you so much for taking up your courage, time, and energy, to delve deep and discover the truth. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    I will never look at trail rides the same. The next time I mount a horse, I hope it will be to ride in whichever direction and whatever pace I choose!


  11. By: Susan Posted: 2nd April

    Darlene; you tell this in such a compelling way and “me too”. I was fortunate to have landed with a new therapist who “got” this concept and was able to support my journey into wholeness. It was there that I learned about the Trauma Model developed by Colin Ross. In this model the focus is on learning to recognize the shift of power and the ambivalence ie love/hate in parent/child relationships that are unhealthy and focussed on the child being all to the adult to validate the adults worth through the dance of power/control and how this influences us unconsciously as adults – until we learn to change it.

    Thanks for such thoughtful and insightful posts!


  12. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 2nd April

    You use a key phrase in here “pursuing the worth someone else picks for us”. That is really deep and insightful and very true. I think that is why so many people feel like they need to “find themself”. One of the big freedoms for me today is that I too know who I am today and feel like I am living MY life now.
    I enjoyed reading your comment. Not only is it very insightful, but it made me smile and laugh at the end.
    Thank you for sharing your success and freedom in your recovery from being defined by others.

  13. By: Jimmy B Posted: 2nd April

    You have hit a deep topic. One has to wonder what self worth is, what it would look like, how it would feel and how to grow in the maturity and understanding to seek self worth and value. As children we are valued for what we can do, how good we can be and how hard we strive to be these things. The problem is we are persuing the worth someone else picks for us. Some days we are “Good Enough” and others we are cast aside and told to do better, work harder and suck it up. We get mixed up in the messages that are told to us and that sends us into a spin that can last a life-time. I didn’t know I was in a spin until I could not stand my life anymore nor could my loved ones stand being around me. I was following a very familuar path that was paved for me since I was born. I hated the path. I had to change. I had to get out of the spin. I had to “Grow Up” and learn the proper understanding of maturity, self worth and value. I know now I am loved and I am a valuable human being. Not by what others say but how I truley feel and know in my heart that I have worth and I love myself. All the years of being told I was not good enough was like nose to tail–brown nose and smelling shit all the time. It is good to be on my own trail, galloping along instead of plodding. The air is alot better also

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