– Heartwood Path Waypoint 1.25 –
Uproot Your Unhappiness
Along the Heartwood Path, one can experience the kinds of changes in perspective that will enable one to reconnect with the “whole” or the “Greater Self” (a self that includes the whole environment, as opposed to just your more narrow individual self), to improve relationships, to foster happiness, and to help preserve the planet. These changes are essential to the future success of the environmental movement because to remake the world a significant number of people will need to upgrade (convert) their perspectives.
“Before you can have a change of heart, you (have to) step outside yourself to get a larger perspective. The Ego (by which I mean one’s everyday conscious self or personality) tries to narrow every issue down to ‘What will I get out of this?’ When you reframe the question as . . . What will everyone get out of this?’ your heart will immediately feel less confused and constricted” (Chopra, 2004, p. 221).
A better earth requires a better you. Said in a way that removes the onus on you alone—a way that also probably originates from my upbringing in the Bible Belt: For God’s Nature to be respected human nature has to be perfected. Conversion from individual self alienation to Greater Self integrity has to precede successful global conservation.
How to do that has not been the apparent aim of biological psychiatry or clinical psychology. Practitioners in both of these fields, encouraged by insurance companies that tend to support only brief therapy, seem to have given up on curing ills, favoring instead dispensing cosmetic treatments and overseeing short-term crisis management. While such symptom relief is a valid way station on the road to a cure, it does not correct the problem at its source. You can get to Gladandgreen Junction--that state of Triple A happiness that comes, in part, from deepening environmental sustainability--by living an unhappy life year after year after year. It will just be much harder to get there. You can achieve your work goals and maintain good relationships while you are sad, depressed, anxious, or angry.
Getting to Gladandgreen Junction will be made easier if you achieve the kind of “presences” going down the Heartwood Path gives to you: the presence of positive emotions, the presence of good relationships, the presence of accomplishment, and the presence of meaning. Adults need these presences to prosper. Activists need a wellspring of well-being to fuel their continuing campaigns.
The focus of the mainstream mental health profession on symptom relief rather than on curing people is one reason why the Heartwood Path is needed. Anyone who is an activist or a parent knows that, pathology or not, life goes on. Beyond relieving pathology, something is needed that helps teach people the skills necessary to thrive. “Misery may love company, but company does not love misery, and the ensuing loneliness of pessimists may be a path to illness” (Seligman, 2011, p. 206). It is not enough to do the job, big as it is, of curing misery. Beyond keeping suffering to a minimum, something is need that develops both optimism (which seems to fight cancer and foster longevity (Seligman, 2011, p. 202-203) and well-being. The Heartwood Path is needed to uproot unhappiness at its source and to reinstate the root causes of well-being.
Since obtaining short-term symptom relief may be helpful, I am not attempting to deter people who are really suffering from seeking professional help. If it is a cure to unhappiness and an end to ecological degradation that you seek, I suggest that, if only as an adjunct to professional care, or without professional care, you make a pilgrimage down the Heartwood Path to Gladandgreen Junction. The next step in this direction is the following activity.