We are like trees

If you’ve ever studied a tree stump you’ll know all about the rings. Looking over them is like caressing a lifetime. You can see exactly how different events in the tree’s life affected it. The grafting, the pruning, the good years, and the bad years – they are all right there in those rings. The events are so woven into the tree that they shape it and give it character.

In many ways, you and I are like trees. We are shaped by the events around us – the good and the bad. But unlike trees we have a choice about what we prune.

Maybe you are an emotional spender. Maybe you jump from relationship to relationship. Perhaps you feel jealous when others succeed. Whatever it is, it’s costing you peace and wellbeing – and possibly some friends too.

There is a model that’s really helped me clear out some of the emotional junk hanging around my life: Face, trace, replace.

Face the fact that you’ve got a problem. This might sound easy, but sometimes self-awareness is one of the hardest things to learn. Don’t let shame stop you – face up to your issues and the underlying feeling, be it jealousy, anger, sadness – acknowledge it. Get to know what triggers it.

Trace the problem to its root. The inappropriate emotion you’re feeling harks back to something earlier – where did it start? How did it start? What lies did you learn at that time – “I’m not good enough”, “I’m ugly”, “I don’t matter”, “No one listens to me” are examples.

Replace the lies with truth. Whatever you told yourself that caused you to go off on this understandable tangent, replace it with honesty. “She really didn’t mean to overlook me, it was a mistake. She loves me”; “I am beautiful, even if he didn’t say it. He probably didn’t know how to say it”; “I really do matter. They were just rude and horrible and I don’t have to believe what they said”… see what I mean?

I’m not a counsellor. I’m just telling you, from a person that’s struggled, that this worked for me. Yes, it took a long time. No, I’m not perfectly healed… But this is a big step in the right direction.

So next time you see a tree stump, stop to admire the rings… and know that you have a choice.