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Is Your Family a Greenhouse??

Information Update
from Dr. Andrew D. Atwood, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

This material is presented for educational and informational purposes only. No other claims are made. Always consult your health care professional for specific recommendations.

There is no better place in which to grow-up than your own family. This is true not just for you, but also for everyone else in your tribe. The best environment in which to bloom is right at home.

Having said this let me follow-up with an acknowledgement. Some families are better greenhouses for growing people than are others. After 55 years of living a somewhat reflective life, and 30 of those years working with thousands of wonderful people as a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have learned some simple lessons about what it takes to create and maintain a family life that is a great greenhouse for growing people.

The obvious first truth is that it took at least two people relating to each other for us to have arrived here at all! Birth parents, in-laws and out-laws, siblings and cousins, stepparents and more, they are all part of the immediate environment, the greenhouse, within which we confront the issues we need to confront in order to grow up.

And most important among those issues is personal identity. “Who am I?” There is much to say about you if you are an orchid. If you are a head of lettuce, that says something else again. Every one of us is someone unique. We are born with an essential identity, a cluster of gifts and talents, a composite of traits that will, if nurtured, help us to find the Divinely inspired purpose and direction that is ours alone.

The third truth is that good nurturing within the greenhouse of our family will really help us to grow. Given the right fertilizers, the right amount of attention, respect, kindness, and support, and the greenhouse becomes an environment in which any of us can thrive. Attention, which is our primary moral activity, stimulates everyone’s wakefulness. Respect, which mirrors our worth, stimulates self-validation. Kindness, which avoids damaging us while simultaneously keeping us safe, stimulates the process of growing up so that it is more hopeful than painful. Support, which acknowledges the inevitability of the struggle, stimulates our potential right through the travails of growth so that we can become a full-grown Loving Being.

And there will be travails. Once we accept the fact that growing up is full of travails, we can accept them and the instructive lessons they bring to us. Struggle, frustration, and disappointment are the normal conditions in every greenhouse. It is not the absence of conflict in the greenhouse that necessarily makes for good growth. Rather, it is the presence of attention, respect, kindness, and support during times of travail that helps us to learn what we need to learn so that we can adapt and change. We know that living systems that don’t adapt eventually die; failing to learn the lessons that accompany travails will result in a shriveled life.

Some of those lessons are common among us all. Yes, while life is full of travail, it is also full of purpose, communication, intimacy, wonder and delight. We learn that life will be what we make of it. Yes, some decisions are irrevocable, while others are not. The list of lessons people have learned is long indeed. Read the spiritual texts of any great religious tradition and within them you will find the wisdom literature left behind by people who have grown up in variety of greenhouses over the ages. Life within the greenhouse called family is chock-full of conditions and events and each bears lessons about Life itself.

The sixth truth is that sometimes family can become a hothouse. For the first dozen years of my career I was fairly effective at minimizing the heat in my own greenhouse and others. Then I learned through time and circumstances that without heat optimum growth never happens. Yes, too much heat can wilt and kill, but the right amount of heat can force tremendous growth and maturity. Some families generate a lot of heat. Some generate too much, in fact, while others put out too little. Temperature in the form of temper can be used to grow within the greenhouse, but it can also kill.

“Love” in the greenhouse, while necessary, can really complicate the process of growth in many, many ways. When love is confused with dependency it hides as fear and is manifested as control. Love, too, can demand self-examination, and self-sacrifice. Love may, if we let it, companion the death of our ego. Love can be requited, and it can be unrequited. The reasons for each are numbered among the heavens, and are located smack dab in the middle of our own chosen behaviors. If we say yes to Love we are certain to experience struggle, frustration, and disappointment. But we are just as certain to learn their lessons. True love is never forgotten, not ever. Love may take us somewhere, and that somewhere might be on a journey away. It might also take us home.

And home is the greenhouse. Our great grandparents grew up in one, and our great grandchildren will do likewise. Care for your greenhouse, and it will care for you, and your family. It is, after all, the environment in which we grow up and bloom.

Dr. Atwood

If you especially want help with your “greenhouse,” make sure you check out

This article was originally published in the Healing Garden Journal. You can locate their website at www.holisticvillage.org.

Best wishes,
Dr. Atwood

Hopeful Solutions for Your Sexless Marriage is the BIG, 173 page eBook written by Dr. Atwood. The companion volume is You Can Save Your Marriage. You can find both at www.HopefulSolutions.net. Dr. Andrew D. Atwood, LMFT. 534 Fountain St. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 - Voice 616.456.1178 - Email DrAtwood@HopefulSolutions.net. ©2002-2004 Save Your Marriage, PLC. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer: The material presented on these pages if for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It may not represent your true individual medical situation. Do not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting a qualified health care provider in person. Please consult your health care provider in person if you have any questions or concerns. Always use common sense and research your own personal situation thoroughly.

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