Often, too often in our culture, uninvited and enormously violent collective events such as the Aurora Theater shooting, Sandy Hook, Columbine, 911 rips us open to a raw darkness that wrenches our souls and disheartens our spirits. These events impact us, yet often remain as hidden wounds, often bypassed by personal concerns in therapy, leaving us ravished at a deep level without conscious relief.
James Hillman, a Jungian analyst, reminds us that:
“We cannot be well in a sick world. On all levels human health and planetary health are intimately linked. Daily we wake to a cascade of crises of war and terror, population explosion, expansion of poverty, species extinction, depletion of resources and climate change. Some think that environmental degradation is the root cause of the erosion of peace, justice and the spread of political unrest.”
Yet we have help. We have nature practices and humanitarian processes with which to turn. We can quiet our minds and open our hearts through healing in the wild, and even in the wild of massive populations. In both solace and upheaval we come face to face with ourselves and have an opportunity to reflect, rebuild and restore.
As an eco-psychologist, I bear witness to the realities of the human experience, encourage the resiliency of the human spirit, and seek the wisdom of the soul's dark journeys, ‘as if the whole earth mattered.’
Ecopsychology is concerned with the relationship between the human soul and the “soul of the world.” The word "psyche" means of the ‘soul, mind, spirit, and life,’ from psychein – to breathe. (Anima Mundi). In this way it might be said that it is the ecology of breathing awareness into our hearts and minds.
In my practice of ecopsychology, I strive for an ecologically responsible psychotherapy. I listen for both the unique and the universal when I hear personal problems and intimate stories. Each experience is unique to the teller, yet at the same time, it is a microcosm of what is occurring within the whole of humanity and the more-than-human world.
When I sit with an individual or group, I find myself reflecting on this question, posed initially by Stephen Foster, "Do I love myself enough to listen with the ears of my heart to the other voices of myself speaking?”
The awakening of our hearts and minds with the interconnection of all aspects of humannature lends us courage and affirms our conviction to address the psychological and spiritual roots of global crisis.