I recently gave a talk to the Climate Coaching Alliance about how to support people, professionally, who are beginning to integrate an awareness of the bad-to-worse scenarios of climate chaos into their work and lives.
In the coming weeks I will share the insights I gained from engaging with business and life coaches on this topic. But for now I want to give a shout out to the coaches, therapists, facilitators and guides who are already aware of how much has already been lost, how difficult things are and are set to become. Understandably, most business coaches and life coaches are not yet alive to these issues. They need to go through their own journeys on this issue for themselves. Which makes a network of coaches who are ‘collapse aware’ so incredibly necessary. The professionals you find in this network will not pathologize your outlook and you won’t need to worry about traumatising them! If interested, have a look at http://guidance.deepadaptation.info
You will notice the framing of ‘deep adaptation’ for the coaches listed on that website. I have edited a whole book on the topic, but it basically means a deeper adaptation to societal disruption than the mainstream approaches that are tried or talked about so far by policy makers and thinktanks. It is deeper because it is an ethos and framework for a movement of people who consider the collapse of industrial consumer societies to be either probable, inevitable or already unfolding. Sadly, after it became a ‘thing,’ Deep Adaptation has persistently been misrepresented in various media as being about human extinction (it’s not and never was), or about giving up on climate action (the opposite is true; but don’t believe me, then see this speech of rebellion). If interested in the concept, an audio recording of the intro of the book on the topic is here and a list of videos of some of my lectures and keynotes is here.
I am promoting the availability of these ‘Deep Adaptation’ guides again now because I have recently been engaging with executives who are alive to some of the most depressing analyses of trends, which together are being termed as the ‘polycrisis’ by policy wonks. I have realised that whether we engage usefully or not in such issues will depend, in part, on how aware we are of our habits, emotions, cravings, and aversions, especially when our worldviews and identities are challenged.
From first-hand experience over the last 4-years I know that staying engaged with these issues can be tough, emotionally. It should be. There is a risk in how the anxiety can ‘get to’ us. We risk harming ourselves or, even, potentially, harming others as we cling on to our existing worldviews and identities in response to growing anxiety. It’s called ‘worldview defence’ in ‘terror management theory’ (and you can read about in a paper I did for a psychotherapy journal). I have also noticed that some of us can buy into new stories that help us to feel better for a time (whether newly hopeful, or simply absolved of any sense of our own guilt). These are quite natural responses which can be unacknowledged drivers of any of us, myself included.
Within the field of coaching, the concept of ‘law of attraction’ is particularly popular. It was used with me, by my first coach. There are variants of the philosophy and theory, but generally it conveys the idea that each of us can manifest what we want in our lives, or even in the wider world, due to how we cultivate and manage our attention. I think it is a great idea to become aware of how we wish to experience life and then recognise that much of that experience is within our own power. It helps with the setting of intentions and organising the way we live. But the idea that we can imagine-away difficult realities would be a perversion of both ancient wisdom and quantum physics (two fields which ‘attractor’ coaches like to mention). It is something I had a problem with and wrote about in The Law of Distraction when The Secret book and movie came out 15 years ago.
‘Law of attraction’ types of readings of quantum physics are now being shared to help people escape their ecoanxiety and exhort others to stay positive or be seen as guilty for a bad outcome. One example is a recent article by the publication Desmog, which says we should recognise the potential for ‘quantum social change.’ Immediately I witnessed a conceptualisation of quantum reality, ancient wisdom and spirituality which I consider deeply flawed. The idea we are able to shape reality at a planetary scale by our thoughts involves some assumptions. First, humans aren’t the centre of the universe, whether we imagine it as Newtonian or not. It is a strange claim that we are the pinnacle of evolution, even before considering the trillions of galaxies out there. If lifeforms can shape the future of the planet through intention, then perhaps all the remaining mammal species that we haven’t killed yet are intentionally imagining a planet without homo sapiens. That may seem bizarre, but I wish to highlight the assumptions we must make about human supremacy to create such stories of quantum social change. Second, if humans affect futures through our attention and intention, then the influence is by billions of people every second, with all the myriad preoccupations we all have. Oh, including our dreaming at night. So that’s not the few moments of intentional thought by hundreds of thousands of activists.
De-centring ourselves, our time horizons and our fears, means that a spiritual awakening, or if you want to use a more secular funky language, a ‘quantum awakening’ , might inspire us to live in wonderful ways, but where the outcomes might not even be something our species experience! It is a strange idea to embrace quantum physics insights on how time and space do not exist in the ways we experience them daily, and yet think the effects of our thoughts and actions at a quantum level will impact in our own galaxy or in this millennium.
I think climate chaos is a spiritual invitation, as I have written about and talked about before. I think spirituality is key to how we might better navigate the troubles ahead. But spiritual bypass of any kind will not be useful – and is likely even counterproductive. Simplistic ‘law of attraction’ ideas will not be of much use for life coaching in a time of dying. Fortunately, due to my public sharing of my views on societal breakdown over the last 4 years, I have met some people who are very wise and experienced about such matters. One of them alerted me to Meg Wheatley on this very topic, and I had an enjoyable lunchtime today watching her video interviews. As someone known to people in the worlds of coaching, facilitation, and leadership, I hope her ideas will have an impact in those fields. I will link to a couple of her videos below.
One risk with the word ‘spirituality’ and the paraphernalia that surrounds it is how it can take people away from simple loving kindness. So another brilliant thing about the last 4 years is that I have met people whose ‘spirituality’ is a daily lived practice of gratitude and kindness – and easily returning to that when slipping up. No wonder then that the Deep Adaptation Forum came up with the idea for a Gratitude Month, where participants are sharing gratitude for people, who then choose to share gratitude with someone else. Please check out their blog on the issue and consider joining in.
It might be quantum gratefulness. Or just beautiful anyway.
More gratitude sharing is possible in the comments below (but don’t let that replace sending private thanks to people).