Sunday, 29 March 2015

Psychotherapy in a Time of Global Warming, Judith Anderson, Climate Psychology Alliance

"To be a psychologically aware human being in society today means embracing the web of life and to know that with every breath we take we are dependent on the living system of our environment. It is no longer possible to separate psychology from ecology – or indeed from science. Systems theory scientists have made the links. Can psychotherapists?"  Judith Anderson: Psychotherapy in a Time of Global Warming, Climate Psychology Alliance

Monday, 23 March 2015

Psychoanalysis and Politics Conference in Barclona, March 2015

Thank you to everyone I met at the conference. It was really enjoyable and rich.

Ecopsychoanalysis in the United States this Spring: Chicago, Houston, Atlanta, New York

I will be presenting on the theme of 'Feeling the Heat...What is Ecopsychoanalysis? Psychoanalysis and Climate Change in the Three Ecologies' at several places in the United States this Spring. All those who are interested to hear more about my work and book and would like a chance to connect and discuss are welcome.

April 10th, Chicago. April 11th, Houston. April 13th, Atlanta. April 14th, New York

April 11th
Center for Psychoanalytic Studies, Houston,

April 13th,
Emory University, Center for Mind, Brain, and Culture, Atlanta,

April 14th,
State University of New York/Empire State College, New York,

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Ecopsychoanalysis in Hungary: Pecs 7th May, Budapest 8th May

Pecs, May 7th, 11am. Annual Workshop Conference of Doctoral School of Psychology Pécs, Bizalom Magán Pszichoterápiás Központ (Pécs, Ferencesek u. 8.)

Budapest, May 8th, 2pm. Budapest, ELTE TÁTK Pázmány Péter sétány. 1/A. Room 0.79"

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Review in Psychodynamic Practice: Individuals, Groups and Organisations (Jan Baker 2013)"This book is a real tour de force and an important addition to a currently relatively small body of writings on climate change from a psychoanalytic perspective. It is comprehensive and encyclopaedic, covering enormous ground between related and complex disciplines and theoretically dense concepts... Dodds navigates these ideas with clarity and conviction. Overall, he demonstrates the need to link the various different approaches in order to address the ecological crisis that we face. I think, the book is essential reading for all and will add specifically to their understanding for those studying psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and systemic thinking."

      - Jan Baker, Psychodynamic Practice: Individuals, Groups and Organisations, Psychoanalysis and ecology at the edge of chaos: complexity theory, Deleuze/Guattari and psychoanalysis for a climate in crisis, October 29, 2013, DOI: 10.1080/14753634.2013.853484.   

See here for other reviews.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Minding the Ecological Body: Neuropsychoanalysis and Ecopsychoanalysis, Dodds (2013), Frontiers in Psychology. 4:125

Minding the ecological body: neuropsychoanalysis and ecopsychoanalysis

  • University of New York in Prague, Prague, Czech Republic


Neuropsychoanalysis explores experimentally and theoretically the philosophically ancient discussion of the relation of mind and body, and seems well placed to overcome the problem of a “mindless” neuroscience and a “brainless” psychology and psychotherapy, especially when combined with a greater awareness that the body itself, not only the brain, provides the material substrate for the emergent phenomenon we call mind. However, the mind-brain-body is itself situated within a complex ecological world, interacting with other mind-brain-bodies and the “non-human environment.” This occurs both synchronically and diachronically as the organism and its environment (living and non-living) interact in highly complex often non-linear ways. Psychoanalysis can do much to help unmask the anxieties, deficits, conflicts, phantasies, and defenses crucial in understanding the human dimension of the ecological crisis. Yet, psychoanalysis still largely remains not only a “psychology without biology,” which neuropsychoanalysis seeks to remedy, but also a “psychology without ecology.” Ecopsychoanalysis (Dodds, 2011b; Dodds and Jordan, 2012) is a new transdisciplinary approach drawing on a range of fields such as psychoanalysis, psychology, ecology, philosophy, science, complexity theory, esthetics, and the humanities. It attempts to play with what each approach has to offer in the sense of a heterogeneous assemblage of ideas and processes, mirroring the interlocking complexity, chaos, and turbulence of nature itself. By emphasizing the way the mind-brain-body studied by neuropsychoanalysis is embedded in wider social and ecological networks, ecopsychoanalysis can help open up the relevance of neuropsychoanalysis to wider fields of study, including those who are concerned with what Wilson (2003) called “the future of life.”
Keywords: Chaos, complexity, neuropsychoanalysis, ecopsychoanalysis, ecology, climate change, psychoanalysis, Guattari
Full Text: pdf, enhanced pdf

Citation: Dodds J (2013) Minding the ecological body: neuropsychoanalysis and ecopsychoanalysis. Front. Psychol. 4:125. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00125
Received: 11 November 2012; Accepted: 26 February 2013; 
Published online: 25 March 2013.
Edited by:
Denis Mellier, Université de Franche-Comté, France
Reviewed by:
Philippe Claudon, Université de Lorraine, France
Claire Squires, Université Denis Diderot Paris Département Etudes Psychanalytiques, France
Copyright: © 2013 Dodds. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc.
*Correspondence: Joseph Dodds, University of New York in Prague, Legerova 619/72, Vinohrady, Prague 2 120 00, Czech Republic. e-mail:
Based on a poster presentation first shown at the International Neuropsychoanalysis Congress, Berlin 2011.

Friday, 20 September 2013

New review in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy: What does the environment have to do with psychoanalysis?

Another interesting review of my book has appeared, this time in the journal Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, reviewed by Robert Tollemache, from the Lincoln Clinic and Institute for Psychotherapy. 

Tollemache particularly focuses on the use of complexity theory in the book, including concepts such as self-organisation, criticality, swarm intelligence, emergence, and feedback loops, and offers several illuminating examples from his own clinical practice. Tollemache seems to accept the basic idea developed in the book that complexity theory and nonlinearity provide a useful way to approach the complex dynamics of change in both psychic systems (including the analyst-analysand dyad, dreams, free association, interpretation, transference, addictions, compulsions, manic-depression), social systems (such as social movements) and natural systems (ant swarms, neural networks, ecosystems, and climate change). Thus complexity theory is seen as highly applicable to clinical psychoanalytic practice, as well as helping psychoanalysis make real meaningful connections with other fields, (essential in the face of climate change).

This is an area I personally think is crucial and hasn't always been understood or picked up on in previous reviews, which have mostly (and understandably) focused on the more straightforwardly psychoanalytic elements, as as eco-anxiety and defence mechanisms. 

In his review Tollemache writes that:

"Dodds shows us the interconnectedness between the ecology of mind, the ecology of society and the ecology of nature; each, worlds of infinite complexity, and locates psychoanalysis as part of a mind–society–nature continuum... He shows that complexity theory both illuminates psychoanalysis and helps to understand the crisis of man-made climate change… These ways of understanding the world are potentially revolutionary... Dodds’ enthusiasm for them is infectious, which encourages the reader to get to grips with this complicated but essential way of thinking."
     - Robert Tollemache (2013) What does the environment have to do with psychoanalysis? Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy. Review of Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos by Joseph Dodds. 2013 Vol.27, No.2, 187–190

See the updated reviews section of this blog. 

Friday, 16 August 2013

Climate Change, Violence, and Social Disorder and Collapse (Dodds 2013)

As summer comes to an end and the heat and floods in Europe this summer subside, it may be a good time to consider an other aspect of psychology and climate change.

Mostly here on this blog we've looked at the psychological causes of climate change, the psycho-philosophical-aesthetic dimensions of the human-nature relation, the psycho-social barriers to action, and the traumatic consequences of major ecological disasters for those immediately affected. Some new studies ask us to add another piece to the puzzle, by looking at the link between climate change and increases in social violence and conflict, from the collapse of Chinese dynasties,  to increases in civil conflicts in the tropics, and rises in rapes, murders and assaults in American cities.

This work dovetails well with Jared Diamond's look at the link between climate change, environmental damage, a the collapse of civilizations, and clearly points to a link between ecological changes and human psychological and social dynamics, that includes but goes beyond conflicts over depleted resources. We also have to consider how closely our psychological states are tied to ecological mesh that we are embedded within. Another important study in this area is Smith and Vivekananda's (2007) 'A Climate of Conflict: The Links Between Climate Change, Peace, and War'. See also the accompanying video.

More recently, in Civil conflicts are associated with the global climate (Hsiang, Meng, Cane 2011) and more Quantifying the Influence of Climate on Human Conflict (Hsiang, Burke, and Miguel 2013) researchers have begun to explore in some detail the correlation between climate change and violent conflict.

In the latest article, Hsiang, Burke and Miguel write that:
A rapidly growing body of research examines whether human conflict can be affected by climatic changes. Drawing from archaeology, criminology, economics, geography, history, political science, and psychology, we assemble and analyze the 60 most rigorous quantitative studies and document, for the first time, a remarkable convergence of results. We find strong causal evidence linking climatic events to human conflict across a range of spatial and temporal scales and across all major regions of the world. The magnitude of climate's influence is substantial: for each 1 standard deviation (1σ) change in climate toward warmer temperatures or more extreme rainfall, median estimates indicate that the frequency of interpersonal violence rises 4% and the frequency of intergroup conflict rises 14%. Because locations throughout the inhabited world are expected to warm 2 to 4σ by 2050, amplified rates of human conflict could represent a large and critical impact of anthropogenic climate change.
For a useful review of this evidence, see Climate Change and Violence by Ed Yong. I include this below. What does this mean for our work on the psychoanalysis of climate change? It means, we need to move beyond, or rather add to, our models of the psychology of climate denial, eco-anxiety, etc. in understanding our inaction around the issue of climate chance, to add complex psycho-social responses and how these then feedback to our existing work. It is important for us to start identifying a whole range of mediating factors in human psychology, emotional dynamics, and unconscious forces at work here. Climate psychology just got a whole level more complex.

Climate Change and Violence

An analysis of 60 studies finds that warmer temperatures and extreme rainfall lead to a rise in violence.
By | August 1, 2013
In the coming decades, the world’s changing climate could herald a rise in violence at every scale—from individuals to nations, from assault to war—according to a comprehensive new analysis of the link between climate and conflict.  
Analyzing data from 60 earlier studies, Solomon Hsiang from the University of California, Berkeley, found that warmer temperatures and extremes in rainfall can substantially increase the risk of many types of conflict. For every standard deviation of change, levels of interpersonal violence, such as domestic violence or rape, rise by some 4 percent, while the frequency of intergroup conflict, from riots to civil wars, rise by 14 percent. Global temperatures are expected to rise by at least two standard deviations by 2050, with even bigger increases in the tropics. “The paper is remarkably strong,” said Thomas Homer-Dixon, an environmental and political scientist at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, who was not involved in the study. “[It means] the world will be a very violent place by mid-century if climate change continues as projected.”
Hsiang, together with UC Berkeley colleagues Marshall Burke and Edward Miguel, focused only on studies that provided the strongest evidence for a causal connection. “The ideal thing would be to take two identical Earths, heat one up and watch how conflict evolves,” said Hsiang dryly. “We can’t do that, so we looked for these natural experiments.”
The researchers ignored any studies that compared levels of conflict between different countries, which also differ in their history, culture, and politics. Instead, they focused on data that revealed how violence rises and falls in a single place as climate changes.
For example, crime statistics in the United States reveal that the number of rapes, murders, or assaults increases on a hot day. Civil conflicts in the tropics become twice as frequent during the hot and dry years caused by El Niño events. Farmers in Brazil are more likely to invade each other’s land if they have a particularly wet or dry year. And Chinese dynasties all collapsed during long dry periods.
The team analyzed these studies and more using a common statistical framework to control for any biases on the part of the individual authors. Together, the data sets stretch back to 10,000 BC, and cover all major world regions. They represent the collective efforts of more than 190 researchers working across varied disciplines, from psychologists looking at the effects of temperature on aggressive behavior to archaeologists studying levels of violence in the ancient civilizations.
Despite this diversity, “we were shocked at how well the results from all these fields lined up,” said Hsiang. “Given how some people had been talking, we thought they’d be all over the map,” but the data consistently showed that temperature and rainfall affect violence, across locations, times and disciplines.
“This is a contested area and the convergence of results in this meta-analysis represents a significant step forward,” said Neil Adger, an environmental geographer at the University of Exeter, who was not involved in the study. He notes that responses to climate change, such as “widespread growing of biofuels or displacing populations to build dams” could exacerbate any increased propensity for conflict. “The impacts of climate change will factor large in the future, especially if the world is already fractured and unequal,” he said.
David Zhang, a geographer from the University of Hong Kong who was not involved in the study, said the results were robust and important. However, he noted that most of the data sets cover the last century, and the effects of climate on conflict, may have differed across centuries of human history. Hsiang acknowledges this gap, but said that a few century-spanning data sets have found similar trends.
“Another obvious criticism is that older societies may not be a good analogue for modern ones,” Hsiang added. For example, technological advances might help us to adapt to changing climate more effectively than past generations.
Hsiang also emphasized that climate is just one of many factors that influence the frequency of conflict, and that his study does not address why such a link between conflict and climate exists. Shifts in climate could change the availability of important resources like water or crops, leading to failing economies, weaker governments, and more incentives to fight or rebel. They could also lead to mass migration, rapid urbanization, or growing inequalities.
“We now want to understand what the underlying mechanisms are,” said Hsiang. “If we understand them, we could come up with policies that could decouple climate and conflict, which might help society to adapt. That’s a good reason to push the research ahead.”
S. M. Hsiang et al., “Quantifying the influence of climate on human conflict,” Science, tbc, 2013.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Struggling with the reality-principle: Why carbon footprint feedback can backfire, and how psychoanalysis can help (Dodds 2013)

by Joseph Dodds, March 2013

Carbon footprint feedback can be counterproductive, and make people more hostile to environmental issues, due to perceived challenges to their sense of identity (see BPS: Ecological footprint feedback can make people some people less green, British Psychological Society, Research Digest, Jarrett 2011). Amara Brook (2011) found that for students for whom the environment was not important for the sense of self-esteem, receiving negative feedback on their ecological footprint made tham actually less sympathetic to green causes.
'Ecological and carbon footprints are in widespread use, but the present study suggests that they may fail to promote or even reduce sustainable behaviour for some people,' Brook wrote. 'Understanding how to modify footprint feedback to more effectively motivate sustainable behaviour is urgently needed.'
Brook suggests several possible consequences of this finding. Firstly, one possibility is that 'the ecological footprint should be targeted to people who are already invested in environmentalism...and should be used with caution, if at all, with the broader population.' Obviously this move would greatly limit the effectiveness of carbon footprint feedback for doing more than help those already highly motivated to target their efforts most effectively. The alternative would be to find ways round the deadlock.

This is precisely where psychoanalysis and psychotherapy have something important to offer. The research findings of Brook suggest the operation of defence mechanisms employed to deal with emotional threats to self identity. From a clinical point of view, what seems to be needed is a safe containing space to 'hold' and work through the complex feelings that arise, including guilt, fear, shame, anger, loss, regret, etc., in a non-persecutory atmosphere of trust.

Psychoanalysis can help by moving beyond a purely data-driven approach to environmental problems by acknowledging the powerful role of emotions, our sense of self, and the unconscious in determining our actions (see Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos, Dodds 2011). Psychoanalytic psychotherapist Rosemary Randall discusses the carbon conversation project, a series of six meetings in which participants address climate change in a way which seeks to both engage with the reality principle through the carbon footprint task, but also employ methods and ideas derived from group therapy methods to give space to reflecting on values, emotions, lifestyle and identity as well as the basic facts of emissions. These can include our emotional investments in consumer products (such as particular cars) whose potential loss may threaten our sense of who we are.  
Randall discusses how psychology and emotions drive behariour change in this video. Results show this approach is not only more psychologically sensitive, but more importantly as far as the planet is concerned, that it also works. A typical participant makes an immediate saving of a tonne of CO2 a year and develops plans to reduce emissions by 50% in 2–5 years. For a breakdown of carbon footprint per country and per capita, see the image below. 

Randall has been at the forefront of psychoanalytic approaches to climate change, including her groundbreaking papers: A New Climate for Psychotherapy (Randall 2005) and Loss and Climate Change: The Cost of Parallel Narratives (Randall 2009). She is also active in the Steering Group of the Climate Psychology Alliance and contributed to the recent book Engaging With Climate Change: psychoanalytic and interdisciplinary perspectives (Weintrobe, ed. 2012)

Brook, A. (2011). Ecological footprint feedback: Motivating or discouraging? Social Influence, 6 (2), 113-128 DOI: 10.1080/15534510.2011.566801


Clark, D. (2009) Carbon Conversations. Knowledge and awareness of climate change isn't enough; people need to be engaged on a emotional level. Guardian, July 13 2009

Dodds, J. (2011) Psychoanalysis and Ecology at the Edge of Chaos: Complexity theory, Deleuze|Guattari, and psychoanalysis for a climate in crisis. Routledge

Jarrett, C. (2011) Ecological footprint feedback can make some people less green. BPS Research Digest. 3 May 2011.  

Kerr, M. (2012) Rosemary Randall: Carbon Conversations

Randall, R. (2005) A New Climate for Psychotherapy Psychotherapy and Politics International, Issue 3:3, September 2005

Randall, R. (2009) Loss and Climate Change: The Cost of Parallel Narratives. Ecopsychology. September 2009, DOI: 10.1089/eco.2009.0034

Weintrobe, S. (ed.) (2012) Engaging with climate change: psychoanalytic and interdisciplinary perspectives. London: Routledge.