In times such as this, I question my role as a psychotherapist wishing that I had studied something that could truly and directly help the climate and environmental crisis that we face. I feel so connected to the natural world that to see it being destroyed, disregarded and exploited to this scale, to see us, humans, destroying what sustains us is truly horrifying and evokes in me a profound sense of helplessness.
I love my work because it entails looking at human psychology. In essence, understanding why we feel and behave the way we do. This is much easier to do with an individual sitting in front of me than to speculate what drives us to collectively cause harm or do nothing.
Biologically we are wired towards survival. Capitalism and consumerism, paired with technology have made us more and more disconnected from our bodies, our food and our environment.
In psychotherapy, we try to help people tolerate their feelings, be in their bodies, understand what drives them to make certain choices in life, etc. I believe that as a profession we can help to heal the wounds and traumas of the past so that we don’t have to continue repeating painful experiences. Psychotherapists can help individuals and groups to think the unthinkable and feel our most painful feelings. This is both a delicate and yet powerful process, which happens over time in order to not overwhelm the system.
Too much information, and we either react or disconnect.
A similar process is taking place collectively. The issues we are dealing with are huge and require serious attention. But how we pay attention is key. Reactivity and disconnection are inevitable responses to such overwhelmingly big issues. Therefore we need to learn to face things and not run away from them. We need to talk about and help one another grieve not just our personal losses but also the loss of nature and life, as we know it.
I deeply admire climate activists, environmentalists and all the scientists that dedicate their lives to bringing all this information to our attention and who are desperately trying to raise awareness to protect our natural world. But this depends on all of us waking up to what is happening and beginning treating ourselves and other humans/beings/the planet with care and respect.
We can only wake up and take action from a place of consciousness. So, it’s time we stop burying our heads in the sand and take a serious look at how we live, the choices we make and how we treat the planet every single day.
As a profession, a society and a nation, we need to face our areas of contradiction, our “splits”. After all, the personal is the political.
In the words of Great Thunberg:
“If the walls of your house truly came tumbling down, surely you would set your differences aside and start cooperating.
Well, our house is falling apart. And we are rapidly running out of time. And yet basically nothing is happening.
Everyone and everything needs to change. So why waste precious time arguing about what and who needs to change first?
Everyone and everything needs to change.”
Global Climate Strike 20 and 27 September 2019
Further reading by Sam Jahara –
Sam Jahara is UKCP Registered, CTA, PTSTA and is one of the Brighton & Hove Psychotherapy Co-founders. She is an experienced Transactional Analysis Psychotherapist. Her special interests include culture, identity, belonging, sustainability and environmental issues. Sam is available at our Lewes and Brighton & Hove Practices.