Eco-Psychology and its Importance in Creating Inter-World Balance

The greatest good is the knowledge of the union which the mind has with the whole of nature . . . ".  - Baruch Spinoza

 

By recognizing the inter-connectedness of the human mind/body with the whole of nature/universe/cosmos, humankind may achieve inner balance, physical health, and world peace.  Through the acknowledgment of an inter-connectness with our physical and metaphysical surroundings, humankind will reach and achieve conservation/preservation and provide nurturement to self, other humans, and animals, producing an effect which may reach to the depths of the ocean and rise past the stars.

It is by enactment of a reciprocal relationship that our realities shall operate as a whole.  As each part cares and nurtures other parts, balance of the whole is attainable and sustainable.  All beings are irrevocably connected to nature; it is the recognition of such a connection which will instigate the healing process needed to restore inter-world balance.

Through a joining together of previously segregated fields (ecology and psychology), ecopsychology delves into the roots of humankind's attitude towards "nature" and "nature's" attitude toward humankind.  By assigning equal weight to each entity, the search is on for understanding regarding the give and take of this previously disregarded relationship by the "scientific" and "religious" communities.  By previously and continously encouraging a separation of science and religion and by segregating separate fields of study within each arena, we are only now understanding that such a disparity has been harmful to the whole.  Modern consideration towards an inter-connectedness in the sciences and ecumenical religious practices has opened the floodgates for a new Zeitgeist to formulate.  This new "spirit of the times" is inclusive of ecopsychology.

Several fields of study are inclusive of the broad term of ecopsychology: ancient philosophies, anthropology, architecture, behavorial ecology/analysis/geography, community studies, cybernetics, deep ecology, developmental psychology, eastern views/religions, ecofeminism, ecology, environmental education and justice, evolutionary psychology, horticultural therapy, indigenous world views, mythology, psychoneuroimmunology, paganism, psychotherapy, quantum physics, religious/theological perspectives, spiral dynamics, "Romantic" studies, sociobiology, systems theory, and wilderness therapy.  Many more studies are off-shoots or natural progressions of the above listing.

Studies in ecopsychology ask the following questions: How can our sense of self be seen through the natural world and our connection in/on it?  Why do humans seek communion with nature and what do they receive from said communion?  In what ways are humans benefited by contact with nature and, conversely, is nature benefited by human contact?

Further delving presents even more disturbing/thought-provoking considerations:  Does our current ideology and our current ways of learning and knowing lead us to a balanced inter-world relationship?  If not, how might we as a technologically based culture adapt our future behavior and learning systems to embrace mutual respect and a healthful relationship within our natural world?

To truly embrace the concept of inter-world (all things, all forces, all time and matter) relatedness, one must reach a cognitive understanding of the effects of our current multi-faceted stance:  Our quest for sentience reaches back in time.  Prior to the scientific fields of research, human kind searched the skies above and looked to the seas below for answers to their queries.

Levels of existence fight for survival, which implies a revolt agasint physical threats and a questioning of purpose.  Even the "lowly" sea anemone, considered a "plant" by most, can lift itself from the ocean floor and pulsate its form through the water in search of a "safer" location from predators (see, "Life at the Edge of the See", PBS Documentary).  Rather than simply "survival of the fittest," ecopsychology views these acts as deliberate.  Humankind's need to understand and know that which simply is, takes us back to the mythical alchemical snake which bites its own tail (Roszak 2).

By accepting that there is more to the self than the physical individual and by recognizing the self's connection as being part of something bigger, one can interpret and understand the "quest" and need for religious/spiritual direction.  The principles of ecopsychology provide ways of the self to understand that part of us which is MORE THAN SELF.

Jung's theory of the collective unconscious has been expanded to being part of an ecological unconscious (interchangeable with inter-world).  By maintaining an open and reciprocal relationship with the inter-world, humankind and individuals will experience and maintain physical and emotional well-being.  Such a resolution would cure the collusive madness caused in part by our modern, technologically driven, industrial society.

Complexity of nature can be understood through the study of new cosmology.  By answering questions through a relation of inter-connectedness, benefits sought by individual fields can be applied to other fields.  (Such as, researching biographical emotional causes of dis-EASE in the human mind to cure a biological physical ailment).

Connected, by Sher Fick (8"w x 16"h) Encaustic, paper, attachments), 2006

By encacting therapies to reconnect the current urban psyche with the repressed ecological uncounscious; by researching and reviving ancient earth cult rituals, wilderness therapies, and so forth, the individual experiences personal and reciprocal interaction within the natural world - thus reintegrating the individual with the ecological unconscious.  Distressed people can easily find surcease in the healing effect of wilderness.  A recent survey concluded that: 16 out of 17 individuals practiced visualization therapy by imagining themselves in some "natural" locations which included: 12 aspects of water, 15 various patterns of sounds of nature, and 1 "silence of nature."  The participants were a diverse group of individuals with varying religious and environmental backgrounds and beliefs.  Yet, more often than not, all sought communion with nature to "quiet their soul."  An additional benefit to literal wilderness therapy is the physical well-being found in exerting our bodies while on our "journey" towards a specific sight in nature.  The psychological benefits of the peaceful environment and the feelings of self-esteem when successfully reaching a challenging location are notable as well.  This benefit in our individual "self-perception" cannot be ignored.  By focusing inward during wilderness therapy we can easily avoid the outer stresses of our daily lives - much in the same ways we "escaped reality" as children.

Through the encouragement of recovering children's innate animistic attitude towards nature in our "adult" experiences (by practicing natural mysticism in religion and art) a healthy ecological ego can be recovered and, therefore, nurtured in our youth.  As children, many of us ESCAPED FROM REALITY through play outdoors.  By leaving behind the challenges and responsibilities of home, school, and church, children were revitalized and calmed by their discoveries and interaction within nature.  Nature did not judge them, but became a teacher and care giver.  Children learn sensory truths and connect to a global life community.  Children view nature as "families" and seek to re-integrate and restore balance in their natural activities.  A four-year old child once stated "this baby rock belongs with that mama and papa rock, it got lost."  So, too, has humankind been "lost" from their connection with their earth parents.

After the previous principles have been enacted a natural evolution of attitude shall occur.  The maturation of our ecological egos will foster eco-responsibilities which will manifest in our government, society, and personal lives.  Nature is to humankind as our arm is to our body.  Unless one is suffering from a form of autophobia, one does not hurt one's own arm.  Therefore, as we care for, nurture, and feed our own body through practicing autophilia (self love), one should care for, nurture, and feed our larger "world" through biophilia (earth love).

We shall at this point, as a joined culture, re-awaken our "feminine" nurturing attitude towards nature and move away from the current "domination" practiced by current political practices, urban development, corporate industry, and religious dogma.  Ecofeminism will grow into a naturally developing occurence.  By balancing the GIVE and TAKE in a balanced manner, the earth and our "universe" shall reciprocate.  The simple act of communicating WITHIN nature - leaving behind less of a human mark than when we arrived - is an act of biophilia.

Rather than being an ANTI-industrial/technological theory, ecopsychology is a POST-industrial/technological theory.  By recognizing some of the damage done by our techno age, but lauding the beneficial discoveries,the practice of ecopsychology in our human everyday lives is simply a natural, ideological evolution of human world view.

Humankind is enacting the seminal/transitional phase wherein a renewed quest for a re-awakened "search for the holy grail" shall occur.  As our current techno-world emerges from its self-induced darkness of the soul, our collective search for wholeness shall heal the planet, our larger "cosmos," as well as our inner selves.  The denial of the existence of inter-world relatedness does not mean it is not there.

In conclusion, Roszak states" "The needs of the planet are the needs of the person, the rights of the person are the rights of the planet" (Roszak 5).  By encouraging a synergistic approach to our life experiences, we connect with the divine and the divine connects with us.

WORKS CITED:

Cleary, Thomas (translator).  The Essential Tao (an initiation into the heart of Taoism through the authentic TAO TE CHING and the inner teachings of Chuang Tzu).  New York, Castle Books, 1992.

Cowan, James G.  Letters from a Wild State (rediscovering our true relationship to nature).  New York, Bell Tower.  1991.

Durant, Will.  The Story of Philosophy (the lives and opinions of the world's greatest philosophers from Plato to John Dewey).  Washington, Square Press.  1961.

Ehrmann, Max.  The Desiderata of Happiness (a collection of philosophical poems).  New York, Crown Publishers.  1995.

Quinn, Daniel.  Ishmael (an adventure of the mind and spirit).  New York/Turner.  1992.

Roszak, Theodore.  The Voice of the Earth.  New York, Simon & Schuster.  1992.  Ecopsychology: Eight Principles at the ECO-PSY web page, 11/29/00, copyright 1998.

Szymborska, Wislaw.  View with a Grain of Sand (selected poems).  New York, Harcourt Brace.  1995.

Zimmerman, M.; Callicott, J; Sessions, G; Warren, K; and Clark, J.  Environmental Philosophy (from animal rights to radical ecology).  Second Edition.  New Jersy, Prentice Hall.  1998.