Elegant Metaphor of Gardening

Elegant Metaphor of Gardening

Gardening is an elegant metaphor.  It is established, intuitive and is a universal archetype complete with representative concepts, processes and vocabulary.  The gardening metaphor is multi-dimensional.  It is useful for describing intra-psychic processes, interpersonal relationships, organizational and societal change. It also lends itself concepts of ecology, ecosystems, interdependence, stewardship and sustainability.  Furthermore, the gardening metaphor is representative of a “fractal process.”  Which is, a process of a self-similar repeated pattern that is a seemingly endlessly re-occurring at different levels or scales found in nature.  When we stop to take notice, everywhere there are references to gardening, growth, cycles and seasons. 

The garden metaphor addresses several challenges found in the spectrum between mental health (illness), those who are in crisis and those that are moving toward self-actualizing.  First, psychology has historically lacked a positive paradigm or frame of reference in which to work with people to enhance health and well-being.  Clinical psychology is largely associated with pathology and what is wrong with the person.  It does not have a basis or foundation in which to view a person doing healthy things and striving for self-determined health and well-being.  Only recently have we begun to study “health, wellness and resiliency” and the beneficial factors in a person’s environment.  

Secondly, how does a person move from pathology or crisis to a process that encompasses wholeness, health, optimism and wellness?  Gardening provides a metaphor where trials, tribulations, and challenges are normal and to be expected.  These things can also be viewed as is an opportunity for change and growth.  Gardening involves hard work, digging and sweat. The metaphor also holds space for the process of death/rebirth. A process of letting go of the old self and rebirth of a new self.  

Third, the current mental health delivery focuses on efficacy and efficiency of intervention but from a perspective of a pathology and risk management.  There is an emerging focus on prevention, health and wellness.  The current system struggles with how to work with a person beyond trying to convenience them that they have a problem and that the intervention often involves medication and skills development to merely manage symptoms of the pathology.   We fail at empowering a person to make self reliant changes toward health and well-being. Also there is little emphasis on “meaning and purpose” of one’s life. .   

Fourth, in psychology there is a search for elegance or a simple model.  Elegance is the ability describe something complex in a simple, understandable and representative manner.  An elegant metaphor’s value, is that it is a concise way to communicate a lot of information that enables understanding from various levels.  “Gardens of the Soul” is like a holographic image or symbolic archetype that needs little or no explanation; everybody knows what a garden is. Furthermore, the gardening metaphor is adaptable, scalable and applicable to different levels of understanding and to situations of helping and engaging a person(s) to change.  Some applications could be developing programs for school age students and their parents, for prisoners/inmates anticipating a new life after release, survivors of domestic violence and abuse and those who are in “recovery” and struggling to start anew.  An organizational application could vary from orientation of new staff, encouraging teams toward strategic dynamism and to connect the organizational culture to its meaning and purpose.  It is a perspective that promotes a perennial emergence and actualization of the individual’s (and/or group) potential with their environment.  It is a metaphor that accounts for a symbiotic relationship with the environment and yet is not determined by it.  Gardens are a collaborative and co-creative process of emergence. 

Summarily “Gardens of the Soul” is as an elegant metaphor that is easily able to provide a frame of reference to re-orient a person from crisis to opportunity.  The metaphor is intuitive, accessible, applicable and multi-dimensionally.  Furthermore, it does not presume an underlying pathology.  Instead, it is focuses on growing with the implicit ideas of resilience, renewal, sustainability, health and wellness.  It accounts lessons of the past, an anticipation of the future but focuses on what to do today.  The underpinnings of gardening are hope, faith and love while acknowledges that one also needs to be curious, smart, and disciplined with each season’s tasks. However, it begins with a person’s passions, dreams and loves.    

Peace love and light!



Published by Love Change Grow LLC

Counselor and crisis consultant of 25 years. Providing education about how to navigate change.

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