Abraham Maslow’s notion of “hierarchy of needs” and “self actualization” theorizes that human beings, like all life have the potential to grow and flourish. It is within our nature to develop in the direction of our best possible selves. Along life’s journey however, this drive is often frustrated and our potential can be limited. Reaching our human potential is something we cannot do all by ourselves. We need a supportive environment and nurturing others to help us grow.
Spring is a good time to have a conversation about growing things. Resilient life is in bloom and people are planting their gardens. I have had some success growing tomatoes and this process has taught me some things about helping others. Human beings are like tomatoes. They are living things that have a better chance of reaching their potential under the care of a mindful gardener. A gardener cannot do the growing for the tomato, but he or she can be part of the process and can trust that the tomato will grow into its potential under the right circumstances.
A good gardener is aware of the conditions that allow living things to flourish. He or she monitors and in some cases applies the necessary elements for growth; food, water, soil, sunlight, protection from the elements and pests, and eventually a structure to support the growth. Gardeners even prune away parts of the plant that may divert energy away form the essential core.
Too little attention to the plant will not necessarily kill it, but the plant may struggle in fending for itself and may not bear fruit. Too much attention; overwatering, over fertilizing, meddling in the process, trying to rush it to maturity before its time, is not a wise gardening practice. The skilled gardener uses the combination of nurturing and patience in appropriate amounts and in a timely manner to assist a growing thing to it’s potential.
The skillful helper, therapist, or family member is similar. They provide the conditions under which individuals become more fully functioning. They give people a place and an opportunity to grow. They provide the safety and nurturing for ideas and skills to take root. Over time a person can grow tall and stabilize, with perhaps a bit of structure to help it stand straight. However, the helpers cannot do the growing for the individual.
Effective helping does not overly caretake, nor neglect the growing individual. Helpers apply a combination of nurturing and space, in proper proportions, with appropriate timing, respecting that individuals have within the potential to reach their best possible selves.
Time to get growing.
(512) 250-WELL (9355)
We are available from 9am until 5pm, Monday-Friday.
We are closed on Saturday and Sunday.
Northwest Counseling & Wellness Center
12335 Hymeadow Drive
Austin, TX 78750