If you’ve been following the entirety of abrupt climate change, you’ve probably been unable to turn on your computer without being hit with a story about how the issue is starting to affect people’s mental health.
I had to pause and think about it myself – how am I dealing?
I recently had a Facebook friend lecture me in a long text about how I was probably too hip deep in all the gloom and it was affecting my general disposition on the Internet. She also seemed to imply that I was bringing everyone down.
Well, no doubt my climate change FB page (Approaching Oblivion – FB won’t let me change it to Last Dance because they’re stupid) has light readership – and very few comments or reactions. I ‘reacted’ to that criticism (since I’m Borderline, I tend to take it as a personal attack) by loading up the site that night with at least six pertinent bad news stories within an hour.
Well, it hit me – I could practically have done that all night.
And then of course, after I have my ‘reaction,’ I thought – is this true?
Well, it’s not. Actually, her reaction was exactly what I am aiming at. I want people to get upset. I’ve been an expert at pissing people off all my life and now I have this moment to shine. You can’t ignore me . . . and what’s more, I’m right.
But enough about me. I’ve done some diving into the issue and it seems like climate angst is growing and, speaking just for the US, I think part of it is our culture: we don’t know how to handle terminal bad news.
In America, our privilege of wealth and, God I hate this term, ‘exceptionalism,’ has saddled our people with the expectation that things should always get better and that we will ultimately be protected from long term harm.
But America isn’t alone. The latest polling from the UK shows 85% of its’ citizens now worried about climate change as well.
And psychiatry is marshalling all it’s resources to
a lot of money off help those in need of comfort by prescribing a
billion more pills suggesting philosophies that my help people deal with
their impending doom.
Like this one from the Society for Humanistic Psychology Newsletter.
Now, for God’s sakes, DON’T READ IT, unless you want to know what Wittgenstein and Heidegger said about similar issues. If you want to know about the ‘great philosophers’ all you need is the same education I got, from Monty Python.
There are only two paragraphs that get to the heart of the matter and, as usual, psychologists, being great at burying their ledes (yes, that is how it is spelled in journalism, a far more reputable profession), finally got round to the point at the end:
It also announces, I now add, the shattering of metaphysical illusions of earth’s permanence and indestructability. The human way of being cannot survive the impending homelessness with which climate change threatens us, a prospect so horrifying that people turn away from it altogether, thereby evading the threat and abandoning the search for solutions. (Such apocalyptic homelessness is foreshadowed concretely in the destruction of individual homes and other buildings by massive storms, floods, wildfires and other manifestations of global warming.)
Well, yes. A better translation for those of us who didn’t major in psychology in university is: ‘obvious weather anomalies show us we are ultimately fucked.’ (I like big words too, but brevity, man, brevity!)
(all emphasis mine) What can help us face up to the horrors with which climate change threatens us? I suggest a form of dwelling with one another that I call emotional dwelling (Stolorow & Atwood, 2018), an active, engaged, participatory comportment that I have recommended for the therapeutic approach to emotional trauma. In dwelling, one leans into the other’s emotional pain and participates in it. The language that one uses to address another’s experience of trauma meets the trauma head-on, articulating the unbearable and the unendurable, saying the unsayable, unmitigated by any efforts to soothe, comfort, encourage or reassure — such efforts invariably being experienced by the other as a turning away from the experience of trauma. In order to tackle the overwhelming perils of climate change we must include in our dwelling on earth an emotional dwelling with one another that renders shared apocalyptic anxiety more tolerable.
This is the kind of nonsense you can expect if you seek psychiatric attention for your climate angst.
The translation into common language is: misery loves company.
There now, wasn’t that simple?
Perhaps, then, the healthiest response to the end of human life on earth as we know it, is to invite your best friends over for an end of the world party and reminisce about past glories while getting absolutely shitfaced on the alcohol of your choice until your ‘dwelling’ is swept away by a flood or destroyed by a tornado see: Luxembourg.
So, there’s the plan. Don’t we all feel better now?
If not, remember the following: