Posts Tagged ‘ecological unconscious. human relationship to nature’

Ordinary Earth Returns: People Need a Place

April 15, 2010

The importance of a sense of place to psychological well-being became evident during my travel to Israel. While we understand many psychological difficulties in terms of relationships (particularly parental), or development, or even the body, rarely do psychologists venture into the significance of space and place. Human geographers like Yi-Fu Tuan, Nigel Thrift, Steve Pile and Derek Gregory (to name a few) have written extensively about the mutual influence of space and consciousness.  Clinicians have not focused on it as much, but my thinking is that we can learn about another facet of our minds from these geographers . (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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Thoughts on the Ecological Unconscious

February 1, 2010

A NYTimes article by Daniel Smith describes a growing field of psychology, ecopsychology, that examines links between the function of the human psyche and nature.  Glenn Albrecht in Australia coined “solastalgia” – “the pain experienced when there is recognition that the place where one resides and that one loves is under immediate assault.”  Thomas Doherty is a clinical psychologist in Portland Oregon trying to analyze and explicate the relationship between environmental issues and psychological well-being.  Peter Kahn is a developmental psychologist researching, among other things, how technologically mediated nature versus real nature impacts human functioning.  My take? In an article published in Psychoanalytic Dialogues (which to my delight Doherty has used in his courses), I suggest that some common behaviors of young adulthood like obliterative drinking, excessive sexuality and dissociative materialism – as well as other classic psychological difficulties – are very much an expression of our changed relationship to the physical environment.  In another paper based on random interviews I see a pattern. The more engaged a person’s relationship to the physical world, the more active they are in making choices about their life.  In other words, the mind’s agency is directly affected by experiences with the environment.   Like Gregory Bateson , I believe that the mind and the planet/environment/ecology in which we live define each other in an ongoing dialectic.    What does this mean for you? (more…)


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