Archive for Ecopsychology & Nature

Ecopsychology: On Educating Ourselves as Ecopsychological Beings in a Psychological World—An Interview with Dr. Lori Pye

Ecopsychology: On Educating Ourselves as Ecopsychological Beings in a Psychological World—An Interview with Dr. Lori Pye

As an activist working with NGOs to stop shark finning in Central America years ago, Dr. Lori Pye was once a target of a malicious act intended to intimidate her.

ecopsychological beingsThe experience plunged her into a sort of psychological crisis. Finding herself face to face with a stark and undeniable image of ecological devastation, she had an epiphany: our own psychological destruction is being expressed in destruction of the ecological world.

The experience profoundly renewed Dr. Pye’s focus on ecopsychology. At the same time, she was also reading the work of James Hillman, Re-Visioning Psychology. Both of these topics inspired her to take meaningful action in the form of founding Viridis Graduate Institute for Ecopsychology and Environmental Humanities

For Pye, ecopsychology revolves around the idea that we are disconnected from ourselves. Because we don’t know who we are as a species, nor what our role is toward to the planet, we tend to act in very unconscious ways. The idea behind Viridis Institute is to educate individuals about the goings-on in their own ecosystem and in how we each function as an ecosystem from a psychological perspective.

Our culture is looking for effective leaders who can address change in a fast-changing world, Pye notes. Ecopsychology answers this call—both in the “academy,” the field of academia—and in the culture. Bringing together both a scientific, empirical approach and the aesthetics provided by the humanities can help us collectively address the cumulative and dire issues we face right now.

Those who relate to the activist archetype, when educated and trained in an ecopsychological and depth psychological way, often discover that much of their own psychology plays into global events, Pye believes. Jung proffered that individual psychology is reflected in the psychology of a nation. Activism with intelligence, with a psychological dimension, helps us to powerfully, effectively, and ethically make a difference and to assess the consequences of what we are doing. “The impetus of ecopsychology is to educate the psyche. It’s to engage in a psychological conversation with an ecological organism, and engage with an ecological conversation with a psychological organism,” she states.

We need a psychological education, and imagery that can lead us into a different future, Pye emphasizes, and that change starts with each individual doing ecosystemic work on him or herself. We can all be educated on our sense of “who we are as an ecosystem or ecological organism living in a psychological world.”

Download the audio interview here  (approx. 32 mins)

Listen/stream audio on YouTube

Learn more about Dr. Lori Pye and her work at www.ViridisInstitute.org

 

lori-pye-2016Dr. Lori Pye is a Founder and President of Viridis Graduate Institute. Dr. Pye’s background consists of environmental & marine conservation, undergraduate and graduate academic instruction. As an environmentalist, Dr. Pye worked with international NGOs to co-develop the Eastern Tropical Pacific Biological Seascape Corridor with the Ministers of the Environment from Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama, and Ecuador.

She has led international conferences on diverse issues: Nature and Human Nature, The Mythology of Violence, The Aesthetic Nature of Change, and These Women: Honoring Women in Archetypal and Depth Psychology. Dr. Pye’s unique contribution to the developing field of ecopsychology brings together the sciences and humanities through the examination of literature, art, ecological, biological, and depth psychological principles essential to the processes of transforming deeply rooted unconscious narratives that drive human practices, civic illiteracy, policies, and decisions about how we design and craft our world in both creative and destructive ways.

Dr. Pye has multiple publications in peer-reviewed journals and has taught internationally and serves on the Editorial Board for Ecopsychology Journal. She currently lectures at Viridis Graduate Institute, University of Santa Barbara (UCSB), and Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital Psychiatric Residency Program. Learn more at www.ViridisInstitute.org

  http://depthinsights.com//radio/Lori-Pye-Ecopsychology-Viridis-062416-final.mp3

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Limitless Growth, the Destructive Myth of our Times: Part One of a Report on a Talk Given by Dr. Vandana Shiva

The idea of limitless growth is the most destructive myth of our times, began Dr. Vandana Shiva, in her inspiring plenary talk at “Climates of Change and a Therapy of Ideas,” Pacifica’s recent 40thanniversary conference held on the Ladera campus in Santa Barbara, CA.

Vandana Shiva, who trained as a physicist at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, is Founder and Director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology and for Navdanya, the movement for seed saving and ecological agriculture. She is also the author of numerous books including Staying AliveEcofeminism, Seed Sovereignty and Food Security: Women in the Vanguard (Ed.), Soil Not OilEarth Democracy and Who Feeds the World.

In her moving lecture, Shiva reminded the hundreds of Pacifica students, alumni, and faculty—along with many members of the larger community who gathered in the Barrett center—that we are now living in an age recently dubbed the “Anthropocene,” the “age of man,” and pointed out some of the cultural and ecological issues that have led to the multitude of critical situations we now collectively face. 

Shiva is a powerful voice for preserving the earth and healing culture and planet through conserving natural seeds, promoting biodiversity, and helping people connect to the land through organic gardening.

While some scientists are looking to implement geoengineering solutions to combat climate change, including launching chemicals or reflectors into the sky to reflect the sun and prevent warming (as if the sunlight were the problem, she wryly notes), organic gardening would allow us to pull 10 gigatons of carbon out of the atmosphere.

In fact, one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases is farming, I learned. Industrial agriculture, in particular, results in disturbance of massive amounts of earth, releasing excess CO2 normally sequestered in the soil into the atmosphere. Fertilizers, also, are large contributors to carbon emissions, and the use of pesticides and insecticides containing deadly chemicals is widespread in most industrial farming.

In addition, the loss of biodiversity to large tracts of lands planted with acre after acre of so-called “monocrops” such as corn and soybeans completely obliterate ecosystems that provide nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies and other pollinators to survive. The word agriculture refers to the “culture of the land,” Shiva pointed out, yet today, due to the way we treat the land, agriculture has become like war.

More, Shiva contends, in large part due to our history of colonialism which infringed on the rights of indigenous individuals in many parts of the world, a few individuals and organizations have been enabled to take advantage of the situation, not only taking over land and property that belonged to the original inhabitants, but also by setting legal precedents that work to their advantage.

Specifically, some of those corporations that produce chemicals for the agricultural industry, such as fertilizer and pesticides, are misusing their power to create lucrative initiatives that she finds highly disturbing. Corporations such as Monsanto have created monopolies on gigantic tracts of land, planting them with specially engineered seeds that often integrate pesticides right into the seed.

In her book, Soil Not Oil[i] and elsewhere, Shiva discusses how a new class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, developed by Shell and Bayer and chemically related to nicotine, are killing the soil and the pollinators that provide us with food. Only 10% of butterflies remain because of the spraying of RoundUp, she suggests; most are emerging from their cocoons with deformed wings. My own doctoral research, which focused in part on Colony Collapse Disorder, the mass decimation of honeybee hives, revealed that “neonics” are also implicated in loss of honeybees.

When RoundUp and related pesticides are sprayed on the crops we ultimately eat, Shiva relays, it leads to the decimation of bacteria that make precursors to neurotransmitters, effectively killing much of the good bacteria in our guts, allowing pathogens to grow and take over. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, which is generously sprayed on genetically engineered crops, may indeed be a culprit in the process Shiva describes.[ii]

The rapid increase in rates of autism, which may be linked to pesticides, is also a growing concern. When I looked into Roundup specifically, I discovered that as of 2009, the line of RoundUp products, including genetically modified seeds, represented nearly 50% of Monsanto’s business.[iii]

Ultimately, Shiva contends, organic agriculture feeds the planet with more nourishing food and can sequester the carbon we need. Seed programs, like the movement she started with Navdanya to create seed banks, can ensure our collective future, too, and maintain the diversity desperately required for our future prosperity. Those individuals that have the capacity to destroy life on earth have an incapacity to understand how they are destroying it, Shiva insists, and we need more hands and love on the land to beatify the earth and help the land to heal. What is it we will do now?

Learn more about Vandana Shiva’s conference talk in Part Two of this report, coming soon.

NOTES

[i] Vandana Shiva (2008). Soil Not Oil. Brooklyn, NY: South End Press.

[ii] Joseph Mercola. (June 9, 2013). “Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide May Be Most Important Factor in Development of Autism and Other Chronic Disease”. Mercola.com: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/06/09/monsanto-roundup-herbicide.aspx

[iii] Matt Cavallaro. (June 26, 2009). “The Seeds Of A Monsanto Short Play”. Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/2009/06/29/monsanto-potash-fertilizer-personal-finance-investing-ideas-agrium-mosaic.html

NOTE: This blog was originally posted on PacificaPost.com

Ecotherapist Linda Buzzell, Panel Presentation for “Earth, Climate, Dreams”—A Summary

In a short presentation as a panelist for “Earth, Climate, Dreams,” an online event hosted by Depth Psychology Alliance™ that took place in April 2016, Linda Buzzell, MA, MFT, shared some insights into the power of “daytime dreams” and working to develop eco-resilience in the face of challenging times. I found Linda’s insights into eco-resilience quite powerful, prompting me to summarize them here in order to share them with you.

Linda begins by mentioning the work of Dr. Steven Aizenstat and psychotherapist, Lauren Schneider, both active in the International Association for the Study of Dreams (IASD), and how they perceive that we can get direct communication from the rest of nature by observing the natural images that arise in our dreams.

Regarding dreams, Linda notes, it is also important to look at “daytime dreams” as well as those we have at night. With this, she suggests that young people in our country have been suffering from lack of an alternative vision of our climate and the ecological crisis. What would it look like if we were doing it right, she asks?

Linda has been working with Craig Chalquist, Ph.D., with whom she co-authored the 2009 Sierra Club anthology, Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind, to come up with principles of eco-resilience. As our society is going to be going through some difficulties, how can we be resilient as individuals, families, communities and ecosystems, she wonders. The Permaculture design course provides practical approaches to empower yourself, your family and community to allow you to be as eco-resilient as possible.

Linda mentions that she participated in a reading circle for Carolyn Baker’s, Navigating the Coming Chaos, which she found to be a very helpful book to engage around. Referring to “The Waking Up Syndrome,” an essay she co-wrote with therapist Sarah Anne Edwards, Linda describes how they engage Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ stages of death and dying to look at the ecological crisis and see how we go through denial, distraction, or despair.

She references how drastically each of us can be affected by news such as how climate change or ecological decline is happening much faster than predicted. We each experience trauma due to these ongoing “shocks,” Linda believes—what John Howard Kunstler calls the “Long Emergency” or Sarah Edwards calls “residual trauma.”

Engaging in community in order to look at issues, dreams, etc. helps with one’s personal eco-resilience, she suggests. The idea of a waking dream in nature is a way we can experience the larger psyche, by communicating with or spending much more time with nature, whether it’s in “little nature” nearby, or in the larger wilderness. This is one more way we can be guided by earth and the larger psyche of nature as to what we need to be doing individually and collectively as to what’s happening on our planet.

 

View the video of Linda’s panel presentation here (approximately 7 minutes)

View the full “Earth, Climate, Dreams” online panel and community c… (approx. 94 mins)

Linda is offering an Ecotherapy weekend workshop at Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, May 13-15, 2016.  DETAILS & REGISTRATION HERE

 

ABOUT LINDA

Linda Buzzell, MA, LMFT, PDC (Permaculture Design Certificate), has been a psychotherapist for more than 30 years and has specialized in ecopsychology and ecotherapy since 2000. She and Craig Chalquist edited the Sierra Club Books anthology Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind, a core text in clinical ecopsychology. She is a member of the Editorial Board of Ecopsychology, the peer reviewed journal of the field, and was a keynote speaker at the 2014 Ecotherapy Symposium at the University of Brighton in the UK. She is Adjunct Faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute. In 2002 she founded the International Association for Ecotherapy and is co-founder of the Ecopsychology Network of Southern California. She blogs on ecopsychology and ecotherapy at The Huffington Post. She is a member of the Ecopsychology Network for Clinicians, where she taught “The HOW of Ecotherapy.” In 2006 she received her Permaculture Design Certificate and with her husband Larry Saltzman has created a food forest around her home that serves as her ecotherapy office. For further information, www.ecotherapyheals.com and www.huffingtonpost.com/linda-buzzell

Dreaming the Earth: Earthing the Dream—Depth Psychology and Appreciative Nature Practices with Dr. Pat Katsky

Dr. Pat Katsky is a Jungian Analyst and core faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute, and she has been a therapist for thirty years. When Pat sat down with me in a recent interview, our conversation focused on the idea that some of the most psychologically healing experiences come from the natural world, a theme derived from an upcoming certificate program, “Dreaming the Earth: Earthing the Dream” starting April 15, 2016.

dreaming_the_earth.jpgPat mused on how in the last million or so years of history, humans have always needed nature and did not feel separate from it. But with the industrial revolution and the development of society as we know it, we have lost the connectedness. It has become something we do for vacation, she observes, then we return to jobs and daily life where nature is distant.

Knowing Pat is a Jungian analyst, I ask her how she believes our dreams shed light on our connection to the planet. Dreams are the deepest part of us speaking to us, sharing wisdom and perspective, she responded, noting how Jung used the word numinous to describe certain kinds of dreams that make us feel we are in the presence of something larger than ourselves—when we feel awe or a sense of mystery.

As an analyst, she has seen many “big” dreams—that is, life-changing dreams clients from clients that involved the natural world. She recounts some stories (which, she notes, she has permission to share). Some dreams, for example, introduce a particular animal which becomes a totem figure for the dreamer. In one specific dream, an individual found himself standing on the ground, which began to shake. In the dream, the dreamer thought he was experiencing an earthquake, but then became aware it was a giant animal shaking itself awake. Other clients have had images about unusual movements of stars, or of the sun and moon in an unexpected relationship to one another. As you might imagine, Pat insists, some of these kinds of powerful images can have lasting, life-changing effects on people.

I ask Pat how she recommends people work with the images they receive, particularly for those individuals who are longing for that sense of reconnection with earth. One of the beautiful things about nature is that it exists both inside of us and outside of us, Pat notes in response. For some people, their greater sense of connection with the earth requires them to do something in the outer world, whether cultivating a garden or visiting certain natural settings.

Pat mentions that the certificate program she is co-teaching at Pacifica will incorporate some special elements, including community dreaming where people gather at the beginning of the day and share dreams. Often themes emerge throughout the day that echo the images that came out of the group dream work in the morning. Among other experiential activities, participants will also have the opportunity to use art supplies or nature elements to engage with a dream image.

Are there other practices, I wonder to Pat, that can be used to enhance our engagement? She responds with her own enthusiasm about topics that will be included in the upcoming certificate program, including a presentation from Pacifica’s organic gardener whom she likens to the “archetypal green man,” Dr. Steve Aizenstat, who will be presenting on DreamTending™, and Dr. Joseph Cambray, who will speak about complex adaptive systems. We are increasingly discovering that as a system develops, new more complicated order can evolve—a rather radical idea, as Pat notes. Cambray will also go into the biological basis of how our mind works when we go into natural settings. Dr. Joseph Bobrow, a zen roshi, will talk about Buddhism and interdependence in the natural world, and Linda Buzzell will present with Craig Chalquist on eco-resilience—how to find a path forward with heart in the midst of the difficult times we face, and the need to forge a different kind of relationship with the natural world than we currently have as a species.

I ask Pat then if her calling to work as a therapist and provide a container for people to do that kind of work was based in any way on her relationship to nature and what she saw happening on the planet even 20 or 30 years ago. For her personally, she finds something so replenishing about being in nature in that way after immersing herself in the psychic life of so many as a therapist. There’s something that can’t be put into words, Pat insists, about experiencing remote natural settings where one can access very meditative places of deep silence. There we can let nature speak to us, and gift us its gifts to enrich us, giving us the capacity to go back and help others.

Katsky is currently a docent in a nature preserve owned by UCSB, which offers trips into nature for school children and the general public, and she mentions to me how greatly she has enjoyed watching people make that step and to see what it does for them. I am reminded of a talk I heard at a women’s conference a couple of years ago, where the speaker, who was from India, mentioned that in some of the worst slums in India, kids had never seen a tree except in a book. That just broke my heart when I heard that, I tell Pat, and it makes me appreciate the work she is doing to make nature more accessible to kids and everyone.

I think about the wonder of seeing a tree, and query Pat on how she feels about wonder and awe in our culture today? Have we lost the capacity for it, I wonder. What role does it play for us moving forward into the future? Pat has a ready answer. Jung said the main focus of his work was not on pathologies but on the approach to numinous experiences—of awe and of being in the presence of the sacred. He felt that that was the direction in which he wanted people to move, because he believed having these experiences is what healed people. When you have a numinous experience, it’s not something you can ignore she expounds. It’s like a puzzle; sometimes you have to “puzzle over it” for years sometimes to ascertain the range of its meaning.

When you work with numinous experiences, you get the sense that you’re engaged in a dialogue with “a kind of inner wisdom that will give you dreams, synchronicities and knowledge you need to help you continue the path of your own individuation,” she believes.

For me, this evokes the memory of one of my favorite teaching from Jung, who asked, “Is man related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life.”

rhizome.jpgWhen I quote this, Pat responds with another idea from Jung, that personal human growth is like the growth that comes out of a rhizome. Rhizomes, she clarifies, are an extraordinary class of plants where the roots go out sideways. You don’t know it when it’s happening but suddenly a new plant emerges that looks like a separate plant, but it’s actually living off of this much larger rhizome. It can be transformational to think of ourselves in this way, as not separate beings but rather feeding off of this larger rhizome.

As we close the interview, I am left with this image of the rhizome, which has continued to work me, almost as a dream might do. It is but one of millions of metaphors that come to us from the natural world that we can relate to strongly. Nature is indeed a remarkable teacher, and engaging with it intentionally and appreciatively can only enhance our own personal growth.

Listen to the full interview with Pat Katsky here (Approx. 29 mins.)

Learn more / Register for the Depth Psychology and Appreciative Nature Practices certificate program here


katsky-pat.jpg

Pat Katsky, Ph.D., has been a core faculty member at Pacifica for over 15 years, teaching and mentoring students in many of Pacifica’s programs. She is currently serving as Vice-Provost, and formerly was Chair of the Depth Psychotherapy Program. She was certified as a Jungian analyst 20 years ago, and has been a psychotherapist for over 30 years. Her research interests include the process of becoming a psychotherapist, the world of dreams, and the religious function of the psyche. She has published and lectured on these topics in the United States and abroad. Pat was formerly the president of the C.G. Jung Institute of Los Angeles, and serves regularly on the reviewing and certifying boards of the San Francisco and Los Angeles Jung Institutes. She co-founded a non-profit counseling center in Los Angeles, Counseling West, which serves individuals, couples, and families seeking a depth psychotherapeutic approach in charting a path in their lives, and she continues to participate in this organization as a member of the board of directors.


bonnie_bright.jpgBonnie Bright, Ph.D., graduated from Pacifica’s Depth Psychology program after defending her dissertation in December 2014. She is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, a free online community for everyone interested in depth psychologies, and of DepthList.com, a free-to-search database of Jungian and depth psychology-oriented practitioners. She is also the creator and executive editor of Depth Insights, a semi-annual scholarly journal, and regularly produces audio and video interviews on depth psychological topics. Bonnie has completed 2-year certifications in Archetypal Pattern Analysis via the Assisi Institute; in Technologies of the Sacred with West African elder Malidoma Somé, and has been extensively involved in Holotropic Breathwork™ and the Enneagram.

 

*This blogpost was originally posted on Pacifica Post, an official blog site for Pacifica Graduate Institute, on March 24, 2016

Confronting Signs of a Society in Decline: An Interview with Journalist Chris Hedges

When I met Chris Hedges online for our recent interview together, I could see why Pacifica Graduate Institute invited him to speak at their milestone 40th anniversary celebration conference, Climates of Change and the Therapy of Ideas, which takes place April 21-24, 2016, in Santa Barbara, CA.

As a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Hedges carries with him nearly two decades of experience reporting from war-torn countries like Yugoslavia, El Salvador, and also Gaza and South Sudan. In this capacity, he has witnessed the decline and disintegration of multiple societies, a perspective which has surely influenced his capacity regard the decline and potential destruction of our own modern culture that seems severely out of order.

He has been described, more than once, as being “dark,” which, from a depth psychological perspective, I’m quick to assure him, is actually a compliment. Depth psychology insists we look under the surface and in the margins of things in order to better understand them, and then requires that we witness and hold what we find in spite of the darkness from which we might easily prefer to flee. Chris appears to take this in stride: recognizing and carrying the knowledge that contemporary society is facing its own morbidity, in some ways, has fallen squarely on his shoulders.

decay.jpgHedges notes that, as both individuals and civilizations, we encounter cycles of growth, maturation, decadence, and decay, and death. In contemporary society—especially modern society—we can see the signs of morbidity around us, in our boundless use of harmful fossil fuels, in much sought-after expansion beyond the capacity to sustain ourselves, and in the physical decay of the environment and in the places we inhabit.

There are common patterns and common responses to decline and collapse across eras and cultures. While our culture is more technologically advanced in comparison with that of Easter Island, for example, it is arguable that human nature has not really changed. Who was it that cut down the last tree on Easter Island, for example? He wasn’t thinking, Hedges asserts, and neither are we today! Since the Jungian viewpoint is that we are each on our own journey of individuation, increasing consciousness and moving toward wholeness, for me, Chris’s point raises the question as to whether our culture should actually be individuating as well—but is somehow stuck in its process.

How is it that most of us, myself included, are able to go about our daily lives engaging in habits and participating in systems that are destroying the planet, harming each other, and generally contributing to the detriment of society? There is a psychological mechanism by which people seek to blind themselves, Hedges insists. We tend to cling to a belief system that essentially shuts us off, disconnects us from what’s actually happening around us. Those individuals that dare to name the reality often become outcasts in the society. The seers are condemned and vilified.

We carry with us a sort of “sick mania for hope,” says Hedges. If news isn’t positive or hopeful, we dismiss it or deny it. The majority of the population of a civilization in decline simply don’t want to hear the truth about the situation because the future seems too bleak. If you take just the issue of climate change, Chris explains, you can see that we live with two illusions: One, that it doesn’t exist; or two, that we can adapt. While most of us are hiding out in denial, according to Nietzsche, Chris reminds me, it is the role of intellectuals and artists, to see and confront the reality through their work.

“When you don’t confront the perils around you; when you build psychological mechanisms or walls—which we have done with the aid of technology and the aid of culture, then you’re almost guaranteed to commit collective suicide, Hedges tells me, adding, “The consequences …for my children and for future generations is catastrophic because if we don’t radically reconfigure our relationship to each other and to the earth, we are going to have to begin to confront the extinction of the human species.”

Yes, for so many reasons, one can see why some people have described Chris Hedges as “dark.” Having written my own dissertation at Pacifica on a phenomenon I termed “culture collapse disorder,” I spent many long hours contemplating the darkness of some of these same ideas. I remember Buddhist eco-scholar Joanna Macy writing that we, as humans, collectively live in fear of confronting the despair that we all carry—a despair that derives from dread of realizing for the first time that the human species may not pull through.[1]

denial_blog.jpg“There is a kind of subterranean understanding the the ground is shifting in incredibly dramatic ways,” Chris agrees, but we certainly have our ways of coping and shoring up our denial. Our society has built mechanisms of indoctrination around consumerism and entertainment. Technology, he suggests, rather than being a boon for consciousness, has instead served to shut down the most basic understanding of who we are as individuals and as a society.

Hedges introduces the term “atomization,” utilized by twentieth century political philosopher Hannah Arendt to describe how communal organizations (including bowling leagues and stamp clubs) have been obliterated in our culture, and how people have retreated into their own narrow circles and cut themselves off from establishments that made participatory democracy possible. Fewer and fewer people are showing up to churches and historical societies these days, he points out. With atomization comes a dangerous “cult of the self” which seeps into every aspect of our lives—including spirituality.

In the course of our conversation, I am reminded of something James Hillman once penned, writing:

Soul-making must be reimagined. We have to go back before Romanticism, back to medieval alchemy and Renaissance Neoplatonism, back to Plato, back to Egypt, and also especially out of Western history to tribal animistic psychologies that are always mainly concerned, not with individualities, but with the soul of things (“environmental concerns,” “deep ecology,” as it’s now called) and propitiatory acts that keep the world on its course.[2]

It’s a question of a society that honors the sacred—as pre-moderns did, Chris responds when I read Hillman’s words. Nothing has an intrinsic value in a corporate-capitalistic society. Everything has an exclusively monetary value, including human beings and the natural world, which we exploit until exhaustion or collapse. Chris cites Karl Polanyi’s work, The Great Transformation, in which Polanyi states that these societies have built within them their own self-annihilation, and points out that Polanyi, although he is an economist, actually uses the term “sacred” in his writings. In Hedges’ opinion, we have lost both the capacity to understand the sacred and the capacity for reverence for the sacred, resulting in the destruction of the very forces that sustain the earth and the community.

So, I wonder aloud: How do we reconnect with the sacred?

back_to_nature.jpgChris doesn’t hesitate. Severance with natural world is a big part of the problem, he contends, and intrusions like television and Internet have fed the decay, disintegration, desensitivity and numbness of the wider culture. We have to find ways to unplug and find our way back to nature. Nature is what allows us to realize we are not the center of the universe. We’ve also lost connection with the voices of our ancestors, who can free us from the trap of modernity. We need to be able to reflect on what it means to have a life of meaning and to participate within a society. When we’re cut of from those voices, then in many ways we’re cut of from what it means to be human.

I can’t agree more with this diagnosis. It is at the heart of what I understand from my own studies in depth psychology. Our best hope to weather the coming storm and stay centered through the disintegration of society as we know it is to reconnect with those powerful forces that give us context and meaning, and to continually contemplate what Jung himself once wrote: “The decisive question for man is: Is he related to something infinite or not? That is the telling question of his life.”[3]

Listen to the full interview with Chris Hedges here (Approx. 33 mins.)

Learn more / Register for Pacifica’s upcoming 40th Anniversary Conference, Climates of Change and the Therapy of Ideas

[1] Joanna Macy, “How to Deal with Despair.” Originally published in New Age magazine, June 1979

[2] James Hillman and Michael Ventura, We’ve Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy—and the World’s Getting Worse, p. 51

[3] C. G. Jung,  Memories, Dreams, Reflections, pp. 356-7

 


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Chris Hedges, M.Div., whose column is published weekly on Truthdig.com.com, has written 11 books, including the New York Times best seller Days of Destruction, Days of RevoltDeath of the Liberal ClassEmpire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle; I Don’t Believe in Atheists; and the best selling American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His book War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. Hedges previously spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans and was part of the team of reporters at The New York Times awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 2002 for the paper’s coverage of global terrorism. Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute in New York City. He has taught at Columbia University, New York University, Princeton University and The University of Toronto. He currently teaches prisoners at a maximum-security prison in New Jersey.


bonnie_bright.jpgBonnie Bright, Ph.D., graduated from Pacifica’s Depth Psychology program after defending her dissertation in December 2014. She is the founder of Depth Psychology Alliance, a free online community for everyone interested in depth psychologies, and of DepthList.com, a free-to-search database of Jungian and depth psychology-oriented practitioners. She is also the creator and executive editor of Depth Insights, a semi-annual scholarly journal, and regularly produces audio and video interviews on depth psychological topics. Bonnie has completed 2-year certifications in Archetypal Pattern Analysis via the Assisi Institute; in Technologies of the Sacred with West African elder Malidoma Somé, and has been extensively involved in Holotropic Breathwork™ and the Enneagram.

NOTE: This post was originally published on Pacifica Post, the official blog post for Pacifica Graduate Institute, on March 7, 2016

Jung and Synchronicity: The Union of Nature and Psyche

C.G. Jung, one of the founding fathers of depth psychology, was a strong proponent of balancing rational thought with non-cerebral intelligence, insisting that consciousness inherently resides in the body and in the natural world around us. In fact, he was quite taken by Austrian Nobel prize-winning ethologist Karl von Frisch’s notion of how bees communicated navigational information to their sister bees so that they could forage the best pollen around the hive. Frisch’s research suggested the “waggle dance” performed by bees was both intelligent and purposeful, demonstrating an organizational impulse that stemmed from the “bottom up”—that is, situated on an intelligence that existed a priori in nature (Cambray, 2009).

Jung’s corresponding work on the concept ofsynchronicitymade great strides in resolving the split between mind and body, the characteristic human form of the larger, more cosmic rift between psyche and nature. Jung coined the term “synchronicity” to mean “meaningful coincidence” after determining that seemingly causally unrelated events, which appeared to be unconnected, had aprioriconnection to one another, occasionally manifesting in conjunction with one another, bringing meaning(C. G. Jung, 1960/1985). The existence of synchronicity meant that irrational or anomalous phenomena we tend to disregard from a causal perspective actually are part of a larger pattern imbued with meaning(Pauli, Meier, Enz, Fierz, & Jung, 2001).

Jung determined that the psychological and physical features we perceive in the world are dual aspects of one underlying reality(Pauli et al., 2001). He came to view mind and matter as a continuum, with psyche located on one end and the physiological instinct on the other, and the archetype serving as the bridge between them(C. G. Jung, 1947/1985, p. 216), though he ultimately expressed a desire to do away with a theory of psychophysical parallelism altogether in lieu of a unitary reality known as theunus mundus, a union of spirit, soul and body(C. G. Jung, 1958/1978a, p. 452).

Pointing to ways in which inanimate objects seem to “collaborate” with the unconscious by forming symbolic patterns, Jung even cited instances where clocks stop at the moment of their owner’s passing, or where items break within a home where someone is going through a powerful emotional crisis.

The evidence for an enduring connection between the outer world and the inner, embedded within a larger reality, seemed to grow clearer for Jung, particularly later in his life. “Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irrepresentable, transcendental factors,” he(1947/1985)went on to say, “it is not only possible but fairly probable, even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing” (p. 215).

Each of us has likely had some experience of synchronicity in our lives, where things in what we consider the “outer” world seem to be engaging, responding, or interacting with what’s going on in our inner emotional or psychic life. If you begin to pay attention, you’ll notice these kinds of experiences everywhere you go. Could it be because there really is no separation?….

References

Cambray, J. (2009).Synchronicity: Nature and psyche in an interconnected universe(1st ed.). College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press.

Pauli, W., Meier, C. A., Enz, C. P., Fierz, M., & Jung, C. G. (2001).Atom and archetype: The Pauli/Jung letters, 1932-1958. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Jung, C. G. (1978a). A psychological view of conscience. In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler & W. McGuire (Eds.),The collected works of C. G. Jung(R. F. C. Hull, Trans.) (2nd ed., Vol. 10, pp. 437-455). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1958)

Jung, C. G. (1985). On the nature of the psyche. In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler & W. McGuire (Eds.),The collected works of C. G. Jung(R. F. C. Hull, Trans.) (2nd ed., Vol. 8, pp. 159-234). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1947)

Jung, C. G. (1985). Synchronicity: An acausal connecting principle. In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler & W. McGuire (Eds.),The collected works of C. G. Jung(R. F. C. Hull, Trans.) (2nd ed., Vol. 8, pp. 417-519). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1960)

Outside vs. Inside: A Depth Psychological Perspective on the Planetary Crisis and the Psyche/Nature Split


If the “outside,” as we in modern western cultures generally consider the physical world, is manifesting rather worrisome phenomena in the form of conflict, destruction of nature and home places, and racial and income inequality, we can draw a connection from what is occurring in the physical world to what must be occurring on an inner level, and therefore witness symptoms in the psychological realm as well.

The physical symptoms that are manifesting lie within a larger set of underlying issues, which, in turn, are psychological symptoms of an even larger and more fundamental issue: the sense of separation and loss due to our dearth of what C. G. Jung considered the “feeling function” in the world. This feeling function is often overlooked in lieu of our general propensity to adopt the “thinking function” and to disregard the value (and intelligence) of things in the nature.

Psyche and nature are intrinsic to one another, occupying adjacent positions on the same spectrum of being. In light of this, ecocide—the destruction of home and home places in the physical world—may be seen as a pollution, contamination, or killing of psyche in what we have traditionally considered the inner world. Our brazen destruction of nature is so symbolic of the destruction of the connection with the collective unconscious or what Jung called the Self.

Our wholeness is no longer intact; our psyches are under attack and are, in turn, unable to “house us” properly because of the damage. Deforestation, wildfires, floods, and the like may be witnessed not only in the outer world, but may also be applied to the inner world of psyche. The Cartesian split between nature and psyche can result in a rampant deforestation of the psyche, leaving the ecosystem of the self out of balance, or leave us vulnerable to inundation by the unconscious that can swamp our psychic boundaries, leading to neurosis or even psychosis.

The climate of current culture is changing, and so is our inherent capacity for healing, learning, and individuation, a psychological and spiritual journey of self-realization. At the end of the road, if something does not shift, we will see death of a certain sort—very likely extinction of life as we know it, a transformation to a new way of being in the world: a new culture that arises that is not longer consumer-based, but one based rather on community, reflection, and connection.

Ashok Gangadean (2006), director and founder of the Global Dialogue Institute and professor of philosophy at Haverford College, also stresses that our ego-based cultures are no longer sustainable and are now at a tipping point vis-à-vis a planetary crisis. However, the real crisis, he maintains, is a crisis of consciousness—and we are undergoing a painful transition to increased wisdom and awareness.

The psychological fallout of such dire news is apt to be significant, and some psychologists worry that we, as a culture, are not equipped to deal with it. A report from the National Wildlife Federation (Coyle & Susteren, 2012) suggests that destruction to our planet in the form of the ever-increasing threats posed by climate change “will foster public trauma, depression, violence, alienation, substance abuse, suicide, psychotic episodes, post-traumatic stress disorders and many other mental health-related conditions,” (p. i) and indicates mental and social disorders including depressive and anxiety disorders, PTSD, substance abuse, and suicides will increase dramatically, as will incidences of violence.

Jung (1928/1977) corroborated the connection between the crisis emerging in the so-called “outer” world and the critical correlation with the psyche:

Just as outwardly we live in a world where a whole continent may be submerged at any moment . . . so inwardly we live in a world where at any moment something similar may occur, albeit in the form of an idea, but no less dangerous and untrustworthy for that. Failure to adapt to this inner world is a negligence entailing just as serious consequences as ignorance and ineptitude in the outer world. (p. 204)

Clearly it is vital to reflect on the psychological and spiritual issues underlying our individual and collective pathology when it comes to ecological destruction and environmental distress. Not only is our perception of profound division from the earth and nature a significant issue, but a lack of a generative myth for our time, of connection and communication with ancestors and spirits of place, and the opposing pervasiveness of the “hero archetype”—particularly in the United States, driving us to seek success as individuals at all costs—all contribute to a modern mindset that is often working invisibly beneath the surface of our conscious minds.

It is the work of depth psychology to seek to perceive the underlying issues, endeavoring to discover what is beneath the surface or on the outer margins of a given topic, inquiring more deeply, reading between the lines to begin to understand what is occurring at the root of things. The planetary crisis of potential collapse we now face as human beings can be perceived by first observing and taking time to reflect on the pattern of external physical symptoms, which are inevitably derived from underlying psychological and spiritual issues we generally maintain both as individuals and as a culture.

Then, it is imperative to shift our gaze to another, deeper layer, one that exists beneath the surface level of the manifest physical symptoms of a world in crisis and begin to derive the psychological issues that are at work. How can we shift a gaze we are not quite aware of in daily life? If you feel the call to make a change in your own life—or make a difference—seek out the aid of the practitioners listed here on DepthPsychologyList.com. They can help you understand what the greater Self is trying to communicate to reprogram ways of being.

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References

Coyle, K. J., & Susteren, L. V. (2012). The psychological effects of global warming on the United States. http://www.nwf.org/pdf/Reports/Psych_Effects_Climate_Change_Full_3_23.pdf

Gangadean, A. (2006). A planetary crisis of consciousness: The end of ego-based cultures and our dimensional shift toward a sustainable global civilization. World Futures: The Journal Of General Evolution, 62(6), 441-454. doi: 10.1080/02604020600798627

Jung, C. G. (1977). The relations between the ego and the unconscious. In H. Read, M. Fordham, G. Adler & W. McGuire (Eds.), The collected works of C. G. Jung (R. F. C. Hull Trans.) (2nd ed., Vol. 7, pp. 121-241). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Original work published 1928)

Archetypal Aspects of Home

“Home” is a word weighted with affect and associated with rootedness, attachment, belonging, shelter, refuge, comfort, and identity. When our relationship to “home” is considered in the context of depth psychology, the study of the unconscious pioneered by Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung among others, it stands to reason that our individual notions of “home” may impact us rather profoundly.

A severed connection with “home,” particularly with the earth that supports and nurtures us, produces physical, emotional, and psychological implications. That is to say, the lack of a connection with a “home” that offers us a sense of psychological and spiritual wholeness, potentiality, and belonging in a larger archetypal manner may well compose the very heart of our disorder.

Depth psychology calls for an understanding of how we are influenced by invisible elements beneath the surface of our conscious awareness. Tracing a path from the notion of “home” which we each carry, backward and down into its deeper meaning and psychological effect on us, can begin to shed light on why we treat the earth so destructively that we have come to a state of potential culture collapse.

In At Home in the World, Jungian analyst John Hill (2010) relates how the biological origins of home began with the animal instinct to mark territory. The fight or flight mechanism, to defend space or to abandon it and flee, also carries a critical effect on our psyche since home is tied to caretaking, nurturing, and sustenance. Home has an affiliation with landscape, community, and surroundings, and it is connected to history, memory, and clan, Hill asserts, defining it further as a “narrative reality,” the manner in which we attach to a place a person or an object, a nation, a group, a culture or an ideal. These attachments are experiential, conferring a sense of belonging. Home, whether a physical place or a psychological concept, is a container for those who reside within its borders.

This concept of home as a container, a place to which one can belong, is what C. G. Jung referred to as archetypal. According to Jung (1964), the unconscious is made up of archetypes, autonomous instincts, patterns, or behaviors, which are common across all eras, peoples, and places. Concepts that are archetypal in nature may be recognized without need for definition or explanation. Recognizing and understanding the archetypal aspect of home, then, enables us to see how leaving or losing home can set one askew, rendering us vulnerable, tentative, frightened, and ungrounded—in both a literal and figurative sense.

How Many Climate Scientists Does It Take?–Media, Perception, and Soul Loss

American psychiatrist Robert J. Lifton identifies our very human tendency to ignore difficult realities and overwrite them with thoughts and beliefs that are more palatable as “psychic numbing.” This allows our ego to distract itself enough that it doesn’t have to engage with inner and outer voices and images and movements that go beyond the mainstream consciousness (in Shulman-Lorenz & Watkins, Toward Psychologies of Liberation).

When we witness instances of ecocide (ecological suicide) in the world around us, take note of how wasteful and damaging our consumer-oriented culture has become, or are faced with dire news about how climate change is devastating our planet and threatening life as we know it, we are affected in both body and psyche.

Aspects of the psyche which we require to be healthy and whole get displaced at seeing the destruction; they split off and take cover in a sense, because it’s easier than admitting and knowing we each have some part it in it. This creates a condition of what some indigenous cultures regard as “soul loss,” a sort of psycho-spiritual deficit, which leaves us individually (and collectively) in a state of depression, malaise, and a general loss of vitality. In fact, in Modern Man in Search of Soul, Jung (1933) diagnosed our entire culture as suffering from loss of soul.

In his essay, “The Viable Human,” (in Deep Ecology for the Twenty-first Century, Shambhala), theologist Thomas Berry wrote, “Our present dilemma is the consequence of a disturbed psychic situation, a mental imbalance, an emotional insensitivity.” Ecocide and our contribution to climate change make it nearly impossible to feel “at home” on our planet in today’s world. Many of us are consciously or unconsciously experiencing anxiety at the destruction we’re inflicting on the earth.

 

Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of ChaosIn his excellent and comprehensive book, Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos: Complexity Theory, Deleuze|Guattari and Psychoanalysis for a Climate in Crisis offers an interesting look at some humorous ways comedians and others engage us in the environmental debate, in the end, he notes many of us turn to denial because the possible outcomes are so grim and so vastly unknown that we just can’t wrap our brains (or our emotions) around the issues.

Dodds writes, “It seems that we have evolved to deal optimally with threats which are immediate, clear, visible, with simple causation, caused by a clearly identifiable ‘enemy’, and with obvious direct personal consequences,”(p. 46) subsequently pointing out that climate change is highly uncertain, not readily visible, and rather abstract in relation to the “here and now.” This translates to the mass denial, apathy, and dissociation we are currently witnessing overall. Dodds calls it the “ultimate bystander effect.”

Globalization, and especially the pervasiveness of media and the manner in which information is conveyed, amplifies the symptoms, affecting us even more deeply, both somatically and psychologically. The speed at which we exchange and take in information is also a significant problem for the psyche, allowing little or no time for reflection and contemplation of what we hear, see, or read.

Much of my current research on the topic of ecocide, environmental degradation, climate change, and their effects on the human psyche consist of newspaper and magazine articles providing the latest information and statistics on the symptoms of a pattern I am referring to as “Culture Collapse Disorder.”  

Due to the speed and fragmentation of mass media, I struggle to articulate and convey information in a way that is considerate of the deep wounds to soul at work in this amazing and frightening phenomena of witnessing the collapse of life as we know it.

media overwhelmNews today in general is difficult to sift through, and does a poor job of conveying what is important. So-called “news” is often delivered at such speed, and with so little time between stories as newscasters, newspapers, or websites skip from one to the next, that we as a public have no time to reflect on any given story.

Too, stories are placed in conjunction with one another with no context of what is deeply important. Recently, I watched PBS Newshour spend nearly ten minutes talking about what it means that many western cultures default to assigning “pink” to girls and “blue” to boys, arguing that it limits girls in their capacity to grow up and become leadersundefinedonly to see that in the next segment, which lasted less than a minute, they “touched on” the topic of the 200 school girls in Nigeria that had been kidnapped to be sold into marriage by terrorists. While I don’t contend that the “pink and blue” debate relating to gender issues is important–it certainly beats the Kardashians reality show which was just a few channels over–the way each topic is portrayed in conjunction with the next, distorting the significance of each, confuses the human mind regarding status and urgency of each situation. 

I recall noting during the early days of the 2011 tsunami disaster in Japan, headlines on the Yahoo home page read “Japan Faces Nuclear Crisis,” positioned right next to a section entitled “Trending Right Now” which included information on “The Bachelorette,” “Lady Gaga,” and “Oil Prices.” Stories on Yahoo about Charlie Sheen acting out uncontrollably received more overall hits than the Japan disaster did during that time, and we can witness this kind of cognitive dissidence online in a myriad of ways virtually every single day.

Back in Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos, Dodds succinctly and convincingly portrays how media serves to skew our comprehension of the real imperative but also reflects our ambivalence, citing examples of how articles for climate change appearing in newspapers are placed side by side with ads for holiday airfares or for SUVs.

Today’s incredibly fast pace of information dissemination via Internet and social media allows us to access important news and data about ecological destruction and climate change, but when treating all topics with equal intensity (everything seems to be “breaking news” on CNN these days), we quickly lose sight of the context that makes meaning.

A recent comic sketch on the HBO news-satire program, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver illustrates this concept visually and forcefully. Oliver explains that, while 97% of climate scientists concur that climate change is a reality and that humans have a part in it, we normally only see television debates in which both sides of the argument are represented equally–as if the debate were fifty-fifty, for and against.

In the sketch, Oliver points out that in order to portray the issue realistically, the debate would have to be between just three climate change deniers and 97 individuals who believe. The point that the debate is 97 to 3, rather than fifty/fifty, is driven home when Oliver sets up a mock debate and proceeds to march out three people on one side of the table and dozens on the other. (Click the video below)

 

Online, virtually everywhere, stories about celebrities and their public lives line up alongside stories about the destruction of the planet, about atrocities, violence and trauma, as if all were equal in importance and scope. Debates occur without context or proper weighting for us to reflect on what is real and meaningful. It makes me wonder how we, both individually and as a culture, can truly begin to understand what is truly critical and meaningful to spend our time and resources on, when we haven’t properly reflected about what’s going on on our planet and in our culture.

Reflection, and taking the time to allow things to emerge from the margins where they have been banished, or to well up from where they have been suppressed, is a fundamental practice of depth psychology which enables us to have profound insights. What if we collectively set aside a few minutes each day simply to unplug, turn off the news and sit in quiet contemplation, allowing our psyche to truly absorb and reflect the challenges we face? How might that kind of quiet activism begin to initiate change, first in ourselves–and then in the world around us?

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NOTE: If you’re interested in the topic of soul loss, you can read more about it in my essay, The Shamanic Perspective: Where Jungian Thought and Archetypal Shamanism Converge.

EcoApathy and Ecospychopathy: Opposite ends of a Dangerous Spectrum

household garbage and urban dumpster
Where does YOUR garbage go when you throw it “away”?

Many societies have collapsed en masse over the course of human history due to over-consumption and extreme detrimental impact on the environment and ecosystems that supported them. However, the combination of our persistent unconscious and unchecked rates of consumption stemming from a rapidly growing population, our seeming lack of capacity to feel and respond to the need for balance in relationship to the planet, and our rampant exploitation of nature is alarming. It appears that never before have we had such a lethal combination in concert with such pervasive emotional, psychological, and spiritual disconnect.

The fundamental issues behind our current disorder show up on a spectrum ranging from eco-apathy on one end, and ecopsychopathy on the other. Eco-apathy represents our capacity for denial and our ability to suppress emotional reflection and response to our troubling situation. Sigmund Freud, a primary contributor in establishing the field of depth psychology, based much of his theory on the idea of a personal unconscious in which memories and emotions can be repressed beneath the surface of our conscious thought, but still potent in their effect (Elliott, 2002).

Often, in order for us to survive or bear the devastating consequences of events or circumstances that surpass our imagination or ability to comprehend, our psyche serves us by burying them beyond our awareness, diffusing their conscious energy and rendering us emotionless or even apathetic. Understandably, when it comes to the mass destruction of our environment, we are collectively unable to surrender to the horror we might feel if we truly allowed ourselves to comprehend what we’re doing as a culture to the planet. In this state of eco-apathy, many of us simply live our lives, unable to question or act on the conundrum we face, incapable of making the necessary changesundefinedor even of conceiving of them in the first placeundefinedthat will allow us to enter in a reciprocal relationship with earth and to find equity again.

Worse, eco-apathy is a dangerous phase that links directly to ecopsychopathy, a condition on the other end of the spectrum, which represents our ability to do violence to nature. When we turn to apathy, the feelings repressed below the surface of consciousness are still very much alive and ultimately will require an outlet to find resolution. Jung (1951/1976) suggested that “when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate” (para. 126). Unexamined issues or emotions we refuse to acknowledge can have tremendous impact on our lives whether we know it or not.

pollution-cars-exhaust-12111725pd

Could it be that our mass consumption of fossil fuels which leads to toxic exhaust could be making us “exhausted” in our every day lives? Is the pollution we wreak in the outer world polluting our psychological life as well? Is our ongoing tendency to “drive” everywhere we go “driving” us to distraction, dis-ease, or situations that are less than healthy?

Now might be a good time for each of us to really reflect on how we feel about the planet we live on and how we are in relationship to it.

References

Elliott, A. (2002). Psychoanalytic theory: An introduction (2nd ed.). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Jung, C. G. (1951/1976). Christ, a symbol of the self. In R. F. C. Hull, M. Fordham & G. Adler (Eds.), Aion: The collected works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9 (Vol. 2). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, Bollingen.