I was reading an article in the New York Times a couple of years ago and was surprised by the title of an article which read, “Scientists prove that green tea is good for you.“ The irony here is that for thousands of years, green tea has been lauded by the eastern cultures, whose medical systems are at least 23 centuries in the making. They have known about the beneficial effects of tea drinking since before western culture had a medical system with which to validate their findings. That being said, the beneficial effects of L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea, are manyfold and this is now an ‘evidence-based’ assertion.
Green tea (Camellia sinensis), which is the second most consumed beverage in the world, contains a considerable amount of theanine (1.0%–2.5%) in the dry weight of the leaves (Adhikary & Mandal, 2017). We know that green tea keeps us awake without giving us the jitters, and we know that it is an antioxidant and therefore counteracts free radicals. But did you know that the l-theanine found in green tea also has significant effects on anxiety and attention span?
Theanine is a bioactive amide amino acid, which has been known to have influential effects on multiple diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, hypertension, stress relief, tumor suppression and liver injury by reducing serum amyloid-alpha, an inflammatory marker (Akhikary & Mandal, 2017). But even more remarkable is what we are learning about its effects on the mind.
In a series of studies on the brain, l-theanine has been found to increase serotonin and dopamine activity, to improve sleep and memory, and to induce relaxation through enhancement of alpha wave activity in the brain (Akhikary & Mandal, 2017; Hidese et al., 2017; Higashiyama et al., 2011). Alpha waves are one of five types of waves within the brain. They are found to be active in meditative states and are associated with a restful mental state, sleep and creativity. In a study published in Acta Neuropsychiatrica in 2017 researchers found that “l-theanine induces an increase in occipital and parietal alpha activity in human participants” (Hidese et al, 2017). They go on to say,
The anti-anxiety features of l-theanine are achieved through enhanced alpha electric band generation in the occipital and parietal regions of brain and increased synthesis of y-aminobutyric acid (GABA). The supportive mechanism behind such activity revealed that enhanced GABA levels help increase levels of brain’s dopamine and serotonin levels that ultimately result in general feelings of calm and well being. . . .unlike other conventional anti-anxiety treatments, l-theanine did not result in increased drowsiness, slowed reflexes, or impaired concentration. (Hidese et al, 2017).
Beyond the effects of calming and quieting the brain, l-theanine has also been found to increase concentration, information processing and attention span, particularly when taken in conjunction with caffeine, as within a cup of green tea (Higashiyama et al, 2011).
It is important to note that the studies demonstrate greater efficacy at improving anxiety levels, attention span and improving mood in subjects who demonstrated high anxiety. Less profound results were seen in people with mild anxiety. Furthermore, l-theanine has been shown to lower systolic and diastolic blood pressures, and therefore should be used cautiously by people taking blood pressure medications or by those who are susceptible to low blood pressure.
Dosing is recommended at 200 mg daily for people with moderate to high anxiety. According to Higashiyama et al, “The tested dose of l-theanine was confirmed as 200 mg for enhanced performance in visual attention task, and reaction time response, among the subjects with higher anxiety propensity symptoms”(Higashiyama et al, 2011). This is an amount much higher than can be obtained within a cup, or even several cups of green tea. Enter the natural supplement. Capsules of l-theanine at the 200 mg daily dose are available at Emerson Ecologics, and here at the pharmacy at Camden Whole Health. Ask your holistic practitioner about the use of l-theanine if you meet the parameters described here, or enjoy your next cup of green tea knowing that it is providing a nurturing nudge to your alpha waves, increasing your attention span, lowering your anxiety and increasing your creativity! Enjoy.
If you would like the advice or attention of a holistic practitioner, I am currently accepting new patients. Check out my website at aliciasnownp.com for more information about my practice.
Adhikary R., & Mandal, V. (2017). L-theanine: a potenital multifaceted natural bioactive amide as health supplement. DOI10.1016/j.apjtb.2017.08.005
Hidese, S., et al. (2016). Effects of chronic l-theanine administration in patients with major depressive disorder: an open-label study. DOI: 10.1017/neu.2016.33
Higashiyama, A. et al. (2011). Effects of L-theanine on attention and reaction time response. DOI: 10.1016/j.jff.2011.03.009
More than a year into the pandemic and our lives have still not returned to normal. Almost every day I give thanks for the fact that in Maine, we have been relatively safe and so blessed with an abundance of outdoor activities that have helped many of us stay somewhat sane and connected through this challenging year.
But my heart goes out to those people who have lost loved ones during the pandemic, without being able to be by their side due to hospital safety precautions or inability to travel. Not only has COVID-19 taken so many lives – I think about how painful the grief process must be, no matter the cause of death, when there isn’t the kind of closure we all would hope for when a loved one is passing.
Family Constellation work, offered here at Camden Whole Health, is a groundbreaking healing modality that can be especially helpful in situations where unresolved grief is preventing a person from moving on. This can be true in cases where loss was never fully processed in the past (for instance, if a parent died suddenly and a child was just too young to understand and cope with the loss), or in the current global situation we find ourselves in, where the natural grief process of being by a loved one’s side as they are dying has been completely interrupted.
A Family Constellation Facilitator can help a client move through a grief process that has become stuck, by helping them to connect with their loved one on an emotional level and express thoughts and feelings that could not be shared in real life. In a private session, this happens by allowing the client to share their story and then inviting them to represent their loved one with a chair, footprints or a figurine. This helps the client imagine their loved one’s presence and move from “just talking about it” to a more holistic, embodied approach that invites all levels of the client’s experience (the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual) to be accessed and expressed. All of this happens in a gentle, organic fashion where the client determines what they wish to explore, at what pace they wish to go, and to what extent. Not only does this process create room to express thoughts and feelings that had become stuck and inaccessible, but through the facilitator’s gentle guidance there is also a possibility for a sense of connection with the deceased, resolution and completion. Often, after 3-5 sessions a client will feel a remarkable shift in terms of their grief – while sadness about losing a loved one doesn’t just disappear, they may report feeling less heavy, less stuck, less numb, less depressed, more in the present, more connected to their loved one on a soul level, more able to feel, more available to life again, +and more at peace.
It’s important to note that for many, the pandemic has also brought on a cluster of other types of losses: e.g. loss of social structures and support systems, loss of social connections and friendships, financial losses, employment losses (whether that be actual job loss, job insecurity or loss of job relationships and structure), relationship break-ups, even loss of alone time or couples’ time, especially for parents working from home. In addition, these losses have often created increased stress within family units and intimate relationships. While we have all had to adapt and find ways to make the best of it, it’s important to recognize when certain losses, changes or sacrifices are having such an impact on our quality of life that it’s creating ongoing negativity or suffering. Here too, having a safe and confidential space to address these difficulties can bring great relief, shift interpersonal dynamics, support new coping skills and make room for positive change. *** Anna Witholt Aurora is a certified Family Constellation Facilitator and a Life Coach and offers individual sessions (and groups, once that is safe to do so) at Camden Whole Health on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information or to book a session, please visit www.soulmoves.me.
It is currently more challenging than ever to maintain a healthy state of mind. With the increase in stress all around us it’s more important than ever to pay attention to our inner state of being. In order to combat this constant barrage of external stressors we have to make it a conscious priority to find some inner peace. Since September is Suicide Prevention month we thought it appropriate to share some tips that might help you do just that – find some inner peace . . .
Let Go of What You Can’t Control
Don’t spend time worrying about things that you can’t control. While an individual can make a difference in their own circle there are other things that you just can’t change. Concern yourself only with the things you can change, and let the rest go.
Meditation is a powerful tool for calming the mind and spirit. Daily meditation can help you relieve stress and anxiety which are enemies of inner peace. Meditating can give you a much-needed break from the world and put challenges in perspective. There’s no better time to start a practice than today! Hay House is offering a free 7-day meditation challenge this month. Click here for more info.
Get Back to Nature
Your daily struggles are real, but appreciating your surroundings can help put things in perspective. Let the sights, smells, and sounds of nature envelop you.
Try a Technology Fast
While devices and social media are great for staying in touch, they can also wreak havoc on your inner peace. Now more than ever, it’s time to take a break!
Simplify Your Life
Think about how much of the chaos of your daily life is put upon you by outside sources (like current events). Simplifying your life can clear the way to inner peace, and ultimately it boils down to choices and priorities. What can you let go of?
Try Energy Healing
Many Energy healing tools are designed to help you release trapped emotional energies. During difficult times, a little help from a trained practitioner can certainly help you calm and restore inner balance. And Camden Whole Health offers a variety of practitioners that can help. View them here.
by Paula Apro, Eden Energy Medicine & Emotion Code™ Practitioner, Pranic Healer
Prana, Life Force Energy, Qi, and Chi are all ancient terms for the same thing. What these terms describe is pure ENERGY. It’s the energy that makes up who and what you are. All matter in the universe is fundamentally made up of – ENERGY!!!
Have you ever thought about what the difference is between a living and dead person? Both people have a body, a set of organs, and billions of cells. What differentiates them is an ‘unseen’ force . . . the Prana, Qi, Chi, or Life force energy that gives the living person the awareness and consciousness to experience living. This is the one important element missing from the corpse.
Seems like it’s pretty important this life force energy, yet few doctors acknowledge, address it, or try to work with it. We are made up of so much more than just the physical body that modern medicine concentrates on. Do you know that your thoughts and feelings are nothing but energy waves that can actually be measured using various instruments? Did you know that the energy created from these thoughts and feelings can get stuck in your energy field and cause blockages and disruptions in the flow of your energy, which in turn leads to illness, disease, and depression? This all might sound scary, but the best and most fascinating news is that energy can easily be manipulated and transformed.
Science explains that energy can neither be created nor destroyed but can be transformed from one form to another. Think about what this could mean to you. If you can understand how to work with energy, it can help transform all the negative results in your life into positive results – sickness into well-being, lack into abundance, stress into peace of mind, and failing relationships into healthy, strong bonds.
Energy Medicine is all about transforming energy – the energy within us (our chakras), the energy that surrounds our bodies (our aura), and even the energy in our environment. By learning about energy, we become more conscious about its ubiquitous presence in everything around us. We all have experienced the difference between feeling “good vibes” versus “bad vibes” without any knowledge of Energy Medicine whatsoever. It is undeniable that we can all sense energy at some level.
So can you imagine being able to fundamentally change your life force energy to improve your health and happiness without the use of drugs, surgery, or expensive therapies? Energy Medicine focuses on removing energetic blocks so that your body can do what it naturally wants to do – move itself into balance so that it can heal. Imagine how much happier your body would be with this gentle approach to healing rather than using chemical reactions to force it into compliance.
Please consider learning more about powerful energy medicine techniques that you can start applying today to improve every aspect of your health and happiness. You can start by watching a free 20-minute lesson by Paula Apro, Certified Eden Energy Medicine Practitioner and Pranic healer.
by Dr. Barbara MacDonald, ND, LAc for the Maine Association of Naturopathic Doctors on 7.10.20
As you are aware, in only a few months, a coronavirus never seen before has impacted every person on Earth. It has halted life as we know it by infecting more than eight million including 2,700 Mainers so far. Sadly, the COVID-19 has taken the lives of 423,000 of our loved ones – one quarter were Americans.
You are likely experiencing information overload related to COVID-19 and are more than ready to return to ‘normal’ life. As licensed naturopathic doctors (NDs) in Maine, we feel it important, however, to let you know that we are there for you in this troubling time with constitutional and evidence-based, individualized holistic healthcare covered by most insurance companies.
While scientists are still searching for cures for COVID-19, from medical, Naturopathic & Chinese medicines, you won’t find us making claims that are unsupported by data. There are currently no well-designed studies assessing whether natural medicines can help prevent or treat COVID-19. That hasn’t stopped us from using our tried and true system of medicine or our many holistic tools to support those whose goals include prevention, reduction of symptoms, duration and severity of illness and recovery from COVID-19.
Just as all healthcare providers in our local communities, we take this illness very seriously. We understand the lack of evidence that we all wish we had in the pursuit of prevention and treatment methods. We are here doing our best with little information to test and treat you and help you recover to the best of our abilities using the tools and treatments we have used for previous viral illnesses and immune-related illness.
PREVENTION IS KEY
Members of the Maine Association of Naturopathic Doctors would like to reiterate the CDC’s guidelines for protecting others in the case that you may have been unknowingly infected by coronavirus.[i] A person can spread the virus even without having any symptoms. We encourage each of you when in public, to cover your nose and mouth, maintain social distance, regularly wash or sanitize your hands and frequently touched surfaces. If you are exposed to someone who has COVID-19, quarantine from others and contact your doctor for testing and support.
While we do not claim that healthy lifestyle choices prevent you from getting COVID-19, some studies show those with underlying health conditions such as lung and heart disease, obesity, diabetes, or high blood pressure have more severe symptoms upon contraction of the novel coronavirus.[ii] So, it makes sense to follow the World Health Organization’s recommendations to make healthy choices, especially at this time. We all agree in recommending that you consider getting regular physical activity, avoid tobacco, monitor the mental and emotional well-being of yourself and your loved ones.[iii] Take deep breaths, stretch, or meditate, get plenty of sleep and eat a well-balanced diet.
As experts in nutrition, licensed ND’s encourage people to eat their own personal ‘healthiest’ diet or seek our counsel to figure out what that is for you. In general, we encourage people to eat whole food, plant-based diet rich in fruit and vegetables, unrefined whole grains if you tolerate them, a variety of healthy proteins and fats while reducing the consumption of sugar, alcohol, deep-fried foods, simple carbohydrates like white flour and processed ‘junk’ foods. Drink plenty of water instead of sweetened soda and juices.
The novel coronavirus is reported to usurp the body’s immune response resulting in people experiencing a great variety of signs and symptoms. Naturopathic doctors have many holistic, evidence-based tools for supporting patients’ unique constitution, tailored to their individual needs through each phase of the body’s reaction to the virus.
When we are called upon to help support the health and well-being of a person with any health challenge, including COVID-19, in addition to following CDC guidelines for reporting and referral, we are devoted to our principles: call upon the healing power of nature, treat the underlying cause of illness, remove obstacles to the cure, treat the whole person, doctor as teacher.[iv]
The Naturopathic approach to disease prevention and management and the naturopathic tools available to the well-trained physician/doctor are well studied in the viral setting. With disclosure to our patients regarding the lack of study on such a new and serious illness, we have been applying our approach for our patients who wish to use all resources available to them in serving their goals including prevention, limiting severity and duration of the disease, recovering from COVID-19 and restoring health afterward.
In the absence of effective vaccination or proven therapeutics, we offer what has been effective in other viral illnesses, cytokine storm situations and recovery from other severe life-threatening health challenges. There are no data to prove which if any botanical, homeopathic, lifestyle, nutraceutical or treatment will be powerful enough against contracting and managing COVID-19. But, we can propose natural medicines based on their known mechanism of action and historical data against other viral illness that, first do no harm and may, and in the future, may be found to help in the following ways:
· Modulate immune function to stimulate antiviral immunity in the prevention phase
· Modulate the production of inflammasomes, NFkb and other inflammatory cytokines
· Modulate immune function to calm the cytokine storm
· Activate healing and repair mechanisms after the severe phase of illness to restore proper function to systems negatively affected
· Restore proper nutrient status to facilitate return to normal function
· Enhance neurotransmitter, microbiome and adrenal function to improve mental, emotional health and energy
SARS-CoV-2 stimulates a part of the innate immune response called the inflammasome that seems to trigger the immune response in an overactive manner called a cytokine storm that can cause severe damage to the lining of the organs, especially the lungs.[v] One mechanism that functional or Naturopathic doctors have called upon in their treatment of the cytokine storm are natural agents found in other illness to dampen the inflammasome function such as ECGC from green tea and a bioflavonoid called quercetin.[vi]
Other types of natural medicines that have been used in viral illnesses that activate inflammasomes, cytokine storms, flu, etc. that are in the toolbox of many licensed ND’s and Functional MD’s/DO’s that are being studied to determine if they will be helpful with COVID-19 with minimal risk of harm include vitamin D, melatonin, curcumin, resveratrol, green tea, quercetin, zinc, Elderberry and many more.[vii]
As COVID-19 was first experienced in China, the use of Chinese herbs has been a staple in the prevention and management of COVID-19 since the third state guidelines published in December, 2019. Most recent hospital surveys found that 85% of people with COVID-19 are now being given a combination of modern western medicine and traditional Chinese herbal therapy.[viii]
The experience of doctors in hotspots in China, who used a combined approach, observed that the Chinese herbal therapies were successful at preventing those with mild symptoms from getting worse and to be particularly effective at treating the febrile and respiratory symptoms.[ix] Herbs that Naturopathic doctor’s borrow from a huge bounty of Chinese botanical research since the 2002 SARS epidemic include the use of Scutellaria and Houttuynia cordata and many others that block viral replication of earlier SARS virus.[x]
Using similar herbs used in the previous SARS epidemic, frontline workers in China, in 2019, found a dramatic reduction in the contraction of the novel coronavirus.[xi], [xii]
A registry of Naturopathic physicians’ management of COVID-19 has been created by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.[xiii] Together, scientists from the fields of naturopathic medicine, Chinese medicine, acupuncture, immunology and nutrition apply their expertise to the study of natural medicine are putting their resources together to help identify what natural methods are most supportive to those with COVID-19.
In conclusion, members of the Maine Association of Naturopathic Doctors wish for you to know that if you are inclined to take a constitutional & evidence-based holistic approach to your healthcare for any health challenge, including COVID-19, we are here for you from testing to treatment.
The right to free speech and honoring our freedom to express our different belief systems seems to have divided us, resulting in more judgement, anger, and fear in a time where we must call for unity. It is up to each of us to commit to being supportive of one another in spite of our varying beliefs in this most difficult of times. In response to this division, Maine Licensed Naturopathic Doctors call upon each of you to promote kindness, respect and tolerance.
[v] Conti P, Ronconi G, Caraffa A, et al. Induction of pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1 and IL-6) and lung inflammation by Coronavirus-19 (COVI-19 or SARS-CoV-2): anti-inflammatory strategies. J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2020;34(2):1.
[vi] Tozsér J, Benko S. Natural compounds as regulators of NLRP3 inflammasome-mediated IL-1? production. Mediators Inflamm. 2016;2016:5460302.
This is offered as our way of helping to keep our community safer as there is no other resource for asymptomatic individuals who want testing. In addition, the Governor has mandated that those visiting our state have the option to be tested instead of a 14-day quarantine but other local test sites are not yet operational.
Until state-funded community-wide asymptomatic testing is available locally, we will continue testing people who are not our patients. We are doing our best to keep costs down in an effort to test as many people as want to be tested.
There are many different scenarios when deciding if, when and what type of testing people need. We offer nasal swab, saliva, antibody blood draw, antibody finger stick and stool testing.
To decide if you have been exposed and are actively shedding virus and could be contagious, a nasal swab is ideal. Keep in mind, however, that a person could have SARS-CoV-2 and still not have enough viral shedding to test positive YET. Nasal swab testing is ideally done the day prior to symptoms or at the peak of symptoms and may remain positive (except for unanticipated testing error) until 2 weeks after symptom onset. Some people choose to combine nasal swab sooner and antibody testing later. Stool testing picks up active viral shedding as well but may remain positive for up to 5 weeks after nasal swab testing has become negative. This helps one understand if symptoms they had a month ago were from the novel coronavirus.
Saliva testing, like nasal swab, identifies active viral shedding as well, but there needs to be quite a bit of DNA in the sample to be positive and therefore is ideal during peak of symptoms when someone wants to do testing for the novel coronavirus at home instead of coming to the office. This is not a good screening test for tourists.
We offer two types of antibody testing. One, by blood draw, maybe more accurate for a person who wants to know if the symptoms they had a while ago were from SARS-CoV-2 as it will be more concentrated in the plasma from a blood draw. The drawback is that the CDC recommends using “major labs” like Quest that we use if one is compelled to do antibody testing which they still do not recommend. However, the Quest test may have up to a 26% false-negative rate. This means that if it is positive, it is very likely accurate (except for very rare lab contamination or error) but if it is negative, there is a 26% chance that the person’s symptoms were from the novel coronavirus but the test wrongly indicated that they were not. Another drawback is that Quest does not offer IgM testing which indicates if a person was recently infected and is still likely to be contagious. They only offer IgG antibody testing which indicates that a person was infected sometime in the past. Another plus of this test is that it does give quantitative information if a person is trying to watch if their titer (levels of antibodies) is going up or down.
FINGER STICK IGM-IGG ANTIBODY TEST ($75) A more sensitive and specific antibody test that is taken by a simple finger stick is available as well with a 15-minute turnaround time. This test has been studied in China to be much more accurate, is simpler to do with a faster turnaround time and is much less expensive. This one tests both antibodies: IgM and IgG. It does not give a quantitative amount of antibody if someone is trying to see their titers over time, however.
No test can determine if a person has COVID-19 immunity at this time and should not be used to give us a false sense of security that we are safe from contracting it. We can also contract it soon after being tested and, for up to 14 days be spreading it to others unknowingly.
All antibody tests have false negative rates that concern doctors and the CDC. Ideally, people would have both a properly administered, transported and analyzed nasopharyngeal swab and an antibody test regularly to assess if they are contagious. Since this is not feasible, please continue to do all of the following: cover your mouth and nose in public and when visitors come to your home, maintain at least 6 feet between you and others, wash your hands in very warm/hot water for at least 20 seconds, sanitize your purchases then wash your hands after.
HELP DETERMINING WHICH TEST TO HAVE:
If you need the doctor’s help to decide which test to have done, schedule with Dr. Deb or Dr. Barb or ask your own PCP.
If you have been seen since May 1st, schedule a 15-minute check-in (approximately $60 if we are not in-network with your insurance provider or haven’t met deductible/co-insurance).
If you are an existing patient but have not been seen since May 1st, please schedule a 30-minute check-in ($100-125 if we are not in-network with your insurance provider or haven’t met deductible/co-insurance).
For local community members who know what type of testing they want, but who are not patients, you do not need a check-in with a doctor, just schedule your test with our staff. If you don’t know what type of test you want, please schedule a 30-minute check-in with a doctor ($125) to establish a doctor:patient relationship, sign all consents prior to the telehealth visit.
People visiting our area who wish to not quarantine for the full 14-days, you must use the SARS-Cov-2 nasal swab test. You will be asked to sign a consent and agreement that you will remain in isolation until your result is back (usually within 3 days). That means you will not go to stores, gas stations, etc., until after your lab results are back.
Staff are available to answer the phone and email Monday – Thursday (10-4) until July 6th, then Reception will be open the same hours as the pharmacy listed below. Call 230-1131 and if the line is busy, email: firstname.lastname@example.org and request a call back, please. So sorry, but since COVID our lines have been jammed.
If you are a patient with concerns that you may have COVID-19 or have been exposed, please CALL THE OFFICE at (207) 230-1131 and we will return your call the same business day. If you don’t get through, email your doctor and staff at email@example.com.
Camden Natural Pharmacy
Pharmacy items are available all summer by pre-order, pre-pay and pick up in the foyer or we will ship them to you upon your request.
List the product name, brand, quantity of pills in the bottle, how many bottles you want.
Staff will call you for payment then place your bag with initials on it in the foyer
Pick up your bag during reception/pharmacy hours in the foyer wearing a mask and only one person in the foyer at a time please.
If you want your bag to be placed outside in the white box after hours, you assume responsibility for the replacement cost if they are taken by someone else
We now have plenty of immune support so patients can order up to 2 bottles of those items now per person.
On July 6th, if the Governor’s mandate still allows, we will open the pharmacy store and reception area with limited hours:
Monday & Tuesday Noon-4 pm
Wednesday – Friday 10-4 pm
In-Person Doctor Visits
Our receptionists will help you decide if in-person or telehealth (with your consent) serves you best. You may come in to see Dr. Deb or Dr. Barb if you need an examination or a physical medicine treatment like an adjustment or acupuncture.
Upon arrival, please wait in the car until we come to do your temperature check. Please put on your mask, roll down the window and temporarily remove the left hearing aid if you wear one. We will bring you into the clinic where we require you to sanitize your hands.
Please bring your own water as we cannot serve tea and water at this time. Patients coming for acupuncture, wear loose fitting clothing and bring a blanket if you want one please
For your safety, we require that you cover your mouth and nose at all times, sanitize hands upon entry, maintain 6 feet from staff and other patients, try to avoid touching supplement bottles in the pharmacy.
You will be contacted to answer a COVID-19 screening questionnaire a week prior to the appointment. If the answers to these questions become ‘yes’ after you are screened CALL TO RESCHEDULE PLEASE. Please pay with a credit card if possible.
Camden Whole Health Lab
The blood draw station has been moved so you will enter it directly. Please do not approach the door. Our phlebotomist will come to get you. The lab is open for patient blood draws M-Th mornings by appointment only (207) 230-1131 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to request a call to schedule.
As a therapist, I spend much of my time in the space between knowing and not knowing. It’s not that I know something before another, it’s that I know that there is more to know and I hold that space.
Mortality falls into this category. We all know we’re going to die. And yet, by and large, we don’t think about it on a regular basis. We both know it and don’t know it. The knowledge of our mortality seeps in with age-hopefully slowly-as we lose pets, grandparents, parents, and spouses. The reality of our mortality means we are vulnerable. Knowing just how vulnerable we are, can be too much to know.
The climate crisis makes us vulnerable.
Sudden, traumatic, unexpected losses overwhelm our senses. You’ll hear people say things like, “This can’t be!” “No. I don’t believe it!” “This is not the natural order of things.” While of course, the person knows the loss has occurred, their words, if taken at face value, suggest they don’t know. This is our autonomic defense system at work, protecting us from realities too great to know. These words help us deflect the pain so that we can slowly integrate our loss, our vulnerability. Listen the next time you hear a shocking piece of news. Listen to what you or others around you say. You’ll hear it too. You’ll likely deny this new fact with your words while also knowing it is true.
What does this have to do with the climate crisis you ask?
We both know it and we don’t know it. Some people know it more than others. And they are usually angry, afraid and scared. Understandable. There is another group of people who don’t know it, or “deny” it. It’s easy to be upset by this apparent ignorance. And then there are those who come in and out of knowing. This is probably the majority of us, each with our own ever-changing mix of knowing and not knowing. Sometimes our actions reflect this knowledge, and sometimes they don’t. We appear to contradict ourselves.
What is we had compassion for ourselves and for others for our not knowing? What if we understood this as a normal psychological defense to devastating information?*
*Before I go on, I should clarify. Please understand that I am suggesting compassion for individuals, not large companies or governments; not entities that have power over others, but individuals. I am not talking about oil companies that had information about greenhouse gas emissions and climate change in the 1970s and chose to hide the data. I am not talking about government leaders who are failing to act. This is abhorrent behavior. To know and to hide the truth. To know and to not act. There is so much blame to go around but at this point, I am not interested in “how we got here” or “why.” That’s a problem for another day.
It is part of the government’s job to protect us. And our government has failed us. This is devastating knowledge for many. So devastating some of us just can’t know it because it calls into question everything about who we think we are as a people. There are groups in this country that know this betrayal all too well-Native Americans, African Americans, Immigrants, Women, Muslims, etc. Shall I go on? No. Hopefully, you get the point.
I believe that anger, fear, and sadness are all reasonable responses to not being protected; and therefore to the climate crisis. I feel these things regularly. And, as a therapist, I also see how denial can also be a reasonable psychological response. I believe that people who deny the climate crisis are trying to keep themselves safe-physically, emotionally, cognitively and spiritually-safe from this terrible knowledge. Given the current state of the climate crisis, this might sound crazy to you. But again, if you think about how we deal with our mortality, this is the same process, on a grander scale. This has been a form of collective denial to not see, to not know, how we as humans can and are harming the planet, and ourselves.
When someone feels threatened or is scared, showing them anger or disdain does not help them change. Yelling at them makes them hide more, dig in their heels, stand their ground and defend their position or belief. On the other hand, collectively protesting, striking and demanding change from the government or large corporations can be effective. It’s a different dynamic. The protestors have each other. They have the validation and support of the group. They are not alone. As a group they have power. And their courage and strength can motivate others and help others see.
The truth is we are all at fault. We are all guilty. We all use or have used fossil fuels, most people eat red meat, we all have smartphones and computers and wear clothes. And of course, we are all mostly good. We feel remorse. We don’t want to see how we have hurt each other and the planet. But we must. We must integrate both our own bad and good, our own love and hate, or our conscious acts to protect the earth and unconscious acts to protect the status quo. If we want climate deniers to integrate the knowledge of the climate crisis, we too need to acknowledge the inherent conflicts we all are experiencing. We need to break the frame of good and bad and move to a more realistic and integrated view of humanity as the brilliant and flawed beings that we are.
There is so much blame to go around. But we cannot afford to get stuck in this place. We cannot afford to get stuck in rage or despair or denial. We must grieve. The climate crisis is the biggest loss you can possibly conceive-and not yet conceive. Grief is not just one feeling. It is an emotional process that takes time, involves an array of feelings and experiences and ultimately helps bring about a regenerative state of being. People in active grief will say they “feel crazy” because their feelings are always changing. Grief includes shock and denial, anger and bargaining, guilt, sadness, and despair. It also includes hope, curiosity, humor, resilience, acceptance, regeneration, and growth. Grief is not a straight line, but a spiral, moving us in and out of feelings over and over as we resolve our losses and take in our new reality one small piece at a time.
On the other side of grief is the desire to live. The ability-the necessity-to act. Let’s grieve together so we can get on with the work of protecting life on earth.
If any of this sparks your curiosity, please join me for the next community gathering on climate grief scheduled for March 15th. 5-6:30 pm.