Outside vs. Inside: A Depth Psychological Perspective on the Planetary Crisis and the Psyche/Nature Split

If the “outside,” as we in modern western cultures generally consider the physical world, is manifesting rather worrisome phenomena in the form of conflict, destruction of nature and home places, and racial and income inequality, we can draw a connection from what is occurring in the physical world to what must be occurring on an inner level, and therefore witness symptoms in the psychological realm as well.

The physical symptoms that are manifesting lie within a larger set of underlying issues, which, in turn, are psychological symptoms of an even larger and more fundamental issue: the sense of separation and loss due to our dearth of what C. G. Jung considered the "feeling function" in the world. This feeling function is often overlooked in lieu of our general propensity to adopt the "thinking function" and to disregard the value (and intelligence) of things in the nature.

Psyche and nature are intrinsic to one another, occupying adjacent positions on the same spectrum of being. In light of this, ecocide—the destruction of home and home places in the physical world—may be seen as a pollution, contamination, or killing of psyche in what we have traditionally considered the inner world. Our brazen destruction of nature is so symbolic of the destruction of the connection with the collective unconscious or what Jung called the Self. 

Our wholeness is no longer intact; our psyches are under attack and are, in turn, unable to “house us” properly because of the damage. Deforestation, wildfires, floods, and the like may be witnessed not only in the outer world, but may also be applied to the inner world of psyche. The Cartesian split between nature and psyche can result in a rampant deforestation of the psyche, leaving the ecosystem of the self out of balance, or leave us vulnerable to inundation.... *(Click here to read the full post)

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Comment by Bonnie Bright on January 28, 2015 at 11:22am

Hi Aleksandar. Thanks for your comments. I think you're expressing a view held by a pretty significant part of people on the planet right now, and I certainly have my moments in believing the same. However, it's also an opportunity to challenge ourselves to expand our thinking beyond the rational obvious.

First, I believe that peak experiences change us permanently, if not only psychologically (or even spiritually), also neurobiologically. Through peak experiences (and even non-peak experiences in the form intentional consciousness and mindfulness) our brains do actually change, creating new neural pathways and additional and different capacities as containers--not just for more rational intelligence, but also to soul, and therefore, magic.

Hillman might actually say if someone hit me with a brick, the situation could be beautiful. Of course, he's not here to corroborate the whole brick thing (LOL), but he always seemed to be thinking about how suffering IS beautiful--it's just not the normal definition we collectively hold.

Finally, I agree that revolution has to come from within the native situation; it's why America's invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan hasn't worked, and Tunisia, to a large extent, has. However, those of us at a distance can also participate in some ways that CAN be meaningful and have impact, even if it's not the way you might normally expect someone to get involved—not the least of those being consciously sending wishes for peace and love. If you are familiar with the Buddhist practice of metta, which is a strong, sincere wish for the happiness of all beings, that could be meaningful here. Also, Jung and many others talked incessantly about how we must first start with ourselves to change the individual, and the collective will follow. 

I know you don't like the "butterflies and happy faces" approach, Aleks (happy emoticon here) -- and I understand why. I guess I happen to believe we can each make a difference through intention. And, I didn't use to believe this. I have gradually come to this understanding through years of study, lived experience, and, I hope, growing self awareness.

I'm as disturbed as anyone by what we are doing to the planet and to each other (maybe some of us more than others, and some countries more than others), but if we all believe we are the "chimp in the airplane", it will certainly go down. I think it will probably go down anyway, but I guess like Hillman, I'm expecting maybe something ultimately good will arise from the ashes, and that the new pilot who arises will be a little more reflective, compassionate, and soulful toward the planet and his/her fellow beings, in any form. And hey--don't diss chimps. They're pretty amazing...


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