Posts Tagged ‘Ecopsychology’

Janus in Zürich:

Dr. Steve Buser and I have been treated to an extraordinary five days in Zürich, Switzerland. The collage above was created from two photos captured while on a long bicycle ride around parts of Lake Zürich.  It is a piece of public sculpture we could easily have missed. I felt a sort of undulation through as the statue and I encountered each other that is difficult to describe. In this scene of participation mystique other characters began to appear. Recall that Jung explains this idea of participation mystique as follows:

Participation mystique “denotes a peculiar kind of psychological connection with objects, and consists in the fact that the subject cannot clearly distinguish himself from the object but is bound to it by a direct relationship which amounts to partial identity.” (Jung 1921: para 781).

Janus, the Roman god representing beginnings, transitions, passageways, and endings was awakened by this sculpture.  Such two-faced images call forth the complementarity revealed throughout nature.  Whether we consider the night and the day, the unconscious and the unconscious, the feminine and masculine, we encounter repeated reminders that life frequently arrives as a pair of apparent opposites.  Quite often when it seems otherwise, when one polarity has overtaken the other, we ill eventually be required to acknowledge the hidden other.  Such requirements may be seen in the interior landscape in such phenomena as the inferior function that Jung, von Franz and others describe.  In the outer life, the symbol of the yin-yang reminds us that at any moment whatever has overtaken its opposite may reverse since within each extreme manifestation exists the seed of its opposite. Transformation is the theme of Chiron Publications’s most recent release Paths to Transformation by Zürich trained analyst Kate Burns. Our encounter with the public statue quietly tucked away between Seestrasse and the shoreline of Lake Zürich also called forth Michaelangelo’s unfinished sculpture.  As if the stone awaited the arrival of a human being guided by Techne, the goddess ruling over such artisans skills.  In those encounters between a stone, perhaps the very embodiment of lifelessness, through the skillful hands of the sculptor, emerges something that seems very alive.  The figure depicted in public statue struck me as ambivalent, unsure whether to fully emerge into the solar consciousness or perhaps better to retreat into the lunar realms.  It was indeed lucky that the encounter with this statue occurred in the afternoon when the sun was beginning its descent into the western sky so that the front of the statue was brightly illuminated whereas the back of the statue was in the shadows.   I wish to issue an invitation that may be better characterized as a challenge.  We are living in times of great crisis as we witness the heating of the planet from the exaggerated, almost urgent use of fossil fuels.  One of the most fundamental resources we share, water, is being despoiled, harnessed for hydroelectric power, and simply squandered.  One of the tragic consequences of these crises is the biodiversity of our planet is rapidly declining such that a gestalt favoring monoculture over biodiversity asserts itself in our individual and collective psyches.  For instance, our expectations have shaped to desire a uniform appearing tomato at our grocer’s shelves.  But do we pause to consider that the desire for a uniform appearing tomato is a manufactured expectation whose downstream effect is profoundly unstable.   Any gardner knows that a tomato plant produces different sizes and shapes of tomato. Of course, a tomato’s genome can be manipulated to improve its yield of uniformly shaped tomatoes.  But we may ask ourselves what has actually been improved and at what cost?  As a variety of tomato that yields uniform appearing fruit succeeds in the market (note the intentional double entendre), we are apt to find more growers shifting to this variety.  This shift will happen at the expense of a varied, diverse cultivation of tomatoes that produce different sizes, shapes and colors.  One might imagine an individual act of rebellion playing out in day-to-day decisions when we arrive at the grocer’s stand.  Imagine thoughtfully and mindfully choosing the irregular, misshapen fruit.  I have often wondered why the god Hephaestus, creator of so many beautiful things must himself be deformed or misshapen.  For me it serves as a reminder that perhaps choosing the ugly tomato or the oddly shaped zucchini is a first step in participating in the creation of something quite beautiful, a biodiverse ecosystem.   The Challenge  Consider any of the big themes or cries of our time like energy, water resources, the loss of biodiversity.  Listen and seek out the deep symbols that lie beneath the surface.  Beware of seizing hold of the first symbol you identify since it may be a deeper symbol awaits the persistent inquirer.  Two valuable resources that can serve as references are Jungian Symbolic Psychology (Byington), Chiron Dictionary of Greek and Roman Mythology,  and The Herder Dictionary of Symbols. Once you find the symbol(s) see how you might communicate that deep symbol to others.  Finally suppose you succeed in communicating something about the symbol you have excavated.   The challenge becomes how to let this work inform your day-to-day decisions.  Here I mean to encourage choosing the ugly tomato, the walk to the store that leaves the automobile behind, the decision to reclaim rainwater, reduce waste, reuse materials, and the countless other small decisions we make every day.  When our psychological work is then made flesh and dwells among us through the small and large choices we make concerning how we live not only may we find ourselves in a drama of participation mystique with the objects of our world, but we will have brought the fire of inspiration imparted to us by the gods into the manifest world.  Like the statue that Steve and I encountered that seemed to maintain an encampment in the hidden unconscious realm simultaneously with the evident, conscious realm, when we accept the challenge we may find it difficult to distinguish inner and outer, manifest and latent, implicate and explicate order.   ACKNOWLEDGEMENT I wish to acknowledge that the source of most of the ideas contained in this blog is Frau Brigitte Egger, who has done very original work in psychecology.  Notice the ordering of the root words psyche and ecology.  Brigitte confirmed for me that this is an intentional ordering of the words that connotes that it is first the work of inner transformation that equips us to go into the world as agents of change.  I urge anyone interested in these subjects to visit her website at www.psychecology.ch .  Frau Egger has agreed to present a webinar for the Asheville Jung Center on Water in early 2015.

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Poll: Archetypal Significance of Diminishing Water Resources

Colorado River
Thank you for participating in our poll! For more captivating conversation about the importance of water join us on April 4th for the next installment in our EcoPsychology series titled Elixir of Life: The Flowing Waters of our Soul and of our Planet. Can the planet sustain the use of water that humans require, or is the burden too great, the demand far too large, the pressure on the earth too extreme? Can individuals even in our hectic times find ways to bathe their souls in the waters of life? These are critical questions that impact every corner of the world today.  Don’t miss this opportunity as Murray Stein and Brigitte Egger give a Jungian view of the importance of water, the key to life on Earth.

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The Better Angels of Our Nature

During the last portion of the seminar on October 13, 2011 titled Energy! The Ecology of the Psyche and the World,  Dr. Murray Stein spoke about a book review he had just read on “The Better Angels of Our Nature” by Steven Pinker.  I looked up the source of that title and discovered that it was in the closing lines of President Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address given on March 4, 1861.
Here is an excerpt:
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature. These words, uttered over seven generations ago as a nation was being torn asunder, remind us that we are not enemies.  We are not enemies with each other, with the companion animals who share the earth, nor with the environment; though at times, it seems like we have declared war.  Perhaps the day is dawning when again touched by the better angels of our nature, we may be at peace with our world. Dr. Egger and Dr. Stein imparted so many profoundly important things during last Thursday’s seminar that any remarks are likely to detract.  Instead, I offer a few quotes I jotted down during the seminar and subsequent question and answer period.  Let these remarks, like dew upon a parched land, offer the promise of renewing waters. “When we face a destructive phenomenon, a symptom, we can take it heuristically, as a solution, we can take it as energy” (that is blocked). “Everything psychic has a slight asymmetry (between the material world and psyche) in favor of the psyche.” “If libido retreats from the world it goes to the unconscious and there, Jung says, you must follow it.” “Nothing is so dangerous as life energy unable to be expressed honorably.” “When you cannot listen to the other person, you may be under possession, where something is projected.” “…the older the mythology, the clearer.” “…energy is a movement that evens out opposites.” “The archetype behind energy is the capacity for Divine Creation.” “To withdraw a projection is to regain energy.” “Neurosis is always a projection on a stupid thing…the symbolic life is a means to fee energy…” “Human beings are born with an instinctual appetite … (and) driven to a spiritual inheritance.” Seminar participants were invited to consider the impact of excessive energy usage and also invited to consider what energy is devoted in our society (both psychic energy and external energy).  Strangely, the distinction between the energy of the interior life and the energy of exterior engagement grew less certain but more meaningful. Dr. Egger recommended cultivating Joy, Hope, and Love.  She likened this to the proper tuning of a violin in that proper tuning makes it easier to find the correct note.  As she explained, cultivating Joy, Hope, and Love “makes opportunity”. The depth of perspective provided by Drs. Stein and Egger in the handling of their subject is difficult to convey.  The work of individuation and the work of conservation in their skillful hands seemed to be different facets of the same jewel.  Their teaching was clear, evocative, and nourishing. Many thanks to those who chose to share something during the past two weeks. Len Cruz, MD

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Ecopsychology: Revisioning Ourselves and the World

Ecopsychology

Revisioning Ourselves and the World

By Len Cruz, MD, ME

Seminar Registration  http://ashevillejungcenter.org/upcoming-events/ecopsychology/

“…our present ego-feeling is only a shrunken residue of a much more inclusive, indeed, an all-embracing, feeling which corresponded to a more intimate bond between the ego and the world about it.” (Sigmund Freud)

Ecopsychology is more than the conflation of two words, ecology and psychology.   This nascent field expands the horizon of the deep self beyond the frontiers of the individual. James Hillman said, “The deepest self cannot be confined to “in here” because we can’t be sure it is not also or even entirely “out there”![i] The exaggerated emphasis on the personal, interior, individual psychology has contributed to a denial of the world “out there”.  Several trajectories can be subsumed under the broad canopy of ecopsychology and the field is distinguishable from other related subjects[ii]. There is an arc that begins with the personal unconscious, traverses the collective unconscious, and leads to a planetary unconscious.  The near apotheosis of mankind that installed our species with a belief in our dominion over flora and fauna may be coming of age.  The Navi race depicted in the movie AVATAR is a pop culture reflection of an emerging archetype or at least a cultural complex.  As Thomas Singer points out, “Failure to consider cultural complexes as part of the work of individuation puts a tremendous burden on both the personal and archetypal realms of the psyche.”[iii] Depth psychological influences have shaped out language appearing with phrases like Biophilia (Erich Fromm[iv], E.O. Wilson[v]), Ecosophy & Deep Ecology (Arne Naess)[vi], Terrapsychology (Chalquist)[vii] or Ecotherapy (Clineman)[viii].  There is an ecological imperative forcing itself on our consciousness through images environmental catastrophes, species and habitat destruction, and threats of irreversible climate change. Lifton’s concept of psychic numbing regarding the threat of nuclear disaster applies to the ecological crisis upon us.  But this festering wound can no longer be located solely within nor strictly outside of ourselves.[ix] Ecopsychology attempts to restore the intimate connection between the ego and the world.  And with the added the richness of the archetypal strata a more inclusive psychology is emerging.[x] If a planetary consciousness is developing and we should expect that there will be a planetary unconscious developing alongside.  In the pioneering days of psychoanalysis, Janet, Freud, and others were cartographers of a vast inner landscape.  A centrifugal force developed in the generations following Freud.  Ego psychology pressed beyond the id, social psychiatry and later self psychology expanded into the interpersonal and social milieu, and Jung expanded the personal notion of the unconscious into vast territory of the collective  unconscious.  However, all these trends established human beings at the axis of the psychological world.  Ecopsychology revisions this singular focus upon man.  It is a restorative psychology, where place matters and the distinction between inhabitants of the earth is removed, hierarchical disappears.  Ecopsychology grounds our existence and psychology in a broader context of the ecosphere. Let us agree that human activity is causing rapid and profound changes to the climate, to the water cycle, to the soil, and to species extinction.   Billions of people watched oil gush into the Gulf of Mexico for months. On a daily basis human beings grew more alarmed by the risks of massive radiation leakage from the Fukushima nuclear reactor.And though the ecological underpinnings of mass migration and starvation in sub-Saharan Africa are poorly understood, the images of starving human beings nevertheless etches itself into our psyches.  Such events remind us that there is an imperative imposing itself with ever-increasing urgency.  But the complexity of these issues exceed our capacities. Robert Jay Lifton, coined the term psychic numbing to describe “a form of desensitization … an incapacity to feel or confront certain kinds of experience, due to the blocking or absence of inner forms or imagery that can connect with such experience”.[xi] The intricate webs comprising our world are complex.  Ever increasing computing capacity permits us to model extremely complex systems and to detect elegant patterns.  Nonlinear systems (see also complexity, chaos, Madelbrot sets)possess some unique characteristics including inflection points (see also attractors, repellors, bifurcations) where sudden, large changes in behavior result from small changes in conditions of a a stable system.  Catastrophe theory, a branch of bifurcation mathematics, demonstrates that bifurcations are in fact part of a large well defined geometric structure.  Carl Freidrich Guass laid the foundation for these discoveries but the ability to model such complex systems had to wait for the invention of supercomputers. Our ability to recognize patterns, create accurate models, and decipher complexity on our own has limits.[xii]Rebecca Costa suggests there are five common supermemes that we should understand because of their limiting effects upon our capacity to reason.  These include: irrational opposition, counterfeit correlation, personalization of blame, silo thinking, and extreme economics.[xiii] Time magazine recently suggested that people like Rebecca Costa might be able to solve the world’s biggest problems (http://tinyurl.com/6fz6uuu).  The rest of us may need to acknowledge that the sheer complexity of the ecological crisis combined with our own psychological complexity often exceeds our capacity to understand. There a practical ecopsychology developing that might equip us to navigate through the treacherous times with greater understanding.  Ultimately it may also preserve us.  First, we will need to acknowledge that the planet and many of its inhabitants are being placed at risk by the impact our species has upon the environment.  There is an ecopsychological unconscious, and like all unconscious material, it resists exposure and yields its fruits reluctantly.  Those of us who live in the technologically advanced first world must make sure that we keep contact with the wilderness.  An earlier blog (May 31, 2010) addressed the diminishing wilderness of childhood and readers may want to read an excerpt from Chabon’s Manhood for Amateurs.[xiv] A practical ecopsychology will provide tools for working through the despair and psychic numbing that so easily overwhelms us.  Out of the fertile fields of ecopsychology will emerge ecotherapeutic techniques and understanding that can be expected to equip us to participate in the healing that we all need.[xv] In 1973, Our Bodies, Ourselves[xvi] became a feminist canon through its empowering, educational message.  The time has come for Our Planet, Ourselves that might collect the expanse of ideas that intersect with ecopsychology. The confluence of many shaping influences unite many archetypal energies forming a bedrock for  further psychological explorations.  A river’s delta provides a good metaphor for region where complexes, archetypes, and outer come together.  In the  delta fresh water and salt water meet and mix.  In the ecopsychological delta, conscious and unconscious, interior and exterior, introject and projection combine and create a limen realm where the participation mystique more easily is detected.  Jung wrote, “PARTICIPATION MYSTIQUE is a term derived from Lévy-Bruhl. It denotes a peculiar kind of psychological connection with objects, and consists in the fact that the subject cannot clearly distinguish himself from the object but is bound to it by a direct relationship which amounts to partial identity.”[xvii] It is tempting to oscillate between extreme impressions of the world.  Between Cormac MacCarthy’s The Road[xviii] and Fox’s recent Fall series Terra Nova with a tagline of “There is no paradise without sacrifice” we encounter repeated apocalyptic scenarios alongside utopian ones.[xix] [xx] [xxi].  KIA Motors produced a Superbowl commercial last year that exploited apocalyptic images of the Mayan Prophecy.  The appearance of such impressions in popular culture points toward the chthonic psychic regions, the places where archetypes reside.  Paul Ricouer observed that utopias function to develop “new, alternative perspectives”.[xxii] And some of our most compelling utopian literature actually present dystopias (Brave New World, Nineteen eighty-four, Fahrenheit 451). These days anyone can turn on a computer and create their own utopia (SimCity).  IMDb, the movie database, has compiled a list of the top 50 Post-Apocalyptic movies (http://www.imdb.com/list/2WCgJcXeSEQ/).  The images and impressions of a global consciousness, of an ecopsychological dimension are everywhere. A recent favorite of mine is AVATAR.  James Cameron’s creation of the Navi, a large, lithe, colorful, and powerful race of humanoid creatures with tails.  These tails, symbolizes the Navi’s sustained connection to their world and hints of a noble savage. From the opening minutes of the film the there are rumbles and rhythms of mechanization that contrasts with a perky newscaster announcing the comeback of the nearly extinct Bengal tiger we are presented with competing impressions of soulless exploitation of the planet’s resources by an interplanetary corporation and the soulful natives and their planetary conscious ways.  By the end of the movie our sympathies are powerfully attached to the Navi.  Apart from the symbolism of the Navi’s tail, it is the physical means by which they experience a deep empathic connection to their world, it is the vehicle for their participation mystiqeu. As if these images alone were not enough, Cameron chose for his protagonist a physically disabled man injured in battle.  He seems to be telling us of our woundedness, our disability, and our hope for restoration.  In the final scene of AVATAR, the viewer is left believing that the protagonist has made a final and complete transformation from man to Navi.  The movie’s ability to arouse archetypal energies of both apocalypse and utopia is gripping.  But the promise that WE might experience such a deep connection to the biosphere as the protagonist is even more compelling.  Ecopsychology is unlikely to deliver some well wrapped experiences of connectedness like we get in the movies but perhaps it can provide a guide for the journey.  This is journey that began in an idyllic garden to which it one day hopes to return. INVITATION Take a moment to reflect on the impressions that reside in your own psyche of this world, your place in it, and the planetary images and impressions that you have encountered.  Perhaps it is a dream, a piece of art, a moment of communion with nature.  As we share our stories, we may help one another to awaken to something deep within that also is suffused outside.  If we hope to develop a consciousness spacious enough for the biosphere it must include one another.  Share your stories here. Len Cruz

[i] Roszak, Theodore, Mary E. Gomes, and Allen D. Kanner. Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind. San Francisco: Sierra Club, 1995 (page xix).

[ii] Scull, John. “Ecopsychology: Where Does It Fit in Psychology in 2009?.” The Trumpeter Fall 2008: 68-85. The Trumpeter. Web. 8 Oct. 2011. [iii] Singer, Thomas. “The Cultural Complex and Archetypal Defenses of the Collective Spirit | Psyche-and-culture | Articles.” IAAP. IAAP, 19 June 2005. Web. 08 Oct. 2011. <http://iaap.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=69:the-cultural-complex-and-archetypal-defenses-of-the-collective-spirit&catid=66:psyche-and-culture&Itemid=380>. [iv] Fromm, Erich (1964). The Heart of Man. Harper & Row., [v] Wilson, Edward O. (1984). Biophilia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-07442-4. [vi] Næss, Arne (1973) ‘The Shallow and the Deep, Long-Range Ecology Movement.’ Inquiry 16: 95-100 [vii] Chalquist, Craig (2007) Terrapsychology, New Orleans, Spring  Journal Books.  ISBN-10: 1882670655 [viii] Clinebell, H. 1996. Ecotherapy: Healing ourselves, healing the earth. New York: Haworth Press. [ix] Chalquist, Craig. “The Environmental Crisis is a Crisis of Consciousness.” Terrapsych.com – serving the animate presence of place. Terrapsych.com, n.d. Web. 7 Oct. 2011. <http://www.terrapsych.com/cris (also Chalquist, Craig, and Mary E. Gomes. Terrapsychology: Re-engaging the Soul of Place. New Orleans: Spring Journal, 2007.) [x] Watkins, Mary . “On Returning to the Soul of the World: Archetypal Psychology and Cultural/Ecological Work.” Terrapsych.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Oct. 2011. <www.terrapsych.com/Watkins. [xi] Lifton, Robert Jay (March 1968). “America in Vietnam—The circle of deception”. Society 5 (4). [xii] Costa, Rebecca D. The Watchman’s Rattle: Thinking Our Way out of Extinction. New York: Vanguard, 2010. [xiii] Costa, Rebecca D. The Watchman’s Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction. New York: Vanguard Press, 2010. [xiv] Chabon, Michael. “Manhood for Amateurs: The Wilderness of Childhood by Michael Chabon | The New York Review of Books.” New York Times Review of Books. New York Times, 16 July 2009. Web. 7 Oct. 2011. <http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2009/jul/16/manhood-for-amateurs-the-wilderness-of-childhood/> [xv] Buzzell, Linda, and Craig Chalquist. Ecotherapy: Healing with Nature in Mind. San Francisco: Sierra Club, 2009. [xvi] Our Bodies, Ourselves. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973. [xvii] Jung, C.G. ([1921] 1971) Paragraph 781. Psychological Types, Collected Works, Volume 6, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. [xviii] McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. [xix] Geus, Marius De. Ecological Utopias: Envisioning the Sustainable Society. Utrecht, the Netherlands: International, 1999. [xx] Thiele, L. P. 2000. Book Review: de Geus, M. 1999. Ecological Utopias: Envisioning the sustainable society. International Books, Utrecht, The Netherlands. Conservation Ecology 4(1): 18. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol4/iss1/art18/ [xxi] Gues, Marius de. Ectopia, sustainability, and vision. Organization & Environment. Vol: 15:2, 187-201Jun 2002. Web. October 7, 2011.
[xxii] Ricoeur, Paul.  Lectures on Ideology and Utopia.  Ed. George H. Taylor. New York: Columbia UP, 1986. Additional Recommended Readings: Bateson, Gregory. Steps to an Ecology of Mind. New York: Ballantine, 1972. Buber, Martin, and Ronald Gregor. Smith. I and Thou. New York, NY: Scribner, 2000. Capra, Fritjof. The Hidden Connections. London: Flamingo, 2003. Capra, Fritjof. The Web of Life: a New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems. New York: Anchor, 1996. Chivian, Eric, and Aaron Bernstein. Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008. Matthiessen, Peter. Courage for the Earth: Writers, Scientists, and Activists Celebrate the Life and Writing of Rachel Carson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2007. McKibben, Bill. Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age. New York: Times, 2003. Singer, Thomas. Psyche & the City: A Soul’s Guide to the Modern Metropolis. New Orleans: Spring Journal, 2010. Suzuki, David, and Amanada McConnell. The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature. Vancouver, BC: Greystone, 2007. Walljasper, Jay. All That We Share: How to save the Economy, the Environment, the Internet, Democracy, Our Communities, and Everything Else That Belongs to All of Us. New York: New, 2010. Wilson, Edward O. Consilience: the Unity of Knowledge. New York: Knopf, 1998.

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