Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mary Pipher

Mary Pipher is a clinical psychologist and the author of nine books, including Reviving Ophelia, which was #1 on the New York Times bestseller list for 26 weeks. Her area of interest is how American culture influences the mental health of its people.

Pipher's new book is The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture.

From her Q & A with Pythia Peay at Psychology Today's America On The Couch blog:

Pythia: America and China are the world’s biggest polluters; together the two nations are responsible for half the world’s pollution. This global rise in carbon emissions is contributing to record droughts, heat and rising sea levels.* So if America were on your couch presenting this problem on climate change, how would you begin to work with such a client?

Pipher: First, I’d be respectful of America as a patient, just as I am of clients in therapy. But one thing I’d assume about my client is something I generally assume about clients who are behaving in a dysfunctional manner: at some level, they know what’s going on.

So I’d take it as a given that by now most people have been exposed to issues around climate change. At this point to focus on information would be like telling an alcoholic, “Did you know that it’s harmful for you to drink ten beers?” Of course that person knows that! Instead I’d immediately turn my attention to defenses and resistance.

Dealing with people who are struggling with denial is what therapists do for a living. That’s not cause to be judgmental; in fact I have an enormous amount of sympathy for the country as it faces this situation because it’s unbearably painful to deal with head on.

Pythia: Do you feel that an alarmist approach isn’t useful in generating more action on environmental issues?

Pipher: There’s been a scolding tone: Why don’t people just wake up and deal with the facts? But people don’t respond to guilt and scolding. What people do tend to respond to, whether they’re therapy clients or consumers of media, is a deep belief that they’re loved by the messenger. So as a therapist, speaker or writer, my first goal is to love that person, and my country, and to hold them in my heart as I try to help them cope with upsetting information.

Pythia: And to America, you would say?

Pipher: To America, my patient, I would start by saying this:...[read on]
Learn more about the book and author at Mary Pipher's website and Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: The Green Boat.

--Marshal Zeringue