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Journey to Wholeness

Roots and Wings


By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.


Ancient wisdom, most likely African in origin, tells us, “There are two gifts we should give our children: one is roots, and the other is wings.”  To succeed as an individual or as a society, we must have both. One theme I have noticed through the years, and even more so at this time, is disconnectedness. In our individual and collective journeys, many important connections, have been severed or severely damaged.


On an individual level, people are often disconnected from their feelings, their intuition and imagination, their bodies and sensory experience, the natural environment, and other living beings sharing that environment, and from their dreams and daydreams.


In the interpersonal arena, people are often cut off from their present family circle, their family of origin, and the language, culture, traditions, and values of their ancestors. In the societal area, people are separate from one another and distanced emotionally from each other because of gender, race, culture, lifestyle, and value differences. This view is embedded in the fabric of the multiple institutions that are part of our lives.


I do see many people working to create understanding, build bridges, and change institutions and policies that embody divisive philosophies and policies. For each of us, the question is, ‘What can I do to connect with my roots and wings, and support others in doing the same?’


Carl Jung, a 20th Century psychiatrist, founder of analytical psychology, and prolific author, describes individuation in personality development, “The individuated person…through his acceptance of the unconscious has, while remaining aware of his unique personality, realized his brotherhood with all living things, even with inorganic matter and the cosmos itself.” Part of becoming a whole person is connecting with oneself and one’s environment in a very deep and expanded way.


Murray Bowen, MD, psychiatrist and noted founder of family system theory, through his half-century of work and research, informs us of the importance of our differentiation as a person in our familial and relational environment. He describes this as having a healthy sense of self, personal goals, capacity for maturity, and the ability to regulate self in the absence of the regulation of others. He was the first to understand that we are influenced by five to seven previous generations. Now neuro- science has confirmed much of both Jung’s and Bowen’s theories.


So, the task is for each of us to grow as individuals, knowing and developing ourselves, and learning the relational skills necessary to differentiate ourselves from others while developing the skills of healthy interaction. The other task is to be aware and learn about the universe that is within us and around us, of a more dynamic and spiritual nature. To do this we need help from cradle to grave in developing the confidence, maturity, and skills to be self-aware and connect with others and our environment.


As children, we thrive with security, boundaries, and encouragement to use our imagination. This is the beginning of roots and wings. Amy Joyce, parenting editor, states in the Washington Post, “If there’s anything we’ve confirmed over and over in the research literature is that children thrive when they have warmth and structure.” As children grow in security and maturity, they are more aware of more than themselves, embracing the ‘other’ as part of their reality.


Another important aspect is encouraging young children to imagine, create, to channel their spontaneous curiosity about the material world, people, and the bigger spaces of imagination. Children’s stories are wonderfully creative in helping them expand into the world of the unconscious, the world of dreams and imagery, and the world of possibilities.


As we grow and mature, going through different developmental cycles, we are asked to revisit the areas illuminated by roots and wings. We often ask at these times, “Where have I been? Where am I? And, Where am I going?” We need our skills of knowing and understanding our emotions, our values, our relationships, and the ability to revise the future based on what we have learned in the past.


In doing this we often repair disconnections within ourselves, with others, and, often, the wider spiritual dimension of our lives. It seems that from the beginning we are continually learning about roots and wings, using them to create the next reality. As you look at yourself, your sense of personal and interpersonal roots, and your creative ability to imagine, I hope you are enjoying deeper connections with yourself, others, and your future.

Jude LaClaire, Ph. D., LCPC is a counselor and educator at the Heartland Holistic Health Center. She is the author of the “Life Weaving Education Curriculum” that teaches creative, effective, holistic problem solving. For counseling appointments, seminars, in-service training or speaker’s bureau, call 816-509-9277 or;

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