Friday, November 27, 2009

Denial Delusion a Psychological Condition

Why are people so open to the Denialist Delusion? Psychologists have identified a new strain of neurosis called "Learned Hopelessness" where individuals believe nothing can be done about Climate Change and that one person cannot make a difference. Dr Andrew McKinley of the University of Toronto, Canada blames the activist environmental movement for being overly pessimistic and counterproductive. He claims that the old, historic assumptions of a ‘progress paradigm’ that powered the optimism of the past, the shock tactics and pessimistic media campaigns conducted by the Green movement, and the media that capitalizes upon those campaigns, have created a “Hopeless Age” in which there is a widely held assumption that the future will be worse than the present and that the lives of future generations will be harder than our own.
Humans have a psychological need to control the environments in which they function. The opposite of control of the environment is “helplessness”. This comment on a blogsite sums up the sydnrome: “I feel overwhelmed at the sheer scale of environmental problems such as climate change. I often wonder just how much the little things I do really impacts the environment as a whole. At least I see some improvements around my home.”
This feeling of futility is the deepest reason for inaction on climate change. Many people won’t make changes that cost them in any way—in money, time or lost pleasure—unless they believe that enough people also will be making the same sacrifice for it to be meaningful. Most people believe that it simply will not be possible to get enough people, corporations or governments to make the changes necessary to save the world. This is despair. Hopelessness forestalls action. Without action, there is no hope.
This feeling of powerlessnesss, called “low efficacy”, can lead to apathy, says Dr David Sandman of Princeton. If I believe I can’t do anything about your issue, it is sensible for me to focus instead on some other issue I can do something about. So feelings of low efficacy are a major source of apathy: I shrug off your issue in part because I don’t see an effective way to help.
The nature of journalism exacerbates the problem of low efficacy (personal effectiveness). The media tend to define their audience as bystanders rather than players. Gerhart Wiebe coined the phrase “the syndrome of well-informed futility”. Instead of feeling a civic obligation to do something about issues, we feel a civic obligation to know about them.
But the main barrier to action on climate change is Denial: many people are in denial about the crisis because it arouses intolerable levels of fear, guilt, sadness, hopelessness.
This indicates a massive mismanagement of the issue by governments and activists that has prepared the ground for the Denial Delusion.

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