DATE: Saturday, January 25, 2014
TIME: 12:30 p.m
PLACE: Lecture Hall, Lambert Road campus
CANDIDATE: Rose A. Vandenberghe
DISSERTATION TITLE: "Ecological Narcissism and the Denial of Death"
PROGRAM-TRACK/YEAR: PhD-T; 2008
CHAIR: Dr. Elizabeth Nelson
READER: Dr. Elizabeth Perluss
EXTERNAL READER: Dr. Jeri Carter
Vandenberghe, R. (2013). Ecological Narcissism and the Denial of Death (Doctoral dissertation, Pacifica Graduate Institute, 2013)
This theoretical dissertation uses a hermeneutic methodology to weave together three strands – ecopsychology, narcissism, and death denial – to explore ecological narcissism, defined as the tendency of humans in technologically-advanced cultures to be so self-absorbed as to be unable to see anything in nature except objects that might satisfy their own needs. The study responds to three research questions: How is ecological narcissism related to the denial of death? Does ecological narcissism, with its denial of death, play a role in our destruction of the environment? And, how might we mitigate ecological narcissism and renew a more life-sustaining attitude towards death?
It posits that beneath the confident, manic façade of modern cultures lurks fear of death masquerading as death denial. Ecological narcissism co-arises with this fear as the offspring of human belief in separation from nature. The study examines the theories developed by Berman, Hillman, and Shepard to account for how humanity has come to feel separate from nature. It proposes that ecological narcissism and death denial support us in perceiving non-human created environments as a collection of objects devoid of the sentience and subjectivity credited to humans. Such a perceptual orientation is interested in the answer to only one question: Do these objects (which might include elephants, oaks, and oceans) help further human life? If so, we feel free to use them, and if not, we feel free to destroy them.
A final conclusion of this study is that one way humans might move towards a more life-sustaining attitude towards nature and death is through an increase in direct experience of wilderness “out there” and “in here” (within one’s psyche). Practitioners of depth psychotherapy therefore have an opportunity to support a welcoming attitude towards wild forces within and beyond us, which in turn may support a cultural transition from the prevailing attitude of narcissistic entitlement to a maturity recognizing human relationship with all nature.Please note: All oral defense attendees must shuttle to the Lambert Road campus from the Best Western Hotel in Carpinteria. Parking on campus is not available.