There are several themes that seem to repeat themselves with the clients I see. One of them is how we humans can keep our suffering alive by constantly re-running our past in our heads. One of the ways I explain how we don’t have to do this is the Duck Story.
Since we live on a small pond connected to a larger lake, I’ve had the opportunity to watch the ducks & geese interact with each other occasionally. I’m often reminded of this story. I can’t remember where I first heard it, but it makes sense.
Have you ever seen 2 ducks fighting? After a time, they separate, flap their wings vigorously for a few minutes – and then they’re both peaceful. They don’t have a human mind that continues the story (of what the other duck did or said to me and how I’m never going to get close to that duck – or any other duck for that matter – ever again! That way I won’t ever have to feel this kind of pain).
No, the ducks just go on peacefully and meet each moment and situation as it arises.
Keeping the story going – thinking/repeating in our heads (what I call intellectual violence), is what causes the suffering. The body doesn’t know the difference between the actual event – or the memories/thoughts about the event – or a similar situation that FEELS like the original. So it reacts the same way when it senses those feelings of pain/shame/vulnerability. This is when we know we’ve been traumatized. If it’s strong enough, it doesn’t even have to be conscious for us to react to something or someone that reminds us of a painful experience or a person who perpetrated pain upon us.
Sometimes, we’ve held onto something so long, or it’s so ingrained into our system that we need professional help – like a therapist who practices a method such as EMDR (see my website for a short explanation of it) or some other form of trauma therapy. If we’ve been traumatized, then it’s not just a matter of “forget it and move on.” We usually have to go back and find a way to make peace with it, forgive ourselves and any other person involved, and let it go. If we just try to move on without going through this process, we’ll find ourselves controlled by the incident – precisely because we aren’t as lucky as the ducks. We do have human minds that complicate matters.
But the lesson on how to prevent this with most future events is to truly live in the moment, like the ducks. Put it out of our mind, forget the details, in order to get past the emotional hold. We can make the choice to not let it take hold of us and run our lives.
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is a choice.