‘Don’t be ridiculous’

‘Stel je niet aan’

Delen | Share

“What are you talking about? It’s not that cold at all, really.”

‘But it’s super fun! Let’s go on that roller coaster!’

“What do you mean? I don’t smell anything at all.”

“Well, that wasn’t so bad, was it?”

I always wonder how you can say to someone: ‘Don’t be ridiculous!’. As if you can know how another person feels and how they react to sensory input. It’s just not possible. The fact that you were not shaken by that loud sound does not mean that the other person cannot experience the same sound as way too loud and perhaps even painful. It just depends on how important the ‘sensory input filter’ in the brain thought this sound to be. Not so important? Then the sound probably was passed on to your consciousness, but not very strongly. But if the other person’s input filter treated the sound as very important, then it may have hit his or her consciousness at full blast.

And this works the same with other sensory input, such as:

  • food: do I like the taste or not;
  • scents: delicious, nice enough or not nice at all;
  • movement: ‘slow’ is a speed too, and you like it slow, thank you very much. Or it can’t go fast enough as far as you’re concerned;
  • touching: No, I don’t like things or people touching me, or; more touching, please!

By saying ‘don’t be ridiculous’, you are actually saying: ‘I know exactly how that felt for you.’ But again, that can’t be.

Think about what message you’re giving to the other person; “You can’t trust your own perceptions, I know how you perceive things better than you do.” This is a message that, if repeated often enough, causes the other person to stop trusting their own experiences. You teach them not to take their own feelings serious. Especially if an adult makes these comments to a child. Food for psychologists!

By saying ‘don’t be ridiculous’, you are actually saying: ‘I know exactly how that felt for you.’ 

Once an adult, or even as a child, you will probably need some trainingprogram or other, where you learn to ‘find yourself’. But you never really had to ‘lose yourself’. As long as your reactions are taken seriously and not compared against the other person’s experiences. Because that’s what you are doing; using your own experiences and determining for the other person what they are experiencing. Weird. While you should really respect the other person by respecting their thoughts and feelings.

What would it be like if we said to children: ‘So you don’t want to wear that sweater? Okay. Can you tell me why not?’ If the child does not yet have words for it, you can help them along and ask questions such as: ‘Do you think the sweater is ugly? Is it too hot? Does it itch or is it too tight?’ Together you look for a solution, such as removing a label so that it does not scratch and itch all day long.

Even if the child has no words for it yet, you can assume that there is something wrong with that sweater for this child. And sure, a child can be just plain annoying, as can an adult. But they really won’t grumble in every situation just because they don’t feel like doing something. And if they sometimes do, try to see if the child becomes less stubborn when their feelings are taken seriously. You don’t have to give in to every request, but you do need to take them serious. Teach them a basic attitude of listening to objections or ideas, by modeling this behavior. This will prevent a lot of conflicts and discussions. I regularly ask myself: am I trying to prove myself right here, disregarding my child? If I do this before responding to my son, it saves us negative interactions and he feels heard.

If say, your child does not want to go to the family gathering, try to find out why not. Maybe your daughter says that grandma has such a small house, that she get scolded when she accidentally knocks something over or bumps into people. And that’s why she doesn’t want to go. It’s hard for her to sit still or move with caution. You could solve this by going to a playground before the gathering and go outside with her after half an hour or forty-five minutes in the small house. And if you go out for dinner, you’ll be looking for a restaurant with a playground.

How good would it be if we teach children to trust their own reactions to the world?!

Also consider how serious you take your own reactions. Do you say ‘yes’ to that appointment while everything in your mind screams ‘NO!!’ How seriously do we take a friend if he says that he is not coming to your party because the sensory overload is very uncomfortable? Saying it’s really not so bad as they think it is, isn’t a helpful answer here. You could say that you are sorry that you have to miss them that evening, but that you would like to see them another time. And you’ll make sure it’ll be in a calmer place, so they can better enjoy themselves.

How good would it be if we teach children to trust their own reactions to the world?!

The next time a child shares something they like or dislike, think about your answer:

  • so you lóve going on extreme slides?;
  • you’d rather not have the orange, because you find it sticky?

If you feel differently, it’s good to compare experiences:

  • the screams would be to loud for me, they hurt my ears. And I don’t think I would like the steep fall and splashing water. I would however really like watching you enjoy yourself on the slide;
  • you really dislike the stickiness? I don’t mind that, would you like me to peel it for you?

And in this way we become pleasant, independent beings who do not have to go find themselves, because we (are allowed to) take our own feelings and observations seriously.

Aanbevolen | Recommended

Alarmfase 1

DefCon 1

Sometimes it all gets to be a little too much. Especially at the end of the day, when everyone comes together at the table. Sensory


Overresponsiveness and public transport

Traveling by public transport is not my favourite activity. Once you’re on the train or tram, it is indeed relaxed, letting yourself be transported from

Scroll to Top