For many women, one of the most difficult tasks of leaving an abusive relationship is letting go of their current identity and the values and beliefs that come with it, primarily socially enforced female gender role expectations. In my original interpretation, the tree represented the possibility of a new identity, One that would allow every woman to be the person she wants to be: without guilt, without shame, and without abuse. I use the tree to represent “the self” because trees have many of the same qualities that people do. These qualities help us to move forward in our lives even in the face of devastating losses.
The tree has the ability to grow and change with the seasons, to adapt to changing conditions, to sway in the breezes of life without breaking, and to regenerate after devastating loss. The tree is beautiful in many ways, primarily for its many imperfections. For people, these differences make us more human, more relational, more empathic, more unique, and more beautiful. Trees cannot stand alone, though. They must be firmly rooted in a solid foundation, just as people must be firmly rooted in their connections with others who are loving and supportive. People must also be firmly rooted in a sense of identity that does not require sacrificing oneself on the altar of social acceptability and allows people to achieve their maximum potential.