I first heard of the orchid versus dandelion idea in Donna Jackson Nakazawa’s book The Last Best Cure, where she talks about her search for mind-body strategies to deal with her autoimmune disorders. I thought it was a really interesting way to think about resilience under difficult circumstances.
Dandelions are hardy and able to survive under difficult circumstances. They remain steady in their lives, unfazed and resilient to changing circumstances. In contrast, orchids are fragile and sensitive. They wither under harsh circumstances, but given the proper care, they thrive spectacularly.
(I am definitely an orchid.)
This idea ties into the concept of highly sensitive people (HSP), which I came across in a Phoenix Helix podcast. Here, Alane Freund talks about the characteristics of HSPs, and the benefits and challenges of being one in society.
(I am definitely a highly sensitive person.)
I’ve often been frustrated that I seem to need more time to bounce back from things than my peers, and it was so interesting to hear Freund talk about how HSPs need to take better care of themselves than others. She talks about how we can’t burn the candle at both ends, which I definitely learned the hard way, as well as how we need regular rest and downtime to feel our best. All of this rings true with me, and it is always so gratifying to know that there are others like me. I’m always joking that I’m a delicate flower, but maybe it’s less joke and more reality than I had realized.
Back to Donna Jackson Nakazawa – it just occurred to me that I first came across her work on another Phoenix Helix podcast! She talks about the concept of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in The Last Best Cure, and goes further into it in Childhood Disrupted. There is a lot of research coming out showing that people who experienced particular difficulties in childhood are more prone to developing autoimmune disorders as adults. These difficulties change the way the brain and immune system develop, which can impact people several decades after experiencing them. In the podcast about HSPs, Freund mentions that highly sensitive people can be more impacted by adverse childhood experiences. You can find the ACEs questionnaire here.
The really interesting and wonderful thing to me, whether you’re an orchid, a highly sensitive person, or someone who has experienced ACEs, is that it’s never too late to take steps to rewire the neural connections in your brain and help your mind and body become more resilient. Nakazawa has many wonderful suggestions on this, which you can find in more detail in her books. The Phoenix Helix podcast also has very comprehensive show notes, if you are looking for more resources on these topics.
For me, being mindful in my everyday life, practicing yoga and meditation, and taking the time to be grateful and express that gratitude are ways that help me be more responsive rather than reactive. It’s always a work in progress, but I’ve seen many improvements in my ability to handle stress and my general happiness level since I’ve introduced these practices.
Do any of these concepts resonate with you?