The Orchid-Dandelion Hypothesis


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The appeal of the beautiful orchid is its exquisite grace and elegance; however, unlike the dandelion which is able to take root and survive almost anywhere, the orchid requires very special care. While fragile and fickle, under the right conditions even the most delicate vanities of orchids can flourish spectacularly. 

The orchid-dandelion genetic hypothesis, although controversial, claims that genes may be responsible for our resilience and/or sensitivities. Dandelion individuals do well in spite of their environment – ‘normal’ or ‘healthy’ dandelion children function relatively well in the most challenging of circumstances. Dandelions usually grow up to be sturdy and dependable members of society. Orchid children with the identified risk gene, if subjected to a severely negative environment and poor parenting, have the potential of ending up depressed, anxious, or struggling to cope in the world.

The orchid hypothesis maintains that if orchid individuals are nurtured and exposed to encouraging environments, they have the potential in themselves to be some of the most creative, successful and well-adjusted individuals in our society. The reason may be that an orchid's vulnerability - which puts him/her at risk in the first place - may simply be a symptom of a greater responsiveness to the environment and this ultimately can be a gift.

Like the orchid, creating optimum conditions for the healthy development of a such an individual can make a big difference.  Whether we chose to believe that our fragility is caused by our genes, by our personal histories, by the less than ideal circumstances of our past and/or present, as a Counselling Psychologist I have no doubt that cultivating a healthy relationship with ourselves, with others, our environment, and especially with our bodies can have a very real and potent impact on our emotional and psychological health.