RESILIENCE – shake it off like a duck

Ducks have a great resilience to trauma. When coming down from a “fight or flight” traumatic moment, it shakes off the trauma so that, not only has it left the experience behind but their physical body has left it behind.

Humans don’t have the capacity for this and so we carry the traumas with us throughout our life.

We have the conscious option though, of choice. Or as the saying goes : where your focus goes, energy flows.

How can we learn to shake it off like the duck does?

And why am I linking this to resilience?

Here are my thoughts:

It might sound rather harsh to say that we can shake trauma off like a duck. I think that where the actual difficulty comes in, is our capacity of creating a narrative in our heads.

We all experience trauma, I would go as far as saying that birth is the very first one. It’s a rupture of a flow that creates a change in our development. And it leaves traces, it alters us. When it crystallises in our bodies and becomes a blocked part, where life finds it hard to flow, it hardens us. The more we experience trauma that gets stuck in the body, the stiffer and less lively the body becomes. It’s a way to protect, we create the armour around us to ensure that other experiences stay on the outside.

This is the reason the duck can get rid of it so easily. It doesn’t become a thing. It happens, the duck shakes it out of its system and moves on.

We are so habituated with keeping it, making it personal, creating a narrative that it feels unnatural  to do this. But if we leave old trauma behind for just a second and focus on the now, then we can go back to the harder nut to crack a little later on.

Where your focus goes, energy flows. This means that the more you push towards something, the less that force can be given to something else. The longer you ruminate over the driver that stole your parking place during the rest of the day, the less you will be able to appreciate the sunshine. The harder you try to please your mother, the less you manage to liberate yourself from her (in your fantasy or real) judgement. Why? Because by sticking on something that happened, that was, you refuse to follow the flow of life that continues. In other words; if you don’t flow with time, you are resisting it. What does flow feel like? Ease, things happen naturally, synchronicity…

What does resistance feel like? Blocked, stuck, frustration.

The duck has no resistance. Basically, like anything in nature (well except us humans). Look at a tree that has taken the most incredible shape because of how the mountain lies or because of another tree? It hasn’t been resisting what is happening, just bending to continue its flow of ease. The flowers follow the sun, which is why the ones planted outside a house are all turned away from the walls and facing the sun. Where the focus goes, energy flows. Life flows.

If I would use new age words, I would say that by keeping your focus on something that happened, you stay on that frequency. You know that feeling: when someone is angry and you feel the flush of their anger inside of you, it can stay with you the whole day. But it doesn’t necessarily work to shake the body. Sometimes it does, dancing can be very therapeutic for this! Or yoga.

But if we would use our human capacity of the narrative, we can turn it into a tool in these moments. I can choose to turn my attention towards something that pleases me, something that I can see or something I can smell or something I just remember too.

I can bring it into my focus and become very detailed in order to make it more real, make it last longer and basically let my energy flow there because my focus is on it. Have you ever been in a fight with someone when something unexpected happens that throws you off a little? If it takes your attention long enough or – even better – makes the two of you laugh, it can even have you forget what the fight was about. Your focus has turned away from the resistance and your energy flows there.

If we are lucid enough, we can use or capacity to reason to get us out of the traumatic feeling. We do this when we tell ourselves that the driver who is being careless is probably in a bad mood for something that happened or that the person who blames us is probably insecure about owning who they really are. It’s cognitive dissonance, it’s our way to make sense of things and, if we are calm enough, not take it all so personally.

That is easy enough with something that doesn’t touch us so much. Harder with the things that are … “touchy”.

We get better and better at this with touchy things when we manage to stay calm longer in a traumatic situation. We can train ourselves for this by becoming stronger at acting on a situation, instead of just reacting to it. Meditation is the tool where we practice observation without reaction.

By directing our attention away from what consumes us, we become more resilient because we stay strong in the “mood” we wish to have. By shaking off what happened by turning our attention towards something that pleases us, we stay in the flow of life and resist less what is. The more we manage to stay calm in our own “home”, our body, our consciousness, our being; the easier it becomes to not let our ego just react and create more resistance.

Next time, we’ll dig deeper into how do deal with what is already stuck in the body and how it also creates a difficulty to feel calm in the storm.

But for now, remember the duck. When something happens in your day that “traumatises” you, that creates a rupture in the flow; turn your focus towards something that brings you back. Focus on it long enough for it to feel so real and present that you literally can feel yourself coming back in the flow (ie, feeling in a good mood again).

Hi, I’m Charlotte (Yogi Cha). I’m a yoga teacher with a degree in clinical psychology. I’ve always had a deep curiosity toward eastern and western approaches to understanding the mind, and the mind/body union. You’ll find me in the lovely Canggu Bali, nestled amongst coconuts, palm trees and sunshine 🥥🌴🌞