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Water off a duck's back?


"Let it roll like water off a duck's back." I hear that in my head right now because I'm still stewing over what I consider to be a rude series of things that were said at lunch yesterday. Why does the concept bother me so much? Essentially, this ain't water and I'm not a duck. It implies that the thing that's bothering me is a natural event and I'm getting my feathers ruffled for no reason. THAT is why it makes me mad. I know that the intention is completely different. The intention is to encourage me to move past it so that I can become comfortable with life again. But calling it water on a duck's back is emotionally invalidating. Then I have to get past that, too. Am I supposed to let that roll like water off a duck's back, too?



I once was visiting with a friend who had a six-year-old child. He was out to play with the neighbor kids, something that was typically a challenge since he had some social difficulties due to ADHD. After a while, he came bursting in, tears streaming down his face. "They don't want to play with me!" he sobbed. She took him in her arms, rocked him gently, and said, "I'm so sorry. I know it doesn't feel good." In five minutes, he was up and around.



Of course, the physical behaviors aren't practical in adult situations. But wouldn't it be something if when an adult's feathers were ruffled, someone said, "I can see that this is really bothering you! I'm really sorry about that. What can I do to help?" Sometimes my answer to such a question is actually, "Nothing. I just needed to vent." Sometimes the venting helps and allowed me to move on and/or figure out what to do next.



I think of this a bit like working with a dog. "Leave it," isn't always what Loretta needs, especially if she's gotten scared by a loud noise. In my work, loud noises that startle her earn a "That's all right," and perhaps even some follow-up talk to keep her going and reassure her that it's ok to keep working. If she completely stops, I might even pet her and say, "Hup hup, that's all right. Good girl! You can do it! I know that was loud." She's not made for working through loud noises any more than i'm made for working around negativity, although sometimes we both have to do it. The affirmation matters in making that possible.

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Sarah Blake LaRose
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