Are you feeling uncomfortable sensations related to the climate and ecological emergency?
You are not alone...
Our emotional reactions are understandable, we are naturally expressing grief and other uncomfortable feelings because we deeply care and love our natural world. You are invited to feel nurtured and supported as together we explore, learn and share methods for maintaining our wellbeing and building our resilience. What opportunities can we find together to enhance our lives?
Together we will:
witness, acknowledge, share and transition our uncomfortable emotions and sensations with compassion
reconnect and strengthen our innate relationships with nature, as part of nature through learning and incorporating ecopsychology methods in our lifestyles.
enjoy, share and reflect on experiences with creative expression and/or eco-art activities
learn and share techniques to create a personal tool-box of methods to maintain a foundation of personal health
build our community network systems and methods to increase our sense of support, personal and community resilience
envision the future we want to create and go forth feeling re-energized and supported with purposeful actions
“It's going to be beautiful to see what we dare to do. Facing our fears, and letting go of and getting over our knee-jerk reactions to what we think we don't like or are afraid of. To see our capacity to walk into the fire. To discover how much we really love being alive. To give ourselves a taste of what that passion is. To let us fall really in love with our planet, and its beauty, and to see that in ourselves, as well as in each other.”
Joanna Macy, Ph.D. Eco-philosopher, scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology
“I really enjoyed the SOS Eco-Art session today. Deb created a fantastic open and supportive environment where we all felt very comfortable stating our thoughts and feelings without judgement. I loved the quiet and contemplative art and mindfulness activities, which allowed us to express ourselves clearly and directly from the heart.” - Malcolm, June 2019.
How did we get here?
We have tossed around theories in SOS sessions. Ecopsychology studies examines how our disconnectedness as a species, thinking we are separate from Nature has created Earth-separated behaviours reflected in anthropocentric climate change. Vulnerable states of planetary imbalance threaten many species including our own and this is reflected within us. Many of us feel vulnerable and experience a complex range of thoughts and emotions. Our feelings may be so enmeshed with our relationships as part of our natural world that it is difficult to process a sensory feeling rather than rational and logical thinking. Disharmony in physical, psychological and emotional health is evident and predicted to rise by many experts as we witness, or are subjected to greater consequences of ecological and societal collapse.
"The deteriorating state of Earth and people signals that we and the environment are at risk. Our thinking is excessively separated from nature within and around us. We must consciously reunite our mind with natural systems and begin to co-create with nature. Doing nature reconnecting activities helps make this happen. They offer an urgently needed service and vast economic benefits. Interestingly, the word for breathing and sharing spirit together is 'conspire.' Shouldn't we learn how to conspire to support life and our lives on Earth, rather than dance on the deck of our sinking ship?" - Dr. Michael Cohen, Project NatureConnect (The Secrets-of-Nature Attractions Trail)
Is what I am feeling 'normal'?
‘Across different populations, psychological researchers have documented a long list of mental health consequences of climate change: trauma, shock, stress, anxiety, depression, complicated grief, strains on social relationships, substance abuse, sense of hopelessness, fatalism, resignation, loss of autonomy and sense of control, as well as a loss of personal and occupational identity. This more-than-personal sadness is what I call the “Great Grief”—a feeling that rises in us as if from the Earth itself. Perhaps bears and dolphins, clear-cut forests, fouled rivers, and the acidifying, plastic-laden oceans bear grief inside them, too, just as we do. Every piece of climate news increasingly comes with a sense of dread: is it too late to turn around?’ Per Espen Stoknes, a Norwegian psychologist and Economic theorist notes ‘In order to respond adequately, first we may need to mourn.' -The Great Grief: How to Cope with Losing Our World
In 2015, I asked myself the question; 'Is what I am feeling 'normal?' And 4 years later, S.O.S. (Sustainability of Self as a whole life organism) was born as an Applied Ecopsychology Masters research project. The focus on 'Climate Change' uncomfortable emotions came from personal deep, dark experience and transitioning through emotional and ecological states with nature as my guide.
I researched and studied climate change and planetary systems, read climate scientist letters and articles predicting increased impacts on human and planetary health. I took climate and psychology courses and joined many groups grappling with this issue.
I feel that symptoms being labelled under eco-anxiety are not a pathology, instead a very reasonable and healthy response to an existential threat and our love for our planet and natural world. We all need to feel safe and secure and often feel pain and suffering when something we love is threatened. Acknowledging the sensations as a reality instead of dismissing, distracting or dissociating from them is a step to transitioning these uncomfortable feelings.
“The sorrow, grief, and rage you feel is a measure of your humanity and your evolutionary maturity. As your heart breaks open, there will be room for the world to heal.” -Joanna Macy
Meaningful action appears to be one of the best antidotes for despair and a sense of helplessness, so I became a volunteer climate communicator with Climate for Change and learned how I was not alone with symptoms of eco-anxiety through conversations with people in our communities.
I realised something lacking in our communities, a recognition of the associated feelings, safe and supportive space to share and provide regular regenerative moments for us to maintain our wellbeing and build our resilience.
SOS sets aside time within our local community and daily lives. We enjoy rejuvenating moments as we collaborate with each other and nature. Ecopsychology methods along with other practices offer tools for us to navigate an uncharted future together
- Deb Punton, Ecopsychologist & S.O.S facilitator.
I acknowledge my teachers with Project NatureConnect and Eco-Art Therapy, Nature as well as all the nature-connected peoples.
"Just as grief over the loss of a loved person puts into perspective what matters in our lives, collective experiences of ecological grief may coalesce into a strengthened sense of love and commitment to the places, ecosystems and species that inspire, nurture and sustain us."
Please note, these sessions are not a substitute any medical care, regular treatments and medications.
If you are feeling the need for professional help please contact:
Lifeline: 131 114
Kids Helpline (13-25 yr olds): 1800 551 800
Beyond Blue: Ph 1300 22 4636
and see climate change related services, groups, education resources and reading here:
Let's conspire to create our healthiest self and ripple out to educate and adapt people and systems
to the climate and ecological emergency!
A greater sense of wellbeing naturally flows from aligning ourselves as a part of a whole life organism, a living Earth.
When we feel healthy and supported, we can continue our work and lives with a rejuvenated sense of calm,
joy and purpose.
I recognise the Aboriginal peoples of Australia as the traditional custodians. I pay respect to them, their culture and elders past, present and emerging and acknowledge that sovereignty was never seeded. I also acknowledge that we are in the midst of a climate and ecological emergency and many indigenous are at the forefront of the crisis and also have wisdom for the solutions we require to move forward united.