What happens when our unconscious fantasies play out in our campaigning materials? Thoughts on the 10:10 video

October 4, 2010 § Leave a comment

The recent short film from 10:10, rapidly taken down from their website, might encourage us to think more about the emotional experiences of those who work day in day out on climate change, whether as scientists or as persuaders and educators of the public. There is a personal toll in allowing oneself to be constantly in touch with traumatic events and potential catastrophes. Whatever else the film does,  it perhaps opens a window into the state of mind of those who struggle to do a good job and manage the fear, frustration, anxiety and rage of the close proximity to trauma.

If you put aside for a moment the tastelessness and instead look at the film as a fantasy I think it expresses the unconscious or perhaps semi-conscious desires of many people who work day after day to communicate to the public the need for them to act on climate change. It is a struggle to remain polite as yet another person says ‘No thanks’, ‘Don’t think I’ll bother’ ‘What’s the point’ or ‘I’ve done my bit already’. It is a struggle not to weep with despair, scream in rage, shout ‘arsehole’ at the departing back or indulge adolescent fantasies of gunning them down.

In the film each little persuading speech is given with great politeness to a passively receptive audience – (fantasy – I just have to ask and they’ll all do the right thing); a few demur and are told ‘No pressure, that’s OK’ – just as one does to those members of the public, workmates, colleagues who reject the suggestion that joining 10:10 or similar campaigns would be a good idea. Finally, the campaigner takes their adolescent revenge and blows up the objectors. (Fantasy – I’m not powerless, I’m powerful, I can change the world, bang-bang you’re dead.) Such fantasies normally remain in the privacy of one’s own mind or are shared with a giggle and an apology amongst friends (“God, I could have shot him when he said that – not really I mean”)

Maybe we need to ask what has happened to the culture of an organisation where such fantasies can get translated into publicity material, what the pressure of rage and frustration has been that it can find material form in this way, and what else can be done about it. Bion’s work  theorises the way that leaders can unwittingly become the repository of the unconscious fantasies of others and then act on them, becoming uncontrollable to colleagues in the process. Is this what has happened to Franny?

There are a lot of difficult questions here both about the psychological needs of those working on climate change and about leadership in a movement that is under such pressure.

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