The Psychological Task:

To Acknowledge and Better Understand the Human-Nature Relationship as a Relationship

It may seem absurd to those unfamiliar with psychoanalytic thought to suppose that man treats Nature in terms of dominance and submission as he might treat another human being with whom he has not been able to establish a one-to-one relationship, but I believe these attitudes can not only be demonstrated, but are actually important to our understanding of what has gone wrong in our relationship with the natural world.

Anthony Storr, Man’s Relationship with Nature1

According to Fisher, Ecopsychology’s first task is “to describe the human psyche in terms that make it internal to the natural world or that make it a phenomenon of nature”. He goes on to stress that “Ecopsychology is still concerned with our suffering and happiness, our dreaming, our search for meaning, our responsibilities to others, our states of consciousness and so on… it just frames these concerns within the fuller, more-than-human scope of human existence.”2

David Kidner notes that most psychologists are unwilling to regard our ecological troubles as evidence of “pathology in the relationship between humanity and the natural world”. Ecological problems are effectively “dichotomised into individual and environmental problems, and any possible relationship between the two is repressed”. The result is that “environmental destruction is invisible to psychology”.3

Fisher suggests that the first step towards rectifying this disparity is to acknowledge the human-nature as a relationship. In other words, it means granting the natural world psychological status; regarding other-than-human beings as true interactants in life, as ensouled “others” in their own right, as fellow beings or kin.4

Next: The Philosophical Task

References

  1. Storr, A. (1974) “Man’s Relationship with Nature” in The North American Review 259. pp.18-24.
  2. Fisher, A. (2013). Radical Ecopsychology: Psychology in the Service of Life. New York, Albany: SUNY Press. p.7.
  3. Kidner, D. W. (1994) “Why is psychology mute about the environmental crisis?” in Environmental Ethics 16. pp.359-378.
  4. Fisher, A. (2013). Radical Ecopsychology: Psychology in the Service of Life. New York, Albany: SUNY Press. p.8.

Notes from a journey towards ecological consciousness