February 2020: First Blooms and First Blog!
Updated: May 8
I have very mixed feelings come midwinter, I like that we get to experience seasonal differences in this country, but I have a preference for the long sunny days and summer vibes. However this month has been quite a cracker, with not one but two fairly dramatic storms, interrupted by surprising sun-filled days, enough sun at least to prompt some of the spring bulbs into making an appearance.
This is also my first February with a baby on board, and I noticed that with this welcome new distraction, it takes a little more effort to stop and appreciate natures small marvels, like the first daffodil that dares to unfurl. The rewards however are all the more poignant as I begin to look at nature afresh, with a new perspective based on an infants eye view…it is surprising just how many dog poops I can spot in the garden at pram level!
This month I attended a Lecture at the University of Essex which explored, what it means to live an excellent or flourishing human life. I couldn’t help but wonder about the emphasis placed on ‘human life’ rather than ‘all life’ and questioned whether our human-centric approach to living was in some way damaging. This reminded me of our allegiance with nature and in particular I thought about the solar calendar, perhaps prompted by the notable increase in daylight hours this February. It is at the beginning of this month in the solar calendar when the ancient Celtic festival of Imbolc is celebrated. Imbolc, meaning ‘in the belly’ or ‘womb’, is a time for celebrating the return of light and longer days, and also about acknowledging the stirrings of life as seeds and bulbs gather momentum deep within the dark but fertile soil. In this sense, the festival is not only about celebrating the light of day, but acknowledging the depths of darkness and our ability to emerge from it.
Thinking about this festival from a more psychotherapeutic perspective, it seems to provide us with an opportunity to contemplate our own origins, and the emotional environment required in order for us to learn, grow and flourish. But also, beyond that, it seems to me about acknowledging how the earth, Mother Earth’s cycle, has accommodated life before humans even inhabited it.
It is often the quality of our earliest relationships in life, that set the standards as we move forward into adulthood. These relationships are almost like our model or mould for future relationships, they may significantly influence our expectations and understanding of others. I’m sure most of us have a sense that the relationships we had during our early formative years, have shaped for better or worse, our approach to relationships in the future. Because of this, there often comes a point during therapy when the focus shifts towards the very earliest of the client’s relationships, his or her relationship with their initial caregivers may explain why certain attitudes and approaches to life or relationships have emerged. It is often the case that exploring these relationships, or the impact of them, can lead to a greater self-understanding.
With this in mind, this February I’ve been thinking about my relationship with nature (or lack of, as is so common in our recent culture) as one of the very first and oldest relationships we, as a species, can have. If the quality of our relationship with initial caregivers is so formative, potentially impacting on our attitude and approach to relationships in adult life, then what emphasis should we place on the quality of our relationship with nature, and how does this impact on our relationships with others and with ourselves? Arguably, as a species I’m not sure our relationship with Mother Earth has always been very respectful. Historically we have been driven to dominate and industrialise, letting our advances in technology allow us to drift away from working in sync with nature, as we are now capable of even digitally controlling artificial habitats, thus reducing our dependency on weather and other ecosystems. That said, there still exist indigenous tribes who do not place themselves, as a species, at the ‘top of the ladder’ so to speak, but who consider themselves part of a larger web of life, equally accountable and dependent on all life. This seems to me a much healthier way of looking at things.
Either way, I wonder whether our capacity to really look at our relationship with nature will allow us greater understanding of ourselves and the planet, and I hope that, just like the time often arises in therapy, we naturally begin to question and explore our roots, making way for deeper understanding and insights.