Psychology, therapy and nature

July 15, 2013


In its strictest scientific sense, psychology would just be the investigation of the way we think and act – a reflection on human behavior. It wouldn’t necessarily need to concern itself with helping us to feel better, although of course we’ve come to expect this of it. If it is a logos (law) of the psyche (soul, the animated breath of the consciously self-aware body), healing is part of what it does – it is not separate form thinking ore reflecting or knowing, it is part of its nature to be well.

So let’s assume, as part of this thought experiment, that it should; that the ‘science’ of the psyche should lead directly to the ‘arts’ of therapy, because there should never have been a separation. The soul is well; when it is not, it needs healing, or therapy, to bring it back to its natural state. Even if this isn’t what the progenitors of psychology had in mind, they were certainly invested in healing – Freud and Jung both had medical backgrounds, after all.

Then why, as someone once put it, have we not gotten better in the hundred years since we’ve had psychotherapy? The answer, for me, involves two fundamental errors, which have defined this field since its modern inception and must be dispensed with if we are to find any real sense of healing in the next century.

These issues are time and nature. When we see human thought on an evolutionary scale, rather than thinking about ourselves as necessarily modern beings, we see the mind as an agent of evolutionary adaptation on a very big picture. This can help loosen the bonds that apply when we consider the way we think as actors in the limited labyrinth of modern, urban life.

And when this leads to the memory that we are part of nature – interdependently linked to everything else along networks of connectivity – we recognise ourselves in relation with all of life, in the only way we know it: manifest here on earth. In deep time, we incarnate in the moment, as nature. This is home. Ecopsychology is ecotherapy is the new healing mode (which is the oldest healing mode known).

Welcome home.



  1. I love your idea of the mind/psyche as an organ that seeks to maintain itself in a state of wellbeing, and to cure itself if necessary.

    Your diagnosis of how that mind loses touch with its own wisdom seems to be reflected in the pervasive metaphor of the mind-as-software, which frames the self-understanding of much recent cognitive psychology. Encouraged by this metaphor, the mind is imagined as if it were independent of the history of its hardware/wetware development and its wider situation. (And yet, ironically, even as I write this, my typing speed, and the kind of typos I make, are conditioned by historical choices in typewriter design which continue to this day because QWERTTY became a social convention….)

    • Yes, I always find it interesting how we use contemporary understandings of cosmology, physics &/or technology as a metaphorical language to speak about mind, body or soul. Your qwerty example is a neat way to tie it back to the more complex reality of environmental inter relationships.
      Another question to follow then would be, does homeostasis operate at a planetary level as well, as Lovelock & other proponents of the Gaia hypothesis suggest?
      I don’t know. But I do feel that consciousness seeks to ‘right’ itself & the history of psychotherapy suggests many workers in this field, beginning with Freud & Jung, agree.

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