Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Whole Earth Mental Health

Journalist Katherine Rowland's article about the evolving field of ecopsychology, which aims to cure what ails us by bridging the human-nature rift. Quotes below, but article can be read in full at:

An evolving field known as “ecopsychology” proposes that the pervasive but fictive gulf between man and nature not only drives ecological decline, but also contributes to modern afflictions such as depression, anxiety, obesity and heart disease. From tenuous roots in Hippie-era urgings that we all be one with mother earth, ecopsychology has in recent years emerged as a legitimate approach to mental health, elaborating on research showing that people benefit from contact with nature—and suffer from its absence.

Ecopsychology endeavors to explode the nature-culture, mind-body binaries that for centuries have informed how we measure sanity and health. This bifurcating tendency is at the murky core of modern pathologies.
...... In other words, it is only because we are at such a remove from nature that we can behave the way we do: using resources with no regard for consequence, consuming goods with no thought as to their production. Doherty asks “what if we were to reinvent psychology so that at its heart it was an ecological discipline?” Could changing our relationship to nature hold the key to mental health?

How does depression correspond to a ruined landscape, or anxiety link to global warming or visions of future generations walking round a world eternally diminished?
Rather than consider anxiety or depression as outcomes of strictly personal history and circumstance, ecopsychology admits the possibility that outside events and circumstance bear on mental health. “Sometimes,” says Davis, “suffering really is about the planet.”
“It’s a form of insanity that we’re in the process of destroying our own life support systems.” 
For Davis, as well as a significant number of ecopsychologists and ecotherapists, the solution is not to take stock of silver linings, but rather to more actively engage with feelings of pain and loss. He describes contemporary attitudes toward the environment as akin to a passerby blithely strolling as a woman is murdered in the street. “There’s a learned helplessness,” he says. “We grow numb rather than face what’s really going on. We need to learn how to be active participants rather than bystanders to a tragedy.” 
Your childhood house is now dust buried beneath a strip mall; the apple tree that once gave you shade has been cut, burned, turned to splinter; the rivers where you once fished now run thick with toxic silt. Youth inherit this depletion and everywhere is starving, poisoned, desiccated, stripped and out of balance. 
“This environmental destruction can cause a profound sense of loss,” says clinical therapist Linda Buzell, founder of the International Association for Ecotherapy. “And it’s important to reckon with what that means, and really experience that pain in order to move through it." 
We suffer because we’re removed from nature; nature suffers because we are removed from it.

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