Holistic Psychotherapy

A Way Home – Ecopsychology and the Renewal of Ourselves and Our World

This visible resilience of the wild world provides a lesson for me about my own resilience in the face of life’s challenges. I can’t force my life into a mold based on some ideas, but if I support what is life-giving, the landscape of my life is resilient, just as the creek watershed is. The remains of old losses become structures that support new life. The same is true of the world.

If I viewed the creek watershed as a place separate from me, from my life and struggles, and from the ongoing turmoil of the world, I would not be able to receive all that it has to give. And I would be unable to give what I have to offer. Ecopsychology understands that it is natural that we love a place and grieve if it is harmed, that we are heartened by how a place, or a creature, speaks to us about how to live.

When I work with people outdoors, I often have them consider something in their lives with which they are struggling, and then to approach what attracts them in the landscape. Inevitably what they find offers a new and helpful perspective. A woman who was having difficulty settling into a new community found herself sitting with a large Douglas fir that had been uprooted by a storm. She said that the experience gave her a clearer sense of the immensity of the change she was in, and helped her to think more clearly about what she needed to do to help herself through.

All the time we spend indoors, working, reading, even talking with close friends and family, we are bounded by what humanity creates. Humanity creates great beauty, as well as great foolishness, but the only time we explore a world not of our own making is in nature, or with animals. In actuality, modern life impoverishes us with its surround sound experience of human culture. Modern life encourages us to see ourselves only as reflections of our fellow humans, only in terms of social norms, to see ourselves as separate from nature. Only in such a context could human beings feel numb about what human beings are doing to the world. Only in such a context would it be possible for people to avoid the pain for the world that feeling connected brings.

Just as when your foot is asleep, the blood returning is painful, so opening up the imagination to the natural world can be painful. Paying attention to how we feel about what is happening to the world is painful. That pain is a good sign. It is a sign that we are alive, that we are relating to our world. Ecopsychology provides tools to help us to experience our feelings about the state of our world, and to move through them to a place of hopeful empowerment. It offers access to our creative imagination in the service of positive change. It is through the restoration of our psychological ground in the wide world that is our home, that we will find the way to create a vibrant, joyful, life-sustaining future.

Copyright Sept 2012 Emily Farrell

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