The deep and enduring psychological questions–who we are, how we grow, why we suffer, how we heal–are inseparable from our relationships with the physical world. Similarly, the over-riding environmental questions–the sources of, consequences of, and solutions to environmental problems–are deeply rooted in the psyche, our images of self and nature, and our behaviors. Ecopsychology integrates ecology and psychology in responding to both sets of questions. Among its aims are:
  • shifting the basis of environmental action from anxiety, blame, and coercion to invitation, joy, devotion, and love;
  • fostering ecological thinking and direct contact with the natural world in psychotherapy and personal growth to promote the psychological benefits of nature experiences; and
  • supporting lifestyles which are both ecologically and psychologically healthy and sustainable.
Ecopsychology offers three insights:
  • There is a deeply bonded and reciprocal relationship between humans and nature. Ecopsychology draws on two metaphors for this relationship: (a) nature as home and family (e.g., Earth as mother, animals as siblings) and (b) nature as Self, in which self-identifications are broadened to include the “greater-than-human” world and Gaia.
  • The illusion of a separation of humans and nature leads to suffering both for the environment (as ecological devastation) and for humans (as grief, despair, and alienation).
  • Realizing the connection between humans and nature is healing for both. This reconnection includes the healing potential of contact with nature, work on grief and despair about environmental destruction, ecotherapy, and psychoemotional bonding with the world as a source of environmental action and sustainable lifestyles.
A specifically ecopsychological approach includes both the psychological and the enviornmental in such reconnection. It is this inclusion of both the “eco” and the “psyche” which distinguishes ecopsychology from both environmentalism and psychology.
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