The strangeness of our human society has been much commented on. (Robert Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, Albert Camus’ L'Étranger and Lewis Carroll’s ‘Adventures’ with Alice for example). While claiming sanity, our madness is increasingly showing in outbreaks of toilet roll frenzy and other desperate attempts to find comfort in an increasingly bleak and apparently hostile world out to get us – even door knobs may attack. Perhaps the Cheshire cat was right, We are all mad here!
As corona virus stops the merry go round - as Reality bursts in - we meet our vulnerability and need to reconnect with our roots and our communities. This is clearly the opportunity in the crisis - to withdraw from the crazed manic social world and reconnect with instinctive human roots and local community support. Both XR and Deep Adaptation have been anticipating this unravelling of business as usual and are offering many local connections and support groups.
In keeping with CPA’ five principles :
• Recognising our part in the problem
• Addressing existential shame
• Holding the tension between hope and despair
• Offering understanding and support
• Restoring what has been repressed
CPA offers depth psychological support for managing the uncertainty and anxiety without making it bad or wrong. Panic is an appropriate first reaction to threat but where it is not heard or denied it can become a terrifying madness. It sounds absurd to talk of panicking well but as the queen advised Alice,
“Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast".
Panicking well would involve a sense of shared recognition in family or the local community that the panic was not a personal aberration but a signal that we need to adapt and change.
We also suggest the strange probability that falling apart may be creative. As artists and psychotherapists have found, a descent into a chaotic unconscious process is a necessary part of regeneration. Restoring what has been repressed, denigrated, split off into our dark shadow side takes courage and humility. Although a social/cultural transformation is importantly different than that of the individual, the necessary relinquishing of known structures and values holds true, as testified in Jonathan Lear’s account in Radical Hope of the Crow chief, Plenty Coups, facing the challenge needed for the Crow to adapt to a new way of life after their traditional way of life had collapsed. There were many facets of this collapse most pertinently stated by Plenty Coups as,
"when the buffalo went away the hearts of my people fell to the ground, and they could not lift them up again".
Feelings of despair and depression are not well regarded in our manic driven society but like panic are potentially adaptive responses to the losses, real and imagined, that we can sense in a social collapse. And of course the real losses are unevenly distributed. As the super rich board their private jets and make for their bolt holes, millions of working families living just above the poverty line are thrust into anxiety about paying rent, mortgage and utility bills. The recognition of our vulnerability to fears experienced as catastrophic opens the doors to the possibility of counter-cultural acts of finding new and hopefully shared ways of reclaiming solidarity with the human.
CPA, with others, is moving events online
• working with eco-anxiety and children
• talking about climate change with friends, family and colleagues
• training on hosting Climate cafes
• Through the Door events for helping professions
• introductions to Climate Psychology
• developing radical hope as a harbinger of post-collapse futures