Cohen, M. J, (1994) Integrated Ecology: The Process of
Counseling With Nature. THE HUMANISTIC PSYCHOLOGIST. Vol. 21. No 3.
Washington DC: American Psychological Association.
THE GREENWICH JOURNAL
OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY (GJST)
VOL 1 NO
1, JUNE 2000
A peer-reviewed journal of
interdisciplinary scientific research, theories, and observations.
GJST is a semi-annual publication of the Greenwich University
College of Science and Technology.
Nature Connected Psychology:
Creating moments that let Earth teach
The Natural Systems Thinking
Michael J. Cohen, Ed.D.
Biologically and psychologically
people are part of nature, the intelligent, ever-balancing, ancient,
web of life that communicates within itself through non-verbal
attractions. A deep fear generated by our nature separated society
addicts us to live, on average, less than .01% of our lives in
conscious sensory contact with the web. To protect our thinking
from the anguish this extreme disconnection incurs, our body
places our hurt, inherent 53 natural sense way of knowing in
our subconscious. The absence of the normal gratifications our
psyche normally generates results in us craving and psychologically
bonding to immediate rewards, overwhelming our sense of reason,
often no matter their adverse effects. To reverse this irresponsibility,
through sensory nature activities, the Natural Systems Thinking
Process scientifically helps us reconnect our psyche with the
web of life's nurturance. We replace our destructive subconscious
hurt with unifying passions that produce responsible attitudes.
Our hopes become reality. As documented here, responsible personal,
social and environmental relationships arise by restoring this
missing link in the way we think.
For a short article on the
author and his background, select here
"Oh, what a catastrophe,
what a maiming of love when it was made personal, merely personal
feeling. This is what is the matter with us: we are bleeding
at the roots because we are cut off from the earth and sun and
stars. Love has become a grinning mockery because, poor blossom,
we plucked it from its stem on the Tree of Life and expected
it to keep on blooming in our civilized vase on the table."
- D. H. Lawrence
On average, a person in contemporary
society lives over 99.9% of his or her life devoid of conscious
sensory contact with attractions in nature. We spend over 95%
of our time indoors. We think, write and build relationships
while closeted from nature. This disconnected state makes us
"ecozombies," environmentally desensitized deadheads
(26). It deludes us into denial, into believing that our extreme
separation from nature does not influence our intelligence, sanity
or ability to relate responsibility. The state of the world says
Unlike nature connected cultures,
our detachment from nature's workings psychologically deprives
our thinking of elements that hold life in balance. If our disconnection
from nature produces problems, it makes sense to solve them by
reconnecting with nature (13).
The purpose of this article
is to introduce a process that helps reverse our disconnection
from nature and its destructive consequences.
When I ask contemporary people
to describe their fondest hopes, they usually include sanity:
sustainable peace within themselves, with society, and Earth.
Although contemporary society has yet to discover or use a process
that produces the sanity we desire, whales use it successfully
and, as if to advertise their ability, have demonstrated its
power. Biologists say the demonstration was conducted by abnormal
whales, that they deserved to die because the were not the fittest
for survival. However, Biology is but one of many disciplines,
the science of nature connected psychology tells another story.
The whale's demonstration took
place in 1989 when two that were trapped in the arctic winter ice bridged the hostility
between Communism and Capitalism. To save the whales, opposing
nations united. So did labor and industry, corporations and environmentalists,
spiritualists and scientists, technologists, peacemakers and
the media. Close to a billion dollars was spent to save two whales
by cutting them a path to freedom through the arctic ice while
the world cheered and unified.
The whale's effects demonstrate
that the attractions we feel when in contact with a whale, or
nature, are but the tip of an iceberg. The hidden portion of
the iceberg consists of chains of additional attractions that,
like sensory roots, reach every element of our planet including
people. Like whales, as part of nature we register and contain
the means to live in peaceful equilibrium. What we lack is a
process that enables us to think with and use this planetary
ability. For example:
"I recently participated
in a hurried, almost stressful training program for people whose
differences kept them arguing amongst themselves. They had little
interest or time to hear an explanation from me of the unifying
and healing benefits of the reconnecting with nature process
and omitted it from their agenda. In the midst of this hubbub,
a young bird flew into the meeting room through the door. It
could not find its way out. Without a word, the behind-schedule
meeting screeched to a halt. Deep natural attraction feelings
for life and hope filled each person for the moment. For ten
minutes that frightened, desperate little bird triggered those
seventy people to harmoniously, supportively organize and unify
with each other to safely help it find its way back home. Yet
when they accomplished this feat, they cheered their role, not
the role of the bird. In their story of the incident, the role
and impact of the bird went unnoticed. They returned to the hubbub
of the meeting, as if nothing special had happened. They completely
overlooked that the bird had united them while it was there,
something they could not do without its presence.
People would have scoffed if
I tried to make them aware of the bird's effects on the meeting.
They would have said that what happened was not important or
useful for it was uncommon to have a wild bird interrupt their
lives. It was their "human spirit" that they applauded,
not its orgins and existance in nature. Yet the incident brought
a special joy and integrity to their lives. The individual and
collective benefits were evident. It is the continual lack of
such natural attraction contacts that helps create our disorders.
People feel distraught, yet helpless, about Earth's life and
their lives being abused, like whales and birds. Yet, through
the Natural Systems Thinking Process, even a weed or potted plant
can produce the same benefits and effects because NSTP operates
in tangible contact with nature, in backyards, parks, even with
potted plants, and wilderness, too. As our sensitivity to nature
increases, not just animals in trouble, but all the attractions
we find in nature help us sustain responsible thinking and relationships.
Since 1951, my hypotheses has
been that we can produce hope, sanity, peace and balance by engaging
in a process that helps us think like nature works.
My procedure has been to experimentally
improve and engage in the hypothetical process, observe its effects
and improve it again. As an outdoor educator and researcher,
for the past 31 years I have camped out year-round though the seasons in 83 different natural
habitats while building responsible human communities. My classroom
has been wild America, over 200 national and state parks, forests,
shorelines and historical sites. I still, today, daily sleep
outdoors in a wild area.
The results of my work speak
for themselves (10). My references here are original documents
that have been reviewed and published academically and commercially.
I also reference, for educational purposes, the unpublished raw
experiences and thinking of those who have been involved in my
As with the whales, my teacher
has been the global ecosystem as it expresses itself in local
natural areas. I seldom use books and the conflicting, limited,
theories of those who abstract, speculate and observe nature
through machines. They seldom live in, think and build relationships
in nature. I find their words often separate my thinking from
truths in natural areas that otherwise register.
Most literature seldom validates
the sensory/experiential while connected with nature, nor offers
a doable procedure to help us immediately think more responsibly.
In contrast, my social invention is a hands-on, easily available
process that a person quickly learns and teaches. Its effectiveness
clearly demonstrates we may benefit by creating moments in nature
that let Earth teach, and then participate in these moments.
Significantly, this gives natural areas added value. Through
this process, in 1965, thirteen years before Lovelock published
Gaia, I was living and teaching a form of Ecopsychology; it included
that Earth acts like a living organism (16).
In our excessively indoor society,
nature experiences are often suspect. Many people I have personally
or otherwise familiarized with my work and its benefits neither
incorporate it nor reference my many published materials (6).
This includes Capra(4,) Seed(24,) Rozack(23,) Devall(18,) Wilson(25,)
Fox(19), Quinn(22,) Abram(1,) Berry(3,) McKibben(21,) and Berg(2,)
none of whom published about nature psychology in 1965. Although
theoretically correct, not surprisingly, they more trust abstract
and mechanical stories about nature (including those spoken by
a Gorilla in a zoo and fictional adventures) than a process that
necessitates genuine sensory connecting experiences in natural
areas. The latter is evidently like having an illicit affair.
Here to continue