Have there been times in your life when you’ve resisted changing or moving forward? I can easily recall staying in a job I hated, and a relationship that wasn’t working. Yet the natural world around us is in constant change.
Each year, I delight in the deciduous trees showing off their spectacular red, orange and yellow leaves, and over the months watching them gradually fall to the ground. Why do leaves fall and what would happen if the leaves stayed? The answers might surprise you.
Firstly I had to journey back to Primary School and refresh my memory around photosynthesis. It’s a process where plants take water from the ground, chlorophyll and carbon dioxide from the air (sunlight), and turn it into oxygen and glucose. So leaves are really the tree’s little food factories.
In autumn the days grow colder and shorter, and this triggers the tree to send a hormonal message to every branch. Where the leaf stem meets the branch, little cells appear that start to break the connection. The wind helps the leaves fall, but it’s the tree that gives each leaf a gradual push off its branch.
Sometimes we can be like autumn leaves and need a gentle push to let go. When I’m working with a client that feels stuck, I explain that out of their awareness there are two conflicting forces at play. There’s the part that wants to move forward, change and grow, and then there’s the part that resists. I validate their internal struggle, for and against resistance and growth. Usually, their stalemate is caused by fear and deeply embedded beliefs around the consequences of change.
Surprisingly, individuals have the greatest potential for change at this point, but the challenge is to get in touch with the “stuck” resistant part (fear and anxiety), staying with the discomfort, and then dialoguing (talking from) and with both parts.
Sometimes clients find this difficult, but if they are able to hear the wants, values and needs from both sides, it can help shift self limiting patterns/beliefs, and free themselves from their stuck point.
Let’s go back to the trees for a moment. As previously mentioned, every leaf is being pushed off its branch by the tree, programmed to do so through its unique evolutionary process. Fascinating isn’t it. Yet I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if the tree resisted losing its leaves?
If these trees keep their leaves permanently, sure they wouldn’t have to grow new ones, but the leaves would continue photosynthesizing. So as the days get colder, the water in these old leaves starts freezes up, causing the leaf to die. Now the tree is trapped with dying leaves, and cannot produce its food again. As a result, very slowly the whole tree starts to die.
Let’s take a moment to contemplate the wisdom of the deciduous trees. Ask yourself, “Are there areas in my life, where I am dying a slow death in maintaining toxic relationships?”
If the answer is yes, then it’s time to break the connection by letting go.