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psych   sphere

Psychosphere - 
refers to the experience and collective process of being "alive and in relationship" with the world around us. Which is also alive and in relationship with everything else...

 

Living things respond to their environment and their behaviour changes the process of which they are part.  Beavers dam rivers and create lakes. Trees wear down rock, hold up banks, provide food and habitat for other creatures and are part of the water cycle. Forests can make clouds and cause rains-storms. Taken as a whole, such interactions between living things are seen as the biosphere. Science has long been exploring the relationship between biosphere and the other planetary systems - hydrosphere, atmosphere, lithosphere, and cryosphere.

Over the past 40 years or so, more attention has been directed towards the interior process of living things. Biologists Francisco Varela and Umberto Maturana observed that a single cell has internal processes to get information about its surroundings and subsequently responds to these in ways intended to maintain a state of well-being.

 

Radically, they suggested that through such processes a cell, like all living things, has a sense of itself, distinct and responsive to its surroundings. It will pursue situations that support its own "going on being" and try to withdraw from those that don't. This dynamic has direct effect on its immediate context, and other cells respond. This can create a ripple effect as the internal processes of other organisms sense the changes and respond. In this way, wider, collective states of well-being are communicated to - and through - individuals in the system.

Human beings refer to our own internal responses to our context or surroundings as emotion. We have wrapped an entire range of meaning around these visceral experiences: our feelings. Varela and Maturana's discovery of "autopoiesis" enrols these distinct, personal, human experiences within a planetary system that exchanges energy and information through the internal processes of its individual parts, often with ongoing consequence. 

What we call biosphere is the sum of living interactions seen objectively, as if from the outside. Always experienced from the inside, subjectively, these interactions arise through the dynamics created as the various organisms get on with their lives, managing themselves internally and externally, in response to their own needs.

From an evolutionary perspective, individuation and autonomy is a highly effective way of generating resilience through diversity. Not only does this dynamic secure the complexity already evolved, it also opens up opportunities for further creativity and novelty. The basic sentience enabling autopoiesis is a step in the long, long history of evolution's managing complexity, resulting in our diverse, unique and remarkable planet.

 

Until now there has been no need to pay great attention to the generative and sometimes ragged harmony of all these inner processes and identities rubbing up against each other. However, the inner processes and self sense upon which the dominating human culture depends inform a world view and subsequent behaviour that no longer attends to the rhythms and cadences of the wider world: human psyche is out of step and out of tune with the wider collective of this sentience: "psychosphere".

We remain part of this collective despite Modernity's insistence that we are separate, even superior. As living beings, we continue to receive the energy and information that the system offers. Even though we have developed powerful technologies to observe and share from the outside, we are directly  impacted by our emotional responses to this wider field of psychosphere. We happily to seek and acknowledge qualitative, embodied and life-affirming experiences of "nature's breath taking splendour" or "awe-inspiring wonder", though usually as if we are just its passive witnesses. But we are far less inclined to attend to the more negative feedback, especially when it directly questions our sense of identity or threatens our chosen behaviour.

The dominant worldview depends upon not heeding such feedback, promoting a resource depleting, atmosphere polluting approach. Avoiding or minimising its past and current impacts on ecosystems and human cultures, it is not merely out of step and out of tune: the latest feedback suggests that it is fast running out of time. However, lacking a narrative or framework we are unable to consider and respond to this information effectively. Our dominant culture, as a general rule, only relates to it in terms of an individual's private past experiences, often triggering experiences of fear, powerlessness, betrayal, abandonment, failure, and whatever other ways we as individuals may have tried to understand or explain away bruises and injustices received.

This misreading of the data perpetuates the problem. Sidestepping reflection on our collective experience and capabilities can reanimate or exaggerate personal past maladaptive behaviours. Since these impact the world physically, we continue to amplify the problem, further increasing the feedback impacting our emotional well-being. The steady decline of our planetary systems is matched by a steady rise in personal and social distress.

The good news is that common sentience has evolved to the point where it can be self-reflective. Not only able to perceive and respond and to hold memory centred primarily upon itself, it is becoming aware of itself within the wider patterns around it. This a powerful and high risk step for evolution, since - as we currently experience - it gives huge power to an organism which it may use entirely for immediate, short-term benefit. However, as an evolutionary trial, common sentience evolving a self-reflective, life-affirming, technologically advanced capacity applied on behalf of the whole presents a novel and highly efficient means of managing ongoing complexity.

 

This offers an exciting marriage of indigenous knowledge with scientific insight. Yet, whilst we remain focussed on the "self" rather than the "reflective" aspect of "self-reflective consciousness", the planet, in Dan Siegel's words, "is cooked. Alternatively, in Mary Oliver's poem "Wild Geese", we might attend to how "the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting - over and over announcing your place in the family of things." And we cannot do this on our own: belonging is a collective process.

Psychosphere is a field of life's collective psycho-emotional belonging, available to through living participation in the exchanges of common sentience. Its ripples are not only alerting us to our impact, but also how we might come back into alignment. they are a call to imagination and trust , to place and creativity: a call to home.

Psychoshphere

Towards Psychologies of Homecoming

“We have more than a century’s worth of psychologies that developed in settings of urban alienation and mechanistic thinking: psychologies, inevitably, of departure and isolation. As yet, we have no psychologies of homecoming: of how to enjoy fulfilling, healthy, embodied lives on a planet revisioned as a sensitive being with needs of its own. Ultimately we may find that healing the ancient split between self and Earth by revitalizing our felt ties to a world ensouled is less a matter of fostering new attitudes or habits than of uncovering a latent love for the world, a love ineradicable so long as we remain truly human.”   

                                                                                            Craig Chalquist, ecopsychologist, 2009

Resouces

These links connect to pages where articles and links are added as background and resource.  The selection is somewhat random and we hope that readers who are in a position to develop research and papers will submit them to be included.  The headings on the buttons are intended to be broadly indicative rather than exhaustive!

NEW THINKING:

These buttons link to some of the new thinking and research that has been emerging.

NETWORKING & COMPLEMENTARY SITES:

Below is a selection of websites or facebook pages that seek to link people, resources and ideas that seem relevant to the objectives of systems  thinking and identity awareness.  These sites offer many services, connections and links that overlap, complement, or further the aims and objectives of the Self and World. Please let us know of more that need to be included.

ACTION AREAS:  

"...you can’t fight climate change. It’s like saying let’s fight the wind or ocean currents or sunshine. The climate changes every nanosecond. The atmosphere is a blessing that makes the Earth the paradise that it is. Using metaphors of war and conflict represents a dual-mindedness that somehow there’s an enemy out there, that the climate is our enemy, the atmosphere is our enemy. It’s our ally. Our enemy is our thinking, so let’s not fight. Let’s change and transform."

Paul Hawken, Drawdown designer - interview - 8/8/2017

joanna macy dan siegel quote.png

Physicist John A Wheeler is celebrated for popularising the concept of Black Holes. He also suggested that Universe is becoming aware of itself (left image). Neuropsychiatrist Dan Siegel's remarkable lecture (click image) suggests that Mind emerges through relationship - an idea which Joanna Macy elaborates from a Buddhist perspective in her remarkable book, World As Lover, World As Self.

COMPLEXITY & IDENTITY:  
“We have been taught to think about complexity... one of the limitations is that its about systems, about complexity... and its confusing because “how are we talking about this when, at another level, we are within this..” That's a big shift, recognising that we are within these transformations.”.... ”Talking about” is the issue, and its what sets up the context: we are within a context that doesn't like context!!”

Nora Bateson - The Spaces In Between - On The Edge podcast; 9 July 2019

CONTACT
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