Metaphors for attachment within the principles of natural navigation

Natural navigation is the art of finding one’s direction using the sun, stars, plants, animal behaviour and the elements.

There’s much to explore within natural navigation and the metaphors it holds for our emotional world and the dynamics of our relationships.

For example, in using trees and plants to find direction, we’re looking for the influence of the sun on their growth as well as the influence of other elements such as the wind and the rain. A tree’s shape can be used to indicate the direction of the sun (or the direction of most light), and in most cases we can clearly see the role the sun has played in a tree’s life and the effect it has had on the tree’s growth. Trees need the sun’s rays for photosynthesis and growth so will instinctively reach for its light. However, other tall objects, such as other trees or buildings, may force the tree to seek light as best it can from other directions. In which case the direction of the tree’s growth isn’t just influenced by the sun but by the objects blocking its light. Instead of growing upwards, with straight back and proud head, trees may stoop, twist or be stunted.

There’s a powerful metaphor here for the influence of the maternal bond on our growth and the impact on our development where the shadow of something has blocked our access to our mother’s light. We can use this metaphor to picture how hardships and challenges have affected our growth, contorting us in ways that we may not have grown if we had had access to uninterrupted, unconditional love from a primary source. As with the competing trees, siblings and significant others around us can affect how we develop and how much of our mother’s nourishing light (or love) we get access to.

Or perhaps her light wasn’t there in our lives at all. Perhaps she removed herself, disappearing, setting beyond the horizon, leaving us alone and scared. Or perhaps her light was blocked by competing others, so we lived in shade, having to find other sources of strength to enable us to survive and, if lucky, grow.

Taking the example of an unimpeded tree growing in direct sunlight, we can appreciate the relative ease of energy flowing from mother to child within securely attached relationships. This boosts us and feels so normal that we are hardly aware of the joy of our growth, allowing us to thrive in a place of abundance. It contrasts sharply with the struggle to meet our own basic needs and simply survive, let alone grow, within insecurely attached relationships where access to maternal love may be unreliable, obstructed or simply absent, leaving us to try and manifest energy from sources which may not be optimum for our health; leaving us surviving in a place of deficit.

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