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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 09:18 AM
Original message
The Waking Up Syndrome
Here are excerpts from a wonderful article on our psychological responses to the converging crisis of modern civilization. It's reminiscent of Kubler-Ross, but much better tailored to the current situation. Where are you on this spectrum?

The Waking Up Syndrome

(W)ere deluged of late with dire pronouncements from high-profile newscasts, documentaries, and scientific reports about global warming, melting ice caps, dwindling oil supplies, and a looming imminent economic collapse. Closer to home, weve experienced climate-related disasters: floods, wildfires, hurricanes, wildfires, and severe droughts.

Few of us are eager to contemplate, let alone truly face, these looming changes. Just the threat of losing chunks of the comfortable way of life were accustomed to (or aspiring to) is a frightening-enough prospect. But theres no avoiding the current facts and trends of the human and planetary situation. And as the edges of our familiar reality begin to ravel, more and more people are reacting psychologically. A noticeable pattern of behavior is emerging.

We call this pattern the Waking Up Syndrome, and it unfolds in six stages, though not necessarily in any particular order.

Stage 1 - Denial.
When we first get an inkling of the shifting environmental reality and its potential impact on both the national economy and our daily lives, most people begin by denying it. We slip into one of four common ways to discount things wed rather not deal with: (...)

Stage 2 - Semi-consciousness.
In spite of the various ways we may try to discount whats happening to our environment (and consequently to our economy and whole way of life), as evidence mounts around us and the news coverage escalates, we may begin to feel a vague sense of eco-anxiety. Some express this as virulent anger at all this discussion about global warming. Others dissociate from their growing concern and misdirect their feelings toward other things in their lives, perhaps blaming family members or jobs for their undefined discomfort.

Stage 3 - The moment of realization.
At some point we may encounter something that breaks through our defenses and brings the inevitability and severity of the implications of our collective problems into full consciousness. We might read a particularly compelling article, learn more about the aftermath of Katrina, hear a news broadcast about polar bear deaths or rampant fires and flooding, see a documentary like An Inconvenient Truth or The End of Suburbia. Or most dramatically we might experience a natural disaster ourselves with all its personal and economic costs.

Stage 4 - A Point of No Return.
Once awakened, especially as economic and environmental changes intensify, most of us find there is no turning back. We find ourselves traveling deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole. Whatever methods weve used to avoid facing the coming changes is no longer successful to quell our personal concerns. We can no longer help but notice the continuing rapid progress of the bad trends more expensive energy, higher costs of living, a weaker economy, more species in trouble, rising temperatures, more devastating severe weather events, increasing political, economic and military competition (wars) over remaining resources, etc. It all starts to make a dreadful sort of sense as we let in the enormity of the situation.

Stage 5 - Despair, guilt, hopelessness, powerlessness.
The realization sets in that one person or even one group or community cant stop the effects of such things as climate change and peak oil and their economic consequences from impacting millions of people around the planet and at home. We see this thing spiraling out of control and realize that our species, and even we individually, are responsible for much of whats happening! As the mayor of Memphis said to the Los Angeles Times when a major heat-wave hit his city and most of the Midwest and South last summer, This is pretty akin to a seismic event in the sense that there is no solution that we here in this room can come up with that will take care of everybody.

Stage 6 - Acceptance, empowerment, action.
As we come to accept the limits of our general powerlessness, we also find the parameters of the power we do have in this strange new situation. We discover we no longer need to resist our current and emerging reality. We dont need to feel compelled to save the entire world or to hold onto a world that no longer makes sense. We are freed, instead, to pursue what James Kunstler calls the intelligent response, seeking and taking whatever creative, constructive action will best sustain those aspects of life that are truly most important to us in the context of the changes unfolding around us. At this point our curiosity and creativity kick in and we can begin following our natural instincts to find what is both feasible and rewarding to safeguard ourselves, our families, our communities and the planet.

The whole article is very much worth reading: at once sobering and empowering, it speaks to the transformation of consciousness we are all experiencing in the face of this crisis (whether we have realized it yet or not).
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FedUpWithIt All Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 09:55 AM
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1. We just purchased 50 acres and our intention is to build a natural home from cob and strawbale.
We are in stage 6.

As of yesterday, we are land owners.

We have a water source, natural building stone, wood for heat, elevation, great soil and easy access to society. We have a plan for the next three years that includes livestock (enough for our family and perhaps a few eggs to sell), establishing a fruit/nut orchard, homemade alternative power (with emphasis on seriously cutting usage), a built home and a stocked lake.

We are taking a gigantic leap away from the traditional societal current. We are in essence, "moving backward". Our families are supportive but stunned. We are in a sort of dreamlike mode ourselves. We are about to jump and we are trusting that the parachute, which we worked on carefully preparing for the past few years, opens. We have been quietly learning and preparing for many years. Nearly all of our purchases over the past 5 years have been made with the question of, "How will this fit into our simpler, future life?"

We accept that harder times may be coming. We intend to try and live the remainder of our lives (however long this might be) responsibly, ethically, simply and contentedly. Things will progress as they will.

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villager Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 10:22 AM
Response to Reply #1
3. I wish I could be that far along in Step 6!
Growing some food here in my backyard in the big (western, drought-y) city -- and not that I wasn't awakened awhile back (a play I wrote on global warming, back in the 80's, seemed hopelessly far out to people then, even the couple times it was produced...)

right now, it's a kind of triage here in the city - teaching, writing, but mostly staying close at hand for my boys, who divide their time between me and their mother...

Good article, though, GliderGuider! Thanks for posting....
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glitch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 10:19 AM
Response to Original message
2. An important part of Stage 6: Offer what you've learned in to your local community.
Otherwise you could end up a typical, albeit groovier, survivalist.

Community is also a good way to extend your own knowledge. I think the community part is so important it could have its own number. See my sig.

Stage 6 here, although on dark days I slip back into 5. It's a process.
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pscot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 01:09 PM
Response to Original message
4. Some people seem to be able to hold onto denial
Edited on Sat Aug-08-09 01:10 PM by pscot
well into stage 4. The cognitive dissonance exacts a psychlogical toll, and their arguments in denial become angrier and more vehement. Half the population is probably incapable of processing the information, and will have to be hit between the eyes by events to bring it home. The level of ambient rage and anxiety in the general public is going to go way up. I'm afraid things may get really ugly.
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villager Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 03:21 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. and then they will blame the folks -- they already are -- who talked about the changes/collapses
*before* they became obvious -- blaming the "witches," essentially, for bad harvests, etc...
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Fotoware58 Donating Member (473 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 04:16 PM
Response to Original message
6. Many applications
This article applies so very well to our ongoing forest disaster, as well. A huge majority of people in Stage 1 deny there's any problem at all, saying "Fire is a natural and integral part of our forest environment". However, they do not see the gory details and damages that today's fires do to our forest environment and atmosphere. There are also plenty of people in Stage 2, where they believe that other factors are solely responsible for the millions of acres of dead and/or burned forests, without really knowing the science behind the mortality. Stage 3 happens when they watch the flames on the TV and watch in horror as people's houses and lives go up in flames but, they often blame the homeowners for living in forests. In Stage 4, people look at the massive acreages of destroyed forests and despair, wishing we had done "something" in the past to stop or slow down the death of our forests. Many rural forest folk are in Stage 5, powerless to save their communities and wondering why the government has abandoned them in the face of this huge forest emergency rolling at them in slow motion. Very, very few people are in Stage 6, regarding forests, because of the nearly universal resistance to meaningful forest restoration.

I waver between Stage 5 and Stage 6, wondering how many deaths and how many million acres it will take before we notice that some forests aren't coming back.
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OKIsItJustMe Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 06:03 PM
Response to Original message
7. See Also
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joshcryer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-09-09 04:31 AM
Response to Original message
8. The stages of grief are generally for something that has already occured.
Not something that may or may not occur depending on how you look at things. Generally this postion in the OP is absolutist and insulting to those with enough intelligence to know that the end is not near by a long shot, and that indeed, we can always fix our problems.
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GliderGuider Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-09-09 09:06 AM
Response to Reply #8
9. People who have been diagnosed with cancer, and those who love them, often grieve well before death
After all, even a diagnosis of terminal cancer isn't an automatic invitation to give up. However, continuing the fight doesn't mean we can't also arrive at an acceptance of the situation at the same time. Arriving at acceptance can lead to amazing spiritual growth and generate acts of compassion, connection and community - some of which may even contribute to healing.

Your responses have all the hallmarks of someone who is stuck in Stage 2: "In spite of the various ways we may try to discount whats happening to our environment (and consequently to our economy and whole way of life), as evidence mounts around us and the news coverage escalates, we may begin to feel a vague sense of eco-anxiety. Some express this as virulent anger at all this discussion about global warming. Others dissociate from their growing concern and misdirect their feelings toward other things in their lives, perhaps blaming family members or jobs for their undefined discomfort.

There's a surprising amount of peace and courage to be found in coming to terms with the fact that there's no guarantee "we can always fix our problems."
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joshcryer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-10-09 02:14 AM
Response to Reply #9
10. What about my post is "discounting what's happening"?
I could've swore my post explicitly suggests that we account for, and remedy, what is happening. The key word here is 'remedy.' The OP says it's "not remediable."

Indeed, your cancer analogy is apt, because my perspective is to not give up as the OP wants us to do. "Acceptance" being the "finality," of the stages of grief.

We can fix our problems as long as no external catastrophe befalls humanity (unlikely events like ELIE meteroid impacts). This perspective is akin to someone with a highly curable form of cancer preferring to utilize holistic psudeo-medicine rather than science based treatments.

We are insignicant on the scale of planetary existance, it is our naivity and feeling of superiority that makes us think we actually matter one iota. The question of environmental destruction is not an ecological one, but rather social for the continuation of our species.

We're not going anywhere.
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