indigenous wisdom – Kindred Media https://www.kindredmedia.org Sharing the New Story of Childhood, Parenthood, and the Human Family Sat, 19 Sep 2020 16:20:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.1.6 https://www.kindredmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/cropped-Kindred-Black-Logo-square-32x32.png indigenous wisdom – Kindred Media https://www.kindredmedia.org 32 32 Natives Foster Happy People Without Overthinking https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/07/natives-foster-happy-people-without-overthinking/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/07/natives-foster-happy-people-without-overthinking/#respond Sun, 26 Jul 2020 17:32:49 +0000 https://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=26045 In 1975, Jean Liedloff shocked Americans with her book, The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost. She reflected on her multiple stays in the Amazon living with the Tauripan, Yequana, and Sanema peoples, who were healthy and happy beyond her imaginings. She was amazed at the differences in child-raising between the US and these “primitive” people. They were […]]]>

In 1975, Jean Liedloff shocked Americans with her book, The Continuum Concept: In Search of Happiness Lost. She reflected on her multiple stays in the Amazon living with the Tauripan, Yequana, and Sanema peoples, who were healthy and happy beyond her imaginings.

She was amazed at the differences in child-raising between the US and these “primitive” people. They were far from primitive but intuitively loving towards their children, raising intelligent and healthy adults.

She suggested that U.S. child-raising practices were undernourishing or even destructive, with the results that U.S. babies were very unpleasant, unwelcome in workplaces and parties:

“They usually shriek and kick, wave their arms and stiffen their bodies, so that one needs two hands, and a lot of attention, to keep them under control.” (p. x)

Liedloff noted that it was easy to tell the difference between babies who were physically “in arms” for much of a 24-hour day and those who were not. The former had flexible body tone and the latter “felt like pokers” (p. x).

She advocated taking (well-nurtured) babies to work instead of isolating mothers and children in their homes:

“We need to recognize that, by treating babies the way we did for hundreds of thousands of years, we can be assured of calm, soft, undemanding little creatures. Only then can working mothers, unwilling to be bored and isolated all day with no adult companionship, rid themselves of their cruel conflict. Babies taken to work are where they need to be—with their mothers; and the mothers are where they need to be—with their peers, not doing baby care but something worthy of intelligent adults.” (pp. x-xi)

Babies expect to be embedded in an active living community, not the center of attention but an observer.

The Evolved Nest is a breakthrough concept that integrates findings across fields that bear on child development, child raising and adult behavior.  The Evolved Nest promotes optimal health and wellbeing, cooperation, and receptive and sociomoral intelligences. Societal moves away from providing the Evolved Nest have contributed to the ill being and dysregulation we see in one another and society. Learn how to nest your children and re-nest yourself.

“A baby’s expectation is to be in the midst of an active person’s life, in constant physical contact, witnessing the kinds of experience he will have later in life. His role while in arms is passive, with all his sense observant. He enjoys occasional direct attention, kisses, tickles, being thrown in the air, and so on. But his main business is to absorb the actions, interactions and surroundings of his caretaker, adult or child. This information prepares him to take his place among his people by helping him to understand what they do. To thwart this powerful urge—by looking inquiringly, so to speak, at a baby who is looking inquiringly at you—creates profound frustration; it manacles his mind. The baby’s expectation of a strong, busy, central figure, to whom he can be peripheral, is undermined by an emotionally needy, servile person who is seeking his acceptance or approval. The baby will increasingly signal, but it will not be for more attention. It is actually a demand for the appropriate kind of experience.  Much of his frustration is due to his inability to make his signals (that things are wrong) bring about anything right.” (p. xiv)

Over her multiple visits to the Amazon, Liedloff reflected on what felt right or wrong — for a baby and for herself. For a baby carried virtually 24/7:

“The feeling appropriate to an infant in arms is his feeling of rightness, or essential goodness. The only positive identity he can know, being the animal he is, is based on the premise that he is right, good, and welcome. Without that conviction, a human being of any age is crippled by a lack of confidence, a full sense of self, of spontaneity, of grace. All babies are good, but can know it themselves only by reflection, by the way they are treated … Without the sense of being right, one has no sense of how much one ought to claim of comfort, security, help, companionship, love, friendship, things, pleasure or joy. A person without this sense often feels there is an empty space where he ought to be.” (p. 34)

Liedloff felt that she and her fellow Americans were crippled in this way, having never developed a sense of innate goodness. Instead of finding rightness in herself, she needed outside reassurance that she was worthy, but this could only be superficial.

“Ever more frequently our innate sense of what is best for us is short-circuited by suspicion while the intellect, which has never known much about our real needs, decides what to do. It is not, for example, the province of the reasoning faculty to decide how a baby ought to be treated. We have had exquisitely precise instincts, expert in every detail for child care, since long before we became anything resembling Homo sapiens. But we have conspired to baffle this long-standing knowledge so utterly that we now employ researchers full time to puzzle out how we should behave toward children, one another and ourselves. It is no secret that the experts have not “discovered” how to live satisfactorily, but the more they fail, the more they attempt to bring the problems under the sole influence of reason and disallow what reason cannot understand or control.” (pp. 21-22)

We’ve moved so far away from following instinct and shaping intuition about what is good for a baby, for the self, that we create problems we think can be resolved by experimental research. She argues that if we provide babies with what they need, as part of the human species, they will develop health and happiness. She describes how the newborn expects the species’ developmental niche or evolved nest to fulfill basic needs.

“Fresh from the series of expectations and their fulfillment in the womb, the newborn infant is expectant, or, more accurately, certain, that his next requirements will also be met … his place in arms is the expected place, know to his inmost sense as his place, and what he experiences while he is in arms is acceptable to his continuum, fulfills his current needs and contributes correctly to his development.

Again, the quality of his awareness is very different from what it will become. He cannot qualify his impression of how things are. Either they are right or not right. Requirements are strict at this early date. As we have seen, he cannot hope, if he is uncomfortable now, that he will be comfortable later. He cannot feel that “mother will be right back” when she leaves him; the world has suddenly gone wrong. Conditions are intolerable. … nothing in his evolving ancestors’ experience has prepared him to be left alone, asleep or awake, and even less to be left alone to cry.” (pp. 33-34)

The book is still shocking to read because of the contrast to most U.S. babies’ experiences. Recently, neurobiological sciences are providing empirical evidence for some of Liedloff’s insights and the importance of evolved, nested early experience (e.g., Narvaez, Braungart-Rieker, Miller-Graff, Gettler & Hastings, 2016; Narvaez, Pankepp, Schore & Gleason, 2013; Narvaez, Valentino, Fuentes, McKenna & Gray, 2014). In the podcast below, Mary Tarsha and I give it a thumbs up in terms of meeting Evolved Nestcomponents.

References

Find out more about The Evolved Nest, and how to bring home our species’ need for raising nested children to create compassionate adults.

Liedloff, J. (1977). The continuum concept: In search of happiness lost. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books.

Narvaez, D., Braungart-Rieker, J., Miller, L. Gettler, L., & Hastings, P. (Eds.) (2016). Contexts for Young Child Flourishing: Evolution, Family and Society. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Narvaez, D., Panksepp, J., Schore, A., & Gleason, T. (Eds.) (2013). Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development: From Research to Practice and Policy. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Narvaez, D., Valentino, K., Fuentes, A., McKenna, J., & Gray, P. (Eds.) (2014). Ancestral landscapes in human evolution: Culture, childrearing and social wellbeing. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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Ecocentrism: What May Be Needed to Save Our Species https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/07/ecocentrism-what-may-be-needed-to-save-our-species/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/07/ecocentrism-what-may-be-needed-to-save-our-species/#respond Tue, 21 Jul 2020 19:28:08 +0000 https://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=25971 How can we restore our heritages of nested, earth-centered living? The dearth of virtue in (tested Western) populations has been lamented and assumed to be part of the human condition (Doris, 2002; Miller, 2013) but a natural history indicates otherwise. From a planetary perspective, industrialized humans have become highly destructive in comparison to 99% of human genus […]]]>

How can we restore our heritages of nested, earth-centered living?

The dearth of virtue in (tested Western) populations has been lamented and assumed to be part of the human condition (Doris, 2002; Miller, 2013) but a natural history indicates otherwise. From a planetary perspective, industrialized humans have become highly destructive in comparison to 99% of human genus existence.

Discover Darcia Narvaez’s Evolved Nest Initiative’s resources, science and insights into becoming nest humans!

Humanity faces what have been called the four horsemen of the environmental apocalypse (Wilson, 1991), brought about in a matter of centuries: (1) massive toxification of water, air, soil, and food chains (e.g., Diaz et al., 2019); (2) degradation of the atmosphere, such as ozone depletion; (3) global warming (e.g., IPCC, 2014); and (4) the “death of birth”—the extinction of millions of species (Eisner, 1991; Kolbert, 2014). We are entering an unpredictable “hothouse earth” (Steffen et al., 2018).

Why have we reached these crises? One has to take an interdisciplinary approach to figuring out the answers. I recently wrote and published the paper, Ecocentrism: Resetting Baselines for Virtue Development, taking just such an interdisciplinary approach. The paper is a challenge to reset baselines for how we consider virtue and what it entails. Here is a brief summary of some of the main points:

We must understand who humans are, how they become human, and what can go wrong.

First, from ethology, anthropology, biology and neuroscience, we understand that humans are social mammals who are born particularly immature with a lengthy, decades-long maturational schedule. Early life experience shapes brain function in multiple ways, many of which we hardly understand. But we do know that we are more plastic and epigenetically shaped than our cousins the chimpanzees (Gómez-Robles et al., 2015) with early life experience influencing emotional development (Meaney, 2001), stress response (Lupien et al., 2009), and much more.

Second, as one of many inheritances beyond genes, humans evolved an intensive developmental niche for raising the youngThe common characteristics found around the world in small-band hunter-gatherer communities (our 99%), what my lab calls the evolved nest, include soothing perinatal experience, multiple responsive caregivers, extensive breastfeeding and affectionate touch, positive social support, self-directed free play with multi-aged mates in the natural world, and nature connection.

Third, neurosciences show that evolved nest components support normal development at all levels (e.g., neurobiological, social, psychological), laying the foundations for virtue, which depends on well-functioning systems (Narvaez, 2014).

Fourth, nest components are degraded in industrialized societies. Young children are often denied what they evolved to expect (the evolved nest components), which can undermine species-typical development.

Fifth, studies and accounts of societies that provide the nest, particularly nomadic foragers, the type of society in which humanity spent 99% of its genus history, indicate a more virtuous human nature than people in industrialized societies may think is normal or possible. The adults in these communities are generous, calm and cooperative (Ingold, 2005).

Sixth, the human nature that emerges from nest-support displays Darwin’s moral sense: social pleasure, empathy, concern for the opinion of the community, habit control and memory functions allowing comparison of past, present and future.  All these contribute to cooperative behavior, a key aspect of what helped our ancestors survive. But all of these appear to be diminishing in the USA (Narvaez, 2017). 

Seventh, original virtue displayed in our 99% differs from most scholarly writing about virtue. I say:

“Even before the ecological devastation underway, moral theory has often stayed away from discussing very deeply responsibilities to the natural world, perhaps addressing the rights of animals but not much more. Most virtue theories assume hierarchies, with humans (or particular humans) at the top of a pyramid of moral advantages and moral responsibility. But among humans, who evolved to be fiercely egalitarian (Boehm 1999), rigid hierarchy is a recent invention of particular societies, known as civilization, appearing only among some groups in the last 1% of human genus existence.[1] Indeed, civilization and industrialization have had continual battles trying to coerce individuals into abnegating their personal autonomy and submitting to obeying authority (Zerzan 2018).”

[1] Note: Civilizations came and went starting in the last 10,000 years or so. The genus Homo has been around for about 2 million (Fuentes, 2009).

Certainly, virtue is about flourishing—of self and community—but it is also about flourishing in the more than human community, within all circles of life, based in a deep awareness of humanity’s dependence on the rest of nature to survive (Deloria, 2006).

Eighth, the pillars of original virtue include relational attunement (engagement ethic), communal imagination, and respectful partnership with the natural world. All are apparent in human societies that provide the nest to their young, fostering connectedness throughout life. They maintain communal imagination through cultural practices that enhance ecological attachment and receptiveness to the natural world (Narvaez, 2014).

Ecocentric virtue is a human heritage from nested upbringings that enhance our receptivity and connection to the rest of the natural world. People who live in partnership with nature demonstrate capacities to interact respectfully and sustainably with its dynamism (Descola, 2013), even to the extent of living peaceably with predators as first-contact diarists astonishingly noted (e.g., Sale, 1990; Turner, 1994; Spencer, 2018). Much like the traditions of First Nation peoples around the world today, cooperative attitudes towards the natural world maintain the health of the biocommunity.

“The Native American paradigm is comprised of and includes ideas of constant motion and flux, existence consisting of energy waves, interrelationships, all things being animate, space/place, renewal, and all things being imbued with spirit” (Little Bear, 2000, p. x).

What can be done to shift back to our original, ecocentric virtue?

Understanding humanity’s past (and alternative present) is one place to start. All our ancestors, even in Europe, lived in partnership with nature until recent centuries. Deepening our sense of humanity’s existence beyond the writings of civilization can help expand our imaginations for what is possible (Narvaez 2019; Small 2008). Provisioning the evolved nest and building and maintaining nature connection throughout life are places to start.

References

Boehm, C. (1999). Hierarchy in the forest: The evolution of egalitarian behavior. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Descola, P. (2013). Beyond nature and culture (J. Lloyd, trans.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Díaz, S., Settele, J., Brondizio, E., Ngo, H.T., Gueze, M. Agard, J.,…Zayas, C. (2019). IPBES summary for policymakers of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Bonn, Germany: The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Doris, J.M. (2002). Lack of character: Personality and moral behavior. New York, NY: Cambridge.

Eisner, T. (1991). Chemical prospecting: A proposal for action. In  F. H. Bormann & S.R. Kellert (Eds.), Ecology, economics, ethics: The broken circle (pp. 196-204). New Haven: Yale University Press.

Fuentes, A. (2009). Evolution of human behavior. New York: Oxford University Press.

Gómez-Robles, A., Hopkins, W. D., Schapiro, S. J., & Sherwood, C. C. (2015). Relaxed genetic control of cortical organization in human brains compared with chimpanzees. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 12, 14799-14804. doi: 10.1073/ pnas.1512646112

Ingold, T. (2005). On the social relations of the hunter-gatherer band. In R.B. Lee, R.B. & R. Daly (Eds.), The Cambridge encyclopedia of hunters and gatherers (pp. 399-410). New York: Cambridge University Press.

IPCC, 2014: Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (eds.)]. IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland,

Kolbert, E. (2014). The sixth extinction: An unnatural history. New York, NY: Henry Holt.

Little Bear (2000). Foreword. In G. Cajete, Native science (pp. ix-xii). Santa Fe: Clear Light Publishers.

Lupien, S.J., McEwen, B.S., Gunnar, M.R., & Heim, C. (2009). Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behaviour and cognition, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(6), 434-445.

Meaney, M. J. (2001). Maternal care, gene expression, and the transmission of individual differences in stress reactivity across generations. Annual Review of Neuroscience, 24, 1161–1192.

Miller, C.B. (2013). Moral Character: An Empirical Theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Narvaez, D. (2014). Neurobiology and the development of human morality: Evolution, culture and wisdom. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.

Narvaez, D. (2019). In search of baselines: Why psychology needs cognitive archaeology. In T. Henley, M. Rossano & E. Kardas (Eds.), Handbook of cognitive archaeology: A psychological framework (pp. 104-119). London: Routledge.

Narvaez, D. (2017). Are we losing it? Darwin’s moral sense and the importance of early experience. In. R. Joyce (Ed.), Routledge Handbook of Evolution and Philosophy (pp. 322-332). London: Routledge.

Narvaez, D. (2020). Ecocentrism: Resetting baselines for virtue development. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice.

Shepard, P. (1998). Coming Home to the Pleistocene (Shepard, F.R., Ed.). Washington D.C.: Island Press/Shearwater Books.

Small, D.L. (2008). On deep history and the brain. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Steffen, W., Rockström, J., Richardson, K., Lenton, T.M., Folke, C., Liverman, D.,… Schellnhuber, H.J. (2018). Trajectories of the earth system in the Anthropocene,  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115 (33) 8252-8259; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1810141115.

Wilson, E.O. (1991). Biodversity, prosperity, and value. In  F. H. Bormann & S.R. Kellert (Eds.), Ecology, economics, ethics: The broken circle (pp. 3-10). New Haven: Yale University Press.

Zerzan, J. (2018). A people’s history of civilization. Port Townsend, WA: Feral House.

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Sustainable Wisdom: Integrating Indigenous Knowhow For Global Flourishing https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/04/sustainable-wisdom-integrating-indigenous-knowhow-for-global-flourishing/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2020/04/sustainable-wisdom-integrating-indigenous-knowhow-for-global-flourishing/#respond Sun, 26 Apr 2020 17:01:11 +0000 http://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=24604 Editor’s Note: So you did not get to attend the Sustainable Wisdom Conference at Notre Dame in 2016 and experience the mind-expanding and soul-nourishing vision of a world that is possible if we integrate Indigenous Knowhow into our currently failing industrial world? That’s okay, because the entire conference, along with a book of essays from […]]]>

Editor’s Note: So you did not get to attend the Sustainable Wisdom Conference at Notre Dame in 2016 and experience the mind-expanding and soul-nourishing vision of a world that is possible if we integrate Indigenous Knowhow into our currently failing industrial world? That’s okay, because the entire conference, along with a book of essays from its presenters, and an overview of the event, are available to you now.

Indigenous Sustainable Wisdom: First-Nation Know-How for Global Flourishing: Edited by Darcia Narvaez, PhD

The Sustainable Wisdom Conference brought together an interdisciplinary set of scholars and artists ready to integrate first-nation and mainstream contemporary understandings to move toward a flourishing planet. The speakers were selected for their specialty areas which range from science, history, education, psychology, and anthropology. The purpose of the conference and accompanying books is to bring to a wider audience an awareness of “first ways,” what we know about their effects on flourishing and how to integrate them into modern life for global flourishing. The conference was hosted by the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi and was held at the University of Notre Dame.

The Sustainable Wisdom Conference’s presentations are listed here in a YouTube Playlist on the Evolved Nest’s channel. You can watch Kindred’s Contributing Editor and conference organizer, Darcia Narvaez, open the conference in the first video and then present her work on creating sustainable humans through the Evolved Nest at the conference in the videos below:


Welcome: Two World Views

The Indigenous Worldview: Original Practices for Becoming and Being Human


About the Conference

A conference held at the University of Notre Dame, September 11-15, 2016 that brought together an interdisciplinary set of scholars and artists ready to integrate first-nation and mainstream contemporary understandings to move toward a flourishing planet.

Organizer Darcia Narvaez wrote: We take Paul Shepard’s words as a guide:

Learn how to nest your children and re-nest yourself.

A journey to our primal world may bring answers to our ecological dilemmas…White European/Americans cannot become Hopis or Kalahari Bushmen or Magdalenian bison hunters, but elements in those cultures can be recovered or re-created because they fit the heritage and predilection of the human genome everywhere, a genome tracing back to a common ancestor that Anglos share with Hopis and Bushmen and all the rest of Homo sapiens. The social, ecological, and ideological characteristics natural to our humanity are to be found in the lives of foragers.

Must we build a new twenty-first-century society corresponding to a hunting/gathering culture? Of course not; humans do not consciously make cultures. What we can do is single out those many things, large and small, that characterized the social and cultural life of our ancestors—the terms under which our genome itself was shaped—and incorporate them as best we can by creating a modern life around them. We take our cues from primal cultures, the best wisdom of the deep desires of the genome. We humans are instinctive culture makers; given the pieces, the culture will reshape itself. (Coming Home to the Pleistocene)

How can we integrate the best of modern technology and capacities with the wisdom of first nations? The conference looked deeply into the mindsets, practices and wisdom of first nation peoples across multiple disciplines. The goals of the conference were to (a) Increase understanding of “first” ways; (b) Describe how indigenous cultures foster wisdom, morality and flourishing; (c) Find commonalities among different indigenous societies in fostering these outcomes; (d) Develop synergistic approaches to shifting human imagination towards “first ways.” We expected that the conference would help us envision ways to move toward integrating helpful modern advances with first ways into a new encompassing viewpoint where the greater community of life (diverse human and nonhuman entities) are included in conceptions of wellbeing and practices that lead to flourishing.

In the conference, we brought together an interdisciplinary set of scholars to consider indigenous wisdom from multiple disciplines and to integrate this wisdom with modern knowhow. The speakers were selected for their specialty areas which range from science, history, education, psychology, and anthropology. The purpose of the conference and accompanying books was to bring to a wider audience an awareness of “first ways,” what we know about their effects on flourishing and how to integrate them into modern life for global flourishing.

WATCH THE CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS


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We Are in a Climate Emergency—How Can Psychology Help? https://www.kindredmedia.org/2019/12/we-are-in-a-climate-emergency-how-can-psychology-help/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2019/12/we-are-in-a-climate-emergency-how-can-psychology-help/#respond Sun, 15 Dec 2019 23:49:50 +0000 http://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=23477 Can psychology address the deeper psychological causes? Reports of the planetary effects of global warming are increasing by the week (e.g., arctic warming, ocean oxygen depletion, glaciers melting). Indeed, climate scientists are grieving as the glaciers or animals they have studied disappear. How should psychology be responding? Few psychologists discuss the psychological causes of the climate emergency and sixth mass extinction humanity […]]]>

Can psychology address the deeper psychological causes?

Reports of the planetary effects of global warming are increasing by the week (e.g., arctic warmingocean oxygen depletion, glaciers melting). Indeed, climate scientists are grieving as the glaciers or animals they have studied disappear.

How should psychology be responding?

Few psychologists discuss the psychological causes of the climate emergency and sixth mass extinction humanity is causing (Kolbert, 2014). However, a few researchers do, such as Fisher (2013) and Koger and Winter (2010).” Psychologists that bring up the ecological devastation underway typically focus on adjusting to the inevitable (Buzzell & Chalquist, 2009). Why only a marginal response?

Psychology attempts to resemble a hard science with objectivity and a value-free orientation. But this is self-deceptive. Like most Western-rooted scholarship, psychology is dominated by cultural values, many of which turn out to be rare among human societies throughout history.

Author and educator C.A. (Chet) Bowers described how several root metaphors act like a straitjacket on thought and action. Other scholars (e.g., David Kidner, Caroline Merchant, Val Plumwood, Marshall Sahlins, Frederick Turner) also have pointed to the strange ideas (from the perspective of nonindustrialized societies) that emerged mostly from Western thought. The ideas don’t actually match up with the experiences of those in other societies, but are said to drive the environmental destruction that has been underway for several centuries from the “advance of civilization”:

  • individualism
  • self-interest
  • linear progress of human civilization
  • dualism (split of mind/body, human/nature)
  • centrality and superiority of human beings
  • positivism (the need for an experiment to know anything)
  • belief in an insensate natural world

Look at how civilization defines itself in comparison to what it really does.

Urban Scout (a.k.a. Peter Michael Bauer) points out the dictionary definition of civilization:

An advanced state of intellectual, cultural and material development, marked by progress in the arts and sciences, the extensive use of record-keeping, including writing, and the appearance of complex political and social institutions (American Heritage Dictionary)

Then Urban Scout gives his own definition based on actual effects (that have led to the current crises and with which many of the aforementioned scholars agree):

A catastrophe created when a human culture practices full-time agriculture, causing their populations to spiral into a cycle of exponential growth, social hierarchy, soil depletion, and genocidal expansion that leads to an eventual collapse of ecosystems, biological diversity, and culture (Rewild or Die, p. 37)

We are facing these catastrophes on a planetary scale today.

Should psychology only help us adjust, as it has sought to do in the face of the harshness of industrialized life (deeply criticized by some, e.g., Kidner, 2003)? Or should it broaden its lens and advance our scope of understanding of how we got to this point? Should psychology instead be addressing our human nature holistically—how it comes about, how it is damaged or optimized, and how our culture shapes our perception and attention to the rest of the world?

Our cultures shape our minds and assumptions about the world. We are governed by the root metaphors of civilization.

We’ve been told that civilization, especially Western civilization, is progress. This is clearly not true from a planetary life perspective.

We have been told that humanity’s past was brutish, nasty, and short. But anthropological and archeological evidence say otherwise (Fry, 2006; Eisler & Fry, 2019).

Because of the dominating root metaphors, much of Western scholarship has had its head in the sand regarding the climate emergency. Psychology is no different.

To face the emergency means to address the deeper psychological causes, such as reversing a psychological sense of:

  • Separation from nature
  • Superiority to nature
  • Nature as insentient

Instead, humanity’s future may depend on returning to the indigenous wisdom of our ancestors, understanding that:

  • Humanity is part of Nature and dependent on it.
  • Humans know some things but need to honor and support the lives and ecosystems in Nature outside of humanity.
  • Nature is not full of objects but of agentic life.

Living with the Earth and Earth systems in mind may be key to humanity’s survival.

In the next post, I will discuss what psychological science has discovered about human inaction toward the environmental crises (Koger & Winter, 2010).

References

Buzzell, L., & Chalquist, C. (Eds.) (2009). Ecotherapy: Healing with nature in mind. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.

Eisler, R., & Fry, D.P. (2019). Nurturing our humanity. New York: Oxford University Press.

Fisher, A. (2013). Radical ecopsychology: Psychology in the service of life, 2nd ed. New York: SUNY.

Fry, D. P. (2006). The human potential for peace: An anthropological challenge to assumptions about war and violence. New York: Oxford University Press.

Kidner, D. W. (2001). Nature and psyche: Radical environmentalism and the politics of subjectivity. Albany: State University of New York.

Koger, S.M., & Winter, D.D.N. (2010). The psychology of environmental problems, 3rd ed. New York: Psychology Press.

Kolbert, E. (2014). The sixth extinction: An unnatural history. New York, NY: Henry Holt.

Merchant, C. (1983). The death of nature: Women, ecology and the scientific revolution. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Merchant, C. (2003). Reinventing Eden: The fate of nature in Western culture. New York, NY: Routledge.

Plumwood, V. (2002). Environmental culture: The ecological crisis of reason. London, England: Routledge.

Sahlins, Marshall. The Western Illusion of Human Nature: With Reflections on the Long History of Hierarchy, Equality and the Sublimation of Anarchy in the West, and Comparative Notes on Other Conceptions of the Human Condition. Chicago: Prickly Pear Paradigm Press, 2008.

Scout, U. (2016). Rewild or die: Revolution and renaissance at the end of civilization. Myth Media.

Turner, F. (1994). Beyond geography: The Western spirit against the wilderness. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

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10 Indigenous Holistic Healing Practices https://www.kindredmedia.org/2019/02/10-indigenous-holistic-healing-practices/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2019/02/10-indigenous-holistic-healing-practices/#respond Sun, 24 Feb 2019 20:20:16 +0000 http://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=22290 What can Western psychotherapy learn from aboriginal practices? Rupert Ross, retired Canadian Crown attorney who worked with hundreds of first-nation communities, has done a great service to healers everywhere. He describes the holistic traditions that heal instead of punishing, that connect instead of maintaining disconnection, that regenerate trust instead of allowing distrust to fester. In […]]]>

What can Western psychotherapy learn from aboriginal practices?

Rupert Ross, retired Canadian Crown attorney who worked with hundreds of first-nation communities, has done a great service to healers everywhere. He describes the holistic traditions that heal instead of punishing, that connect instead of maintaining disconnection, that regenerate trust instead of allowing distrust to fester.

In his three books, Indigenous Healing, Returning to the Teachings, and Dancing with a Ghost, Ross depicts his own journey learning why the Canadian (and Western generally) justice system does not heal but makes things worse within native communities. I’ve described some of his work previously here and here.

Follow The Evolved Nest for updates on Darcia’s work as well as new podcast releases!

Ross first gives the backdrop of the massive intergenerational damage caused by the cultural genocide practices that native peoples faced with the invasion of the Western Europeans, including the intentional kidnapping of children from native families to assimilate them to the dominant culture as late as the 1980s (e.g., the Sixties Scoop).

Generations of native peoples have been mistreated and still are told that their ways are worthless, backward and even evil. For hundreds of years, governments and churches did all they could to ‘remove the Indian’ from the person to ‘save their soul,’ ‘make them a real citizen’ or even ‘make them human.’

As a result of mistreatment in residential schools away from their families and traditions, many natives were traumatized through abuse and other forms of mistreatment. They lost their traditional languages and cultures but were never accepted into mainstream culture either.

The pain and trauma caused have bubbled into epidemics of violence, domestic and sexual abuse, drug and alcohol abuse and suicide in native communities.

Over years of working with aboriginal communities, Ross realized that carting offenders off to jails does not help—it does not heal the underlying trauma.

Ross reviews several native or aboriginal approaches to healing that do work:

Summary of Practices

Ross summarizes the characteristics of these programs that make them successful. As you read through the brief descriptions, notice how they are contrary to dominant (Western European) thinking that assumes as baselines for normality individualism, innate badness, a hierarchy of value of people (some more valuable than others), emphasis on verbal communication, and human separation from nature.

I briefly mention a few aspects of each practice.

1. Focus on Spirit

Aboriginal communities emphasize connecting to forces larger than the self, often not visible but felt, as part of healing.  “Within aboriginal thinking, we are all sacred beings, sharing an identical spirit with all other aspects of Creation. With hard work we can manifest that spirit to greater degrees, building stronger, more respectful relationships. It is a strength-based vision that emphasizes the spiritual gifts and responsibilities we were given, and our duty to honor both.” (p. 228)

He contrasts this approach with “Western therapy,” which he considers based on weakness—focusing on what is wrong with a person and a continual fear of failing. Western therapy also emphasizes the mind, not the heart or spirit, making it ‘not worth very much’ in the opinion of an aboriginal healer Ross quotes.

2. Definition of a Healthy Person

Health involves establishing good relationships with everything in nature, accommodating with openness, humility, and respect. He quotes one therapist saying that within the aboriginal world “power and status are measured not by the individual’s mastery of the environment but by his ability to calmly acquiesce and adjust to a shifting world. Dependency may be viewed as a sign of relatedness and acknowledgment of the importance of others from whom one draws self-worth. The value of the person lies not in his uniqueness or separateness but in his relatedness to a larger social entity.” (p. 213)

“Western therapies promoting individual self-definition, self-assertion and self-promotion will feel improper to aboriginal people” (p. 230).  Instead, the aboriginal client feels that a person is
“the sum of all their relationships within Creation, whether with other people, birds, animals, trees, rocks or rivers.”  (p. 229) A healthy person understands his nestedness, interconnectedness and interdependence, and the responsibilities he has to fulfill to the Whole. Whereas Western psychology perceives a set of “autonomous rights against all other life forms,” aboriginal people perceive “life as an interconnected bundle of responsibilities” (p. 231)

He quotes native psychotherapist Dr. Joseph Couture saying: “Native mind is, therefore, a mind-in-relational activity, a mind-in-community” (p. 232)

Winner of the William James Book Award from the American Psychological Association in 2015

3. Group Healing

Instead of a therapist meeting one-on-one with a client, aboriginal healing practices are group practices. In the therapies mentioned above, people sit in a circle as equals with others suffering from the same abuse or abuse of others. People share personal stories as they will, passing the ‘talking stick’ around the circle. The process of sharing and being listened to, of listening to the unique journeys of recovery promotes healing and self-confidence. When offenders, who often do not realize the harm they have done, sit in a circle of those harmed by other offenders, they begin to let themselves start to understand and feel the suffering they have caused.

4. Individual Health Is Grounded in Social Healing

Aboriginal communities have been damaged as a whole and so it is vital that they recognize group trauma. Also, the community must participate in the healing of relations, providing a bedrock for recovery. Every person’s healing is socially situated, in the nest of relationships and responsibilities mentioned previously.

5. Restoring the Emotional

One’s emotions are central to being human and for tuning into spiritual and relational responsibilities. Lee Brown describes “the heart” as the root of the mind. Healing comes through “heart learning,” and having a pure heart is central to living properly, relationally connected and tuned to spirit.

6. Ceremonies and Catharsis

For the aboriginal communities, there are many traditional ways for releasing emotion and for healing (e.g., sweat lodge) developed over thousands of years. These are complex ceremonies that take many years to learn through experience and mentoring in the native language.

7. Aboriginal Healers

Ross admits his ethnocentric reaction when he first encountered Aboriginal elders who talked about their own lives and choices—he thought they were egocentric because they did not offer an “objective” opinion. But in aboriginal thinking, only an immature person would think he could understand the situation of others and tell them what they should do. Additionally, healing is primarily nonhierarchical though healers who are familiar with the local history, culture and ceremonies and who can bring those to bear in the healing circles.

8. Respect for Everyone’s Worth

Aboriginal communities separate the person from her acts. There is no diagnosing or labeling of people (e.g., alcoholic, offender, freak). Each person is considered “born into sacredness, goodness and kindness” (p. 253), with “the potential to be strong creators of harmony in our relations with all of Creation, though few of us will ever achieve anything close to full relational harmonies” (p. 252). The view is that “With hard work, we can nurture our spirit, learn to recognize our gifts and being to honor our responsibilities” (p. 252). Instead of trying to change the person, the focus is on helping the person change ways of relating.

9. Talking Is Not Always Necessary

The primary focus of healing is on emotional and relational discernment, not cognitive understanding. The direct way to do this is in concrete activities like berry picking, making art or storytelling. The indirect way would be through talking, which is considered less effective.

10. The Importance of Land for Healing

The best place to learn accommodation to all one’s relations is on the land. You cannot defy the weather. One must compromise to survive and thrive. Experiencing the landscape helps one connect to something greater than the self, the more-than-human world, a “cathedral, full of life, promise, openness, and blessedness” (p. 261).  The largest lesson is that “humans are small, unskilled, dependent and blessed with everything they’ll ever need” (p. 260).

Ross also discusses complementary Western therapies that some aboriginal peoples find helpful and points out that for trauma that is intergenerational and extensive, healing will be a lifelong effort.

In my own experience of healing from a typical baby-boomer childhood in the USA, though far from the extreme and intergenerational trauma that aboriginal peoples have experienced, healing may be lifelong for all of us. Civilization does not nurture our deeper selves and so they must be hidden away. Aboriginal healing practices may bring us all back to Life.

 

Photo Shutterstock/Erlucho

 

LISTEN TO DARCIA NARVAEZ’S EVOLVED NEST SERIES:

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Broken Eagle Wing: Mending Worldview https://www.kindredmedia.org/2019/01/broken-eagle-wing-mending-worldview/ https://www.kindredmedia.org/2019/01/broken-eagle-wing-mending-worldview/#respond Sun, 27 Jan 2019 00:59:15 +0000 http://www.kindredmedia.org/?p=22333 Let’s hope the life-respecting worldview wins out. Even though I’ve been treating my Zuni-made animal necklace with great care, the central turquoise figure, the eagle, has lost a wing. At the same time, I’ve been feeling highly anxious about the status of the planet and wildlife with all the bad news evidence coming out showing […]]]>

Let’s hope the life-respecting worldview wins out.

Even though I’ve been treating my Zuni-made animal necklace with great care, the central turquoise figure, the eagle, has lost a wing. At the same time, I’ve been feeling highly anxious about the status of the planet and wildlife with all the bad news evidence coming out showing steep declines in every sign of ecological wellbeing—just reported is the unexpectedly high temperatures of the oceans. I am taking the broken wing as a symbol of the increasing brokenness in the world.

Reading about how life used to be for most societies only a few centuries ago, like the Ohlone on the west coast of what is now California, deepens my sadness. Here are quotes from a new book, A People’s History of Silicon Valley by Keith Spencer cited here:

“The Ohlone lived off acorns from all the different varieties of oaks, blackberries and gooseberries, chia, shellfish and the roots of many plants. They hunted squirrels, rabbits, elk, bear, whale, otter and seal. They did not “farm” in the western sense of the word, though they had a complex knowledge of how to use controlled burns to cultivate plant and animal food sources.

The Ohlone peoples had a very different relationship with animals than the Europeans. Predators like foxes, bobcats, mountain lions and coyote were plentiful, yet coexisted peacefully with the Ohlone. “Animals seem to have lost their fear and become familiar with man,” said Frederick William Beechey, an English captain. It has been suggested that as the European colonizers openly hunted and killed easy game over several generations, animals adapted to the presence of gun-toting hunters and learned to keep their distance. “We take it entirely for granted that animals are naturally secretive and afraid of our presence,” wrote historian Malcolm Margolin, “but for [the Ohlone] who lived here before us, that was simply not the case.”

In the late 18th century, the newly-arrived Spanish quickly set up missions in California, and began forcibly taking Ohlone subjects into the missions – ostensibly to convert them. Yet the Ohlone were held against their will and forced to labor for the Spanish, who separated men and women, lashing and hitting them when they refused to act as the missionaries pleased. One firsthand account describes the Spanish missions as indistinguishable from slave plantations.”

What was wrong with those missionaries? Why did they bring a culture of slavery and death to a land of life and peace?

Follow The Evolved Nest for updates on Darcia’s work as well as new podcast releases!

My work points to early experience (evolved nest) and how it supports or undermines human capacities creating personalities that cooperate with nature or become oppositional to it (Narvaez, 2014). Harsh parenting-community environments undermine human potential and make individuals unwell in one way or another but also socially robotic and cruel instead of receptive and kind. Their brains don’t grow their full capacities. Their self-regulatory systems don’t get set up properly and so they are dysregulated in one way or another (e.g., physiologically, as in stress, immune, endocrineor other systems; emotionally with an inability to control negative, frustration emotions; behaviorally in terms of lacking skills for cooperation). Instead, they learned to shut down their own growth—their openness and receptivity—in order to survive in that environment. And they missed sensitive periods for developing flexible attunement skills for social life. As adults, under cared for and abused children not only are missing social skills, they have blinders on (unless they’ve had deep healing experiences). They are unable to perceive what is before them and instead are guided by a conditioned past, usually by ideologies or scripts that make them feel safe—a religion, a work ethic, a regimen.

Most Europeans who invaded and settled the Americas came from this kind of upbringing, wearing blinders when they arrived and imposing their own familiar scripts on the paradise that was this place (Merchant, 2003; Sale, 2006; Turner, 1994). Their scripts were ones of superiority—that their ways were best/most moral—demonstrating an inability to be multicultural and be open to diversity. They could not understand cultures unlike their own, assumed them to be savage and immoral, despite the fact that the native cultures raised democratic citizens who lived well and wisely, and sustainably with all the entities in the biocommunity, as the citations above (and many other historical accounts) indicate. The Indigenous peoples had more freedom as individuals, better diets, and greater happiness. And so Europeans would often run away to live with them, but not vice versa (Turner, 1994).

But the European invaders and settlers could not perceive the paradise that were the Americas. River otters were so plentiful they made it hard to canoe down the river; birds were so plentiful you could pick one from the sky. No, the Europeans could not appreciate what they found.  From the start they brought not only their narrow cultural scripts but their own animals and their own plants, wiping out the local biodiversity (Scott, 2017; Turner, 1994).

We are still living with ghost theories of European roots. Psychological theory and research is too (Kidner, 2001). The British empire planted these theories all over the world and they still haunt our everyday life, forming the culture of destruction that has been forced on the planet. Here is a sampling with key principles in parentheses:

  • European-rooted ways of being and viewing the world are better (white supremacy)
  • Good people stand on their own two feet and make their own decisions (individualism)
  • People who are not literate are ignorant (intellectualism)
  • Human welfare should be put above the welfare of all others; if you don’t control nature, it will control you (anthropocentrism; anti-ecology)
  • Economic wealth should be a first priority (capitalism)
  • The non-wealthy should work hard for economic wealth even though the wealthy don’t have to (hierarchicalism)
  • Only those who work should eat (coercion)
  • Admire the economically wealthy no matter how they got there (capitalistic hierarchicalism)

How is a First Nations’ worldview different? Every landscape has brought about a different human culture but many basic values are the same (among First Nation/Indigenous peoples). The following sampling of first principles are longstanding, only recently undermined in human history.

  • Group living and group decision making are best and done in respect of mother earth’s laws
  • Nature literacy (and nature connection) is vital
  • Humans are the younger sibling of most other lifeforms and have much to learn from them; respecting the lives of all others is primary (honorable harvest)
  • Ecological and social wealth are priorities
  • Enjoy life, respecting all its forms
  • Share: There is enough for all (nature’s gift economy)
  • Admire the person who honors “all their relations” (including the more than human) with careful living that preserves their wellbeing

Years ago and still relevant today, David Orr pointed out how higher education perpetuates beliefs and behaviors that undermine such sustainable practices.

Each worldview comes from a very different psychology, a very different childhood. These worldviews continue to clash. We can only hope that the old ways, the First Nation ways, will win out to restore balance to the planet.

 

Featured Photo Shutterstock/

 

 

REFERENCES

Kidner, D. W. (2001). Nature and psyche: Radical environmentalism and the politics of subjectivity. Albany: State University of New York.

Merchant, C. (2003). Reinventing Eden: The fate of nature in Western culture. New York, NY: Routledge.

Narvaez, D. (2014). Neurobiology and the development of human morality: Evolution, culture and wisdom. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.

Narvaez, D., Four Arrows, Halton, E., Collier, B., Enderle, G. (Eds.) (in press, 2019). Indigenous Sustainable Wisdom: First Nation Know-how for Global Flourishing. New York: Peter Lang.

Sale, K. (2006). After Eden: The evolution of human domination. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press

Scott, J. C. (2017). Against the grain: A deep history of the earliest states. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Small, D.L. (2008). On deep history and the brain. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Turner, F. (1994). Beyond geography: The Western spirit against the wilderness. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

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