The Nature of Human Disconnect
Imagine a truck full of contractors arrive to start cutting the trees down on your road. Would it upset you? I mean really deeply move and anger you? Perhaps you’ve been for a weekend hike and the trail took you past a quarry. The sight of the quarry left you feeling lost and disorientated. Maybe you’ve seen trash strewn over that beautiful beach that looked so idyllic in the brochure. You’ve felt the hole in your heart for what’s happening to the planet.
The destruction of nature moves people. It moves us all. You can feel desperation for the planet if you work in it every day like I do, but equally if you work in an office block in deep downtown, or you live in a city apartment and all you can see are building roofs, concrete and tarmac, you may feel it too.
The feeling of disconnect.
Being disconnected from nature. We are not ‘other’. We are not separate to it.
The destruction is real. We are nature. And we are nature hurting nature – the very thing that is in our souls.
Yesterday, I ran a mental health group in my local woodland. It’s a regular group and we gather round a campfire and support each other with life’s challenges. At the beginning of the session we welcomed a few new people and we started to talk about the ways we can manage our feelings. As an ecotherapy mental health group it’s natural that ‘nature’ comes up a lot as tool for managing our health.
You’ll hear advice at these groups, as well as in the media and all over the internet, recommending things like long walks, sitting in the garden, taking a lunch break and leaving the office when you do. We sort of just accept that nature is good for us. We also know inherently that nature is good for us. You know deep in your psyche that being outdoors is good for you.
It’s called Biophilia.
Bio = nature. Philia = love.
A term first coined by American Psychologist E.O.Wilson it suggests that we have an innate connection to nature because we are nature. We have a genetic need to be connected to nature and with increased rates of urbanisation we are leading towards a disrupted psyche and feeling of disconnection. As a species we have spent thousands of years living in complete connection with the land, and only since the industrial revolution have we seen this human disconnect. That’s a very short space of time in evolution terms, it’s no wonder we are bombarded daily with statistics about increasing mental and physical health issues.
We need to reconnect – at a species level. The lust for the simple life exists because we’re disconnected.
A few decades ago something shifted.
A group of ecologists gathered in one part of the world and a group of psychologists gathered in another part of the world. The ecologists were worried about the planet and wanted to find ways to improve how we cared for her. The psychologists were worried about the problems their clients were presenting.
A new wave of problems which people described as being about their environment, or more accurately the environment. These two professions saw a connection. If they could find a way to connect people with the planet (in a world of concrete, power, money, advertising and ambition) maybe people would start caring for the planet more and want to protect it.
Perhaps, if people were connected to the planet more, one they loved, they’d feel calmer, safer and more in control again. The world of Ecopsychology was born.
As a practitioner in this field, I encourage you to reconnect. I manage my own mental health and support my clients to manage theirs by suggesting activities like taking the dogs for a walk, inviting friends over for BBQ’s, running by the river, having picnics, going skiing and digging the allotment. Choose the ways you reconnect, even if you work or live in the city centre (or just don’t want to go outside because it’s raining).
Light candles, burn aromatherapy oils, put a plant on your desk, book on to an ecotherapy event – even pictures and photos of nature help.