Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Tree of Life - Session 1

A Significant Tree
The photo above is of a tree which is not technically considered "significant".  In order to be significant it must have a trunk circumference of 3 metres or more (measured at a point 1 metre above natural ground level).  If it was significant it would be protected from removal or destruction.  Being insignificant though, it is perfectly fine for it to be cut down to make way for buildings.  Well, I think it's significant.  Look at it.  It's beautiful.  All trees are significant.

I didn't actually mean to write about trees.  I want to discuss The Tree of Life, a Narrative Therapy Approach.  In February I attended three Tree of Life sessions and they were amazing.

The Tree of Life - Session 1

A group of about eight of us discussed how wonderful trees are then each drew a Tree of Life.  Different parts of the tree represent different aspects of importance.

my gifts to others

others' gifts to me

people important to me

my goals in life

my strengths and values

where I belong

where I came from

It was difficult!  I had tears streaming down my face as I was drawing a big crumpled up leaf that had fallen from the tree.  It was a leaf to represent my Mum.  She died in November 2010, a little over a year previously.  The facilitator asked me what was wrong and I explained that my Mum is one of the most important people to me but she's not alive so I drew her as a dead leaf.  He said that if she is important to me she belongs on my Tree of Life.

When I had drawn a new Mum leaf on my tree, the facilitator asked what she would think of that.  At first I didn't really feel that I had a right to imagine what Mum might think of my actions.  Then I decided that she would be much happier to be included in my tree rather than being crumpled on the ground.

I would never have thought that drawing a tree would help me see so clearly that I was trying to push my Mum out of my mind.  I thought I wasn't allowed to value her as much anymore.

At some point later I wrote next to the old crumpled leaf: 
"eventually leaves decompose and give nutrients to the soil which helps new trees to grow...the circle of life." 
Drawing the tree and coming up with various strengths and deciding on what I value most in life was all done in the first session over a couple of hours.  It was challenging but probably quite useful to get it all done in such a short space of time because I think it meant I recorded what I feel most passionate about instead of what I think I should feel passionate about.  We were also instructed that there are people who we might be expected to value, like relatives, but if they are not important in our lives, we don't have to include them.  It made the trees more real for me.

I drew a tree with four branches and initially only came up with three goals:
to be able to support myself
to have a reason to get up each day
to have friends
It was only after hearing about the goals of other people that I realised I have another goal:
to have a partner
The other three are far more important to me.

Writing about drawing the tree makes it sound very simplistic but the discussion that occurs while trying to decide on the most imortant things in life is what helps change people's view of themself and what matters most.

I explained to the facilitator that I found the method of conducting the Tree of Life to be very beneficial and he asked me to write it down.  Something about a book he was writing.  You saw it here first.

"When the facilitator of a group asks a question, they are usually looking for someone to provide them with one or more correct answers.  In the Tree of Life sessions, the facilitator asked questions which did not require the retrieval of correct answers or even known answers.  The questions persuaded me to think about why I believe things to be true and what makes me think that way.  Answering the questions drew on concepts which were being constructed as I spoke rather than accessing ideas I knew I had.  The questions made me draw on experiences and feelings I didn't know I had or that I had forgotten existed.  The questions were thought provoking and helped to reshape and redesign how I felt by challenging taken for granted assumptions and building new thoughts."

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