Resilience

 

Whilst on holiday in Greece I was struck by the importance of the Olive Tree. Primarily by its beauty: the ancient dark gnarly trunk in contrast with the silvery sage and bright green leaves almost translucent in the sun. But also by its centrality to Greek culture and economy.

 

Whilst wandering through an olive grove I noticed how olive trees also provide an ecosystem for neighbouring flora and fauna: rabbits hopped merrily, yellow butterflies and bees rested on the cowparsley below, while swallows darted above the canopy.

 

I was reminded of the similarity of the holm oak, another Mediterranean tree which is very happy at my home in Bournemouth. My thoughts moved to the holm oak in my garden and the view my patients have of it from my consulting room. How its branches wave around on windy days and yet it stays firm with its strong roots and trunk pinning it to the spot.

 

My holm oak tree is a metaphor for resilience in life. The trunks and roots give it a strong base, representing many things: in a healthy childhood this base is provided by our parents and the early start we had in life. If our childhood was challenging we may have been lucky to have been given other roots at that time or later on in life, such as a supportive extended family, friends, partner or therapist. This strong base gives us strength and a belief in ourself which allows us to develop and mature knowing that we are ok.

 

This strong base supports the branches. So to extend the holm oak metaphor further, when the branches wave around on windy days and challenges appear, for example: loss of a loved one, unemployment, or loss then the branches are held in place by the trunk and root system. So we rely on our stable base to keep us secure at our core and we feel we can adapt to what happens to us without it overwhelming us. Our stable base allows us to be resilient and we know that we will survive what is happening to us.

 

Our aim is to live as the olive tree with flexible branches that can bend but remain in place with a solid core sense of self.