Mental health comes about from balance, sometimes internal, sometimes environmental and often the relationship between the two. As the New Year arrives, I’m taking a moment to toast some people who have restored balance. Here’s the list.
1) All of my ecopsychology colleagues who have been collaborating with me in thinking about how the physical environment is a part of the self, and what this means as we confront climate change. Glenn Albrecht, Renee Lertzman, Paul Hoggett, Adrian Tait, Sally Weintrobe, Rosemary Woods, Thomas Doherty, Andrew Samuels, Bob Hinshelwood, Nick Totton and Elizabeth Allured – thank you all for working with me to stretch our understanding of personhood to include not only relationships but also the places and spaces that hold those relationships. Your insights were especially helpful during the gulf oil spill, and our seminar together did much to further understanding about how are minds and personalities connect to the environment.
2) Wesleyan Professor Ron Jenkins who along with six Wesleyan students has been collaborating with inmates in a series of workshops about Dante’s Inferno. This type of work breaks down the wall that we call difference turning it instead into a window.
3) The New York Times for maintaining their journalistic integrity and surviving the “end of journalism”. They have continued to publish a great newspaper that remains dedicated to evidence-based journalism. They have also produced a fantastic website. Also, Josh Marshall of Talkingpointsmemo has also furthered the enterprise of investigative reporting. Great journalism that at least tries to deal with evidence is democracy’s carotid artery.
4)The Daily Show for the great interviews with 9/11 responders enabling people on the ground to have a voice that lawmakers couldn’t ignore. Also, the March to Restore Sanity and/or Fear produced in conjunction with the Colbert Report was a welcome breath when partisanship stole our country’s air.
5)Yoga teachers everywhere for teaching us about mind/body integration and the psychic fluidity of our bodies. I am particularly indebted to my Ashtanga teacher John Campbell.
6) This December we observed the tenth year anniversary of Stephen Mitchell’s death. An energetic and warm psychoanalyst, he inspired the growth of the relational movement and brought together clinicians who built bridges between theories and began to seriously develop concepts of the mind that took into account the roles of the relational matrix in weaving together the webs of meaning in our lives. These relational psychoanalysts (see Mitchell Relational Center) and behaviorists deserve special acknowledgment for the daily labor of helping people rebuild their lives. One person’s loss of balance is always intricately connected to the world around us also falling out of balance.
There are of course many more people and institutions, laborers and economists, artists and scholars, who have been working hard and holding steady during this very difficult year. Knowing how many people haven’t given up on the horizons of possibility gives me hope. Anyone can and will change, and so too will every people and every place. Our job in the search for personal and societal health is to direct the the deep humanity buried in our souls to those around us and to keep working at it, no matter what the obstacle.
Happy New Year!