Tree Metaphor


The Tree Metaphor explained

MedusaAn analogy between the way the shape of a tree forms and the way the human mind does helps us to visualize and get a clearer mental representation of what happens to us in our psycho-emotional development as an infant and child, while being raised and having to grow up among specific circumstances.  The branches of the tree represent our mental-emotional ‘structures’ in our consciousness or rather its physical manifestation, our ‘brain-wiring’.

When a person learns something, whatever it is, a skill, a behavior, a conclusion based on observation, in our brain a neuro-pathway is created that is either reinforced by repeated use or staying latent (when not used a lot) or overgrown (if not used at all). This description is meant to be taken as a very simplistic approach of a highly specialized subject that brain-wiring really is and even though not being scientifically grounded here I have chosen this image as it is my experience people find it very helpful.

I would like to take the opportunity to invite whoever feels competent to do so to go into this brain-wiring image more into depth as it requires specific knowledge. More accurate information on this subject matter could empower the working of this image that is used for the purpose of recognition and acceptance of certain growth deviations that might have happened in our own ‘brain-wiring’ as we have encountered obstacles to, or lack of essential nourishment for, healthy psycho-emotional development, while growing up.


The perfect NeuronCan it be justified here, for the purpose of creating a visualization aid for this otherwise invisible process, to propose that the neuro-pathways that are continuously developing in our brain, especially during infancy, can be considered the physical manifestation of our mind which in its turn influences our psyche? It struck me that there is a similarity between the growth and development of our brain-wiring and thus with the development of our mind with the way the shape of a tree forms. It develops following its blue-print (nature) and its development is influenced by circumstances (nurture). When there are a number of unfavorable circumstances, development may become quite ‘lopsided’.


A seed of a tree grows into a healthy, strong tree when all its conditions are favorable (nurture) or even with less favorable circumstances if it has very strong genes (nature). Sometimes a seedling finds obstructions on its pathway of growth: a building, a fence, other trees or wires may be in its way.

A seedling tree’s natural inclination is to grow up straight and tall. When there are obstacles in the way, its only way to develop is by bending to avoid them. Changing its direction of growth permanently affects the shape of the trunk, making it not straight and tall but bent or crooked.

tree at my house

Roots, too, grow naturally, if unimpeded, in certain directions so they can best balance the weight and shape of the tree. In some cases this means that the roots grow more horizontally and sideways instead of deep.

There are trees that develop mostly on one side…their trunk may develop more branches on the side which gets a lot of sun and fewer on the shady side. Continuous strong winds often result in branches and twigs on the leeward side only. Some trees are doomed to never live up to their proud potential due to such influences from outside.

Tree in Denver on mountaintop


The development of the human mind is comparable to the growth of a tree. Now let’s look at all the different directions the trunk and branches of a tree, so clearly showing their shapes against the sky, while imagining what the situation has been like during the process of development of our own brain-wiring (mind, emotions and psyche.)

What were the obstacles that were in our way? What was the climate like? How did our inner brain-tree adjust? What effect did that have on the shape and form of our mind and emotions? How did that influence the fullness of the unfolding of our potential and make us into the person we are at this very moment?

Take a paper and pencil, and allow yourself to creatively draw how you imagine your own tree-mind grew. Obviously there is no right or wrong way to do this. Just enjoy the process of creating this virtual image of your own mental and emotional growth and development and whatever you might learn about yourself or whatever questions, impressions, memories, arise for you during the process.

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