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Posts Tagged ‘ecopsychology’

About resistance

Jim stopped me right in the middle of our supervision. ‘Do you really think I have the time to read all your notes?’ I was shocked. I had been so proud of myself, taking meticulous notes on all the sessions with my patients, complete with thoughts, feelings, transcripts, interpretations, and many questions for Jim. That was years ago, I was a social work trainee at Loyola University of Chicago Doyle Center, and I still remember Jim jolting me with his comment. Jim went on to interpret my behavior as a form of resistance. According to him, I had unconsciously inundated him with material, to avoid doing some of the harder work that would inevitably take place, if we focused on only one issue.

Resistance: ‘The discovery of the unconscious and the introduction of it into consciousness is performed in the face of a continuous resistance (Widerstände) on the part of the patient. The process of bringing this unconscious material to light is associated with pain (Unlust), and because of this pain the patient again and again rejects it. It is for you then to interpose in this conflict in the patient’s mental life. If you succeed in persuading him to accept, by virtue of a better understanding, something that up to now, in consequence of this automatic regulation by pain, he has rejected (repressed), you will then have accomplished something towards his education. For it is an education even to induce a person who dislikes leaving his bed early in the morning to do so all the same.” (Sigmund Freud, 1959/1904, pp. 261-262, parentheses in original)

Blogging as a form of resistance

This is not unlike my circling process of these last few months, looking at every angle of my life as a Green Girl Wannabe, of which this article is yet another manifestation. Blogging away to avoid making any behavioral changes. While I write about the details of my hours, I do not have to act. And I can stay in the illusion of thinking that I am doing some good, discussing the details of my green soul searching. I am rationalizing by saying that I want to spend time understanding the psychological underpinnings of my resistance to change, with a twist of grandiosity, consisting in wanting to extrapolate my findings to the general population. One person who is not fooled, is Green Guru.

The power of interpreting

There is a paradox to this. I do believe there is some value to my work of self-exploration, and I do think it can be used as a source of greater insights into the why and hows of human behavior relative to the climate change problem. It is also important to not kid myself, and to call attention to the reality of my non actions. The reality is that it is much easier for me to come up with great insights, than to, let say, go out and buy a $2 clothes line, and stop using the dryer. Blogging has become my primary form of resistance. From that interpretation, may come the possibility of real change.

The pain underneath

The intensity with which I have been blogging, is also symptomatic of the level of resistance, and the pain involved. What is being asked of me – and others as well – , is a profound alteration of my lifestyle, not just in one area, but in all aspects of my waking life. This cannot be underestimated. For every green hero, there are thousands for whom the perspective of such a change is simply daunting. I have used blogging as my ploy. For others, it could be denial that there is any problem to begin with, or bargaining and rationalizing certain behaviors in the face of ‘all the good work I am already doing for the environment’, or subscribing to a catastrophic scenario and following a ‘why bother, we are all doomed anyway’ logic.

 

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‘Mom, can we heat the hot tub? My friends are coming over.‘ I said yes at once. And then, almost in the same breath, this whole monologue in my head. ‘Not exactly green. Big time indulgence. Didn’t I go through all those carbon calculators this morning? But then I want to please her, there is no way I am going to say no. I am tired of setting limits. Tonight, I want to be Nice Mommy. The hell with global warming. Plus a couple hours of hot tub are not going to make a difference.’ I can hear Green Guru’s admonitions, ‘You are being a hypocrite. You are all talk. You say you want to be green, but look at you, you can’t say no to her.’ I hear, I know, and there is no way I am not going to be sweet. I bask in the moment. The sound of four girls laughing, talking, in the hot tub.

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Another talk with Green Guru about my projects:

(GGW) I’m really excited about this Carbon Conscious Project. I want to find a way to make it easier for people to take action.

(GG) You are fighting a lost cause. People are just selfish, and they just don’t give a s… . The only way to get them to change is through economics. And even that, I am not so sure.

End of conversation. I refuse to enter Green Guru’s rhetoric. The difference between he and I is, he is a pessimist, and I am an optimist. I want to believe in the human capacity to change. It’s going to be tough, no doubt, but that is no reason to give up. Collectively, we have not found the ways yet to persuade the majority of people.

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It’s hitting me. Again. This feeling of being overwhelmed. By the mass of information coming at me. Green facts, and comments on not so green facts. It seems that everyone’s got things to say, to report, an initiative they are working on, participating in, a cool article they found, that somebody else wrote. There is conflicting data coming from various fronts, about the doom coming, or not coming. Organizations are trying to organize, into communities of souls, scattered over the land. Al Gore’s got something up his sleeve, but we don’t know what. Could be more green and that’s it, or more green with a political twist. Environmental news are coming every minute on the feed. I am feeling dizzy, anxious, tired, uneasy, worried, torn, unsure, restless, powerless, frustrated, a whole salad of nasty feelings. With dark images to go with. I wrote about the Big Monster before. It’s there again, engulfing me with its sliminess, and its ugly claws. There is no getting away from it. Maybe if I sit for a minute, I will calm down.

A little while ago, I read Matt’s post in 21st Century Citizen. He says he is not afraid. I am. I can’t stand so much left to chance. I am one of those people who is insured for everything. There is no insurance against global warming. The only thing that would appease my fears, is the knowledge that we have grasped the problem, and we know what we are doing, and there is some kind of master plan we are following. How do you get a whole planet to act in unisson? I need a sense of order. Not the current chaos, with lots of people agitating in many directions, all pretty much trying to do their thing. Here I am writing this blog, also trying to do my thing, just like hundreds of thousands of others. Blog Action Day represented a feeble attempt at unity. I am still not calmer. Need to still my thoughts, go with my breath.

Train roaring. Clock ticking. And then silent house . . . ‘Do the work, it will teach you’. The words from my art teacher, David Middlebrook, come to me. Could it be that I am feeling overwhelmed, because I have been too much in my head, thinking and writing about solutions, instead of going out in the world, and doing my work as a green citizen? I do feel the need to act, more and more. At a minimum, I can do my share and follow Green Guru’s footsteps. And then, the question. So what? if the rest of the world does not follow, what difference will it make? I keep going back to that same question. And again the danger of thinking too much, of trying to take on the challenge of the world, and imagining solutions? I need a vacation from my thoughts.

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Britney Spears is #1 on Yahoo Buzz, this week. I am not immune to the Britney Spears fascination. Every time her name pops up on my AOL News screen, I have to read the story, in details. And I wonder, what is it that so mesmerizes me, about this young woman, whose tragic life is getting played out for all to see.

What is it that makes her one of our most popular icons? At this point, Britney has become an archetype for our self-destructive tendencies. And I can’t help but make the leap, and compare her downhill course, to the disastrous path lying ahead of us all. Like Britney, we first need to stop denying the extent and the urgency of our problem. Or our children are going to suffer.

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It is one thing to deliver content, and another to organize it in a way that is consumable by readers. I had been so busy writing, that I had lost track of the most important person, you, the reader of this blog. Something had to be done. I just went through my entire blog, reassigning tags and categories, to better help sort through all the information. The main challenge was deciding on which categories and how many? Looking at other green blogs, people are all over the place. Some are using tags as categories. Some have short lists, others super long ones. Some category names make sense, others don’t. I decided to do my own thing, and think first of the main topics I like to cover in this blog.

  1. Blogging: I did not plan on writing on my experience as a blogger, but it is turning out to be an important part of my life as a Green Girl Wannabe
  2. Ecopsychology: The main focus and raison d’ etre for the La Marguerite blog. A little talked about part of the solution to the climate crisis. Basically, the study of how personal psychology affects human behavior towards the environment. Including strategies to induce positive behavioral changes.
  3. French life: Because I am French, and references to my French experiences permeate this blog. I find it interesting to compare the two cultures, French and American. And of course, I am a bit biased . . . the French always end up looking good!
  4. Green domesticity: Mostly my interactions with Green Guru, my husband, and in residence green conscience. A narrative has been developing, at times funny, and always a source of insights into the dynamics of families, and how these impact environmental choices.
  5. Green solutions: An emerging category, and one I want to spend more time on in the future. Separately from this blog, I am working on a locally based green initiative. I will keep you posted.
  6. Internet: Living in Silicon Valley, I cannot ignore this most incredible tool, without which this blog would not exist in the first place. Things I love: social networks, wikis, blogs, green Internet solutions, anything new under the cybersun.
  7. Thoughts on society: The place for deeper articles on the macro problems, global solutions, comparisons between cultures, modern thinkers. An opportunity to cross-pollinate and tap into my multidisciplinary background as an engineer, marketer, advertiser, shrink, and artist.
  8. Zen moments: To capture all those times when I become zen, and go down, down, to that still place, where things just are.

That’s eight categories total. A good, manageable number. For other bloggers, interested in going through this same exercise, I would like to share a resource I just found through Daily Blog Tips, an article from Engtech, Climbing out of Category Hell”. I wish I had read it earlier. There are a number of things I did not do, did not know to do, and should have done, to minimize fallouts from my ambitious reorganization. I will only mention one, ‘to turn trackbacks off before you start reorganizing your categories or you’re going to spam the crap out of yourself as you resave all of your posts’. Ouch . . . I ask all to forgive me. This may explain the mysterious fall in Technorati ranking from the last few days.

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Green Guru asks me to take a look at our fridge. “Look! This is what I am talking about.” And starts pointing at all the containers, full of uneaten leftovers, mostly from dishes I made for Catherine, or bought for her. Meatball pasta from Il Fornaio takeout, butter noodles, roast chicken from Whole Foods deli, a Styrofoam box with a half eaten beef burrito. The roast chicken, I will probably use in our salad tonight. But the rest? Catherine does not like to eat leftovers, and we are not big on beef and starches. The stuff is going to sit in the fridge for a few more days. It is good food and should not go to waste. I can only keep the illusion for so long, however. Eventually, I will have to throw the stuff away. Green Guru made his point.

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Sorting through the mess on my desk. I come across paper with old to-do-list, no longer relevant. Thought: ‘Look on the other side, see if it can be used.’ Back of paper is blank. Thought: ‘I should save paper to write on.’ I crumple the paper, and throw it into garbage can. There is something about starting fresh with a 100% virgin sheet of paper. I have toned down my habit quite a bit, and am usually pretty good at saving half used sheets. But in this case, Prad got these super thin sheets made out of recycled paper. They feel as if they can only handle one sided writing.

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Too much thinking about my green blog. Green Guru stopped me, just as I was stepping out the door, my hand still on the handle. The same handle that holds our empty green bags. We joked that I was having a green senior moment. The trip to Whole Foods was very jolly. I was still laughing when I got out of the car. If not for Green Guru, I was heading to the store . . . without the bags.

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We all love tips

Americans are suckers for tips, and lets face it, I am too. I can’t resist the daily AOL teasers, like the one I read yesterday, about ’10 Ways to Improve your Marriage’. I had to click, and read the whole article from tip 1 to tip 10. One click for each new tip. That’s a lot of time spent on one article. Today, I can’t tell you what it said, but I remember nodding with appreciation, as I read it. My point is that people love tips, but do they really use them? Skelliewag, and Daily Blog Tips, the two must read blogs for all serious bloggers, are both big fans of ‘numbered headlines’. If I want to be a successful blogger, I need to give readers numbered lists of practical recommendations they can hang on to.

Do green tips work?

I should have numbered headlines? Part of me resist the idea. I am French after all, and we French have a natural aversion for anything too simplistic. For us, articles with numbers in their headline just lack finesse. Nothing in life is that simple that it can be reduced to a rounded number of recommendations. That’s one thing. If it’s going to work however, I can put my feelings aside, and join the rest of the blogging crowd. The more important question is, in the area of green education, do tips really work? What do people do with them? And do they really use them?

The need for an extraordinary teacher

There are hundreds of sites, literally, that dispense green advice of some sort. The ones I am most aware of, are TreeHugger, World Changing, and The Daily Green. There is also Laurie David’s list. Once in a while, I go and visit. I revisit, and I am struck most by what I do with the information. I do nothing with it. Am I not using the stuff, because I lack the motivation to apply it, to begin with? Or is green an altogether different beast? Or are these sites going at it the wrong way? My first thought is that going green, is kind of like trying to do homework in one’s least favorite subject. What’s needed is an extraordinary teacher, to transform the green learning experience. Al Gore started the process. He got us convinced, that green is a worthy subject matter. Next is the less obvious challenge of answering the how’s, and of getting people to do their homework. Green tips are just a collection of loose pages from a yet to be assembled green textbook. A textbook only as good as the teacher.

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