Archive for the ‘ecopsychcology’ Category

Psychology,Psychoanalysis and the Environment

June 11, 2010

The IARPP environmental and psychology seminar continues into its second week. The panelists have been asked the following questions in five subject area.

Human Geography:

1)Are there unique psychological states of mind that correspond to different geographic localities?

2)What happens to the mind when the environmental localities begin to transform due to environmental corruption, climate change?

Cultural History:

The environment, nature, country, city, urban, wilderness are all terms that have had different psychological meanings in different places and in different historical periods. In what way is an understanding of these shifts and progressions relevant to an understanding of today’s current environmental problems?

Field Data:

Reports and observations of psychological reactions, responses and changes that are taking place in response to ongoing climate change issues or environmental disasters in parts of the world with which you are familiar.

Personhood:

1) As the world becomes more technological and human life is conceived as increasingly independent from their ecosystems how has that changed personhood?

2) How does this vary between cultures/ecosystems?

Defenses and Excesses:

1) Why are people participating in the destruction of the ecosystems they need in order to survive?

2) Why aren’t they more activated by climate change?

3) What are the psychological obstacles to change?

4) How are those psychological defenses embedded in economic and socio-political systems?

Sample responses after the jump.

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Psychology, Psychoanalysis and the Environment

June 4, 2010

The environmental seminar at IARPP launched this week with a mix of emotional response to the Gulf Oil Coast and some salient points regarding the interface between psychology, psychoanalysis and the environment. Many ventured to discuss the significance of environmental devastation on life as we know it. People’s lives are being affected now see here and here . Most expressed a passionate and challenging set of responses to the Gulf Coast oil spill ranging from sadness, fear, and apathy. Here are some salient topics unders discussion so far: (more…)

Psychoanalysis, Psychology and the Environment

May 28, 2010

Begininng Tuesday June 1 – Friday June 25th IARPP will be hosting an online seminar: Psychoanalysis, Psychology and the Environment: A Dialogue.  Given what has transpired in the Gulf Coast, this topic couldn’t be more timely.  The seminar ($10.00 fee) is open to all IARPP members ($135.00 membership fee).  During that time period this blog will report on what transpires during this seminar.

Description: As the recent Gulf oil spill makes clear, denial, dissociation, trauma, anxiety, and depression play a role in the climate change story.  And, as the limits of technology to deal with the oil spill become more apparent (and hence the idea that science will rescue us becomes more tendentious), an international conversation about psychoanalysis and the environment is timely. The goal of this seminar is to generate a dialogue among professionals who think about how the changing environment influences the mind and how the mind is responding to the ever increasing threat. The hope of this seminar is to develop both a network and a body of thinking that can anchor and connect the many people working on this issue. The panelist faculty (Glenn Albrecht, Susan Bodnar, Thomas Doherty, R.D. Hinshelwood, Paul Hoggett, Renee Lertzman, Rosemary Randall, Andrew Samuels, Nick Totton, Sally Weintrobe) will present some of their thoughts about this topic, using an eclectic reading list as a jumping off point. The seminar participants can share their own thinking, ask questions and respond to the readings. As we think and dialogue together we hope to consolidate some form of coherence out of the ideas generated by this dialogue. Among others, we will examine how concepts like solastalgia, embodiment/disembodiment, dissociation, object relations, repression of the unconscious, and concepts borrowed from human geographers can enhance the now international dialogue about mental and emotional processes and the environment.  Panelist bios after the jump.

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Chronic Leaks and Slow Burns: The Impact of Bureaucracy on Teens

May 20, 2010

“After all the test preps, and all the focus on getting things just so you can get into college, I feel like an empty shell. There is no me, and the person who ends up succeeding and getting all that stuff isn’t me at all.” KF, 17 year old NYC teen.

As BP finally siphons some of the oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, it will most likely fade from public attention.  The same can be said for forest fires. Crown fires that spread rapidly from treetop to treetop attract attention and frenzied intervention. Fires that smolder beneath thick layers of fallen leaves can burn undetected and destructively for many acres before anyone notices. The mind gradually assimilates most long term chronic events, and it can even seem as if they no longer impact our lives.  Humans have an ability to get used to almost anything, a trait that is adaptive in the short-term and destructive in the long term.  The mind numbing defenses of repression and dissociation are the cultural equivalent of bureaucratization, processes meant to dissipate and nullify the possible emotional tension of group behavior.

David Brooks recently expressed the feeling that Elena Kagan was too perfunctory, too organized around success, not inspired or even inspirational. While Brooks is wrong about her, I believe he might be on to something very important.  What he is describing is the gradual dulling of individual expression and intellectual risk-taking brought on by the culture’s emphasis on an overly bureaucratic, professional and strategic presentation of self. Ask any teen in high school, like the young woman I once met who was interested in a certain 9/11 project for her college resume. Teens will tell you how the continued emphasis on the externals of success and the neglect of powerful socio-cultural values gradually wears them down.

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Gulf Oil Spill #2

May 4, 2010

Read this.  Krugman echoes comments by Glenn Albrecht.  The surprising issue is that given the severity of this disaster, so few people seem as upset as I might expect, at least here in NYC. I venture to say, however, that unless you live along the Gulf coast or work in it waters, the implications of this oil spill event are being conveniently tucked away in the dark corners of people’s minds. At a dinner over the weekend, friends commented, “This is terrible,” looking anguished and frightened in a manner that tightened their eyes.  No one that I spoke to was motivated to do anything. There are, however, psychological concepts that can explain such apathy. They can also suggest strategies to enable a more authentic national dialogue about our energy choices.  The Gulf Coast doesn’t only need Obama. It needs the citizenry.

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Gulf Oil Spill

April 30, 2010

from news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20003460-1.html

I’m working on pulling together words and ideas from psychological theory to explain why we let this happen, how it will affect us, and what we can do to encourage people to stop hurting our planet.  As the sick and wounded wildlife covered in oil begin to appear, and as life forms are decimated- from the small organisms that are the foundations of existence to the people who died – this disaster looms large. My son tore his pillowcase to shreds.  Kids who care feel pretty hopeless.  I suppose adults can’t manage it any better, really. We have however signed up to volunteer. What follows are some helpful links to stuff that I have been reading and comments from colleagues. If you have others please send them along.  I’ll be posting updates as I encounter them.

UPDATES from Glenn Albrecht and Renee Lertzman after the jump.

News: here, here, here and here

Blogs: here, here, here, here,here, and here

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Hooking Up Isn’t Green

April 18, 2010

A few years ago, a young woman winced as she described yet another evening of binge drinking, and the guy she thought she remembered having sex with in the bar parking lot.  Her long wavy hair framed bright eyes that seemed to catch every change in light. Her arms, long and graceful, sat folded upon her chest.  She had graduated at the top of her class at an Ivy-League college, and was now a young professional in Manhattan.  Still, she spent most evenings out at bars, and her social life consisted of brief sexual encounters with people she either just met or barely knew. I once suggested to her that she try going to dinner with a romantic interest.

“Are you crazy?” she admonished. “Have dinner with someone I don’t know? I would never do that “.

That was my introduction to what is know commonly known as hooking up.  Since then I have discovered that it is the common form of socializing in high schools and on college campuses.  Denise Ann Evans made a movie about it. Tom Wolfe has written about it. The behavior is an implicit aspect of most reality TV.  Yet, while limited media attention views the phenomena with some degree of fascinated voyeurism, very few remark on the fact that these young people are simply enacting everything they have been taught. What else might be expected from young people raised on commercials, treated as consumers from the  time they were toddlers and flooded with imagery of the earth being violated for the sake of materialistic consumption?

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People Don’t Always Act in their Best Interest

March 9, 2010

from uk.canada.travel/ConsumerWeb/ExperienceDetail...

Some people have been debating whether or not scientists should become climate change activists or if they should stick to the data. The concern is that the general population seems less worried about environmental issues.  Given our culture’s typical reliance on external solutions to problems, it doesn’t surprise me that journalists and pundits are looking to Obama, scientists, activists, politicians and economists to motivate change. As someone who helps people transform less than optimal behavioral problems into opportunities for accomplishment, lets begin with this fact:  People don’t always act in their own best interest.  Usually, what most motivates people to behave in a manner that affirms self and others is direct  emotional enlivenment that connects to an inner conviction or memory.  Let me provide an example from my work to illustrate how it might be possible to get people interested in climate change. (more…)

We the People: A Response to Evan Thomas and Al Gore

March 2, 2010

An adolescent with whom I work discussed the complexity of privilege.  “My parents paid just over $12,000.00 for our family to go on a 5-day wilderness backpacking trip, with a service that provides the gear, the food, a plane to transport you there and a guide. I loved it and it changed me, like any amazing experience your parents buy for you. But the fact that it didn’t come from within me made it seem like another thing that someone gave me. Maybe it would have felt less strange if having that relationship to the wilderness wasn’t something only wealthy people could buy, but just a more natural and expected part of how kids are raised.”

His comment reminded me of a question: how will people who have been raised in a time of excess choose to live sustainable lives ?  Evan Thomas said in this week’s Newsweek, “The problem is not the system. It’s us – our ‘got mine’ culture of entitlement.”  I know the people of whom he writes. They are not of any particular subculture but rather inhabit every landscape from poverty to opulence with a unfamiliarity with limits and boundaries of any kind, as well as personal needs that seem small in comparison to what the planet has to offer.

And, Al Gore is asking these people to be the opposite of who they are in order to save the planet. How does the culture of excess shift gears to become a sustainable one?

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Nick Totton and the UK ecopsychologists

February 12, 2010

Yorkshire countryside, UK, photo by hchalkley

Having read my Wasted and Bombed paper, Nick Totton contacted me. He is a body therapist with an MA in psychoanalysis from Yorkshire, part of a network of British therapists of different specialties working on the interface between psychology and the environment.  Check them out.  And here too. Totton is currently editing a collection of writing on ecopsychology for the journal he edits Psychotherapy and Politics International . He is also working on a book which is intended to bring together ecopsychology, ecotherapy, and political issues.  I had the opportunity to read his enlightening key-note address to an Adventure therapy conference.

He wrote: “But as a therapist, I am also aware of the need for a change of mind, a huge shift of consciousness, if humanity is going to take a different path into the future. That is why I have become involved with ecopsychology – an involvement which stems from my work as a body psychotherapist: it seems to me that a positive relationship with the other-than-human is founded in a positive relationship with our own embodiment.”

Between Glenn Albrect in Australia, Thomas Doherty and Peter Kahn on the west coast and now these folks in the UK,  along with myself and the folks at CRED in NYC where I have spent some time learning and researching, it does feel as though there is a growing international interest in the unacknowledged relationship between our psyches and our environment.  Thrilling, really.


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