We have all felt it, haven’t we?

You know that overwhelming sense of discomfort or dis-ease we can occasionally experience in a place because something feels out of kilter.

Reading Jorie Graham’s award winning poetry on P L A C E I was caught by a verse articulating a feeling about our displacement in the environment: “How we came to keep living / but to no longer be / inhabitants”.

How we came to keep living / but to no longer be / inhabitants

Jorie Graham

It struck me – that whilst my research is about the ability of nature to help our emotional health – the reverse can also happen – where the experience of nature can cause psychological discomfort. The sight of charred forests singed from catastrophic fires – or the impact of torrential floods on a community … how deeply is our mind affected and for how long?

Glen Albrecht, Australian philosopher, coined the term “solastalgia” to capture the mental ill-health arising from the degradation of our environment. Discussing the relationship between the mind and ecology, Daniel B. Smith in his article “Is There an Ecological Unconscious” quotes Albrecht’s definition of “heart’s ease“– a term that encapsulates the match – and ease – between a person and a place. The loss of heart’s ease – no longer feeling an inhabitant where we live – might be called dis-ease – and what Albrecht described as the pain arising from “… a form of homesickness one gets when one is still at home.“

The idea that our planet’s health and our emotional health are interconnected is an interesting proposition that can and should be tested, shouldn’t it?

However Smith also describes a conundrum of the human condition in his NYT article; “… to be mentally healthy requires being ecologically attuned, but being ecologically attuned requires being mentally healthy …”

Ease or dis-ease, in place, space or home, what is your experience, your perspective?