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This theme emerged from the following codes: experience of kinship with nature; love in relationship with nature; oneness with nature; self as part of nature, and nature as inspiring. These codes could be seen as cohering around a mutual finding process between person and nature. I am not separate from the intelligence of nature… the biology of my body holds the intelligence that I am revering in nature.

The intelligence that knows how to maintain cells in my legs — I share that intelligence with nature Rebecca, 31 years old. In the above excerpt, the participant gives voice to the shared, intelligence of the natural world and her own body. She regards the natural world and its inherent intelligence with reverence. She observes that the intelligence she admires in the natural world is of the same order as that of her own bodily intelligence.

She finds herself in the intelligence of nature, because she is the intelligence of nature. The experience of finding oneself in another is one of the hallmarks of twinship. To find oneself in another, in the same way that a child may find herself in the face of her mother or in the gestures of his father, offers an experience of essential alikeness.

Thus, the participant may be afforded an experience of admiration for her own biological intelligence — the same intelligence that she reveres in the natural world. I experience a feeling of being kindred with nature Hannah, 28 years old. Similar to the previous excerpt, the participant references an essential likeness between herself and the natural world. She articulates an experience of feeling kindred with the natural world, which in other words, may be expressed as feeling that she is nature among nature. The notion of containment lies at the core of contemporary psychodynamic theory and practice, which refers in part, to the containment of the individual, that is, the process of providing a sense of safety as the person experiences emotional containment of their affective experiences, and also in the course of human development, where the parent, often the mother, provides a soothing environment for the child, and over time, the child is said to internalize this experience of containment Wolf, In the current study, the notion of the natural world being experienced as containing was identified through the following codes: experience of nature as containing; nature as grounding; nature as perspective-giving; presence with nature, and vulnerability or sense of fear in nature.

The overarching theme is evident in the following:. I think the feeling range… the spectrum of feelings that you get in nature, and nature acts as a container for experiencing all those things. Almost like a therapeutic experience, it holds that space for you. The above excerpt illuminates the natural world as a containing space in which the participant feels that she can experience a range of feelings without fear of a disproportionate, inappropriate or invalidating human response.

She describes the natural world as offering a therapeutic experience, and gives voice to the idea that her space in the natural world is hers alone. There is no requirement for management of her own emotional experience, or the emotional experience of another human being, which is the aim of good psychotherapy. It is the role of the analyst to provide a containing space for the patient to express his or her experience, without fear of criticism or consequence.

Though in the context of the natural world there may be consequences for carelessness, the natural world represents an emotionally safe space akin to the therapeutic environment. In her writings about the intersection of human experience and the natural world, Kiewa suggested that one of the benefits of spending time in the natural world is the concrete and immediate feedback from nature.

In the current research, participants described experiencing a sense of safety when walking through forests or swimming in the ocean, despite possessing awareness of the dangers that exist in these natural environments. The following excerpt is illustrative:.

I guess there is this feeling of safety and reliability I guess. These excerpts illuminate experiences of psychic safety or containment in the context of an otherwise unpredictable physical environment. Participants describe the natural world as a place of constant and reliable containment within which they experience themselves as held.

Although the natural world may not offer the kind of conscious attainment that a mother may offer her child, there appears to be something about the reliability of the natural world that promotes a sense of containment. The natural world was experienced by participants as being primarily sensory and emotional, which we refer to as embodied.

This mode of being-in-the-world was identified through the following codes: experience of cellular connection; urban claustrophobia; sensory experience in nature, and nature as felt. The overarching theme is well articulated in the following:. I love when I just go from seeing trees and grass, to really seeing the grass and trees. Once I just decided to smell the ground and [laughs] it smelled amazing. I remember now. I am from this, this is my home. It is like taking a beautiful, gentle breath and exhaling modern trappings. Sort of like cellular return.

It kind of feels like my cells are returned to themselves, reminded of their beautiful simplicity within the context of the complexity of the whole Hannah, 28 years old.

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The above excerpts are two of several, in which participants described sensory-emotional experiences with the natural world. Several participants gave voice to sensory experiences that were associated with feelings of familiarity, belonging, and of being known by the natural world. Kohut wrote:. Contemporary philosopher and author de Botton writes about the significance of sensory experience during childhood.

He writes of one of the characters:.

Nature and Natural Science in Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology

His description captures the visceral nature of early sensory experience, particularly in terms of those that evoke a sense of comfort and familiarity. It is suggested that similar experiences of comfort and belonging occur in the natural world, particularly for individuals whose relationship with the natural world has significant psychic import. The aim of this paper was to explicate the lived human experience of the natural world using a novel two-stage analytic process. Data gathered as part of a larger phenomenological analysis was subjected to interrogation from a contemporary psychoanalytic perspective, with interview excerpts used to illustrate psychoanalytic interpretations of the human—nature relationship.

The application of psychoanalytic theory to further interrogate phenomenological descriptions illuminated aspects of the natural world as being of significance in the development and maintenance of a healthy and coherent sense of self, particularly for individuals who identify as having a meaningful and ongoing relationship with the natural world. The study draws upon phenomenological methodological principles with a view to explicating the lived-experience of nature. Both phenomenology and psychoanalysis are based upon an epistemology which seeks to gain an understanding of human experience.

Drawing upon psychodynamic understandings provided an additional perspective, which we viewed as enriching our understanding of the experience of nature. That is, the natural world may be understood in terms of a primary attachment relationship, involving what object-relationship analysts call a good self object, or significant other, both in terms of felt experience and psychic importance.

Participants consistently identified the natural world as a source of tranquility and comfort. The natural world was illuminated as a space in which a sense of belonging, cohesion, and containment was experienced. Collectively, participants described experiences of returning to self, homecoming, and familiarity with the natural world that restored psychic equilibrium. Drawing upon both a phenomenological and psychoanalytic perspective provides both insights into the life-world of the participants, not accessible through either framework on its own, and also demonstrates the feasibility of an emerging methodology characterized by the emergence of psychoanalytic and phenomenological theory, which in turn, share a common approach to the exploration of the life-world of the participant, and privileges and idiographic approach as an initial step in scholarly understanding of human experience Wertz, Participants identified that being with the natural world healed feelings of unease and rehabilitated an eroded sense of self, much like the embrace of a significant other.

As Kohut , p. Conscious engagement with the natural world may be understood by drawing upon psychotherapy constructs drawn from both contemporary object relations theory, and self psychology. In other words, the natural world offers a similarly validating experience, as discussed in the psychotherapy literature, in that the natural world neither interferes with, nor gratifies, nor casts aspersions about lived experience. For example:.

A tree is not going to talk to you or judge you Jen, 30 years old. Whereas the fallibility of a human self object may lead to self object failure, the natural world simply is. To the extent that the natural world simply is, it cannot offer interpretations or actively participate in the promotion of psychic insight. Furthermore, there can be no interpretation or misinterpretation of the natural world as intending harm - it simply is. Arguably, a person may experience narcissistic injury in the form of failing to summit a peak, climb a tree, or navigate terrain.

For example, if a person regards herself as physically capable or competent at navigating hostile terrain, and she is not able to demonstrate these skills to herself, she may experience psychic discomfort. However, in not having to account for the mind of the other as in interpersonal experiences, the task of making sense of this discomfort is simpler in the natural world.

The natural world may be experienced as restoring psychic equilibrium. It does not aggravate narcissistic injury nor does it threaten sense of self. It is experienced as predictably changeable, egalitarian, and uninterested in criticism or judgement. Nature is associated with nostalgia as the relationship is imbued with childhood memories, learning, and shared experiences with loved ones.

It is a touchstone that we seek out to anchor ourselves and to restore our sense of self. We propose that the notions presented in this study, drawing upon both phenomenology and contemporary psychoanalysis are particularly significant in the context of an increasingly distressed and often alienated population. While the language of self psychology which has informed sections of the paper is sometimes clumsy, the paper has explored the ways in which relationship with nature may be experienced in terms of: primary attachment; as secure base; as twinship; as a containing environment; and as a sensory-emotional milieu.

In essence, we have argued for the possibility that the natural world may function similarly to a secure attachment relationship, particularly in terms of the ways in which the individual experiences his or her self in the natural world, which in turn raises the importance of nature contact from an early age. Participants describe notions, such as feeling tranquil, relaxed and emotional restoration captured by Biophilia, ART, SRT, topophilia and place theories. However, the notions of topophilia and place as concepts are described in terms of nature out there and separate from humanity, places that we move to or through, places that facilitate emotional experiences.

Equally, the notion of nature as something separate from humanity providing space to restore or realize emotional bonds has been effectively explored through Biophilia, ART and SRT. However, participants in this study indicate that, when focused on wellbeing, experiences of nature are beyond something out there and more than an emotional affiliation or a place to experience positive emotional or cognitive restoration. Instead, nature as expressed by those who experience wellbeing through nature, is experienced as family or part of self and in some way inseparable from self. Experiences of nature are described as contributing to an integrated sense of self.

Participants sense of nature is multi-sensory and seems to reflect a comfortable attunement to information within the human—nature relationship which is often contrasted to human-human relationship. If an ongoing relationship with the natural world affords such a profound sense of belonging, comfort, and containment, there is even greater argument for immersive engagement with the natural world, particularly in the context of an increasingly nature-alienated global population.

Several limitations are noted. Application of psychoanalytic constructs to phenomenological data is novel. Traditionally, phenomenology rejects the application of theory to phenomena. Thus the task of harnessing both phenomenology and psychoanalytic theory toward explicating the lived experience of the natural world has required a two stage analytical process, during which lived experience has been identified, and the constructs, drawn from psychoanalytical constructs, have been utilized to make sense of the data.

The intersection of phenomenology and psychology is complex. Firstly, the convergence between phenomenology in psychological research and practice, and psychoanalytic concepts affords rich understanding of human experience. We are in agreement with scholars who have argued that this approach makes the nuances of experience accessible in ways not possible, either by methodologies based upon other disciplines, or a single approach such as phenomenology alone Wertz, Secondly, this endeavor is inherently messy, intuitive rather than systematic, and thus replication can be difficult to achieve.

However, our aim is to get close to human experience and to make sense of those experiences by drawing upon appropriate theoretical constructs. We have argued that contemporary psychoanalytical constructs are suitable for this purpose.

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The current findings suggest that the relationship between human beings and the natural world is significant, particularly in terms of psychic experience. The exploration of the human—nature relationship is particularly salient in the shadow of an increasingly disconnected global population.

We argue for the need to continue to seek to understand the human experience of the natural world, and with this understanding, find ways to cultivate relationships between human beings and the rest of the natural world. It is not sufficient to know that nature contact is good for us - we already know this and yet the disconnect between contemporary sense of selfhood in urban environments and the natural world grows. Future research may benefit by focusing upon understanding the human—nature relationship, and use this insight to return to a fuller experience of our relationship with the natural world.

There is a need for integrative methodological approaches to further our understanding of human experience. While empirical methodologies may afford explanation of phenomena through postulation of abstract models and theories, phenomenology conceived as a human science lends itself to integrative models of enquiry. We have aimed to demonstrate that with alternative analytic procedures drawing upon phenomenological and psychoanalytic research, the vicissitudes of human experience may begin to be understood.

This paper achieves two important objectives. First it demonstrates the utility of a novel methodology which draws upon both phenomenology as a rigorous descriptive science, and contemporary psychoanalytic theory and process to offer a rich and alternative perspective on a critically important relationship: our relationship with the natural world. Secondly, the findings extend our understanding of human experience as going beyond the traditional domains of early human-human attachment, and additional interpersonal relationships, which is at the center of much psychoanalytic reasoning, but as incorporating the relationship between human-beings and nature as being a profound component of human existence The use of researcher reflexivity to make meaning of the human—nature relationship illuminated parallels between relational psychoanalytic concepts and experience with the natural world.

We argue further that the salience of the human—nature relationship, as articulated in this study may be of particular significance in the context of increasing mental health concerns and the rising incidence of chronic and stress-related disease. RS, HG, and EB were responsible for conceptualizing the study, were involved in the write up, and take responsibility for the final manuscript. RS provided training in the methodology and assisted with interviews.

EB provided guidance to the field of environmental psychology. HG conducted the majority of the interviews, transcribed all interviews, and undertook the first analysis of all transcripts. EB and RS checked coding and analysis. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. The reviewer SM and handling Editor declared their shared affiliation.

National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Front Psychol v. Front Psychol. Published online Jun Robert D. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Schweitzer, ua. This article was submitted to Environmental Psychology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology. Received Jun 28; Accepted May The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author s and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice.

No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Keywords: phenomenology, natural world, nature, psychoanalysis, reflexivity, life-world. Introduction Our understanding of the relationship between human beings and the natural world has been of increasing interest to researchers over the past five decades.

Wellbeing and the Nature-Human Relationship For a number of decades, studies examining the nature-human relationship have found a positive relationship between experiences of nature and psychological health and wellbeing e. Phenomenology and Psychoanalytic Theory Dilthey argued that if we are to extend our understanding of being, human science must seek to examine phenomena from a place of humble inspection and invite original fullness and richness of experience.

Materials and Methods Participants Nine participants were interviewed as part of a larger study investigating the lived experience of nature Glab, , unpublished.

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Interview Process Interviews were guided by openness, curiosity, and presence to what was being expressed by participants. Data Analysis A two-stage process, drawing upon phenomenology and psychoanalytic theory, was used to explicate and make meaning of the transcribed data. Results The aim of this paper was to make meaning of the lived experience of wellbeing from experiences with the natural world through both a phenomenological descriptive stance and a psychoanalytic lens.

Natural World Experienced as Primary Attachment The experience of the natural world emerged as being experienced as a primary attachment.


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The notion of primary attachment is seen in the following excerpt: Well, you know they call it Mother Nature. Natural World Experienced as Secure Base Attachment is founded upon the concept of a secure base, providing a grounding for human experience. Natural World Experienced as Twinship Twinship refers to a self psychology construct used to explain human development, and more commonly refers to a non-dualistic and primary desire of a young person, to feel alikeness with other human beings Wolf, Natural World Experienced as Containing The notion of containment lies at the core of contemporary psychodynamic theory and practice, which refers in part, to the containment of the individual, that is, the process of providing a sense of safety as the person experiences emotional containment of their affective experiences, and also in the course of human development, where the parent, often the mother, provides a soothing environment for the child, and over time, the child is said to internalize this experience of containment Wolf, The overarching theme is evident in the following: I think the feeling range… the spectrum of feelings that you get in nature, and nature acts as a container for experiencing all those things.

The following excerpt is illustrative: I guess there is this feeling of safety and reliability I guess. Natural World Experienced as Embodied The natural world was experienced by participants as being primarily sensory and emotional, which we refer to as embodied. The overarching theme is well articulated in the following: I love when I just go from seeing trees and grass, to really seeing the grass and trees. Discussion The aim of this paper was to explicate the lived human experience of the natural world using a novel two-stage analytic process. Limitations Several limitations are noted.

Future Directions The current findings suggest that the relationship between human beings and the natural world is significant, particularly in terms of psychic experience. Conclusion This paper achieves two important objectives. Author Contributions RS, HG, and EB were responsible for conceptualizing the study, were involved in the write up, and take responsibility for the final manuscript.

Conflict of Interest Statement The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. References Alvarez A. The problem of neutrality. Child Psychother. Learning from Experience. London: Karnac. Notes on memory and desire. Forum 2 — The impacts of nature experience on human cognitive function and mental health.

Viewing nature scenes positively affects recovery of autonomic function following acute mental stress. Understanding the psychological health and well-being benefits of physical activity in nature: an ecological dynamics analysis. Learning from experience, psycho-social research methods in the social sciences. Memory 23 — The Course of Love: A Novel. London: Penguin Random House. Introduction to the Human Sciences. Phenomenology for Therapists: Researching the Lived World. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell; The Unconscious.

London: Hogarth Press. A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis. Taking a stand: using psychoanalysis to explore the positioning of subjects in discourse. London: Palgrave Macmillan; IPA and science: a response to Jonathan smith. Aldershot: Ashgate; , — Place attachment in a developmental and cultural context. Letter to the editor: attention restoration in natural environments: mixed mythical metaphors for meta-analysis.

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Health B Crit. Being and Time. London: SCM Press. Topophilia and quality of life: defining the ultimate restorative environment. Health Perspect. Using psychoanalysis in qualitative research: countertransference-informed researcher reflexivity and defence mechanisms in two interviews about migration. Is love for green in our genes? A critical analysis of evolutionary assumptions about restorative environments research. Urban For. Urban Green. The role of nature in the context of the workplace. Urban Plan. The restorative benefits of nature: toward an integrative framework. Neighbourhood greenspace and health in a large urban centre.

Washington, DC: Island Press. Self control: the key to adventure? Towards a model of adventure experience. Actually, thought is revealed to be one of the modalities of social interactions. As it provides beliefs which seem to go without saying because of the strength of the habit, primary experience, according to Dewey, seems to consist inexorably in basic beliefs about environment, obliterated from the very fact of their obviousness and ubiquity: these characteristics are also pointed out by Wittgenstein.

Unless that fact has at some time struck him. Both philosophers agree in deploring this kind of blindness to what goes without saying, and is not remarked. According to Wittgenstein, such blindness is also due to the fact that language puts everything as the same level, and does not recognize differences between words — a Nietzschean idea —: against such a prejudice, we must fight in order to make grammatical differences visible and avoid grammatical confusions.

Wittgenstein thus dismisses both realists and idealists, who actually live in the only one world. Cognitive terms are morally connoted, and also denote artificial entities derived from primary experience. Contrarily to what is taught by Western philosophy, cognition does not emerge at the level of primary experience, which is purely existential, but afterwards, when objects of knowledge have been detached from experience and wrongly posited as real.

But such recourse to mental objects does not throw any light on the mental, which only a grammar of psychical terms can elucidate. After Peirce, Dewey criticizes the attitude of speaking of a place where thought proceeds, and Wittgenstein makes of this criticism one of his most significative problems. The addition of a linguistic and grammatical dimension is the only thing that distinguishes Wittgenstein from Dewey in several passages.

Wittgenstein could not avoid mentioning and criticizing James, very popular at this time; Dewey is not as famous as James in Europe, Wittgenstein does not even nominate him. Author retains copyright and grants the European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4. Contents - Previous document - Next document. Wittgenstein and Pragmatism. Full text PDF Send by e-mail.

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