Planetosis and Denial

Self-ImprovementPsychology

  • Author Bruce Wilson
  • Published August 22, 2022
  • Word count 632

Planetosis and Denial

Bruce Wilson, PhD

Planetosis: n. “A sick planet which has a cold, a fever, and some kind of weird infection. v. To be worried sick about the health of the planet, because you know the problem is really the people.” – Koekbroer

We know and feel something is wrong with our planet. This is not about a new awareness but rather an all too obvious and increasingly familiar series of reminders through record-breaking heat, rain, wind, drought and all the other idiosyncratic features of Mother Nature. If this were a sick friend or family member, we would be there for them in a flash. However, Mother Earth, our current and hopefully future home, inspires no such urgency. Why is this the case? What keeps humankind from acting with due haste to this cataclysmic potential? What is this psychology of denial all about?

Denial

“Denial is the door she slams in her own face, trapping her in this lonely comfort zone. It keeps her from facing what hurts.” – Judith Sills

Is humankind in denial to avoid the reality of the costs of climate change? Because there will be huge costs. There will be economical, political, social, and lasting human costs to taking action. But what is the alternative? We are talking planetosis for now and extinction for tomorrow. Denial also has a cost, which appears, at least in this case, much larger.

The psychology of denial is ever present. Not just where the planet is at risk but in everyday life. Denial is at its core a refusal. Denial is a refusal to believe someone or something, a refusal to take action, or a refusal to comply, even to the truth. What is the payoff of denial?

The most common theory is that denial is about maintaining one’s sense of emotional security. Something about what is being faced threatens the denier’s sense of emotional security. This means, that something triggers their anxiety or some painfully intolerable thoughts or feelings. Denial becomes the refuge to keep these thoughts and feelings sequestered. When we hide our true feelings, we may fool others but we are still aware we are being inauthentic. Many of our maladaptive behaviours come from this denial of authenticity. No wonder we say their feelings are bottled-up. The cork has become the catalyst to their denial.

“Denial is the way people handle what they cannot handle.”

Shannon L. Alder

Over-Sensitivity

Being over-sensitive leads to emotional turmoil. Through denial, some people protect their over-sensitivity to whatever feels threatening. The planet being at risk is just too threatening to even fathom, especially for some. Maybe it threatens their livelihood or their sense of safety. Whatever the threat may be, denial comes to the rescue. Their sense of security has been breached. Why would I accept such an unappetizing suggestion? Maybe acceptance could arise with the realization that we need an over-sensitivity, not for ourselves, but for the very essence of our existence, Mother Earth. She needs rescuing!

“The Earth does not belong to us: we belong to the Earth.”- Chief Seattle

How do we begin to deny our denial? We are emotionally sensitive beings and seek to protect ourselves at all costs. However, denying the Earth’s sensitivity does come full-circle and threaten us. Putting our personal sensitivity to the side has a huge payoff, not only for ourselves but for the future generations that are about to take our place. Replacing our “denial psychology” will make us stronger because we are not displacing action with emotional insecurity and over-sensitivity. Personal sensitivity will not eschew the reality of our sensitive planet. This is true not only for addressing our climate change needs, but also for our daily attempts at being fully authentic to ourselves as well as our planet.

Bio

Dr. Bruce Wilson is a psychologist in private practice at Mind Health Care, Geelong, Australia. He has 25 years of experience and enjoys sharing his ramblings with friends and colleagues. This article is solely his work.

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