Excerpt from Living Today in a Western World

Ecopsychology formulates a non-dualistic connection between nature and personal identity and this connection flows from the unconscious psyche to a conscious level of cognition which provides a basis for healing. To understand this reality as being a part of an individual’s identity is to understand the “SELF”, inclusively. 

Many of our ancestors and indigenous cultures may consider the concepts of ecopsychology, simply, a way of life. Observation, awareness, and oneness with nature were all rooted ideals providing fundamental tools for living within the environment. This is not a choice, but a way of living, learning, and surviving. Meditation, mindfulness, ritual, shamanic practice, art, dancing, cultivation, and harvest are just some of the ways in which people nurture and balance their sense of self with the earth.  In today’s modernized western world, Ecopsychology is a developing bridge with many paths leading to it. This type of psychology seeks to bring awareness and balance between humans and our interactions with nature. Ecopsychology illuminates awareness to experiential practices and assists in the fortitude of an ecological identity. 

The disconnection many Westerner’s feel today is not solely due to our own developmental evolution or our involvement in the human world.  The separation between nature and humans has long been passed down, possibly due to fear, control, or comfort. Lester Brown (1995), renowned author on environmental revolution, places some blame of deception and persuasion on the advertising industry, stating this business “is a contingent of talented pushers working to make us compulsive consumers” and adds that this type of psychology works against “environmental sanity” (pg. xvi). Here we see exploitation of the human psyche, reinforcing our lives with material objects and reinforcing our lack of dependence on the natural world.  

One way to identify our relationship with the planet is to extend observation to our relationships with others humans within our environment. Terrance O’Connor (1998) in Ecopsychology talks about individual’s being satisfied with limited relationships; limited meaning uninvolved, removed, or superficial. The status quo is that we have these petty relationships with each other, between nations, with ourselves and the natural world. Why should we bother? Because healthy relationships are not an esoteric goal. It is a matter of our very survival and the survival of most of the life upon this earth. (pg. 151). O’Connor continues on to discuss environmental concerns from a global perspective and points out that the patterns of “control, denial, and projection that sabotage intimate relationships are the very patterns that endanger the world” (pg.151).

Pointing to causal possibilities does not change the situations, but knowing “why” provides the skills to move from why it happens, to how we can progress, to acting now on behalf of a more sustainability future. According to Davis (1998): There is a deeply bonded and reciprocal communion between humans and nature. The denial of this bond is a source of suffering both for the physical environment and for the human psyche, and the realization of the connection between humans and nature is healing for both. (pg. 5). Furthermore, unless we restore our personal sense of wellness with nature, we can’t and won’t restore the health of the planet. If the concept of the self includes an ecological identity then the two identities (nature and self) are distinctly inseparable and personal behavior follows this non-dualistic concept.  The energy flow that plants feels when something dies in their presence (from the movie: The Secret Life of Plants) is the same energy humans feel, but aren’t attune to, when a species goes extinct or an entire nation of people is destroyed. Inherently we experience the collective shift in energy, positive and negative. This, I would say, is a leading cause of illness within our world. Separation, disconnection, denial all lead to stress and dysfunction, which leads to illness.

Our relationship with nature is a way to health, if not the way, and it must be handled with compassion and mindfulness. The goal of Ecopsychology is to expand the psyche to involve environmental context, bringing the environment and earth into the scope of health and wellness.