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The Care of Nature

Muir

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

John Muir, 1890

I have just returned from a walk through a small part of Muir Woods. I was captivated by the immense beauty and wonder of the Woods. The silence there penetrated deeply into my soul. I left those Woods transformed. Driving up the winding road, I reflected on the precariousness of Nature’s beauty for this valley and forest were threatened by the building of a dam. The care of just a few, including Theodore Roosevelt, saved the forest from ultimate submersion. Psychologically, this act of submersion is repression of a thing feared. I was reminded of Freud’s view of our relationship to nature, summarized in these words, “The principle task of civilization, its actual raison d’etre, is to defend us against nature.” For Freud civilization was under constant assault from nature and it was our task to conquer or, at least, subdue nature, lest it overwhelm us. The feeling that nature must be subdued is actually quite old and represents an innate fear of the natural world.

Of course, Jung viewed our relationship with Nature in a completely different way for he saw a direct connection between psyche’s archetypes and Nature, he succinctly reflected that, “…the archetypes are as it were hidden foundations of the conscious mind, or, to use another comparison, the roots which the psyche has sunk not only in the earth in the narrower sense but in the world in general, …[archetypes are that portion of the psyche] through which the psyche is attached to nature.” So, to the extent we explore archetypes we approach Nature and, of course, the opposite is equally true to the extent we explore Nature we approach the archetypes of psyche, which is the sentiment exactly expressed in the words of John Muir.

I find it difficult to fathom people who choose to submerse the beauty of a forest with a dam, or to cut down a forest for a housing development or a shopping mall. Are these destructive acts toward Nature a reflection of Freud’s fear of the natural world? Are we so unconscious of our innate archetypal rootedness to Nature? What do we truly value?

Leaving Muir Woods, I was thankful for those few special people, so long ago, whose care afforded me a glimpse of the Universe while walking through the forest.

 

 

 

 

Green Man 1 copy

I will be doing a webinar on March 24th for the Depth Psychology Alliance. The webinar will be based on my book, Facing Climate Change: An Integrated Path to the Future. Please join me on the 24th to explore the psychological dimensions of climate change. Just click on this CLIMATE to go the web page to sign up.

Here is a description of what I plan to cover during the event:

The purpose of this webinar will be to explore how a Jungian perspective on the climate crisis can not only shed light on why we are so reluctant to engage with the issue, but how we can use Jungian psychology to break through these barriers and actively engage in creating a more flourishing world. It will cover four dimensions of climate change:a look at the affective reactions associated with the news of climate change and the complexes connected to these affective reactions; an archetypal view of the climate change issue and how an understanding of the power of archetypes can help us address this issue; a reflection on how we can relate to our world in a deeper way, which allows us to see the sacredness in our everyday world; and the role of the religious function in providing us with a deeper ground from which we can create a flourishing future for all beings. I use personal story and myth to relate these concepts.

The lecture part of the event will use images and text to amplify the four dimensions of dealing with climate change. After the lecture I would like to engage the participants in a conversation around Jungian psychology and climate change.

Webinar participants will discover:

• How to view our current climate process as a manifestation of inner psychic processes

• How to use phenomenological processes to experience the sacred nature of the world

• How a transpersonal dimension is essential to fully addressing the climate crisis.

Big Sur

“Anxiety has an unmistakable relation to expectation.”

Sigmund Freud

Our reliance on fossil fuels as the main source to address our energy needs is untenable. The burning of these fuels is causing carbon dioxide levels to rapidly increase and thus warm the planet via the greenhouse effect. The burning of coal is destroying local air quality and placing many thousands at direct health risk. We are experiencing human caused climate change now. If we continue on our current path, planetary warming will reach unprecedented levels within decades. We can no longer afford to deny, ignore or diminish the problem of climate change. Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence for climate change we continue to burn these fuels and in the United States we continue to turn away from the warnings of what is happening to our world.

Denial is a classic way to avoid dealing with a disturbing issue. You can probably remember either consciously or unconsciously using this strategy to avoid or postpone action on a pressing problem. Disturbing information or situations evoke a sense of anxious dread within us. We feel overwhelmed by facing the situation and procrastinate. We all do this. Often when we actually do face the problem it turns out that addressing it was less painful than imagined. Our expectation of loss created a deep sense of fear that amplified the actual situation. Understanding the psychological processes that occur in situations of denial can actually help us penetrate the barriers preventing us from moving beyond the problem. This is why it is so important to explore the psychological dimensions of climate change. We can learn much from the experiences of clinical psychology, social psychology and neuroscience. These fields have delved into the many ways we make decisions and avoid making decisions. They shine a light of understanding on the darker shadow regions of denial, ignorance and diminishment. For example, the emotional reactions experienced around the issue of climate change mirror those of a physical or psychological trauma. Thus, the vast knowledge of trauma and its treatment can aid in dealing with the resistance to addressing the state of our climate system.

The physical, chemical and biological sciences have provided us with a comprehensive picture of climate change and our integral role in this problem. The manifold dimensions of psychology can provide ways to actually address the problem. By combining the studies of climate and psyche we not only see what is happening to our world and why, but also, how we can move beyond the problem to create a more flourishing world for future generations.

Find more here.

Facing Climate Change

Kiehl-cover

“Any change must begin somewhere, it is the single individual who will experience it and carry it through. … Nobody can afford to look around and to wait for somebody else to do what he is loath to do himself.”

C.G. Jung

Many have awakened to what we are called to do. The evidence of our impact on planet Earth, our home, is unmistakable. We can no longer afford to turn away from the disturbing news about what we are doing to Earth. Each of us, in our own way, can help heal the deep wounds we have created in our relationship to Earth and to one another.

This coming March my book “Facing Climate Change: An Integrated Path to the Future” will appear. The book, published by Columbia University Press, explores the psychological dimensions of our current climate crisis. More importantly, the book explores how we can, with a deeper understanding of these psychological dimensions, actually create a flourishing future for all life on the planet. The book reflects my personal journey with regard to climate change. As such, it integrates my life as a climate scientist and a Jungian analyst.

I hope you will find something of value in reading the book.

Seeing the Unseen

Unconscious

Nobody can afford to look round and to wait for somebody else to do what he is loath to do himself. But since nobody seems to know what to do, it might be worthwhile for each of us to ask himself whether by any chance his or her unconscious may know something that will help us.

C.G. Jung (CW 18, par. 599)

As a scientist I recognize how difficult it can be to communicate our current scientific understanding on climate change to the general public. As a Jungian analyst I recognize the essential role the unconscious plays in our ability to take in disturbing information associated with climate change. Being both a climate scientist and a Jungian analyst has helped me in finding more effective ways to communicate the science of climate to the public.

The field of depth psychology was born in the consulting rooms of Freud and Jung over a century ago. These two pioneers recognized the importance of unconscious processes in determining human thought, feeling and behavior. Each developed methods to make the unseen world of the unconscious seen. Jung carried out pioneering scientific work on identifying complexes that take center stage in our lives. They are the actors that cause us to say after the fact, “Why did I say that?” or “Why did I behave that way towards that person?” Freud explored how we unconsciously defend ourselves to insure that we are not overwhelmed by a disturbing reality. Complexes and associated defenses are core parts of who we are and how we react to the world.

Over the past decade many scientific studies have confirmed the importance of unconscious processes in human behavior. These studies have led to a plethora of popular books reporting on the important role of the unconscious in our daily lives, see for example: Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior; Thinking Fast and Slow; Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain; and Strangers to Ourselves. A number of scientific studies have argued these unconscious processes are rooted in evolutionary strategies. Thus, many of the early observations by depth psychologists are being confirmed with current research.

Despite the recognition of the importance of unconscious processes in human behavior most discussions on issues like climate change assume these problems are solely rooted in the conscious realm. Most plans to address the issue of climate change ignore unconscious processes. Given all that we have learned about the role of the unconscious, it is important that we begin to look social issues from a more comprehensive psychological perspective. We need to include our understanding of the unconscious in communicating and addressing the critical issue of climate change.

Jungian psychology has much to offer towards moving forward on the problem of climate change. Although many in this field focus their attention on the interior world of psyche, it would be of great benefit for members of this community to turn their gaze on the outer world and consider how a Jungian perspective can help the world at large. Likewise it would be of great value for the public policy community to recognize the research that shows how important the unseen world of the unconscious is to addressing many of societies problems.

 

meltmen

Hello,

I was honored to be interviewed for Gaia Field Radio today by Lisa Maroski. Lisa and I discussed how Jungian psychology can shed light on the issue of global warming.

I encourage you to listen to the interview by clicking here.

 

 

image

“The heart would like to explore the phenomenal world; it is open to relating with others. That heart contains tremendous strength and confidence in itself, which is called fearlessness.”

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

It is a wonderful experience to open ourselves to the world. Unfortunately, this is something we are conditioned not to do so often. As young children we are open to exploring our world, but in growing up we are encouraged to close ourselves off from the world. Traumatic experiences teach us to be fearful of the world around us. Even in the absence of such experiences, we learn that the world is to be feared more than trusted. By the time we reach adulthood our natural way of relating to the world is with a closed heart. We have closed the windows of the senses to the wondrous waking world surrounding us.

Whenever we open our hearts to the world a clarity of experience is born. This is a clarity that connects us to something deeper within ourselves and to the outer phenomenal world in a completely fresh way. Colors, smells, tastes and sounds become richer and more profound. I am not describing something that is too difficult. The next time you go for a walk try to slow down and open to what is present before you. Take a little time to dwell with whatever you see or hear in the moment. You may become aware of some fear. You may want to quickly move on to the next scene or experience, but just stay where you are. Just stay with it and see if some clarity arises.

So many problems in the world arise from our conditioned habit of seeing the phenomenal world from a place of fear rather than fearlessness. The heart yearns to open to the world. Today, for just a brief moment allow your heart to openly explore the phenomenal world before you.