Sunday, August 3, 2008

Forest Paths Metaphor

One's life, or mind, or brain, is like a forest with many paths.

There is some literal truth to this metaphor, in that the connections in the brain that form memories and patterns of behaviour, most likely exist as pathways between many different neurons, with the pathways consolidated and strengthened further every time they are activated.

Some of our forest paths may be well-trodden, but lead us into dangerous territory every time (maybe into poor relationships, addictions, recurrent self-destructive thoughts, depressive symptoms, or other harms to self).

But it is not easy to navigate new paths. The familiarity, ease, and convenience, of the old paths makes them the most likely to take.

You may need to do hard work forming new paths in your forest, resisting the urge to take the old familiar ones.

The old paths may never "close up" entirely. Look at the paths in a literal forest outside. Even paths that are overgrown for years are still apparent, and if someone was to make a new path in that area, chances are they might choose that same old overgrown one.

But old paths gradually weaken, if they are left untrodden. You may need to leave them dormant for years (imagine those protective fences they put up in forests to protect "ecologically sensitive areas" from being trampled by hikers--put some of those up in your own mind and in your own life).

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