(If you’re new to Monkeytraps, Steve is a therapist who specializes in control issues, and Bert is his control-addicted inner monkey.
Hurricane Irene swept through here the other day, reminding me of a conversation I’ve had with many clients over many years.
“Let’s say you’re a tree, and a hurricane is coming,” I say. “ Which would you rather be, an oak or a birch?”
I sit back and watch them do a mental comparison:
“Oak,” they usually say.
Then I remind them what can happen to a rigid oak in a high wind:
All this tree-talk is metaphorical, of course. We’re really talking about people and their view of control.
Oak-people see control as necessary to their sense of security.
They have a picture in their minds of How Things Should Be. Deviations from that picture make them uncomfortable. This leaves them uncomfortable much of the time.
It also leaves them rigid and unbending, resistant to change, and likely to confuse strength with inflexibility.
Birch-people recognize control as essential in some situations and a dangerous illusion in others.
They’ve learned to learn to recognize their own preferences as just that — preferences — and less insistent on getting life to meet their expectations.
This makes them more elastic, more able to accept change and weather adversity. When life blows them over they bounce back up. They go with the blow.
Me, I’m a 61-year-old oak, trying to become a birch.
It’s not easy work, psychologically speaking. But I prefer it to being uprooted by all the stuff I cannot control.
Which kind of tree are you?
And which kind of tree would you like to be?
August 30th, 2011 at 11:42 am
I am a birch! 😀
August 30th, 2011 at 12:00 pm
And I’m jealous. But congratulations anyway. 🙂
August 30th, 2011 at 12:23 pm
Well, I think I am a big old Maple, but I am tired of it. Always taking care of others, trying to be strong. I think I want to be a flowering Cherry!!
August 30th, 2011 at 12:27 pm
Good thing I’m practicing birchness, because I’ve already lost control of this metaphor. 🙂
August 31st, 2011 at 6:58 pm
What can I say?? Neither choice fit me!! Keep practicing; you’re doing well.
August 31st, 2011 at 8:22 pm
Thanks for the encouragement. 🙂
August 30th, 2011 at 1:02 pm
You could even extend the analogy to age. Young trees, even oaks, are flexible and able to adapt early in life. With age they become stiff and brittle. Likewise, most people are emotionally flexible when they’re very young and become less so with experience. Correct?
I’m an adolescent oak searching for the fountain of youth.
August 30th, 2011 at 1:48 pm
Thanks, Charley. You’re right, of course. Your insight echoes the Tao te Ching:
Men are born soft and supple;
dead, they are stiff and hard.
Plants are born tender and pliant;
dead they are brittle and dry.
Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible
is a disciple of death.
Whoever is soft and yielding
is a disciple of life.
The hard and stiff will be broken.
The soft and supple will prevail.
~ Lao-Tse, Tao te Ching
September 1st, 2011 at 7:19 pm
Great post, Steve, and thanks also for sharing Tao te Ching
September 1st, 2011 at 9:13 pm
Thanks, Cheryse. 🙂
August 30th, 2011 at 9:53 pm
August 30th, 2011 at 9:56 pm
Thanks, Mareeya. 🙂
August 31st, 2011 at 9:20 am
Good anology Bert I would have to say I am also a 42yo oak trying to become a birch, because of your help things are becoming much clearer to me, this time 2 years ago I did not even know I was an oak let alone that there could be a way to become a birch, life is much easier when I am a birch (plan B) so if there are any oaks out their that are try to become an birch and would like to chat about our efforts please e-mail me and maybe we can learn how not to be uprooted together, Thanks Bert
August 31st, 2011 at 6:43 pm
I’m probably more of a birch, although I respect the great virtues of an oak, being solid and standing strong for what you believe in. There are certain points in your life, when you have no control and you can either accept it and be at peace or continue to fight for control and be miserable. Good post and I love your pics as well.
August 31st, 2011 at 8:26 pm
Thanks, Cathy. I agree, oakishness comes in handy at times. It becomes a problem only when it’s more an habitual stance than a choice.
September 4th, 2011 at 3:53 pm
54 tomorrow and closer every year to being a birch 🙂
September 4th, 2011 at 5:21 pm
Happy birchday. 🙂
September 15th, 2011 at 9:56 pm
[…] I read a post over on Monkeytraps, ‘Human Treeings‘. Referring to attitudes towards control, Steve said: Hurricane Irene swept through here the […]