Seasons of Growth: Learning from Nature

 For those of us who live in Southern California, where it seems as though we remain in a perpetual state of Summer, it’s easy to ignore the coming of Fall; we must, at times, imagine turning leaves and merely envision Nature’s colorful displays. Even in Southern California, however, the nights lengthen, the days get cooler and festive holiday displays appear. With the Fall season arriving, I decided to put some thoughts on paper, to see if we can learn something from Nature’s changes that could help us with our personal growth.

Our modern way of living, with steel and concrete all around us can create the illusion that we can rise above and conquer nature. When nature is confined to planters and golf courses it can create a false sense of reality wherein we begin to believe that the laws of nature do not apply to us. Change — in nature and in human development — however, is inevitable; it is a given. We must adhere to the laws of nature whether we like or not. We are constantly growing and aging. Embracing Nature and its inevitable change can feel painful but it can also lead us toward incredible psychological transformations. Avoiding and denying it can ultimately lead to painful stagnation. 

But growth is not the simple concept we often wish it to be. A healthy struggle is a part of growth and a vital component of developing our emotional and spiritual maturity; we can see that struggle in every plant that sprouts from a seed and strives to move toward the light. Our modern way of life can unfortunately create an illusion that growth may be achieved quickly — without pain and suffering. We have become addicted to short-term investments and solutions, whilst hoping for long-term gain. I must admit that there is a part of me too that wishes for an easier path, and sometimes I indulge in that fantasy.  

No matter how strong the fantasy is, however, Nature wins and reality sets in — we cannot avoid healthy struggle. We all must grow up and face our own natures. We must embrace the reality of changing seasons in our lives — the times when our old leaves have to fall so that new leaves can replace them. Attempting to avoid change is like trying to hold on to dead leaves. We often try desperately to hold on to the past because it feels comfortable, even if it does not serve us well anymore. Standing bare, bereft of our defenses, and facing the Winter sounds miserable. There is no glamour in it — no sparkle. But such struggles are part of life, no matter how much we may wish them away. Very often we need help letting go of old leaves and weathering the storms that Fall and Winter bring. The process of change and transformation usually takes time, and we need to surround ourselves with people who can help us facilitate that growth. Sometimes, seeking professional help is necessary.

I wish us all courage: courage to face the changing seasons of our lives; courage to transform into thriving and authentic individuals; courage to help us learn to be grateful for the opportunities for growth and change that life’s challenges bring. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

- Andrey Antonenko, M.S., AMFT