The lifestyle of a tree and Lifestyle Medicine?

When you stop to look at a tree, do you ever entertain the thought that it has a lifestyle? I’m guessing the answer is likely to be no, as it was for me, up until a few weeks ago. Perhaps if the word is turned around, and it becomes a tree’s ‘style of life’, it may not seem quite so strange. After all, trees have a life. But, what about the ‘style’?

In addition, it was also up until about 6 months ago, I would have dismissed any thought of a connection between the lifestyle of a tree and why we need Lifestyle Medicine, so I should like to explain.

Firstly, it is thanks to reading the ‘common sense’ psychology of Albert Adler, that I began appreciating that all trees have a style of life, and that their ‘style’ develops from the very moment the shoot pops out of the ground, and which I will likened to the very moment a human being is born into this world.

The sapling that grows out from a mountainside will have a very different style of life compared to the sapling that grows out from a fertile valley, where it will be relatively protected and surrounded by other vegetation, plus have an ample supply of water from a flowing river.

I would like to now relate these thoughts to my rapidly growing passion; the significance of the style of life that our children experience, especially during their first 4 to 5 years, and why, I believe we need a lifestyle (medicine) approach, more than ever, to address the various chronic illnesses (physical and mental) prevalent in the world, and reduce a dependency for medications.  

The following words are my interpretation of those from Alfred Adler (1870-1937), Understanding Life (The Science of Living), 1927/1998. Edited by Colin Brett. Hazelden Foundation:

Firstly, when a human being is born into this world he/she, like the sapling is exposed to all environmental ‘elements’. Therefore, it may seem logical or ‘common sense’ to think that in the first few years of life (unlike any animal in this world) the infant is totally dependent on their parents (especially the mother) for survival. According to Adler, this dependency is something that leads the child to develop a natural ‘feeling of inferiority’ ie a sense of ‘weakness‘ in the growing child’s psyche. Adler stated that this ‘weakness‘ also stimulates a ‘striving for superiority’, which again is part of a normal psyche.

This is all connected with the impact of wider ‘environmental‘ factors that a child is born into, which can be complex. So, for the sake of time and interest, I am just going to highlight the following that Adler believed to be key:

  1. The impact of whether the environment is such that the child is the first born, second/middle or the youngest.
  2. The relevance of whether or not a child is born with an “organ inferiority” (a phrase Adler used to describe a physical disability/illness, and to which I will add a beautiful quote from Adler: “The important thing is not what one is born with but what use one makes of that equipment.”
  3. Lastly, which for me is probably one of the most crucial aspects, the love and tenderness between parents and between the parent and child.

It is when we fail to recognise or appropriately manage issues such as these  that the development of what he termed the inferiority and superiority complex can develop; something to explore another time, perhaps?

Why, you may still be wondering place emphasis on ‘The lifestyle of a tree’? It is simply in the hope that you and others who have taken the time and trouble to have read this far down (and thank you for doing so) believe, like me, that: As a society (including our Governments), we have to do our best to focus on ways that ensure our children enjoy the most loving and nurturing environment (both at home and then early years school) possible. This is so they have the best possible start to life during the first few critical years which sets them on a pathway in which they help build strong a strong ‘social feeling/interest’.  

The alternative is: if we (Governments and society) fail our children, in other words, if the tree (whether on the mountain or in the valley) does not have the ‘nourishment‘ for the roots to take hold, nor have a strong community to help safeguard it’s development and growth (or it is excessively ‘pampered’, accelerating its growth to a great height, casting its shadow over neighbouring ‘trees’ and potentially impacting their development‘, or it is neglected and withers away) very sadly (and upsettingly) this picture is an attempt to illustrate the consequences, and show what may happen (to our children) more frequently:

If any of what I have written here ‘strikes a chord’ then I truly hope we can find a way to come together and work collaboratively. After all, as Adler points out “Life is contributing to the whole” and the significance of this become even great when added to the phrase attributed to Aristotle “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts” 

To end and perhaps offer an explanation for what drove me to write this post, I would like to quote the following from Adler: “Someone has to start. Other people might not be cooperative, but that is not connected to you. My advice is this: You should start. With no regard to whether others are cooperative or not.”

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