- TWIL (This Week I Learned)
This week I learned about flourishing. What a week.
Saturday I interviewed Emily Morisson who works in suicide prevention. She was diagnosed with bipolar 1 a few years back and has since turned her struggle with how we care for each other into a vocation.
We all have between 5 - 10 genes that help us express our temperament, our behaviour. Each of these genes can be expressed in an “orchid” way or a “dandelion” way. Dandelions can grow anywhere. Orchids require special care or they languish. If they get that special care, though, they flourish.
I would like to submit that a lot of what our “orchid-nature” needs to flourish is cost-effective, simple to implement, and, well, doable.
Time in nature. Natural lighting. Healthy food. Routines in line with our circadian rhythms. Enough water. Hugs when we want them.
“Recently, however, an alternate hypothesis has emerged from this one and is turning it inside out. This new model suggests that it’s a mistake to understand these “risk” genes only as liabilities. Yes, this new thinking goes, these bad genes can create dysfunction in unfavorable contexts—but they can also enhance function in favorable contexts. The genetic sensitivities to negative experience that the vulnerability hypothesis has identified, it follows, are just the downside of a bigger phenomenon: a heightened genetic sensitivity to all experience.”
I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that each of us has aspects of our temperaments where we’re pretty chill. Slow to anger, maybe? Or we’re pretty social — throw us in a room with new people and we just chat with them easily. Maybe we’re rarely depressed. Stuff happens and we shrug it off and move on.
And then, likely, each of us has a thing that’s just a bit more “turned on”. Maybe we feel deeply when we see a sunset and have been known to shed tears at that moment the sun hits the ocean and melts into it? (I was in a small crowd standing on some rocks looking out at the Sea of Japan and after this sunset, we all clapped. I cried.)
Consider your dandelion nature for a bit. What about you is naturally a bit more rugged? You can take this part of you anywhere, plunk it down, and you’ll be fine. Dandelion-ness is more prevalent in us so likely you’ve got parts of you that are “just fine”
Now turn toward your orchid nature. Generally, this is around 20% (this is a huge simplification, obviously. I just want to emphasize that we’ve all got a bit of orchid-ness in us and it isn’t as common as dandelion-ness)
What part of your temperament is a bit more orchid-like? Have you been carefully protecting this part of you? If so, have you been protecting this part of you in a loving, compassionate way that acknowledges the idea that this part of you has a heightened sensitivity to all experience and is the part of you that can, if well cared for, help you flourish and not just survive?
Just something to ponder.
And so, this week, maybe notice as you are running errands, at work, having a cold drink with a friend, or walking along a street. Notice your fellow humans as the multitudes we all are.
Imagine all of them properly cared for.
5. Level-UP / Go Deeper
Consider extending a bit of extra care to someone this week if you notice they might need it. Yes, if you are someone who rarely cares for yourself, of course, extend the care to yourself.