To commemorate this year’s Earth Day, we introduce the themes of Terrapsychology, the study of our deep and usually unconscious connections to the places where we live and work. Terrapsychology goes beyond surface cause-effect relations to look at how landscapes, weather, and nature sculpt our ideas, habits, relationships, our broader culture and our own sense of self.
As Craig Chalquist explains:
Isn’t it odd that most of our psychologies treat the mind as entirely separate from the living world? That our standardized concepts of mental health make no reference to the health of our surroundings?
Scientific research makes it plain: the ecological health of the planet is not only a political or financial issue, but a mental health issue as well. Urban sprawl, air pollution, toxic waste, and sheer architectural ugliness have been shown to impact mental health. Anxiety and depression, rage and crime, family violence, and lost productivity at work and at school do not exist in a vacuum. Health and hope fail when landfills and refineries go up in neighborhoods too poor to fight back. We suffer a global warming of collective consciousness, an eroded capacity for holding our fire.
Whether we know it or not, we speak, walk, and breathe the discourse of our terrain all the time: jagged ridges roughen our smooth speech; rivers sweep our ideas downstream; skyscrapers beckon us to heights of fame and hubris; polluted harbors darken our moods; and the natural sanctuaries we find offer us islands of precious sanity.
How do you feel connected to the places where you are from, or the places where you have lived?
For those interested in going deeper into the concepts of Terrapsychology, you can listen and watch our latest webinar installment “Animate California” below. Here we offer not sightseeing, but soulseeing through California in a quest to understand the presence, spirit, or soul of the Golden State and its cities and regions through reflection on the recurring images and mythologies found here. It considers the question: In what sense are landscapes actually soulscapes? How do the places where I live and work subtly interact with me such that I unknowingly repeat their geological patterns and historic events? And what does it mean to come deeply home?