If environmental catastrophe has you down, call Jana Svoboda. This Corvallis therapist assists people with an array of mental health issues, including sexuality, end-of-life care and even anxieties over a deteriorating environment. Several times a month, she says, patients talk with her about their climate change worries.
Svoboda admits that even she gets anxious about the state of the world at times. “We’re paralyzed and hopeless. We have to find reasons to be joyful in this moment in order to move forward.”
By working on interpersonal communication skills, individuals can become more skilled at working collectively towards a larger goal. Svoboda acknowledges that the current state of the world can cause distress, and she argues that the solution lies in our ability to find common ground with one another.
“We really are all connected, and if one of us is in trouble, we really do all have to pitch in. We have to have some idea of hope and that [our actions] will make some kind of difference. It will not change things if I change one light bulb, but with enough conversations things will change.”
Svoboda’s response to living on an altered planet might seem simple. She sums it up in one word: listen.
“We spend a lot of time preparing our replies but not listening. The solution for that is to practice compassionate curiosity to make [other people] less of an ‘other.’ We look for the other like, ‘Oh you’re a liberal or a gun nut etc.’ But beyond each of those is a person.”
With an issue as divisive as climate change, finding common ground with these “others” could change the entire tone of the discourse. Through small changes in our daily routine, the huge issue of climate change can become more manageable. By sharing smiles and tips of her own, Jana aims to replace anxiety with happiness through effective communication.
In February 2014, the First Alternative Co-op participated in Transformation Without Apocalypse at Oregon State University.