WRITTEN BY Bettina Shultz-Jobe, LPC, NBCC
Today is August 7th. August 7th, 2010, Tim and I were married. We had a sunrise wedding at the family ranch in the Texas Panhandle. It was outside on a plateau, overlooking a beautiful canyon, so sunrise was about the only time of day we could lessen the chances of enduring the kinds of winds that blow houses over the rainbow!
We did our first dance horseback to the song “I Run to You” by Lady Antebellum, and I almost fell from Zeus, my trusted steed! We shared a communion of coffee and homemade biscuits with friends and family during the ceremony. We then had tequila sunrises and a delicious chuck wagon breakfast, prepared by a dear friend. The day was perfect!
It is practically impossible to think about our wedding and engagement, without thinking about our business, our first “baby.” The weeks prior to our wedding we built a website, with the help of my brother in law, and started a business. We simply can’t separate ourselves or our relationship from Natural Lifemanship and the idealized belief system at its foundations.
A few years ago, Tim and I wrote the statement you will read below. Natural Lifemanship has grown well beyond the two of us, but these beliefs are the hands that continue to hold us personally and professionally. They are still the touchstone of Natural Lifemanship’s principle-based and process-oriented model of therapy.
We are terribly imperfect at practicing what we believe and what we teach. Tim and I are quite complicated human beings, with all kinds of baggage, and a fly on the wall would attest to how inadequate our best is in the hardest of times. Actually, our closest family and friends can attest to this wholeheartedly, I’m sure.
We are so very different from each other, and there is a rub that doesn’t work each and every moment but does seem to work out most days. So much has changed for us in the last 7 years, but what we believe has not, and our daily choice to try our darndest to care more about relationships than anything else remains.
The statement below is what our certification students agree to before they complete certification in Natural Lifemanship. Today, Tim and I reflect on how these beliefs have affected our relationship, our mission, and our passion, and feel blessed to be part of a community that chooses to attest to such a statement. . . and humbled by the many people whose work and heart have contributed to our mission. . . and by each moment’s grace to change, grow, and, above all, connect.
NL Ethics and Beliefs Statement:
As a person certified in Natural Lifemanship I attest to the following: I believe the most important thing in life is connected, attuned relationships with self and others (including relationship with animals, my Creator as I understand him or her, nature, the universe, etc.) All of life’s healing happens in the context of attuned relationships based on trust, mutual respect, appropriate intimacy, and partnership. I believe strength is found in vulnerability, and that conflict in relationships can be opportunities for growth that can strengthen the relationship. Therefore, regardless of the task or activity, a connected relationship with self and others is always the goal.
I believe that a partnership can happen when each party seeks to control themselves only, and true partnership happens when each party appropriately controls themselves for the good of the relationship. I believe that if it’s not good for both, it’s eventually not good for either and that a one-sided relationship is damaging to both parties.
Regardless of what is going on around me, it is possible to control what is happening inside of me. Relationship with others, quite simply, flows out of the relationship with self (what we sometimes call regulation or my way of being in the world). Therefore, WHO I am is more important than WHAT I do. I realize that I can’t teach someone to do something I can’t do. Likewise, I can’t teach someone to live a life that I don’t live. As a result, personal growth becomes the foundation for ethical therapy. The most important thing is to do my best to do what is right for my client. I understand that what is best may not be what is easiest. In order to do what is right for my clients, I have to know myself – my biases, my blindspots, and at the moment, I have to be connected with my own reactions and impulses so I can filter them. Only then can I do what is actually, truly best for my client. The team approach in NL affords me the opportunity to model a relationship where the NL principles play out and provide a space for the therapy team to notice and discuss biases and blind spots. It is, therefore, my ethical obligation to foster a healthy relationship with my therapy partner. Clinical consultation is a regular part of ethical practice, especially if I am working alone in therapy sessions.
I believe animals are sentient beings, who have relational and thinking capabilities, and can be capable of partnership if given the chance to develop. I believe that a good principle is a good principle regardless of where it is applied. Therefore, all NL principles apply equally to relationship with self and others. The relationship between horse and human is a real relationship in which relational patterns emerge, just like in any other relationship.
When NL certified, I become part of a community of individuals who are deeply committed to connecting with self, connection with others, and who strive for connected relationships the way it was intended. As such, this community of practitioners strives to foster relationships that bring about healing for self, others, and the animal partners with which we work.