The Psychological Pain of Global Warming

This week’s guest post comes from La Marguerite, a fellow green blogger who writes sincerely (and frequently) about the psychological dimensions of the regeneration. The article below probes deep, highlighting the all-too-common tendency among environmentalists to commit to one act of resistance and think that it’s enough – when in fact, each one of us needs to begin reorienting our entire lives towards a new paradigm of healthful sufficiency. 

About resistance

Jim stopped me right in the middle of our supervision. ‘Do you really think I have the time to read all your notes?’ I was shocked. I had been so proud of myself, taking meticulous notes on all the sessions with my patients, complete with thoughts, feelings, transcripts, interpretations, and many questions for Jim. That was years ago, I was a social work trainee at Loyola University of Chicago Doyle Center, and I still remember Jim jolting me with his comment. Jim went on to interpret my behavior as a form of resistance. According to him, I had unconsciously inundated him with material, to avoid doing some of the harder work that would inevitably take place, if we focused on only one issue.

Resistance: ‘The discovery of the unconscious and the introduction of it into consciousness is performed in the face of a continuous resistance (Widerstände) on the part of the patient. The process of bringing this unconscious material to light is associated with pain (Unlust), and because of this pain the patient again and again rejects it. It is for you then to interpose in this conflict in the patient’s mental life. If you succeed in persuading him to accept, by virtue of a better understanding, something that up to now, in consequence of this automatic regulation by pain, he has rejected (repressed), you will then have accomplished something towards his education. For it is an education even to induce a person who dislikes leaving his bed early in the morning to do so all the same.” (Sigmund Freud, 1959/1904, pp. 261-262, parentheses in original)

Blogging as a form of resistance

This is not unlike my circling process of these last few months, looking at every angle of my life as a Green Girl Wannabe, of which this article is yet another manifestation. Blogging away to avoid making any behavioral changes. While I write about the details of my hours, I do not have to act. And I can stay in the illusion of thinking that I am doing some good, discussing the details of my green soul searching. I am rationalizing by saying that I want to spend time understanding the psychological underpinnings of my resistance to change, with a twist of grandiosity, consisting in wanting to extrapolate my findings to the general population. One person who is not fooled, is Green Guru.

The power of interpreting

There is a paradox to this. I do believe there is some value to my work of self-exploration, and I do think it can be used as a source of greater insights into the why and hows of human behavior relative to the climate change problem. It is also important to not kid myself, and to call attention to the reality of my non actions. The reality is that it is much easier for me to come up with great insights, than to, let say, go out and buy a $2 clothes line, and stop using the dryer. Blogging has become my primary form of resistance. From that interpretation, may come the possibility of real change.

The pain underneath

The intensity with which I have been blogging, is also symptomatic of the level of resistance, and the pain involved. What is being asked of me – and others as well – , is a profound alteration of my lifestyle, not just in one area, but in all aspects of my waking life. This cannot be underestimated. For every green hero, there are thousands for whom the perspective of such a change is simply daunting. I have used blogging as my ploy. For others, it could be denial that there is any problem to begin with, or bargaining and rationalizing certain behaviors in the face of ‘all the good work I am already doing for the environment’, or subscribing to a catastrophic scenario and following a ‘why bother, we are all doomed anyway’ logic.

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