Therapy as Tree Surgery

The past often casts a long shadow over the lives of people who have survived childhood trauma, like a tall tree blocking the rays of a slowly setting autumn sun. The world can seem dark and cold within this umbra, a long path stretching into the future.

¬†Therapy can often help a little light and warmth get through, tickling the long shadow with penumbral greys before giving way to more vibrant colours. The work is not easy, often requiring the metaphorical use of safety helmets and harnesses as branches are cut back and the tree is reduced in size. Complete removal of the tree is not really an option, it is part of the landscape of the person’s life, and the roots reach deep into the earth.

It is not always necessary or desirable to tackle the tree directly. Sometimes, therapy can be most helpful when it shows the client that stepping sideways out of the shadow is often an option,¬†a solution which also affords the opportunity of viewing the tree from a different perspective – to see it with an adult’s eyes.

I remember the fun I used to have sliding down the long corridor in my grandmother’s house when I was a child. As an adult, it was a short passage of two or three paces linking the kitchen and bathroom.