Radical Ecopsychology and Focusing

After meeting Jan Winhall at the Focusing Weeklong I was surprised to open Andy Fisher’s ‘Radical Ecopsychology’ and find her thanked on the first few pages. And maybe I shouldn’t have been, I know her training centre is in a beautiful setting but more than this Focusing gives an opportunity to engage with ourselves and other persons in a totally different way than the way our technocratic education, media and economic systems communicate and therefore allows totally different concepts and practices to emerge.

Fisher describes ecopsychology as, 

‘an effort to understand the social links between these two area of violence, between the violation we recognise as the ecological crisis and the violation we recognise as human suffering…ecopsychology is an effort at recovery, at recalling just how – in psychological terms – we humans are part of the big life process.’

This book brought together both my personal experience and my abstract understanding of living at this moment of ecological, social and individual suffering and near collapse in which we find ourselves in this stage of capitalism and the Gendlin’s philosophy of ‘carrying forward’, and the focusing experience that with curiosity in each moment we find an experience of continuous change. For an introduction to Gendlin’s extensive body of work Robert Parker PhD’s website is a good place to start.  I found Fisher’s scope which encapsulates Buddhist Philosophy, his critique of capitalism successful in providing, 

‘a helpful strategy for linking psyche and ecology…a way to conceptually unify our psychological and ecological crises under the umbrella of our nihilistic cultural condition, wherein a violation of life is tied to a frustrating absence of meaning or a widespread impoverishment of our experience… Focusing is the way to recognize ourselves as part of the natural order, ending the split between science and spirituality, ‘objectivity’ and inner knowing, and a method for learning how to dialog between the two’. 

I will not attempt to summarise his work, but simply suggest that if this appeals read it for yourself. However, I do feel much more emboldened to politicise therapy and to see the work of therapy as part of our response to climate change and to species decline. Placing animism and an animist worldview at the heart of Focusing Oriented Therapy makes sense if we hold that it is LIFE which is being carried forward. It has helped me have a large container for placing all the work I am interested in from dreaming and ancestors to nonviolence and ecology, Buddhism philosophy and the sacred in the everyday. While we are accustomed to breaking things into easily digestible parts the implicit is holistic and our personal trauma is both on the personal and universal scale. I think this book offers a good philosophical overview for leading individuals and groups working to both survive the personal challenges of our times and engage with planetary change, such as Work That Reconnects and The Fearless Heart.

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