F Ken Freedman







Articles by F ken Freedman

F. Kenneth Freedman


We live in a racist , patriarchal and anti-erotic society, Lorde writes in "Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power." We live in a pornographic society that insists on the separation of so many inseparable things; that insists on ways of thinking that separate the body from the world, the body from the mind, nature from culture, men from women, black from white; a society that insists on bounded categories of difference.

But we can use erotic power to resist those splitting forces. The erotic is a sensual bridge that connects the spiritual and the political. It has something to do with love. The word itself comes from the Greek word eros, the personification of love in all its aspects--born of Chaos and personifying creative power and harmony. Eros is not about what we do but about how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing, says Lorde. Its opposite, the pornographic, emphasizes sensation without feeling. Pornographic relationships are those that are born not of human erotic feeling and desire, not of a love of life and a love of the body, but those relationships, those ideas born of a fear of bodily knowledge and a desire to silence the erotic....

Lorde asks when we will be able, in our relationships with one another and with the world, to risk sharing the erotic’s electric charge without having to look away, and without distorting the enormously powerful and creative nature of that exchange. Embracing the erotic means accepting our own mortality, our own bodiedness (Legler, 1995, p. 83).

For me, a sense of separation has pervaded most of my childhood and adult life. I was petrified of the dark as a child, and can remember episodes of terror as early as age 5. I’m not sure about the provenance of these feelings, but can trace their history throughout my childhood in such places as my bedroom; a breezway leading from the main part of our California house to the bedroom (which I shared with an older brother); the outdoors at night; and most certainly being out in the wilderness, day or night. I have never felt comfortable in "Nature" and never been able to draw on her healing powers. I’m a prime candidate for wilderness therapy.

It is in this context that I came to ecopsychology. It has been an intensely powerful journey, one that I’ve only just started with this reading and this paper. It will continue for the remainder of my time on this earth, I suspect, and the challenges will be joined as I reunite with Gaia from whom I have cowered in terror most of my life.

The Healing Journey

Ecopsychologists believe there is an emotional bond between human beings and the natural environment out of which we evolve.

The major contribution ecopsychology promises to make to environmental politics is the identification of the irrational forces that tie people to their bad environmental habits. For example, some ecopsychologists believe that our consumption habits are connected to deep addictive attractions. Little wonder. The advertising industry is a contingent of talented "pushers" working to make us compulsive consumers. That is psychology working against environmental sanity. Ecopsychology seeks to redress that balance. It wants to know how to free people from the addictions of the shopping mall and to encourage values that serve the life of the planet rather than imperiling it.

...ecopsychology...contends that seeking to heal the soul without reference to the ecological system of which we are an integral part is a form of self-destructive blindness ("A Psyche the Size of the Earth," by James Hillman in Roszak, et. al., 1995, p. xvi).

It is only recently that I’ve come to see that counseling is in dire need of an ecological component. The weakness in a discipline based in individual growth, is clear; in the family systems approach there is some thought given to the environment albeit the family environment, and not the planet per se; in feminist therapy, there is much more thought given to the connections between people, close family, extended family, and the planet. It is this last direction that leads to ecofeminism that forms the foundation for ecopsychology to which I strongly relate. The difficulty, as I see it, is in the actual use of ecopsychological principles: how do we, as counselors, help clients to heal not only in the context of their own lives and concerns, but also in the wide-world context of concern for people and animals with whom they have no special acquaintance, much less with a planet that more or less sustains them for today and shows them no extreme or immediate threat in terms of food or shelter.

I envision this process in terms of connectedness. Ecofeminists have been talking about this for years. The issue is one of (usually male, but not always) isolation and individualism giving way to connectedness, mindfulness, and compassion about ourselves, others, and the planet. If we learn to think simultaneously about what is good for us individually and what is good for others and the planet, a tenet of "right elation" (see below), there is a good chance that therapy can succeed in terms of healing on a global basis.

If, on the other hand, we remain isolated, combative, and addicted, the energy translates into abuse of self, others, and the planet. Social philosopher Morris Berman In "The Re-Enchantment of the World," says that we might be addicted to technology itself, though the issue is more complex:

Addiction, in one form or another, characterizes every aspect of industrial society.... Dependence on alcohol, food, drugs, tobacco...is not formally different from dependence on prestige, career achievement, world influence, wealth, the need to build more ingenious bombs, or the need to exercise control over everything ("Technology, Trauma, and the Wild," by Chellis Glendinning in Roszak, et. al., 1995, p. 44)

From a counseling standpoint, there is fertile ground here. Whether one is addicted to the (Lesbian or Gay male) closet (perhaps as an adjunct to being addicted to self-denial), or clambering after fame, the result is the same: loss of self respect. With loss of self respect comes a diminished connection with family and friends, an even lesser connection to the natural world, and little or no concern for the planet. Technology might be another way to spend less time with ourselves, in a qualitative manner. It’s easier to go to the spa and lie on a tanning table or check the e-mail or surf the Net than it is to take a hike in the mountains; and it’s easier to buy and use the latest kitchen appliances than put the work into food preparation, using hands and bringing self and mindfulness to the process:

Let us also consider the very structure of modern technology. The kinds of technologies a society develops are not as absolute or preordained as our ethos of linear progress would have us believe; they express a society’s goals, both conscious and unconscious ("Technology, Trauma, and the Wild," by Chellis Glendinning in Roszak, et. al., p. 48)

We are as much addicted to technology as we are to the creation of it--our own self-perpetuating vicious circle.

Daniel Spencer’s (1996) premise is that by embracing a society that fosters and encourages power-over attitudes and structures rather than power-with attitudes and structures, we channel our energy toward domination. Since the world (and probably the universe) and all creatures in it, including humans, requires mutual dependence, this attitude of power-over and dominion, even oppression of minority races and sexual orientations, directly impedes the healing process, mutual cooperation, and sustainable living:

Only when we are able to reintegrate our sexuality with our spirituality--to reintegrate the energy that flows from within with the energy that draws us from without--will we have the moral grounding and maturity needed to live our ethical values.... How ironic that a Western religious tradition centered on love too often has made "making love" to appear to be the opposite of God!

This is what I believe is at stake, finally, in many of the issues of gender and sexuality in ethics. It is the violation of right relationship along lines of gender and sexuality through fearing and distorting the erotic, channeling it only into safely controlled norms--that is, compulsory heterosexual marriage--that leads to the abuses of sex and power that have engulfed our society. Because religious and societal attempts to control the erotic have been the source of much of the oppression of those of us who are lesbian and gay, our voices are critical to revisioning what right relationship might look like at all levels of our human and natural communities (p. 11).

I had not previously thought deeply about the connection between the sacred act of love and oppression--at least not in the same thought process. What I now see is what may as well be called a conspiracy, wherein unsuspecting people are taught about the evils of sex and the joys of procreation as if there were something bad to come from enjoying a close and sensual experience and something wonderful to come from a sometimes wanton and thoughtless procreation/overpopulation. I suppose the "bad" part of making love, in the eyes of those who would be loath to relinquish their power, is that some folks might discover the joy of connection, a real and purposeful connection to God/Buddha Spirit/Energy, begin truly to love themselves and their neighbors, and maybe even Earth. This would, of course, put a different slant on spirituality, cause Western power-dominated society to revision motive in power, give up control, accept a more feminist approach, and live an egalitarian life. The one part of that picture that is a real threat, I suppose, is the vulnerability. When one isn’t in power one is vulnerable, which means accountable to everyone around, dependent on them, and in need of being part of the process, not being above it, or under the illusion that one is separate from it.

It is not coincidental that the same people who oppose civil rights for gay men and lesbians and procreative choice for women also oppose legislation to protect the environment and label their opponents "feminazis" and "ecofascists." (Spencer, 1996, p. 11).

The stewardship of the planet and ourselves, it seems to me, is a matter of cooperation. And if, as theologian Sally McFague says the earth could be thought of as if it were the body of God, then all the creatures that inhabit that body need to be equal in the responsibilities of stewardship. If Gays and Lesbians, for example, are demonized as the cause of the evils of the world, attention from the real issue can be diverted. The real issue is how do we, as inhabitants of the earth make our stay here about sustainable living, and not about blame. To blame the homeless for their own plight is to abdicate responsibility for what Spencer calls right relation. To blame the murderer for his or her own evil ways is to look away from the problem and pretend it isn’t connected to each and everyone of us. That logic allows for the rape of the earth, each other, and ourselves.

The relationship to counseling is clear to me. There has to be a moderating vision (the counselor) that places the session in a larger context. This is not to say that a person with life-threatening issues needs a lecture on the environment (though I wouldn’t entirely dismiss that possibility). When appropriate, however, it seems to me that social and environmental context must be discussed. We exist in a world where human interaction is our way of validating our very existence, our happiness, our productivity, and our spirituality. Where a client might tend to isolate, for example, be traumatized by childhood sexual abuse, or might just be angry at the boss, there might (among other issues) be discussion about our connectedness and all that it implies, the damage that can be visited on ourselves and others if we don’t deal with abuse, or work around how anger, when not appropriately released, can short-circuit our ability to enjoy right relations with ourselves, our jobs, or our planet. (This is a superficial rendering of how counseling might include ecology in a session--more detail will emerge as this paper continues.) I think James Hillman’s article ("A Psyche the Size of the Earth") in Roszak, et. al. (1995) sums it up pretty well:

Perhaps working on my feelings is not more "subjective" than working on the neighborhood air quality. Perhaps killing weeds on my lawn with herbicides may be as repressive as what I am doing with my childhood memories. Perhaps the abuses I have unconsciously suffered in my deep interior subjectivity pale in comparison with the abuses going around me every minute in my ecological surroundings, abuses that I myself commit or comply with. It may be easier to discover yourself a victim than admit yourself a perpetrator (p. xx).

Here is another vital link in the interconnectedness and interdependence that informs our existence: we are users and must own up to our role in ecological destruction (and try amain to minimize it). We must concentrate on our own healing but not ignore how our healing is directly tied to the health of the planet.

Terrance O’Connor is a psychiatric social worker in Silver Spring, Maryland. At a lecture one evening an audience member opined that a speaker the previous week had said that some people are satisfied with limited relationships and why should anyone bother with trying to have a mature and healthy intimate relationship. In a sudden outburst he replied:

Let me say something about the status quo. The status quo is that the hole in the ozone layer is as big as the United States. The status quo is that some scientists are predicting that by the middle of the next century global warming will result in most of the coastal cities in the United States being below sea level, and will make the grain belt a wasteland. The status quo is that acid rain, besides destroying the lakes and forests, is now considered to be the leading cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoke. The status quo is that thirty-five thousand people die of starvation every day. Also every day, two or more species become extinct, not due to natural selection but due to deforestation and pollution. By the year 2000 this is expected to accelerate to one hundred species a day. In other words, mass extinction. What does this say to you? To me it says that the status quo is that the planet is dying! The planet is dying because we are satisfied with our limited relationships in which control, denial, and abuse are tolerated. The status quo is that we have these petty relationships with each other, between nations, with ourselves and the natural world. Why should we bother? Because healthy relationships are not an esoteric goal. It is a matter of our very survival and the survival of most of the life upon this earth ("Therapy for a Dying Planet," by Terrance O’Connor in Roszak, et. al., 1995, pp. 150-151).

I have read few more enlightened statements on the issue of right relation and ecology. This illuminates a clear connection between healthy relations with self, others, and the planet, and our survival. For myself this means working through my issues with fear of the dark and the wilderness, which, I suspect is related to numerous childhood experiences that somehow got magnified into out-of-proportion and, now unrelated survival issues.

In my practice I am seeing a young Gay man who has spent his life in the closet, has had no intimate or sexual relationships, and is emotionally so isolated as to be socially handicapped. In addition to the issues that need to be processed around childhood events and development of current-day coping skills, there is an urgent need to see the connectedness that is all around him. As a lapsed Catholic, there seems now to be a bleak outlook, though he has taken the first steps in therapy. I feel it’s important to nurture that connectedness simultaneous with the individual work. The relationship he develops with himself will have a profound impact on his immediate environment and, by extension, the planet.

In previous papers (Freedman, 1996b), I have discussed the idea that many Gay men and Lesbians don’t get to go through the rites of passage of adolescence in a normal way because they are marginalized. They can’t easily come out to peers because of possible rejection by the clique, and they can’t share their crushes and sexual exploits (or fears) because of the coming out issue. The result is living a life of lies of hiding and of arrested development. I wonder if the state of humankind isn’t in a somewhat similar place. Ralph Metzner in "The Psychopathology of the Human-Nature Relationship" (Roszak, et. al., 1995) talks about how many Western cultural supports have been abandoned with the result that we grow up in a social environment lacking in many of the rituals and lessons that shore up a healthy psychological development. If we have little appreciation for Nature and the healing and nurturing aspects of it, and have more appreciation for technology, the latest sneakers and brand-name-on-the-front designer clothes (as if that gave us identity), and the fastest cars, then we are, indeed, in an adolescent phase which is known for its dangers due to lack of perspective and compassion.

One of the worst consequences of this collective pathology is "a readiness to strike back at a natural world that we dimly perceive as having failed us." Adults who have basic trust that the world of nature and society can provide for their needs are not likely to be attracted to a worldview that demands a relentless struggle for competitive advantage (p. 58)

Another facet of a client’s situation might be his or her physical environment. Being in a "tough place," might mean there’s a connection to his or her living space and/or work space:

The "bad" place I am "in" may refer not only to a depressed mood or an anxious state of mind; it may refer to a sealed-up office tower where I work, a set-apart suburban subdivision where I sleep, or the jammed freeway on which I commute between the two ("A Psyche the Size of the Earth," by James Hillman in Roszak, et. al., 1995, p. xx).

Clinebell (1996) makes ecotherapy more immediate:

It is clear that the environmental toxins that diminish our wellness often are in the homes, offices, schools, and communities where we spend most of our lives. Therefore, greening and cleaning the places where we live and work is the most immediate contribution we can make to the ecological well-being of ourselves, our families, and those we serve in our professional lives....

Being in such settings impacts the body-mind-spirit organisms of healers and their clients, teachers, and learners, whether or not anyone is aware of this deleterious influence (p. 155-156).

One reason I decided to move back to Alaska from New York City was the noise, air, and quality of life. Not to mention unnatural (to me) crowding and density. Additionally, Alaska has a spirituality that drew me, as did intimate friends (who remained intimate after nearly 15 years’ absence). Perhaps my healing began when I chose to return "home" and is now beginning the second stage, that of healing my relationship with the outdoors.

There’s a lot to be said for American and Alaska Native and Eastern cultures and beliefs when it comes to a respect for the land and sacred places.

The strict thinkers of the Direct Perception school of J. J. Gibson of Cornell University locate memory as much in the world as in the interior brain of the subject. Landscape affords information to an animal; it is not simply stored in the mind. The animal--and we humans are animals--perceives what is there in the environment, given with the environment if we attend to it carefully. Do not these schools, as well as the recent publications of Edward S. Casey on the phenomenology of place, suggest a nonhuman subjectivity, precisely what non-Western cultures have known and lived by for millennia, but which ours has denigrated as superstitious animism? ("A Psyche the Size of the Earth," by James Hillman in Roszak, et. al., 1995, p. xxi).

My personal journey in this regard began some months ago when a friend put perennials in two huge planters in my back yard. They are about 8’x15’ each and hold many flowering plants. And need care. I have watered my front and back lawns grudgingly over the years. These planters, however, require personal care. The first time I went out to weed them, I was sweating, swearing, and hating the entire process. I kept at it, thinking I needed to work through the issues. Why was I fighting this close-to-the-earth work? Why was I upset at the thought of helping beautiful flowers to grow in my back yard where I could see them every day from many windows in my house, even sit among them to meditate? A lot of the resentment comes from childhood chores I was required to perform, mostly in the back yard of our California house, alone. I was furious that I had to do this work with plants and trees, not because I disliked the plants and trees, but because I’d been ordered to do the work as if I were chattel to do another’s bidding, that I had no life of my own, and could be bossed about without regard to my feelings or needs. Granted, I needed to do my bit for the family. What I resented was not being involved in the family process, not being honored as a member of the group, not encouraged with the helping hands and feelings of other members of the family. The disconnection with family and land was, you should pardon the pun, ingrained in me early on.

It seems I have isolated myself from Nature in many ways and deprived myself of the healing nurturing that can be found there. In a way I’ve projected my own dislike and isolation around gardening chores onto the Earth and found it wanting. Roszak, et. al. (1995) talks about this concept in terms of what I call ecological projection:

Unlike other mainstream schools of psychology that limit themselves to the intrapsychic mechanisms or to a narrow social range that may not look beyond the family, ecopsychology proceeds from the assumption that at its deepest level the psyche remains sympathetically bonded to the Earth that mothered us into existence. Ecopsychology suggests that we can read our transactions with the natural environment--the way we use or abuse the planet--as projections of unconscious needs and desires, in much the same way we can read dreams and hallucinations to learn about our deep motivations, fears, hatreds.... Precisely because we have acquired the power to work our will upon the environment, the planet has become like that blank psychiatric screen on which the neurotic unconscious projects its fantasies ("Where Psyche Meets Gaia," by Theodore Roszak in Roszak, et. al, 1995, p. 5).

As it is for me, so could clients begin the process of "greening and cleaning" their personal environments with some of the following of Clinebell’s suggestions. I posit, however, that the very process of greening and cleaning is therapeutic. When the world seems a dark and dreary place, one antidote to the sinking feeling is to get out in the world and do something helpful to others or the planet. Therapy by experience (wilderness therapy and art therapy, for example) can have dramatic effects. If the experience is processed with a therapist, the effects can be exponentially greater than the individual effort. That sense of having been involved and connected with one’s environment can have a powerful healing effect.

1. Start by carefully checking your workplace and home for toxins, pollutants, and other health hazards. Then take whatever action is needed to remove these.

2. Naturize the places where you live and work with an abundance of living plants and, whenever feasible, natural light from the sun, plus open windows. If possible, create easy assess [sic] to outdoor areas where plants and birds flourish.

3. Arrange to do some of your work--counseling, therapy, teaching--and some of your relaxing and reading while sitting or walking outdoors.

4. Include a question or two about environmental pollution in the initial assessment or diagnosis, especially when clients, patients, or students live in obviously toxic environments or describe what may be ecological distress caused by pollution.

5. Urge clients, patients, students, and parents to do everything they can to clean and green their own most-occupied settings as well as their communities.

6. Check for environmental health hazards in the neighborhood, and the wider community where you live. Remember that the sickness or the health of these places impacts yourself, your family, and the people you serve.

7. Use a carrot-and-stick approach to motivating yourself and others to do essential ecological cleanups.

8. If the sheer number of things that need doing is overwhelming, start with one important cleaning-and-greening action (Clinebell, 1996, pp. 165-167).

Then there’s the somewhat related story about Sigmund Freud. Seems he was answering questions after a lecture. A person in the audience asked what should someone do who was horribly depressed, down and out, and suicidal? Freud allegedly did not reply that the person should get psychoanalysis (as everyone expected), but rather for the person go to "the other side of the tracks," find someone who needed help, and pitch in. Profound words, indeed--a sort of personal "greening and cleaning."

There is another aspect of ecojustice that ties into a previous paper I did on sacred psychology (Freedman, 1996a). When confronted with injustice, one might respond with outrage and action or with silence: the AIDS slogan that began appearing stenciled on New York sidewalks in the mid ‘80s was "Silence=Death," and was met with disdain from many people, until the truth of it burrowed under their collective skin. A distant echo is heard in the Latin phrase qui tacit consentire: they who remain silent, give their consent. In that Study Packet I quoted James Fowler talking about a universalizing faith which could not stand idly by in the face of injustice. People such as Ghandi and the late Mother Teresa come to mind.

What I hold to be most sacred in the universe, that which has my awe, reverence, loyalty, and friendship, is not indifferent when faced with injustice. Rather it is an understanding of ultimate commitment that responds to injustice with "the power of anger in the work of love" (Spencer, 1996, pp. 12).

The difficulty many people face is the how-to of such convictions. Faced with an overwhelming array of environmental ills, many people (myself included) find it nearly impossible to figure out how to even make a dent. The trick, I believe, is to take faith in the small, individual acts. It seems impossible that putting a plant in one’s living room could help heal the planet, but it is the consciousness about the plant and its effect on the room’s environment that provides the start, the minimal change in attitude, and the subsequent care of the plant and what that might stand for that makes the difference. It is a step. And in terms of therapy, it has yet another effect. We prescribe bibliotherapy from time to time, so why not "floratherapy." If experiences help bring our feelings to reality, then it might stand to reason that a client’s isolation could be assuaged, for example, by caring for and tending to an African violet, or an animal--something living.

The same healing process we use to help ourselves, interestingly, needs to be used to heal the planet.

We value all parts of our bodies for the many different things each contributes to the whole, but when one part is sick or injured or threatened, we focus our healing, protective efforts there, giving it preferential attention, in order to restore health to the whole again. So is this liberationist understanding of the sacred--it prioritizes the well-being of the most needy in order to bring health and wholeness to the whole. Without this preferential perspective, this "epistemological privilege of the oppressed," we cannot see well, let alone act justly (Spencer, 1996, pp. 13).

Without a sense of connectedness (Indra’s Net), it would be hard to see the need for global healing. It seems important to me to help clients find that sense of belonging so that they might, in turn, sense the interdependence with the planet, see the need for healing on a more-than-individual scale, and find their own ways to pitch in.

We have a deeply ingrained belief that our spiritual life, our spiritual practices, must tend in a direction opposite to our nature. Spirit, we imagine, rises upward, into transcendent realms, whereas nature, which includes bodily sensations and feelings, draws us downward. In some versions of this core image, the contrast between the two realms is even sharper: spirit is not only separated from nature, but incompatible and opposed. The human spiritual is then always regarded as superior to the animal natural....

This image says that to enter into the city of God, the divine realms, you have to work against your nature; this was called the opus contra naturam. In the modern psychological, Freudian version of the ancient split, the conflict is between the human ego consciousness, which has to struggle against the unconscious body-based, animal id, in order to attain consciousness and truly human culture ("The Psychopathology of the Human-Nature Relationship," by Ralph Metzner in Roszak, et. al., 1995, pp. 65-66).

Under that passage on the page I wrote a note: "does this mean that ‘homosexual’ priests, or even sexual predators, are trying to control their victims as a way of getting back at a religion or society that has abandoned its true spiritual nature in favor of empty ritual and simplistic answers that don’t acknowledge the complexity of human and spiritual connection?" I am struck by the appalling split between body and spirit that has been perpetrated upon unsuspecting souls. That dualism isn’t new. What captures my attention is that organized religion is about negation of body in the mistaken belief that true spiritual connection is outside our physical or emotional ken. If religious leaders would teach about the total involvement of the body in our spiritual endeavors, there might be more credence paid to the connection with and mindfulness of others rather than competition among religions to determine which is holier than thou--and that might lead to a more compassionate view of other people, Nature, and the planet. Alas, organized religion believes that acknowledgment of the body is tantamount to sexual license.

The ecologically disastrous consequences of this dissociative split in Western human’s identity become clear when we reflect upon the fact that if we feel ourselves mentally and spiritually separate from our own nature (body, instincts, sensations, and so on), then this separation will also be projected outward, so that we think of ourselves as separate from the great realm of Nature, the Earth, all around us. If we believe that in order to advance spiritually we have to go against, to inhibit and control, the natural feelings and impulses of our own body, then this same kind of antagonism and control will also be projected outward, supporting the well-known Western "conquest of nature" ideology. For most people in the West, their highest values, their nobles ideals, their image of themselves as spiritual beings striving to be good and come closer to God, have been deeply associated with a sense of having to overcome and separate from nature....

Furthermore, the idea that the spiritual and the natural are opposed or that spirituality must always transcend nature is a culturally relative concept not shared by non-monotheistic religions or traditional societies. In indigenous cultures around the world the natural world is regarded as the realm of spirit and the sacred; the natural is the spiritual ("The Psychopathology of the Human-Nature Relationship," by Ralph Metzner in Roszak, et. al., 1995, pp. 66-67).

In therapy I sense not a few clients wondering what I’m going "to do to them." I strive to help them realize that it is they who will do the "doing." I try to help them find that place in themselves that is kind, gentle, and connected, so that their healing is a wonder-filled and eager "moving toward" rather than a "separation (or running) from." This connectedness, I believe, will go farther in the process of healing than the usually mistaken view that a client is "broken" and needs fixing.

Acknowledging other ways of knowing, as Spencer (1996) puts it are also vital to our planetary well-being. It seems that those who hold power often use it to exclude other viewpoints, to the detriment of themselves, the other viewpoint, and the world. In client work, other ways of knowing, especially in a cross-cultural setting, are often overlooked, ignored, or just plain missed. How we know what we know is as important as the feelings surrounding those beliefs. To have that process disparaged as an abnormality, a deviation, or a sin (based solely on prejudice and ignorance) is to diminish the healing potential in the world.

Finally, in a liberationist ethic, scientific knowledge must be engaged with and held accountable to other ways of knowing that shape our praxis. Separating scientific knowledge from other ways of knowing results in a reductionistic epistemology characteristic of the Enlightenment mechanistic worldview--an epistemology that threatens the diversity of experiences and meanings in our social and ecological worlds. For lesbians and gay men this means insisting that the use of science take our experiences and ways of knowing seriously rather than reducing the complexities of our experiences and identities to an "objective" biological factor in formulating its truth claims (Spencer, 1996, p. 25).

It is amazing to me how many therapists I’ve encountered who claim that their Lesbian and Gay clients are "just like all my straight clients." It is as if the therapists are not able to expand their own view enough to notice the differences that do exist. Even if the only difference between Gay and non-Gay people was the oppression they suffer, honoring that oppression and the way it informs ones life permanently alters the "just like all my straight clients" attitude. The psychological process a Lesbian or Gay man uses to deal with oppression is different from the way a straight person would cope, which, in turn, is different from the way an Asian person, for example, would deal with oppression. But we know that, developmentally, Gays and Lesbians do mature differently, do see the world differently, and do have ways of knowing that are different from any one else’s way. To dishonor these differences is to perpetuate the power-over attitude that cripples individual as well as planetary healing.

This shift to an understanding of authority grounded in communitarian values of right relation opens up the possibility of developing an ecological hermeneutics of suspicion that actively engages the Bible and tradition without falling into either temptation--apologetics or dismissal and withdrawal. An ecological hermeneutics of suspicion questions anything that may lead to a harmful relation with the earth, examining anthropocentric and androcentric texts and claims for the hidden interests they reflect and their ramifications for the interweaving of social and ecological justice and well-being (Spencer, 1996, p. 42).

This leads us full circle back to the Roszak quote on page 4 of this paper. It is vital that we find a way to right relations with ourselves, or gods and goddesses, our families (extended and chosen), and our planet. Even if the final destruction of our environment (and life on earth?) is years away (a tragic legacy for our children), the quality of life is greatly diminished as our global nest disintegrates. How else to stanch the downward course if not through right relation with the earth, which requires right relation to self? By oppressing others (or by buying into the oppression and not working to transform it) we continue the process of decay. And we continue it by spending our energy in identifying with or fighting against an oppression rather than in creativity--a creativity that recapitulates our interconnectedness to all people, animals, plants, and the planet, not to mention our spirituality.

Finally, one implication of paying attention to difference and particularity is that, just as Rosemary Reuther calls for "many ecofeminisms," we will need a plurality of ecological ethics appropriate to different social and ecological locations, communities and religious traditions, rather than one universalized or monolithic approach. This is an ecological insight--recognizing that each "ecological niche" or location must develop an ecologically sound ethics appropriate to that web or relationships. What makes it liberationist is the insistence that this pluralism of different ecological ethics is not simply relativistic, but engaged, interactive, and [infused] with continued attention to how shifting power relations between communities and different social/ecological locations affect and reshape the resulting ethics (Spencer, 1996, pp. 54-55).

Giving voice to many different ecological locations echoes the need to give voice to many cultures. The final truths, it seems to me, lie in the right relations to self, spirit, others, and planet. In a counseling setting, the importance of right relation can’t be emphasized enough. I there are therapists who work from this premise, whether consciously or not. What would help more, I believe, is the attention to the connection between right relation (on a conscious level) and the survival of the planet, not to mention the people and non-humans on it. I think there’s a "something else" in counseling that many overlook which is the step beyond individual mental health--which means that there are both personal and a global worlds that need attention. To heal enough to participate in daily activities is all good and well. However, I believe there’s a next and vital step, which is the connection to all other living creatures (and that includes the mountains, rocks, and clouds). That conscious connection is necessary to an extended healing process.

Writers outside the lesbian and gay communities also are connecting the erotic and the ecological in ways important to an ecological ethics. Writing from an African American context, Alice Walker makes explicit this sense of sacred power in erotic/ecological interconnection in many of her writings. Returning to the scene in The Color Purple I examined in the opening chapter, Shug explains to Celie how she came to believe that God was not white, male, or "out there," but "is inside you and inside everybody else":

My first step from the old white man was trees. Then air. Then birds. Then other people. But one day when I was sitting quiet and feeling like a motherless child, which I was, it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separate at all. I knew that if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed. And I laughed and I cried and I run all round the house. I knew just what is was. In fact, when it happen, you can’t miss it. It sort of like know what, she say, grinning and rubbing high up on my thigh.

In the context of an erotic relationship between two women in an oppressed community, Shug ties feeling interconnected with all things in nature to erotic interconnection with another woman by debunking a racist patriarchal concept of God that fosters disconnection and relations of power-over. These connections empower both Celie’s and Shug’s sense of moral agency (symbolized for Celie in her decision to no longer write letters to an oppressive image of God) and their connection to all parts of the earth (Spencer, 1996, pp. 322-323).

Here, then, is an effective other view to answer the oppressive religious and political power brokers who believe that the unrelenting suppression of sexual desire is the only way to insure the moral strength of humankind (even though their views are limited to the Western world and give short shrift to any views held in the East). The logic, however, is inescapable: that our lives are indeed sensual (we have 5 senses with which we corroborate our very existence), and that sensuality, whether expressed in care for a plant or an animal or sexually with another person, is our direct and only line to spirit. Even a meditating monk high in the Himalayan Mountains is subject to the weather, the ground, the food, and the isolation, all of which he or she senses. And those senses, supporting the desire for Union, are the vehicles of the aspiration. It follows, for me, at least, that in a caring and mindful sexual union a very similar connection takes place. It is only in the usurpation of that thoughtful right relation that, I believe, "sin" occurs.

In addition to examining the problem of anthropocentrism in the ecological crisis as deep ecologists have done, we must go beyond this to ask how androcentric, heterosexist, and racist values and practices in human communities shape our relations to each other and to our biotic communities in ecologically nonsustainable and damaging ways.

This means reconceiving power in our social and ecological relations, moving away from hierarchical patterns of "power-over" to "power-with," enabling an ethics and pattern of care and respect. Here lesbian, gay, and feminist attention to eros and the erotic as the grounding for understandings of power that are mutually enabling rather than coercive has a critical contribution to make to ecological ethics. Ecojustice understood as right relation is grounded in the ecological and erotic insight that all of nature, including its human component, is intimately and inseparably connected. Reclaiming our erotic experience as the basis for knowing and connecting to others can ground an ecological ethic of interconnection in right relation (Spencer, 1996, p. 325).

The truly interesting feature of Spencer’s argument is that in order for there to be ecojustice, there must be social justice, and for there to be social justice there has to be right relation, and that right relation is based firmly on our sentience, a sentience which is the very foundation of our relationship to ourselves, others, and to spirit.

I can see a direct and immediate connection in the counseling environment, and have already begun to use the information in some ways. I think the goal is to help clients with the problems with which they come into the office; but simultaneously I see my responsibility as pointing up the significance of being connected, knowing that one is connected, and knowing the importance of that connection--to self, others, spirit, and Earth.

Consumerism is another aspect of loss of connection. The more we are admonished to buy, the more we embrace obsolescence, which, in turn, requires us to work more to earn more money to buy the thing that wore out or went out of style. This all serves to sever us from enjoyment of ourselves, spirit, others, and nature:

Lowering consumption need not deprive people of goods and services that really matter. To the contrary, life’s most meaningful and pleasant activities are often paragons of environmental virtue. The preponderance of things that people name as their most rewarding pastimes are infinitely sustainable. Religious practice, conversation, family and community gatherings, theater, music, dance, literature, sports, poetry, artistic and creative pursuits, education, and appreciation of nature all fit readily into a culture of permanence--a way of life that can endure through countless generations ("Are We Happy Yet?" by Alan Thein Durning in Roszak, et. al., 1995, p. 75).

The flip side of the helping-the-client coin is that of psychologists helping corporations sell to the public:

When psychologists offer their services to corporations, their statistical skills and therapeutic insights are used to manipulate people for economic gain rather than to foster well-being. Yet consumerism is so ingrained in American society that this outright abuse of psychological expertise receives no mention in the ethical code of the American Psychological Association ("The All-Consuming Self," by Allen D. Kanner and Mary E. Gomes in Roszak, et. al., 1995, p. 83)

The really scary part is what is happening to American children. When my family got our first television in the 1950s, the advertising was pretty crude and fairly unsophisticated. We looked at the commercials, laughed a bit, turned off the sound, and paid little attention. Not so today:

...American children come to internalize the messages they see in the media and in society at large. They learn to substitute what they are told to want--mounds of material possessions--for what they truly want. By the time they reach adulthood, their authentic feelings are so well buried that they have only the vaguest sense that "something" is missing. Having ignored their genuine needs for so long, they feel empty ("The All-Consuming Self," by Allen D. Kanner and Mary E. Gomes in Roszak, et. al., 1995, p. 83)

I am seeing a young Aleut man who believes that wearing Nike shoes and clothes identifies him as "someone." It saddens me to see the values that do truly sustain us as humans are being usurped by commercial interests, ones that ultimately will not help us heal when we sense the emptiness that comes with consumerism.

Socialized by film and television to identify with the attitudes and values of privileged classes in this society, many people who are poor, or a few paychecks away from poverty, internalize fear and contempt for those who are poor. When materially deprived teenagers kill for tennis shoes or jackets they are not doing so because they like those items so much. They also hope to escape the stigma of their class by appearing to have the trappings of more privileged classes. Poverty, in their minds and in our society as a whole, is seen as synonymous with depravity, lack, and worthlessness ("Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations," by bell hooks [lower case intentional] in Roszak, et. al., 1995, pp. 87-88).

A sense of worthlessness, we would add, that fits precisely with our understanding of media-induced narcissistic injury. Within these poor communities, we again find an injured self striving to overcome the humiliation of material lack, yet so caught up in this struggle that it fails to challenge the consumer ideal of the dominant culture ("The All-Consuming Self," by Allen D. Kanner and Mary E. Gomes in Roszak, et. al., 1995, p. 83)

It is obvious that this misuse of knowledge is dangerous. A psychologist working for a corporation could easily convince him- or herself that there’s nothing inherently wrong helping others sell their goods. After all, the argument might go, consumers are not stupid and they can see they’re being manipulated and will make responsible decisions. Would that it were true.

A therapist, as one approach, might start with the thorny issue of self-esteem (keeping in mind the immediate peer group and the pressures that exist there), trying to lead into a sense of self identified by more earth-related (natural) values and perhaps even a sense spirituality as opposed to goods; then move to a sense of community and social values, perhaps wilderness therapy focusing on some sort of recognition of or communion with Earth, leading, one would hope, to a sense of social responsibility. A tall order, but necessary for mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual growth, and, of course, the survival of the planet.

It’s a thin line between misuse of knowledge, manipulation of people’s minds, and violence. Spencer (1996) carefully points out the violent uses of the erotic against women, children, and other minorities. The problem is so pervasive that it is almost dangerous to talk of the erotic as "the source of identity or moral agency in women’s lives" (p. 326). Yet I believe that violence is other side of the desire for connection. I am not so naive as to think that by healing one’s desire for connection one stops the violence, or that there are not pathological conditions that are mostly beyond healing without drugs or even incarceration. But that is the point, after all. The healing that must occur is as much at the individual level as it is at the global level. Until we as humans take seriously those among us who are not well, we ourselves cannot heal completely. I suppose it is futile to think that healing completely is even possible, but without that as a goal, we seriously cripple our ability to heal ourselves and the planet, which relates directly to our survival, our quality of life, our relation to spirit. Sally McFague (see page 3 of this paper) posits that seeing the Earth as the body of God may be an image that awakens our desire to assist in the global healing process: I see it as earth-shakingly important.

Like all liberation theologies, lesbian and gay hermeneutics incorporate as a critical first step the suspicion that dominant portrayals of reality and the world do not tell the whole story, and the story they do tell is distorted, often at our expense. From concrete experiences of either being totally invisible in the human ecology, or portrayed as dangerous or exotic aberrations, lesbians and gay men have learned to identify and question those values and practices that lead to our being ignored, dismissed, or actively exploited and repressed. Even our close allies, such as ecofeminists, too often limit their analysis to the connections between the domination of women and nature, missing or ignoring the links between heterosexism and ecological exploitation, and thus further reproducing lesbian and gay invisibility. Since many of these same values and practices lie at the heart of the ecological crisis where the well-being of the environment has been ignored, dismissed, or actively exploited, lesbian and gay hermeneutics of suspicion have an important contribution to make toward developing a more inclusive liberationist ecological hermeneutics (Spencer, 1996, p. 327).

I had a conversation the other day with a psychological colleague, who said (she’s straight) that she has Lesbian and Gay clients and there’s no real difference in the way they process their problems. I was shocked by this well-meaning (and good) therapist who seemed oblivious not only to the actual differences between Gays and non-Gays but also to the harm this brings to the therapeutic relationship. It’s similar to having an Asian client come in and treat them as if their psychological process had nothing to do with their stage of cultural identification.

It is injurious to pay lip service to a culture but, I believe, worse to maintain that there are no essential differences between cultures, especially in a psychological process, and even more damaging to say that Gays and Lesbians are just like straight people except for the "choice of sexual partner."

If I do nothing else in these papers and in my practice, I hope it will be to help dispel the homophobia that is carried by Gay, Lesbian, and straight alike, even in its most innocent-seeming guises.

...[The] fundamental reality of interdependence and interconnectedness--of becoming-in-relation--means we can no longer accept any hierarchical evaluation of human over nonhuman, animal over plant, biosphere over geosphere. He [Clark] ties this explicitly to lesbian and gay suspicion of hierarchical ways of thinking that result in reductionism rather than affirmation of diversity: "The hope that connects gay eco-theology with gay liberation theology is the belief that if people can learn to value diversity throughout all life, then they will also appreciate diversity in human life. Then will homophobia disappear; then will no one and no thing ever be expendable again (Spencer, 1996, p. 329).

I wish this would put the lie once and for all to the concept that everyone is alike in the basics of their psychological process. The reductionist thinking is offensive. But I suppose it reveals a therapist’s own probable fear of exploring the unknown--exploring it right along side the client, venturing into places that neither have previously explored working together to find a right relation, and not necessarily the one with which either counselor or client went into the process. Celebration of diversity is what makes life interesting, and, I suppose, it is that very "spice" that scares some folks into the reductionism. In the helping professions it is unacceptable; in the broader world of quotidian life it is the very stuff of ecological disaster; once we accept that differences are to be minimized, we can easily accept that differences should be minimized. It is a slippery slope from there on.

Spencer (1996) helps elucidate some of those differences in quoting from Walter L. William’s "groundbreaking study of the berdache" (p. 334):

Equally important, where berdache was respected in Native American cultures, the status of women’s roles usually was high. Hence the berdache’s involvement with feminine tasks and roles was not interpreted as a betrayal by men of a "superior" masculinity, but as a (spiritually powerful) variant within the natural spectrum of human diversity on gender and sexuality. The explicitly profeminist stance of an ethic of Gay and Gaia echoes this understanding.

Overcoming rigid dichotomized thinking, whether between humanity and nature, or between male and female, is basic to a liberationist ecological ethic. While his focus is on Native American societies, Williams cites examples across the globe of berdache- and amazonlike gender and sexuality patterns. Not coincidentally many of these indigenous cultures are among the most ecologically sustainable and earth-friendly, holding nature in high esteem and central to their spirituality and understanding of human identity and culture. Conspicuously absent is the othering mechanism of associating certain groups and classes with a "lower" nature as a justification for domination... (pp. 335-336).

I have dealt in other papers (Freedman (1996b)) with the subject of Gay affirmative counseling. I can’t emphasize enough that the multiculturally affirmative counselor can’t read enough books or attend enough workshops to learn about the cultures with which they work. And spiritual considerations are very much a part of this same warning. Counselors might easily fall into the Christian tradition of condemnation of homo-orientation:

Those who seek a liberating praxis from within the Christian tradition must see challenging and overturning the churches’ traditional condemnatory stance toward homosexuality as central to ecojustice work, no only for lesbians and gay men in our communities, but also for non-Christian peoples. It must form an integral part of reshaping an ecological worldview: affirming and advocating for human diversity--including human sexual, gender, cultural, and religious diversity--must be seen as inseparably linked to affirming and protecting ecological diversity (Spencer, 1996, p. 337).

One last word on Gay-affirmative counseling as necessary to an ecological praxis. Tolerance has long been rejected as an acceptable response from a dominating culture. For a sustainable social justice, and, by extension, a sustainable ecojustice, there must be positive regard for diversity of all kinds, whether based on race, creed, color, gender, national origin, or sexual orientation:

Gender egalitarian societies often have creation stories which give important roles to women. Without the active explanation in myth, there is no ideological underpinning for a high female status. The same may be true for the berdache. In cultures where berdaches have high status, there is usually mythological justification for the practice. It is not enough that the religion be neutral or tolerant. It must actively explain the phenomenon in a positive manner. The biblical Genesis creation accounts, in their bias toward maleness and heterosexual complementarity, do not offer a similar flexibility. This suggests again the importance of opening up the canon of Christian scripture to other voices that reflect a broader array of human and ecological diversity (Spencer, 1996, p. 338).

Positive regard for diversity can also be expressed in terms of relationships. The Classic Western models tend toward autonomy and individualism, but "rather than equating healthy development with increasing autonomy, relational theory suggests that as we mature, we move toward greater complexity in relationships" ("The Rape of the Well-Maidens," by Mary E. Gomes and Allen D. Kanner in Roszak, et. al., 1995, p. 117). And complexity often brings uncertainty which requires more interdependence, not the strong suit of many Western medical models.

To acknowledge a different area of ecotherapy, one’s relationship to nature can also involve attention to seasons. Clinebell (1996) recounts how a social worker friend connects nature’s changes to the counseling session:

As the seasons change or when cycles of the moon are obvious, this therapist sometimes mentions such changes to clients in passing. She has discovered this increases awareness of the renewing cycles of nature, which creates opportunities to reflect therapeutically on the clients’ using the cycles and transitions in their own lives, as well as the cycles of nature (p. 196).

Seasonal Affect Disorder (S.A.D.) is very real in Alaska and many Northern hemispheres. In addition to dealing with light deprivation medically (and perhaps with full-spectrum lights), appreciating how nature cycles, hibernates, slows down, and "puts on a blanket" (of snow) for the winter can be helpful in understanding our relationship to ourselves in nature. Trying to maintain the same mood in the dead of an Alaskan winter as one might in the middle of the Alaskan summer is, in my mind, going contrary to natural cycles. There is a time for burrowing in and being, perhaps, more introspective; and there is a time for running naked through the woods. Being aware of the Earth’s "moods" is an important key to living that many indigenous cultures have been aware of and in tune with for millennia.

Another issue that seems obvious to me is how we use nature to heal (going to the mountains or the seashore for a relaxing, rejuvenating getaway), and yet we rape and pillage it with our shopping malls, highways, power lines, dams, and urbanization projects. We need nature for our very survival, yet we deplete it for our perceived needs (wants, more likely). In therapy, I see it as important that the connection is made between personal problems and our attitude toward our Earth home.

Clinical evidence suggests that chronic noise pollution and deprivation of quietness may contribute to diminished wellness. Studies of stress levels in overcrowded, polluted, noisy cities suggest that chronic noise, with no respites of relative quiet, may contribute to our society’s epidemic of chronic stress overload.... Since it is clear that having regular times of serenity in nature tends to enhance the body-mind-spirit well-being of many people, it is important to encourage people to give themselves the gift of slowing down long enough to open oneself to the rhythms of nature and the non-verbal messages of trees and clouds, of rocks and animals (Clinebell, 1996, p. 197).

My agenda includes a personal response to saving our natural resources as a direct effort to saving ourselves. Recycling, for example, could be discussed in a session as part of a mental health program that connects the client to their Earth home in an important way, similar to Freud’s alleged admonition to a depressed person to go to "the other side of the tracks" and help someone in need. One could develop a sense of connection, an important first step toward caring for ourselves/our planet.

...some Native Americans...choose a particular tree or other plant to spend time with every day, becoming tuned to its energies and rhythms. Some report that they receive helpful messages--gifts from their particular plant-companion (Clinebell, 1996, p. 198).

In a Reiki1 class I took years ago, our first assignment was to go outside and Reiki trees and plants. The object was not only to get a sense of the energy Reiki imparts (and receives) but to get somewhat more in tune with the world of non-human energy around us. Animals "have a sense" of safe places to go, dogs sense a person’s mood or fear, and a Prescott College classmate told me of a particular outdoor place he had gone to that had a tremendously sad "affect." I believe it’s as important for us to be in tune with nature as it is for us to help heal nature.

The following case vignette illustrates how this therapist worked with a woman client who came to therapy suffering from multiple problems, including family dysfunction and other relationship problems, work impairment, rheumatoid arthritis, agitated stress, and depression. Over several pervious years of work with other therapists, the woman had experienced only minimal improvement in a variety of traditional therapies. These included hospitalization, family and one-on-one therapy, and a twelve-step recovery program.

Gradually, as the client worked with this therapist, she experienced marked improvement in many areas of her troubled life. The therapist encouraged her to begin intensive organic gardening as both "recreation and a way to reconnect with a life-giving source." Despite pain in her knee joints, the client dug roots from a patch of earth infested by thorns and discovered that "gaining control over the weeds gave her a sense of possibility in her own recovery and renewal".... The client, who had grown up in the mountains and by the ocean, reported that now she was able to "be a part of them again." This reunion had, she said, enabled her to have a kind of spiritual rebirth (Clinebell, 1996, p. 199).

In the beginning of this paper I discussed my fear of the dark and nature in general. Clinebell (1996) talks directly to that point, and by extension, any loss of relationship with nature:

The process of overcoming ecoalienation often involves confronting and experiencing the healing of painful nature-alienating memories from earlier life, like those I relived by working with my river dream. Healing these ghost memories that still haunt one’s relationship with the earth is frequently a crucial aspect of ecohealing. When this healing of forgotten earth trauma occurs, people often recover repressed positive bonding experiences with nature. These probably are held out of awareness because they are intertwined with repressed traumatic memories. Thus, one of the potential benefits of walking the inner path from alienation to healing is that linked positive earth memories and feelings may come back into awareness--memories of satisfying, nurturing bonding with nature. These can become resources that enrich one’s current life and relationship with the earth (Clinebell, 1996, p. 203).

In a counseling environment I should think that any sense of alienation, isolation, or even problems with self-esteem could be addressed in part with a relationship with nature. Someone who is extremely shy, for example, might start the process of recovery by establishing a caring relationship with some small aspect of, say, gardening. It’s not a sure bet that any alleviation of symptoms will occur (in any modality), but it is another possibility in the pantheon of healing practices.

As a last comment on ecopsychology (a topic about which I could write volumes), I’d like to mention grief for the planet. In counseling work, there is the very real possibility that grief work needs to be done for parts of nature that have been decimated and defiled. A very real example: a young Gay, born-again Christian friend of mine was raised in South Anchorage where there were trees and forests (such as they are in Anchorage, due to the permafrost), and bred and ran his sled dogs there and lived a very isolated, lonely life. But the trees were his friends, and the animals, and plants. He reveled in their support of him and communicated with that energy daily. He was arbitrarily uprooted from that place to another and grieved the loss of his personal habitat. Recently (years after the uprooting) he took me back to that area, which now has been transmogrified into a suburb and the land he knew has been largely developed. There were some forest tracts still standing and we hiked into the middle of one of his sacred spaces. We sat there and talked for a long while, and, finally, he asked me if I’d Reiki the space, which I did. No sooner than I began Reikiing the space but I was overcome with tremendous grief and tears. The energy coming from that tract of standing forest was overwhelming and I immediately began crying, saying to my friend, "your forest is crying out to you and needs you and wants you to come home." I’d never experienced that kind of connection before, but felt that even that little healing work was helpful. I doubt that the tract of land will be there long, before the developers get at it, but identifying these areas and helping them and ourselves heal is tremendously important work. The power of the connection I made with a patch of South Anchorage forest that Spring day lives in my heart to this day.

Providing opportunities for people to do their "ecogrief work" is important in today’s ecological crisis. Because the causes of ecological grief are ongoing, complete healing of this grief clearly is neither feasible nor desirable. What is important is healing those dimensions of grief that produce denial and action-paralysis. The ecogrief group leader’s task is to facilitate interpersonal trust and group bonding so that members will feel free to express their feelings candidly, be heard empathically and without judgment, and be motivated to use the energy of their grief, guilt, and anger for earth-caring actions (Clinebell, 1996, p. 203).


In this paper I have discussed the basic tenets of ecopsychology, covering methods that could be used in counseling sessions to help clients (and non-clients as well) reconnect with their Earth relations/relatives. I discussed the interdependence of humans and non-humans, and the importance of right relations with all cultures (including Gays and Lesbians), and different religions as well. I talked about sexuality as one path toward right relation, and how religious suppression of our physical selves oppresses everyone and everything--and actually prevents global healing from taking root; that it is the patriarchal power-over syndrome that must be transformed for true global healing to find a foothold. For this to happen, I believe we must change our approach from an all western medical power-over model and explore alternative venues, methodologies, and earth-related experiences.

The traditional argument of psychology says: maintain the closed vessel of the consulting room, of the behavioral lab, of the field itself, for this tradition is born from nineteenth-century science, which continues to define psychology as the "scientific" study of subjectivity. And science works best in controllable situations, in vitro, under the bell jar, where it can carefully observe, predict, and thereby perhaps alter the minutiae of the subject.

Psychology may take the wider road, however.... The interior would be anywhere: anywhere we look and listen with a psychological eye and ear. The whole world becomes our consulting room, our petri dish. Psychology would track the fields of naturalists, botanists, oceanographers, geologists, urbanists, designers for the concealed intentions, the latent subjectivity of regions the old paradigm considered only objective, beyond consciousness and interiority. The wider road is also a two-way street. Besides entering the world with it psychological eye, it would let the world enter its province, admitting that airs, waters, and places play as large a role in the problems psychology faces as do moods, relationships, and memories (Roszak, et. al., 1995, p. xxii).

1a centuries-old Japanese hands-on healing technique


Clinebell, H. (1996). Ecotherapy: healing ourselves, healing the earth. New York: The Haworth Press.

Freedman, F. K. (1996a). Study Packet #2. Anchorage, AK/Prescott College. Unpublished.

Freedman, F. K. (1996b). Study Packet #4. Anchorage, AK/Prescott College. Unpublished.

Legler, G. (1995). All the powerful invisible things: a sportswoman’s notebook. Seattle: Seal Press.

Roszak, T, Gomes, M., & Kanner, A. (1995). Ecopsychology: restoring the earth, healing the mind. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.

Spencer, D. (1996). Gay and Gaia. Cleveland, OH: The Pilgrim Press.




1999 F ken Freedman Counseling - Phone: 907-566-1708 - Fax: 907-248-2421 - Please send e-mail to: fken@alaska.net