Without doubt, this year of the global pandemic we find ourselves in, has raised unsettling issues to the surface and forced many of us to confront ourselves, our relationships and the way we live our lives. In the midst of much grief, sorrow and suffering we perhaps have also experienced a slowing down, a grounding, an opportunity to recalibrate, to re-examine, a remembering.
Within this, and the need to stay local, and explore nearby woods, parks and countryside, we have perhaps re-connected with our local landscapes - whether that’s the same tree we see outside our window, or a gathering of birds. I recall sitting on many a Zoom call and finding comfort in the red kites, the cycles of growth, decay and re-emergence of the trees and plants around me. Being in nature, and being a witness to these states re-connected me to my ‘place in the family of things’ (Mary Oliver). If nothing else, the pandemic has highlighted both our need and yearning for connection, and reminded us of our animal natures.
Alongside this opportunity for connection with the other-than-human, other sentient beings, is the grief around climate change, the potential and actual loss of environments, and landscapes, and animals. As I write, Seaspiracy is the latest documentary on Netflix, Greta Thunberg’s A Year to Change the World is being featured and we find pictures on Twitter of birds and wildlife with disposable masks hanging around their necks and feet. Anxiety about the environment, the very real fear of what may happen to the world around us, our feelings of not being in control of the wider environment, and what happens next, or imagining the world of our children, our children’s children, is perhaps all too real in the current context of what we face. It is perhaps a double-edged sword that by feeling and being in touch with our wider environments that we also feel grief and sorrow at their absence, or destruction or devastation. This last year has magnified our lens on the fragility of the human condition.
In my experience, as a child and adolescent psychotherapist, this theme can be quite common in my work with young people, perhaps more acutely aware of what may come next, and their feelings of rage and activist spirit. Feelings of hopelessness and increased anxiety around what would be lost and what their futures would look like are having a real effect on young people’s mental health.
Psychotherapy is often a reflective space to think about what we are in control of, what we feel overwhelmed by, our feelings of despair or powerlessness, but also a chance to re-connect with parts of ourselves which can affect change or be re-awakened. At the beginning of the pandemic, many of us felt a re-awakening of community spirit and connection and showed us a mirror to our potential for creativity, adaptability and resilience. What small step can I, we, you, take to make a difference to all beings around us?