Over the years I have seen several clients who have experienced anxiety and depression over the state of the environment. This is referred to eco-anxiety. Whether that is regarding the way that animals are treated, the deforestation upon us, the rising rate of pollution, climate change, the destruction of our ocean life, or other related symptoms of environmental decline.
Mostly the response is abject depression, rather than heightened anxiety, by the time they make it into my clinic. It is the type of resignation that comes after the anxiety has failed to do its job in keeping the person safe. Anxiety usually seeks to keep the person safe – it is a high alert mechanism designed to protect from danger. Depression is the other end of that overwhelm where the person now seeks to hide away from that which they cannot change.
Depression in the face of eco-anxiety can lead to traumatic stress as feelings of helplessness take hold. Seventy-two per cent of Australians are concerned about climate change (2022) and rising.
While one in five Australians (19%) state the environment is ‘the most important issue’ they will be considering when deciding who to vote for in the next election ; 59% of Australians either currently are, or will contemplate, taking policies addressing climate change into account when deciding a candidate or party to vote for.Ipsos – 8 in 10 Australians are concerned about climate change with a clear public expectation of Government action
The emotional considerations of not only climate change but the decline in native flora and fauna, as well as a gamut of other, related impacts of eco-anxiety, is taking its toll on mental health.
Charlene’s Pain with Environmental Decline
Charlene is a philanthropist who has battled her own physical illness challenges and won. A cancer survivor, she understands what it means to commit to turning the tide and effecting change. She recently came into the clinic because she feels defeated.
After discussing her emotional issues related to this eco-anxiety, we took a trip down memory lane via an age regression where we followed the problem feeling back to its roots. We had determined that the key problem feeling was centred on sadness, as opposed to fear or helplessness for example. As we carried that emotional memory back through the years, we ended up in a past life regression. This might happen 10 per cent of the time when I perform an age regression with someone. Whether you believe in past lives or not, is irrelevant, as the unconscious mind uses metaphor to understand concepts. That is not to say that the recollection is necessarily false, either.
Unravelling Charlene’s Past
As we entered the past life experience, that sadness turned into aloneness, or disconnection. This was the unconscious mind’s way of showing us that the root issue in Charlene’s depression with all of this was a feeling of disconnection. As as we explored that emotion, Charlene recognised that same feeling in other areas of her life.
Charlene’s past life saw her as a slave girl who had a literally hopeless life and an emotionally barren existence. This made sense. I asked Charlene what she would have needed to feel, as that slave girl, in order to come through that life without developing a feeling of disconnection. We worked on those positive resources and reframed that life in a more meaningful way.
As we brought those positive resources through to Charlene’s present day, those feelings of disconnection in relation to eco-anxiety, vanished. The very real worries we all face regarding the state of the environment is not dismissed by this process. Rather, the emotional approach we take is altered towards the problem.
Charlene commented that she now felt more practical towards the issues, less debilitated by them, and more empowered that her emotional life was not directly affected by her environmental concerns.
Disconnection is a Common Theme
I have noted that this theme of disconnection and sadness is common amongst clients that I have seen in relation to eco-anxiety. It is such a difficult issue for the world to resolve that we can all feel helpless and sad in its path. That is not to be underestimated, however, what good does it bring to experience such deprivation? Keeping our emotional health strong is the best defense against such devastation, even if we can only change one person’s mind, or help one single animal, or a few trees.
If you need help with eco-anxiety, we can help. Horizons Clinical Hypnotherapy Sunshine Coast.