The Earth Needs us Calm and Unafraid
I recently read an article about “climate despair” and how it’s becoming our newest mental health crisis. The title was “Climate despair is causing people to give up on life” [Mike Pearl, in Vice]. It covered a number of related issues, but one of the most important topics in the article, for me, was the acknowledgement that when we feel hopeless and overwhelmed, we are LESS likely to act in ways that might improve the situation. This quote sums it up: “In other words, if you tell people something must be done or we’re all gonna die, they tend to take door number two, however irrational that impulse may seem.”
This, to me, is clearly linked to our polyvagal system and the built-in protective mechanism that causes us to “freeze” when fighting and fleeing hasn’t worked. We go numb, we check out, we dissociate; some cultures believe our soul leaves our body at the point of freezing. It’s Nature’s kindest grace in a world where some beings are hunted and eaten by others.
But as with most aspects of anxiety, this bio-intelligent emergency system is misfiring because of digital cues we haven’t evolved quickly enough to process.
We see the dire news, devastating images, alarming headlines, and various takes on “we’re doomed by 20–” and our fight/flight/freeze system is automatically activated. It’s an exquisitely perfect system in a new, unfamiliar digital world. And most of this shit is so enormously overwhelming it makes sense for us to switch right into freeze mode. What’s the use in fighting or fleeing when we don’t feel like we have any control or options?
So here’s my point. I think all of this actually points to a really important part of the solution. You and I, the wee individual humans at the micro-level of this problem, we can do a lot to prevent this phenomenon where humans all just go limp in the face of what we see as our impending extinction. We can acknowledge that we all have this very intelligent defense system and we can acknowledge that it is out-of-element in the digital world in which we find ourselves; and then we can use that knowledge for good.
Because here’s the other side of the sword…
When we feel calmer and more hopeful, when we feel like there is still something we can do, we are much MORE LIKELY TO DO IT. We become much more likely to do what it will take to turn things around. We know that Nature will heal quickly just given the chance. It’s not all up to us. We just have to get out of the way, trust, and watch as the world comes back to life all around us. Certainly there is much to do and huge changes to be made, but my point is the more hope and less fear we have running through our systems, the better able we will be to participate.
So what can YOU do? It would help for us all to contribute to a collective calming of the human nervous system. We all need to act as loving mamas of our fellow humans… soothing the panic and instilling hope, knowing this will empower people to take action. In simple, practical terms, we can raise awareness about the urgent needs of the environment by sharing the articles that tell of someone who made a difference. The beach that was cleaned up; the ocean ecosystem that completely recovered when boat traffic and fishing was eliminated around the reef; the former miners being retrained as beekeepers; etcetera. We can share the images of greenery re-growing where a concrete building has been abandoned. This kind of sharing is much more likely to motivate us all to DO SOMETHING because our nervous system feels calm and capable.
We can all raise awareness of the plight of the natural world by focusing on what has worked. We can do this knowing it will help others to relax out of that freeze response and respond in a productive way.
As a shadow worker I’m the last person to tell anyone to “think positively”. But calming all the nervous systems around me is a significant and important part of my work, and it’s work that you can do, too. It’s what mama Gaia wants, and needs.