Oak-people and birch-people

Hurricane Sandy’s descending on us as I write this, which reminds me of something I wrote last year just after Hurricane Irene.  So I thought I’d tweak and repost it before the lights go out.

Stay safe, everyone.

* * *

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…

versus Birch:

“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 how they cope.

Specifically, how they view the idea of control.

Oak-people see control as essential to their sense of security.  They have a picture in their minds of How Things Should Be, and 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 see control as essential in some situations and dangerous in others.  They’ve learned to learn to recognize their own preferences as that — preferences — and to become less insistent on forcing 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 an old oak, trying to become a birch.

Not easy work, psychologically speaking.  But I prefer it to being repeatedly uprooted by all the stuff I cannot control.

And you?

Which kind of tree are you?

And which kind of tree would you like to be?

* * *

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