Traversals in Nomadic Thinking: “Ecopsychoanalysis”

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Small tools of scientific perception in a vast cosmos

A key problem identified by ecopsychology is how to overcome our experiental, academic, and scientifi separation from nature. In so far as the division of mind and body is central for this divide, neuropsychoanalysis deserves to have a place in this developing research. Neuropsychoanalysis explores experimentally and theoretically the philosophically ancient discussion of the relation of mind and body, an issue at the heart of psychoanalysis from the start, with its early work on hysterical conversion and later developments in the psychosomatics of the Paris School and beyond. Neuropsychoanalysis seems well placed to overcome the problem of a ‘mindless’ neuroscience and a ‘brainless’ psychology and psychotherapy, especially when combined with a greater awareness that the body itself, not only the brain, provides the material substrates for the emergent phenomenon we call the brain.

However, there is further term missed from this perspective, which has far more relevance now than ever, which is that the mind-body is itself situated within a complex ecological world, interacting with other mind-brain bodies and with all that psychoanalysts referred to as the ‘non-human environment.’ This occurs both synchronically (webs of interaction at a given moment in time) and diachronically (e.g., the interactions over evolutionary deep time), as the organism and its environment (living and non-living) interact in highly complex often non-linear ways.

Ecopsychology has argued that the split of mind from its wider ecological matrix is as disastrous as the related Cartesian split between mind and body, and is reflected in the current environmental crises we face. However, ecopsychology has problems of its own, in particular its tendency toward an ‘eco-mysticism’ that a more engaged relationship with the sciences of ecology, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience (cognitive, social, affective, and developmental) can help to counteract. The idea of the ecological body is a development of ecopsychology’s suggestion of an ‘ecological self’ and an ‘ecological unconsciousness,’ with ecological relations and attachments seen as developing along more traditionally conceived object relations.”

The climate crisis is also a crisis of theory. Academia has divided human thought into a schizoid fragmented space but climate change forces us to think transversally, about a world of unpredictable, multiple-level, highly complex, non-linear interlocking systems. There is therefore a need for a way of thinking able to integrate the disparate strands of analysis, related to what Bion calls the working of linking, connected with the alpha-function and the dreamwork. Bion describes building links between mental objects, and the attack on linking characteristic of psychosis. When ‘alpha-function’ is compromised we are left with undigested fragments of experience: ‘ beta-elements’ incapable of being woven into the tapestry of our psychic landscapes. We require a means of linking diverse elements together without losing their specificity.”

– From Joseph Dodds’ “Minding the Ecological Body: Neuropyschoanalysis and Ecopsychoanalysis.” The whole essay is fascinating, and definitely worth reading!

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