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From the micro to the macro: How observing our pyschological landscape may transform the permaculture movement.

The first of three, this article discusses the principle of how the microcosm seems to reflect the macrocosm. In particular, how small things reflect and may generate larger issues and how our inner world may be affecting our outer worlds.

Let me start this article by stating how enthusiastic I am about permaculture. It simultaneously expresses forward thinking and ancestral ways, creativity and practicality and a local and global philosophy. Permaculture also offers a perspective on the interconnectedness of nature around us: what about observing the interconnectedness within? I wonder what psychological similarities or deep rooted subconscious beliefs underlie the shared values of Quality of Life, Self Sustainability and Non-Aggressive Living which Permaculturists (Permies) tend to have. Ways that our subconscious beliefs may be undermining our individual and collective efforts from reaching their potential will also be mentioned and dropped in the collective slow-cooker for deliberation. I realize this has the potential to be an exercise in projection but it may also be helpful.


Enjoying the quality of life before the promise of retirement seems to be a value that permaculturists share. In An individual is a lot like a society smallerpursuing this value we may tend to pursue careers with challenge and or enjoyment in mind, rather than going after a job with monetary gain and steadiness as our focus.

Extending this observation, those who tend to be more of a ‘live for the moment’ personality may have difficulties setting down roots or planning for the future. There are many conscious reasons for not setting up more permanent living arrangements, especially in these times; however, there could also be subconscious reason(s) that make “floating around” or being etheric less of a choice and more of a subconscious response to underpinning beliefs.


Personally, I love travelling and there is something liberating to me about being care free or footloose, my mind suggests that maybe it’s the etheric aspect that I find liberating. All that is swell and dandy but is it possible that I, as a traveller could have a subconscious predisposition from childhood that stems Birch ent.pngfrom a feeling of being unsafe at home during early childhood? This would explain a perpetual travelers’ reluctance to set down roots and may also discourage someone from wanting to plan for the future due to the perhaps related belief that things will not get better (originally at home).

As a movement or society, the subconscious belief that it is unsafe to put down roots would favour the establishment of a transitory workforce rather than the establishment of a multitude of permaculture properties necessary for the true green-revolution we may envision. Note: If the feeling of being unsafe originated from outside the home one might be inclined to bunkering down.

If a button were to come off a shirt a growing proportion of our population would replace the shirt or say “Google: shirt repair” into their phones. By contrast, Permaculturists and homesteaders have been increasing the value they put on sustainability and self –sufficiency. While the drive to be self-sufficient can encourage entrepreneurship and the development of positive life skills such as repairing possessions and growing food, a truly life leading urge to be self- sufficient may stem from childhood. For example, say that I internalized the belief that ‘no one will ever be there for me to meet my needs’ as a child; my psyche would subconsciously accept and recreate situations to reinforce this belief as I got older. I would become reluctant to reach out for help, network or rely on anyone else. I would ultimately end up isolated.

Of course there is some truth in the value of being self –reliant and prepared in these dependent and climatically and financially turbulent times. However, permaculture has the potential and evidence to influence minds into changing the way things are done all over the world, city and farm. If we cannot heal these beliefs that lead to self-isolation of permies, we will fail to network and reach the population at large, which limits the movement’s inherent potential (as if it was its own entity) to individuals with the inclination and motivation to break away which brings me to my last point.

The last value that I will talk about is the apparent value that I think is best summarized as an unwillingness to live a life that is aggressive to fellow and future humans and Mother Nature. The resolution to live Non-Aggressively can come from the conscious realizations of the adult and/or subconscious beliefs that the adult developed early in life. If an individual internalizes the message that anger is wrong or willfully claiming possessions is not what “nice” children do, that anger would likely be repressed. In adulthood, the inability to express anger might lead to non-assertiveness and the tendency of being pushed over. Is being, for lack of a better word “non-aggressive” to our fellow man the way to go forward with our movement? I doubt it. To be clear, I am defining aggressive as proactive go-get-itude rather than the conflict or violence that is commonly associated with and that is all too common.

aikido tumblr sketchIn the martial art of Aikido, developed by Morihei Ueshiba, there is a proper time to redirect yourattacker’s momentum so that his strike does not cause damage. In society we are dealing with a comparative aggressiveness of being. Corporations, legislation and bureaucracy will eventually infringe on a permies’ ability to live in harmony with their values. If we do not be proactive as a movement, coming to terms with our anger and maturely claiming our aggression, then more harm may fall as we retreat to the forest, like the Ents in The Lord of the Rings who were supposed to be shepherding the forest. If you’re unsure if this is effective look to the native community in recent months/years, they have stood strongly against fracking and environmental degradation. If we really believe in the values of Sustainability and Quality of Life we need to transform aggressiveness in our personal lives and in the movement diverting the destructive momentum of society.

Whether we were initially attracted to permaculture by our conscious values and/or by our subconscious beliefs, it doesn’t really matter. What this article is trying to drive home is that there may be painful subconscious beliefs to confront which could be holding us back as individuals and as a movement. We are doing many things right, and that there is a truth in all that we value, but should we be unwilling to look at our individual psychological landscape we might miss what it is telling us about the design of our movement. Like it or not we are in this together!

Wow, these interconnections within psychology are nearly as fascinating to me as the interconnections within an ecosystem! I would like to thank Kristen Ragno and psychotherapist Alyssa Steventon (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ) for helping me shift my perspective to take a look at inner psychology. I am not a qualified (or diagnosed) as a psycho-anything at the moment, but maybe one day I will add psychotherapy to my gardening services.


May your time investigating your psychology be fruitful as you continue to plant the seeds for our future!


Written by Bryan Gardham

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