Coping with Copenhagen
January 10, 2010 § Leave a comment
The Guardian’s January 1st promotion of the 10:10 campaign bore the headline “The politicians failed in Copenhagen – so now it’s up to you.” Psychologically, this rang alarm bells for me: emphasising small personal steps as an alternative to large-scale political failure is known to confuse and disillusion people. Coping with the fall-out from the hugely disappointing result requires more than exhortations to turn off the lights.
The first thing is to acknowledge the emotional impact. How did you feel when you heard? Here are a few of the responses I’ve met amongst activists:
- Numbness and shock – not thinking, distracting oneself, avoiding the implications;
- Exhaustion – finding it hard to think, continuing mechanically with current tasks;
- Rage – sounding off in fury to anyone who will listen, (and to some who won’t!)
- Cynicism – implying that one foresaw the result, expected little and is not surprised;
- Depression and fear – feeling anxious and powerless, pre-occupied with the vulnerability of children, family or friends;
- Grief – uncontrollable weeping and distress.
Many of the general public will share these responses, but we are also likely to find an increase in complacency and disinterest. The message from Copenhagen may also be read as ‘it doesn’t matter that much’/ ‘it can’t be important’ /‘I needn’t do anything yet’/ ‘it’s nothing to do with me’/ ‘it can’t be solved.’
These reactions may also appear in the consulting room and as therapists we can be alert to them and to our responsibilities to help people work through them creatively.