We are the same as every living thing – in that our environment shapes us. In fact it will shape us to the extent that we either grow to our full wonderful potential or we can fade and die.
An analogy that makes it plain to understand how vital our environment is to us is to realize how we care for plants in our garden. We know it is essential to have the correct soil, to keep the soil in the best conditions possible by ensuring it has enough water and nutrients, that the plant has sufficient sunshine and doesn’t get too hot or cold.
We know that if we neglect any of these, the plant will wilt and if left uncared for it would eventually at some point die. The environment we live in is just as vital to our wellbeing.
This means not only our home, but also the community and even country we live in. Our environment needs to be a sanctuary and provide what we need to grow and thrive.
Mental, emotional, spiritual and physical
Human beings are social creatures. We were made that way, as part of our survival as originally we didn’t have so much to protect us as many animals do, such as long sharp fangs or pointed claws.
Likewise we don’t have fur to keep us warm. Then there is the fact that human babies are born far more underdeveloped than almost all animals.
For the first 12 months a human baby is totally dependent on the adults around it for food, shelter and warmth as we can’t even walk for usually around nine to 12 months old. Yet, most baby animals can walk within days and sometimes hours.
A human brain doubles in size in the first year. So it’s growing rapidly – and the environment around it will influence how it develops.
Negative consequences on our cells of being in a frequent or continual state of alert at real or perceived dangers has been scientifically proven. Stem-cell biologist and author Dr Bruce Lipton has explained how the trillions of cells in our body are either growing and maintaining our health or in a defensive mode when they cannot grow as they should.
Being in a damaging environment like this means we’re more likely to become ill – that can be in a mental, emotional or physical sense. Increasingly, experts such as Dr Lipton and physician, author and trauma expert Dr Gabor Maté are stating how mental, emotional, spiritual and physical aspects of us are all inextricably linked.
So the world around us and the people in it are vital to our wellbeing. We need to feel connected.
No main is an island
Renowned psychologist Carl Jung (1875–1961) used another plant analogy that explains this so well. Talking about a plant’s rhizome, which is its stem that is continuously growing underground, he said: “Life has always seemed to me like a plant that lives on its rhizome. Its true life is invisible, hidden in the rhizome.
“The part that appears above ground lasts only a single summer. Then it withers away – an ephemeral apparition. When we think of the unending growth and decay of life and civilizations, we cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity.
“Yet I have never lost a sense of something that lives and endures underneath the eternal flux. What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.”
So underneath the soil there are roots, there’s the soil, there are nutrients in the soil, and vital things for the life of the plant happen in the soil when it rains. Then above and around the plant there’s the air and oxygen, the sunshine, the rain, night and day…
If the plant ignored all of these other parts of it, and relied solely on itself, it would soon wither and die. It can be said that’s the same with us if we ignore connections around us.
The war on drugs
Portugal’s decriminalization and changed policy on illegal drugs in the past decade proves this point. Instead of spending money on the “war on drugs”, the country – that had one of the highest number of drug users in Europe – started to spend that money on rehabilitation and to allow users to integrate in society again.
For instance, a group of three people who’d been carpenters until their drug use had put them out of action, were encouraged – with financial help – to start up a small carpentry company to do their work around their community. This gave them a connection again.
There’s a strong point here that for many addicts the connection they have with their drug replaces any other connection. It becomes their number one and sometimes only “relationship”.
Within a few years of this new policy Portugal saw a huge improvement. For example, Portugal’s drug death toll plummeted to three per million compared to the European average of more than 17 per million.
People need people
Sometimes when people have grown up in an environment, their home and/or community where there was little positive and loving connection, therapy might be the first time they have ever felt validated and valued as a person. Feeling unloved as they may have in this way leads to all sorts of emotional and mental health problems.
Of course, if the environment someone has grown up in – or it could be they presently live – is one where abuse and aggression is commonplace, it is bound to have negative consequences.
So while a great deal of recovery is about working on inner feelings and beliefs, the external environment has to be considered as it certainly plays a major part in someone’s wellbeing.
Today while there are more ways of connecting than ever before, there is actually less real connection. Communities were stronger in the past and all generations of a family used to live closer to each other.
In general, people had more time for each other even including those in their household. There was more connection.
It is like if we took a piece of coal from a glowing fire… on its own without the warmth of the fire the piece of coal would soon go out. People need other people: we need connection and relationships.
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Get in touch with us today to speak about how we can help you or someone you love move into recovery.