Psychoecological Support for Mothers is Primary PreventionOct 18, 2021
What is it about the developmental process of becoming a mother that primes mothers for ecological initiation? Why focus on mothers' growth in this domain at all? Couldn't this apply to all people coming to consciousness about our ecocidal culture and our climate-related and environmental distress?
Over and over again in work with new mothers I hear changes in how they relate to the natural world. Several include:
- An opening to deeper time (Macy & Brown), of a mothers' place in an intergenerational lineage and the larger story of the Earth.
- A shift towards greater connection to one's animal body, and the gifts that come with that connection, such as greater affective interactions with one's environment.
- An experience of one's child as an ambassador into nature reconnection through witnessing a child's abilities to engage with nature as a part of nature.
New mothers experience a critically sensitive window when their growth in this area might be accelerated. This is vital to mothers' lifespan development towards greater health and wellbeing within their living ecosystems.
Also, if this growth is not identified and supported, there is a risk that mothers will find unhealthy ways to alleviate their discomfort, evening becoming reluctant to future ecological opening invitations. The coping that results to handle increased ecological suffering often takes the form of unhealthy patterns with negative effects on the mother and her systems. Some common forms of coping I see are increased "green" consumerism, greater disconnection from nature, and increased use of substances to calm the anxious ecological self.
Increasing understanding and providing resources for mother's psychoecological growth is primary prevention of more serious mental health challenges and collective challenges. Primary prevention is about moving from crisis response of pulling people out of the hypothetical river and treating their symptoms to going upstream to see why they’re falling into the river in the first place. This approach requires us to assess and address underlying structural issues causing and affecting maternal health.
The psychoecological must be included in our assessment and response, because it is already a part of mothers' lived experience. Mothers' ecological awakening, suffering, and developmental movement are all shaped by cultural prescriptions of motherhood that must be understood as the context for these experiences. It is only through informed support that mothers may find empowerment in the disempowering state of our ecological reality through their belonging.
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