The author, on a boat with his son, on the River Thames, in 2011

How I Integrated My Trauma

and why knights should tame dragons

Duncan Riach
8 min readAug 1, 2021


The little boy stepped onto the boat with one foot while he left the other foot on the muddy bank. While the adults were distracted, the boat started to move away from the shore. A sense of panic developed in the boy as the accident slowly unfolded.

Little kids don’t have strong adductor muscles, apparently, nor the ability to achieve a Jean Claude Van Damme style split. A sense of hopelessness and impending failure gave way to a sudden immersion in chilly, dark-green water and a moment of respectful silence to allow the shafts of green-tinged sunlight from above to sear themselves into his young memory, along with the verdant, fishy taste of decay.

After pulling him from the water, the boat’s owner took the boy away from the group, into a semi-private space created by the branches of a willow tree. As the shafts of sunlight again partially illuminated the scene, the captain punished him for his transgression.

I don’t even remember what he did to me. Did he spank me? Did he yell at me? I don’t fully remember, but I do know he did something that didn’t feel good, something that made that little boy a bit less trusting of adults; something that made him feel secretly angry and resentful.

It’s not fair. I just made a mistake. I just had a big shock and that was punishment enough. But punishment for what, though? For being curious? For being playful? There was no need for any punishment.

On some level, I knew what he did wasn’t right. I knew that he did something bad; but I couldn’t fully understand that it had nothing to do with me, that I wasn’t bad. So I packed it in my trunk with all the other injustices, all the other ways the world hurt me and didn’t understand me, all the other evidence to support my then gradually-forming limiting beliefs.

I have memories of remembering this, memories of remembering how it was. It seems like stories about stories now. There doesn’t seem to be any charge in it. It’s hard to even conjure up the hurt to write about it compellingly. Can I be a wounded artist without wounds? Am I even an artist at all?

On the other hand, I bet that I’ll be talking about a memory like this at some point, and some rough edge…



Duncan Riach

Top Writer. Self-Revealing. Mental Health. Success. Fulfillment. Flow. MS Engineering/Technology. PhD Psychology.