“It takes more than physics to explain nature. Physics is only the abc. Nature is an equation of unknowable grandeur; a Hebrew word of which only the consonants are written, and to which understanding must add the diacritical vowels.” *
As we are all aware, the earth’s systems that support human life are collapsing, this is so awful it is difficult to contemplate, let alone think about.
As a result we face a threat to the future of our children, grandchildren as well as to the security of our familiar ways of life. The pandemic has worsened the situation.
The upside is that we are in a needed confrontation. A problem well named is enabling. Nature, as the above quotation suggests, is god-like, we are part of it and there is tremendous energy and creativity available. There are potentials for new connections within ourselves, with others and other than human life. A recovery of care.
If one accepts the confrontation it is wise to join with others in groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Stop HS2 for support and to prevent being overwhelmed.
One way of expressing the work of psychotherapy is coming to know, and be present in, one’s own nature. Many of us are not able to listen to our own nature, let alone the nature ‘out there’. And what I mean by that is that there is in each of us a deep intelligence of the body-mind that is happening all the time apart from our conscious mind. It’s the work of psychotherapy to learn how to listen to yourself.
It is important to notice that the word “nature” is often used to designate the other than human as being ‘out there’. This disjunction is embedded in our consumerism, our beliefs and assumptions, and recovery involves understanding ourselves as participants rather than creatures apart or above. This is now explored in many disciplines, for instance, in biology, quantum field theory, neuroscience, inter-subjectivity, relationality, grounded theory, spirituality and the arts.
In the field of psychology different kinds of therapy are emerging to heal this disjunction from nature and make evident that all life forms, all matter exist in in matrices of inter- communications. There are now courses in ecotherapy, Mary-Jayne Rust’s book Towards an Ecopsychotherapy is a valuable resource.
“As a psychotherapist with some 30 years experience, I am interested in a psychology in the service of the earth. This is Ecopsychology. How might we support the genius of human nature to re-imagine our relationship with the earth? How might we understand and confront the shadow sides of human nature that have led us to this point of global crisis?”
In my own practice the attraction of energy psychotherapy, in addition to its effectiveness, is that its theories and practice offer convincing evidence that the body and mind are one. Also Shamanic practice demonstrates confidence that the imaginal is as real as the material physical world.
The following are helpful in changing our mind sets.
Richard Power’s novel Overstory is both a gripping novel and a sound account of how humans are completely dependent on trees.
In her book the Ecocritical Psyche Susan Rowland establishes a position from which anything, material object or phenomena, can be considered in the context of its relationship with the environment, nature. Coming from being a literary critic she develops a theme of literature as part of nature so that liberated by her, books, poems amble through our lives as surely animals do in material and imaginal realities. She ably gets hold of the imaginal and human culture as part of nature. She also establishes the imaginal, this integration of language and nature and imagination, as central to human resource rather than an after-thought, an entertainment.
The fear you may feel in being confronted with human degradation of the environment on which we depend has the potential to realise better quality of life. This enrichment involves engaging with our resistances in recognising changes that are not compatible with our current ways of life or with human survival. Climate Psychology Alliance is rich resource for positive potentials and its handbook is a helpful account of self-destructive defences. One response to despair is to find a role that suits you in activism. I find Extinction Rebellion and protests against the HS2 railway hugely heartening in their ethos as well as in meaningful and effective protest.
Click here for a link to an Ecopsychology website
Click here for details of the annual Ecopsychology gathering, Edge of Wild at Green and Away, Europe’s only sustainably-run, tented conference centre.
*Hamman Hamman’s Schriften, I (509) ed. Friedrich Roth, Leipzig 1821-1825 quoted in Harmonia Abrahamica p. 121 in The Lost Speech and the Battle for the Soul of the World Green Man Earth Angel by Tom Cheetham State University of New York Press 2005