Therapy for acorns

A way through the forest

There once was an acorn named Jack. Like all acorns, Jack longed to become buried in the soil, so he could turn into a beautiful tree.

Unfortunately, Jack the acorn was plagued by all kinds of debilitating thoughts.

“I’m not a good enough little acorn”

“The forest is a terrifying place”

“What if I never make it?”

The thoughts seemed very real and even stopped Jack from enjoying his time in the forest.

One day, Bill the badger brought Jack a guidebook. “Therapy For Acorns” it read on the cover. Bill stressed that the book was no substitute for professional therapy but might still prove helpful.

Jack scoffed at the guidebook “I don’t need that” he said in his little acorn voice. “I’m not crazy. I know my own mind.” The badger took care to point out that the book’s exercises weren’t just for those with diagnosed mental disorders, nor should Jack use the word “crazy”.

Bill was known throughout the forest for being wise. Grumpy and ill-tempered but wise nonetheless. Jack therefore took the crumpled book and stuffed it into his acorn shell.

Fall came and the other acorns started getting free rides around the forest in the jaws of squirrels, which acorns love. Some were already happily tucked up in their cosy soil beds. “Why am I being left behind?” thought Jack. He was a distressed little acorn.

In the nighttimes, Jack felt sure he’d get eaten and destroyed. In the daytimes, he worried about the upcoming night. There was no time, day or night, when Jack didn’t worry.

It was only when Jack’s worrying peaked that he remembered the guidebook. Feeling a complete wreck and scarcely able to concentrate, he withdrew it from his shell. As he held the book, Jack realised it wasn’t very thick. In fact, he could have read it easily within five minutes. He just never had.

Lesson one: Step back and look at the thoughts
Jack imagined his thoughts side by side, as though they were in the window of a shop. “I’m such a bad acorn.” “The nights are so scary.” He noticed for the first time that his thoughts were all negative. This made him curious. “Why are my thoughts all so negative?” he thought.

Lesson two: Remember, thoughts aren’t real
Jack certainly felt like he was doomed and had been thinking about it a lot but was it true? There was plenty of sunlight around. Plenty of soil. The other acorns were fulfilling their destinies. Maybe soon he would too. Maybe even, if he shuffled around in his shell and tried to look his shiniest, he could increase his chances. What Jack discovered was that the forest wasn’t necessarily such a frightening place. It only seemed that way because he’d been interpreting it negatively.

Lesson three: Consider other perspectives
This one Jack quite enjoyed. He spent time making notes and drawing pictures on the page. He thought about the fun time he’d been washed down a little stream. He remembered the glow of the sunlight warming him during the day. He wrote about how these positive experiences felt and wove them into a rich story about his time in the forest, which was more palatable than the grim view he’d held before.

Lesson four: Imagine the timeline
Jack often forgot to think about where he was and what he was doing. Imagining a timeline helped his acorn brain understand he was wasting the present by worrying about the past and future. The guidebook had a note on this page, which read: “Unless you’re learning or planning, it’s usually pointless dwelling on the past or future”. Jack had never looked at it that way before.

Lesson five: Acknowledge, pause, take action
Jack read about accepting the way he felt. Often he’d be able to change it. Sometimes he wouldn’t. In any case, once he’d acknowledged his feelings, he learned that he could take a pause before deciding to live with how he felt or act on it. The pause would allow Jack a moment to control his impulses, as well as his worrying, which had almost become automatic. He could then decide how to proceed in a more measured way.

Jack was pleased with the tips that he’d read about and closed the book. It didn’t change his life right away but he felt better equipped to handle his feelings. Jack practiced the tips now and then and over the coming days. He found that it made a positive difference to how he was feeling.

The next time Bill visited Jack, he was pleasantly surprised to find him reading the book. “Would you like some proper therapy sessions now?” asked Bill “Yes please” replied Jack. The two of them met together for a number of weeks.

Following his sessions with the badger, Jack noticed that he worried less and experienced a noticeably higher number of happy moments as he went about his life in the forest. He also felt more able to ask for help from other creatures and more open to new opportunities.

Jack eventually did make it into a towering tree. Most of the other acorns that had been buried sooner were dug up and eaten but Jack was the luckiest of all and enjoyed an undisturbed soil home, where he sprouted and flourished. He looked back at what an enjoyable time he’d had since improving the quality of his thought process.

Jack marvelled at how happy he was. He was becoming a magnificent oak but he knew that the real source of his happiness wasn’t his stature or status at all. It was his ability to see the good in the world and in himself and as he grew into that mighty tree, his many branches swayed all the more beautifully for it.

The End