While recently reading a book about living a more healthy, green, organically-oriented lifestyle, I found myself struck by the idea that I was reading an instruction guide on how to live more snugly in a bubble separated from nature: separated from the natural world and all the toxins and garbage that we’ve dumped into it. Ironically, this book also extolled the virtues of spending time in nature, though its supposedly nature-loving author failed to acknowledge how he (and most of us) lived under completely different rules from the wildlife of nature. The animals of nature, after all, live outside the bubble. They drink whatever water they find, however toxic. They breathe the toxic air that we try to keep out of our climate-controlled homes. They suffer far more than we do under the extremes of the modern, weird weather caused by our excesses. And of course they eat whatever they find—and in many cases get poisoned by it. Take dolphins and whales: as long-living animals at the top of the oceanic food chain, they have bodies so polluted by the heavy metals of human industrial waste that it’s questionable if they’ll be around in a generation or two. And that, or course, assumes that something else, like human overfishing or plastic in the sea or naval sonar or harpoons, doesn’t wipe them out first. No bubble protects them.
Yet I found myself thinking a second thought: that human beings live in a parallel bubble: a psychic one. We are an emotionally traumatized species—made up of traumatized individuals. We are all carriers of childhood trauma. The extent of this trauma is too horrible for most people to fathom, so they split off from it and wall it off in the unconscious, such that they don’t have to feel it or perhaps even think about it. This protects them from the overwhelming pain of that which seems too much to process. Yet they go on living inside of a bubble of limited consciousness, protected from the horror that they have experienced—often at the hands and emotions of those whose jobs it was to love them most: their parents. Just as toxic dolphins nurse their offspring on a mammalian milk rich in heavy metals, traumatized human parents emotionally feed their children a psychic soup rich in their own unresolved trauma.
But I find these two types of bubbles to be more than just parallel. Actually one causes the other. The toxic wasteland to which we are relegating nature is just an outward manifestation of denied human trauma, writ large. Of course, denied trauma plays out in other ways, like physical symptoms and child abuse and emotional problems that get labeled as mental illnesses and addictions and perversions. But the answer to resolving all these outward manifestations is the same: heal the traumas. That is: discover the split-off truth in the psyche, witness the historical horror, feel it in all the unadulterated ways it could never previously be felt, and grieve it at whatever the cost. In short: destroy the bubble. Organic farming and veganism and decreasing our carbon footprint might seem like steps in the right direction, but they don’t touch the cause. And often they only foster a sense of smugness.
And a final note: if we don’t solve the basic underlying problem, we are doomed as a species. We will soon go extinct—because we can’t live in a bubble forever. In the same way that unresolved traumas eventually overtake the traumatized, the toxins we have foisted on nature will overtake us. The bubble just keeps things at bay, but in the end nature is more powerful than any bubble we can create. In the end nature will win. The question is, will we learn to live in sync with nature before it’s too late?