InfoGraphics: Ecopsychology

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Ecopsychology is a branch of psychology and is a study of the relationship between human beings and the natural world. It is distinguished from conventional psychology in that it focuses on the emotional bond between humans and the Earth. The separation between nature and humans became clearer after industrialization, and ecopsychology states that separation affects people’s way of living as well as their well-being. Human beings tend to put themselves at the center of everything, and in contrast, ecopsychology tries to change this anthropocentric way of thinking to a more ecocentric one.

Theodore Roszak is credited with coining the term “ecopsychology” in his book The Voice of Earth. Another important name in ecopsychology, Robert Greenway was influenced by philosophies and ecologists. He began researching and developing a concept he describes as the marriage between psychology and ecology. He called this ecopsychology and theorized it in the dictum “the mind is nature, and nature, the mind.”

Ecopsychology views repression of the ecological unconscious as the deepest root of collusive madness in industrial society. In this view, free access to the ecological unconscious is the way to sanity. The contents of the ecological unconscious serve as a living record of cosmic evolution that may be traced back to the ancient, originating conditions in the course of time. On the organized complexity of nature, life and the mind are the final natural systems to emerge from the evolutionary story of the physical, biological, mental, and cultural systems we refer to as “the universe.” In an effort to make these revelations of the new cosmology visible, ecopsychology draws on them.

The purpose of ecopsychology is to awaken the innate sense of environmental balance that lies inside the ecological unconscious, much as the goal of earlier therapies has been to recover the repressed contents of the unconscious. Other forms of therapy aim to remove alienation between individuals, families, and society. The more basic alienation between a human and the natural world is what ecopsychology aims to treat.

The child’s life is an important developmental period for ecopsychology, as it is for other therapies. In the perception of the world that a baby has, the ecological unconscious is recreated as if it were a gift. Ecopsychology aims to restore in functionally “sane” adults the naturally animistic quality of experience that children have. It draws on a variety of sources to achieve this, including the deep ecological understanding and the ancient healing methods of the indigenous people, as well as the expressions of environmental mysticism in religion and art. These are modified to fit the purpose of developing the ecological ego.

The ecological ego develops into a sense of moral obligation to the world that is as vividly experienced as our moral obligation to other individuals. It aims to include that responsibility into the framework of social interactions and political choices.

Rethinking certain obsessively “masculine” character tendencies that underlie our political power systems and push us to govern nature as if it were a foreign and unjustified world is one of the treatment tasks that ecopsychology considers to be most crucial. In order to challenge sexual stereotypes, ecopsychology heavily draws on some of the findings of ecofeminism and feminist spirituality.

The ecological ego is nourished by anything that promotes small-scale social formations and personal empowerment. Anything that aims to dominate on a wide scale and suppress individuality threatens the natural balance. Therefore, ecopsychology seriously questions the fundamental sanity of our enormous urban-industrial civilization, regardless of whether it is capitalistic or collectivist in its structure. However, it does so without necessarily denying our species’ technical expertise or some aspects of our industrial might that improve the quality of life. In terms of its social orientation, ecopsychology is post-industrial rather than anti-industrial.

According to ecopsychology, the health of the earth and our own well-being are mutually supportive of one another. There is a synergy.  The word “synergy” is very important here because it was purposefully chosen due to its historical and theological connotation, which formerly held that the divine and human share a cooperative relationship in the quest of salvation. So, the needs of the planet are the needs of the individual, and the rights of the individual are the rights of the planet. 

Serra S. Öztürk
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Özge Nur Akman
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H. Dilara Çil
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