I’m all right – you?

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 don’t know about you, but the Australians have a disturbing way of driving the point home. I mean, running into this in a public park would definitely scare me.

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 make 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:

When the pills stop working

Kaiser Health News: ‘Climate Grief’: Fears About The Planet’s Future Weigh On Americans’ Mental Health

Hopium: The New Deal ‘for generations to come’

I find I have less time or patience with the nonsense (celebrity news) being peddled by mainstream news sources. I am spending more time in climate groups on Facebook (and less time on other parts of Facebook) and Reddit.

My main area of research is the psychological effects of climate change. There’s a lot of nonsense surrounding that subject as well.

I fear that Big Psych is looking at this as a new practice field, or, if you will, a new (short-lived as it may be) revenue stream as if they need one in a nation overtaken by neurosis of all kinds.

This will lead toward a kind of exploitation where therapists will go looking for climate news explanations for symptoms that may have nothing to do with the problem presenting. Suggesting, however, could make it so. That is why I have, as of yet, held back on talking to this with my therapist. I think for now, I will deal with it by myself.

Despite the Gallup poll numbers given in the story above, I do not think that climate psychosis is a major problem in this country yet. There are too many competing neurosis and conditions right now and most people in the US just don’t see it yet. I think in many cases; the poll questions can lead the subject: ‘should I be worried about this? Oh yes, I guess I should; being a good and smart person and all.’

When the realization hits, the sudden 20% spike in grocery prices, the overnight shortages of vegetables and grains, regional power failures lasting days, etc., there will be an anxiety-fueled rush to the shrinks, to the liquor cabinets, the opiate stash, whatever. It’s what Americans do, and I expect nothing less.

It is imperative for those of us who are on the climate sites on FB and Reddit to be there for these people when the time comes. I have made the statement on these groups not to shame these people now or make them feel ignorant – because when they need a shoulder to cry on they won’t come to you.

The second imperative, and perhaps harder when the time comes, is to resist the temptation to wrap one’s arms around these poor folks and say ‘there, there, we’re all doomed together.’ One part of me says ‘what do they expect to be told – take out a 30-year mortgage, happy days are here again?’ Are we supposed to offer some form of ‘hopium?’

Perhaps the best thing is to treat the coming shattered societal walking wounded with hugs and silence. If they have anything to say, let them say it. If they have questions, be honest, but not cruel. The urge will be to say, ‘I told you so,’ but at that point, it will solve little.

And what will psychology say to these people that would help in any way? ‘Here’s a pill?’ ‘Practice mindfulness? Yoga? Dialectical Behavioral Therapy? Make sure you get enough sleep and exercise, etc.’

There will probably be a stage for all of this soul searching to go down. How long the desperate search for a mental ‘fix’ will last, I do not know – probably until the water shortages hit. Then I suppose most people will leave the psychologists to their DSM V’s and head for the gun stores.

To paraphrase Marley’s ghost, when asked by Scrooge to speak comfort to him, I must give his same reply “I have none to give.”

For now, we live in a twilight world; still filled with the modern conveniences and electronic toys. A hologram of fading civility and civilization even now fraying at the edges. The best advice I can give anyone right now is find your community, enjoy every day, and keep looking at the skies.