About a month and a half ago, there was a rainstorm here in Tucson, it took down a hard wood tree in my backyard, another hard wood tree across the street. That morning as I drove to my office, I noticed fallen branches and trunks of hard wood trees now and again. The next day, when the most of the fallen trees had been cleared, I noticed something, none of the palm trees had fallen.
I found this peculiar because some of the palm trees in my neighborhood are pretty tall, and sometimes lanky when compared to the other trees, which are shorter, and thicker. Granted there aren’t plenty of palm trees in my neighborhood, but this peaked my curiosity even more, as I was certain that palm trees are not native to Arizona, talk less of Tucson. Which is all the more reason I was surprised that they would survive a windy rain storm.
Following up with some research, I learned that palm trees which are usually native to tropics, evolved to survive severe rain and wind storms, based on their genetic composition which includes fiber, that allows them to bend with heavy winds.
I find this analogous to the concept of emotional strength in people. It is not unusual for me to meet with a patient for the first time, who tearfully shares with me, her struggle in maintaining a strong emotional facade before friends, family and co workers, when she feels she is falling apart on the inside. Even though the example I just used focused on a female, it really applies to both genders. Men and women, who have bought into the mindset that strength represents bearing down and absorbing as much force as possible. Another definition would be using brute force, to plow through rough times.
Brute force seldom works, and it definitely doesn’t work if the force you are going up against is greater than you. Another draw back on the reliability of brute force, is that it quickens exhaustion. Emotionally, exhaustion manifests itself through chronic episodes of panic attacks, chronic anxiety, temper tantrums and major depression.
An alternative to brute force is adopting a judo mindset. That is the mindset of giving way to get your way, or put simply, going with the flow of things. So if you find a wall blocking the path towards your identified goals, instead of trying to ram a hole in the wall, you use the wall as an aid by climbing over it.
When the palm trees bend back and fourth during heavy and windy rain storms, they spend less energy surviving the brutal force of the winds, versus the stalker and seemingly stronger trees, whose roots, trunks and branches eventually give in under pressure.
I tell my patients this;
“If you must cry, please cry. Expressing sorrow is simply an acknowledgment that you are experiencing sorrow, which is a sign of strength. ”
Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC, a professional counseling and life coaching practice.