Field Theory: A Relational View of Social Reality
What do we actually mean when talking about the “competitive field” in equestrian sports?
The concept of “field” (or “field theory”) is a way of talking about social reality that can help us more effectively navigate everyday life, including the competitive field. People tend to think of social reality as made up of the things around them - mostly people, but sometimes animals and even objects. This “substantialist” view of reality focuses on what can be seen or touched. A different view of social reality is called “relational” because it focuses what connects people into larger wholes, such as friendships, families, groups, and even whole cultures or societies.
From this relational perspective, reality is made of up social spaces we create through interaction with others. When you meet someone for the first time, you might say something that leads the other person to react and that reaction leads you to react in return. If interaction is temporary or fleeting, then a social space is unlikely to form. However, when interaction is sustained over time, a particular pattern will emerge that connects two people. This pattern that connects is unique to each relationship and differentiates it from all others. Thus, no two relationships are ever exactly the same. In everyday terms, we call these spaces relationships.
The relationship between you and another person exists not just in you nor in the other but in the space between you as well. This social space is invisible, but it is no less real than you or the other person. You can see all the members of your family, but your family is something more, something you can sense, but not something you can actually see. Even though you cannot see these patterns, they are very powerful. Your family probably has a powerful influence on the way you think, feel, and act.
In order to account for the power of social spaces, the psychologist Kurt Lewin and the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu borrowed the concept of field from physics. Just like a magnetic field causes pieces of metal to move in certain way without actually touching them, competitive fields (like all fields) cause people feel, think, and act in a certain way.
The competitive field in equestrian sports works in the same way. As soon as you enter it, it affects how you think, feel, and act. Actually the competitive field exists and affects you all the time, but the effect becomes particularly powerful and dominant at a competition. competitive riders even when they are at home. You are probably not aware of this effect, but it has an important impact on your performance. That’s why it’s important to become aware of the competitive environment, or any dominant field for that matter, and its affect on you, if you want to perform at your best.
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