‘Don’t be ridiculous’

‘Stel je niet aan’

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“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 that to someone: ‘Don’t be rediculous!’. As if you can know how another person feels and how he reacts 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 to, and you like it nice enough, or it can’t ever go fast enough as far as you’re concerned;
  • touching: No, don’t like stuf or people touching me or more touch please.

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

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

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

Once an adult, or even as a child, you can then enrole in some course 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 the 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 opinion is listened to. You don’t have to give in to every request, but you do need to take them seriously. 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, over the back of my child? If I do this before responding, it saves us negative interactions and my son 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 ever 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 seriously 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 he thinks it is, isn’t a helpful answer here. You could say that you are sorry that you have to miss him that evening, but that you would like to see him another time. And you’ll make sure it’ll be in a calmer place, so he can better enjoy himself.

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 so loud and I don’t think I would like the steep fall and splashing water. And I do really like watching you enjoy yourself there;
  • you really dislike the stickiness? I don’t, shall I peel it for you then?

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.

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