Sophie is a dear friend of my daughter’s. When both girls were seven years old, several families, including both of ours, spent some time together at a nearby lake.
As we sat on the dock, relaxing and thoroughly enjoying ourselves, a duck swam up to us. Sophie reacted with a lot of fear and anxiety to the sight of the duck; come to find out she was quite fearful of ducks. Her mom told me that Sophie had never had a negative encounter with a duck and didn’t know the reason for her daughter’s anxiety.
I knew that Sophie’s parents had recently been through an extremely difficult divorce, and that Sophie’s dad had been physically violent with her mom in front of Sophie. In children, the residuals of trauma often manifest as random fears, so I wasn’t surprised to see that Sophie had developed a fear of ducks.
I asked Sophie if I could try to help her feel better around ducks, and she thought that would be okay. Since she had never had a negative experience with a duck, we just focused on her fear and what that fear felt like in her body. We tapped on various aspects of Sophie’s discomfort with ducks, such as the fact that the duck might bite, that it might fly in her face, and that Sophie didn’t like the sounds that it made. As we tapped, this particular duck, a beautiful male with a bright green head, obligingly swam around in front of us. Every time he came close, I had the opportunity to test our work thus far and to see where we could do more work.
After about half an hour, Sophie stopped feeling fearful of the duck, even when she tried to scare herself. We went together to the edge of the dock to get even closer. Sophie looked at our duck friend intently but now felt completely at peace in his presence. As soon as we decided that there was nothing more that needed to be done with regard to the duck, we went back to our beach chairs on the dock, whereupon the obliging duck swam away, quacking!
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