So, 2018 starts with a storm; one of a record 13 predicted in October to ‘hit’ Ireland during the autumn/winter. Given our impact on climate change, it strikes me as very fitting that we personify storms with human names. This one we are calling Eleanor, which means ‘other/foreign’ from the old French and German spellings and ‘compassion’ from the Greek derivative.
Storm Eleanor frightened me last night. As I sat listening to the wind and rain from the security of an insulated, double glazed and fire warmed room, I had irrational and neurotic anxieties that a tree might crash through the window of the upstairs bedroom where my children were trying to sleep. ‘Irrational’ and ‘neurotic’ in the sense that there are no trees within striking distance of the window, so the image in my mind’s eye of glass smashing over their beds was extremely unlikely to occur in a literal sense. However, as a metaphor for the threat climate change poses, there is nothing irrational or neurotic about that fear.
I wish I could say that my interest in the psychology of climate change began out of a selfless regard for the Earth and all life upon it. The truth is that - initially at least - my concern was primarily for my own children and the world they would inherit; the legacy I would leave and the mess they would have to deal with. As things stand, it doesn’t look good.
In case this sounds like a very bleak and hopeless New Year message, I should also note the positive: Storm Eleanor reminds us that there are things we can do, both individually and collectively. We just need the resolve to overcome, and continue to overcome, the psychological barriers that hinder our ability to live more ecologically aware lives. And I believe - if you will forgive what might seem like a shameless professional plug - that psychotherapy can have an important role to play in helping us do that.
The next storm to visit Ireland will be called Fionn. Then Georgina, Hector, Iona and 11 others before Winifred arrives and the naming cycle starts again. My personal New Year Resolution is to try to reduce my own contribution to the creation of future storms. My professional resolution is to continue to integrate the principles of ecopsychology into my psychotherapeutic practice. In those efforts, I will be guided by Storm Eleanor. I will take ‘other/foreign’ to mean ‘different’ and I will try to do things differently; to think outside of the box when it comes to reducing my negative impact upon the environment.
Above all I will try for compassion; towards myself and everybody else. Whatever our failings might be, and whatever we could be doing differently or better, we are all doing our best. We should do well to remember that as future storms hit, because without compassion for ourselves and others, we really will be… (choose your own expletive)!
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