I discovered something really amazing about redwood tees a few years ago.
Did you know that these stupendous giants have extremely thin roots, and that they only go down into the earth for about 6-12 feet? (Coastal Redwoods can grow to 300’ tall or more).
The only way these trees survive and thrive is for them to grow in clusters, which we call groves. This way, those thin and shallow roots intertwine with the roots of other trees and create a stable base for all of the redwoods to stand tall. They also share nutrients with other trees through their root system!
If a Redwood were to try to grow by itself, away from other trees, it would crash down from its own weight.
Just as we are learning about these families of Redwood trees and what helps them grow, we are also learning about humans and how we develop in relationships with other people.
Bad things happen to everyone, but we can grow from it and feel safer when other people help you talk about what happened, provide physical comfort, (such as a hug or tending to your wounds), and acknowledge your emotions, such as fear or anger.
When scary or upsetting things happen, being surrounded by a caring and supportive group of people will help us cope and grow more resilient.
When something bad happens and there is no one to listen to your story, tend to your physical needs, or accept your emotions, we can get “stuck” in the trauma. We had a need and no one was there, or the person or people who should have been there for us were dismissive of our experience, or disengaged by their own issues. (Addiction and other mental health issues can keep other people disconnected from us and our needs).
This is where upsetting experiences can become overwhelming and stay with us for a long time, affecting how we see ourselves (unsafe? Unworthy?) or the world (hostile? Uncaring?).
When we are giving care in a family where there has been poor support, and where our needs haven’t been met, the old pain can resurface to affect our emotional and physical health, ability to manage the demands of work and family, and to sustain relationships.
According to one study, about 18% of family caregivers report they are providing care in a dysfunctional family. Given that painful childhood events and toxic environments are relatively common, it’s possible that this number is higher. It’s true whether you are a family caregiver or a professional care partner, such as someone who works in the health care field.
There are ways to recognize how trauma has affected us or people around us, to reduce the symptoms we’re feelings, and to build resiliency moving forward.
· More on caregiving in dysfunctional families: http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/20/a-risk-in-caring-for-abusive-parents/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=1&
· To learn about the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on health and well-being across the lifespan, see this article by Dr. Vincent J. Felitti: “The Relation Between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Adult Health: Turning Gold into Lead.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6220625/
· Cool facts about Redwood Trees: https://sempervirens.org/learn/redwood-facts/
· To see what areas of caregiving are working well for you, and where you may have unmet needs, please take our free caregiver well-being assessment at: https://lisakendallconsulting.scoreapp.com
· Join us as we pause to consider the upcoming Winter Holidays, and explore strategies for decreasing stress and increasing your experience of joy and meaning! Registration for this virtual retreat is available online at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/nurturing-peace-meaning-during-the-holiday-season-a-virtual-mini-retreat-tickets-203321017637