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  • Fe Robinson

Reflecting on what makes you strong

A colleague who works with families introduced me to a lovely exercise recently that captured my imagination. Aimed at increasing appreciation and advocacy in a family group, it uses metaphor to help participants connect with what makes their family strong and beautiful. It’s a superb exercise to do with your kids. It seemed to me to be applicable to couples too, and to be a creative way for individuals to reflect on their family, friendship groups or organisational settings. As ever, metaphor gives us access to so much more information than working solely in the cognitive.

First, draw a big, strong tree, with a nice solid trunk and a good number of branches. Then, identify the leaves (and/or blossom) for the tree, which are the things that make the tree strong and beautiful, the things that energise and animate it.

Leaves take in light and carbon dioxide, and combine it with the moisture drawn up through the tree roots on passed on through the branches. and convert these raw materials it into energy (sugar) and oxygen, nourishing and feeding the tree and other life forms too. The whole tree works as one in this process.

It can be affirming to think about the attributes of the family unit as a whole, and also to explore what each member of the family brings, from the perspective of each other member. In a couple, both can share what they themselves sense they contribute, and offer what they take in from the other. As an individual you can similarly explore how you experience both yourself and other people in the tree community you are exploring.

You can get as creative as you like with this exercise, decorating your tree with colour and imagery as well as with words. You may choose to draw a tree, or buy a tree you can hang things on. The key thing is to create a reminder of all that your family, community or group offers, so that you can savour it, and appreciate it. Remembering the contribution of others, and recognising what we create when we are together can be a real tonic where there is tension or difficulty.

Creating your tree can be an act of love, of giving and sharing. It can energise and inspire. After all, who of us doesn’t want to show up at our very best with those we value the most?


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