Counselling in Wokingham – The Little Dutch Boy

Paul Cockayne – 07791

Welcome to my counselling blog. You can find more information about me by clicking one of the links at the top of this page

When I was at Junior School, I remember our teacher telling us the story of the little Dutch boy who, on his way to school, spotted water leaking through a small hole in a dyke. Knowing that, left alone, the hole would grow larger and the village would soon be flooded, he stuck is finger in the dyke and stayed there until help came.

dyke1The story carries all sorts of messages – about small problems becoming out of hand if left – about small actions having big effects – but I think at the age of 8 these rather passed me by, and I remember thinking what a lucky boy he was, being given the chance to be a hero just by sitting for a while with his finger stuck in a hole.

Thinking about the story now, I wonder how the boy knew that this small leak would lead to the village being flooded, and whether he wouldn’t have been better off running to the village to tell someone about it rather than sitting there waiting for someone to pass by.

The boy made assumptions, I suppose, and made what seemed to him a sensible decision based on those assumptions. And so he put himself into the role of a stopgap, and made himself stay there until someone relived him of that duty.

dyke2We can easily end up behaving like the Dutch boy, but unfortunately sometimes we are left far too long with our hole in the dyke – nobody comes to relieve us of that duty, and nobody proclaims us a hero. So we can end up just feeling stuck, unappreciated, and resentful of our position.

As an example, I remember counselling a woman a few years ago. She was angry because she spent far too much of her time running around after her mother, doing her shopping, cleaning and cooking for her, while her brother and sister did nothing. She wanted some help, she wanted a break, but felt that she couldn’t stop because her mother expected it, and couldn’t cope on her own, and her brother and sister were useless.

So, like the little Dutch boy, she had seen a problem, found a solution, but now was stuck with her role as carer for her mother, waiting for someone to rescue her. She had become a victim rather than a heroine.

So we looked at her assumptions – that her mother couldn’t cope – that her siblings wouldn’t step up and help – and we looked at where these assumptions came from and questioned their validity. And we looked at other reasons for keeping her finger in the dam – the hope of being declared a heroine – the question of what she might do if she didn’t spend so much time caring for her mum.

dyke3This is one example, but I think it’s easy to find ourselves getting stuck into patterns of behaviour that we’re not comfortable with

  • I don’t want to be so strict with the kids but I have to because you are so soft
  • I don’t want to keep such a tight rein on our finances but I have to because you can’t be trusted with money
  • I don’t want to have to clean up the kitchen every night but I have to because you’ll never get around to it

You may have been stuck for years – decades – with your finger in that dyke. But what would really happen if you removed it and went for help? Would the village flood, would the world fall apart, as you fear it might? Or might someone come to your rescue?

About Paul Cockayne

Counsellor, musician, iPhone developer, games-player, cheese-lover....
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