Roz Carroll

M.A. Cantab, UKCP registered psychotherapist and supervisor; trainer and author.
Based in West London.

‘I am not currently taking new clients or supervisees’, March 2021

email: rozcarroll.thinkb&dy* replace & with o and * with @





Future flat-packed or future fluid?: why normal is the problem

Roz Carroll

Who would have imagined in 2019 the future havoc wrought by Covid-19 with its death toll, economic consequences, and its power to overturn ‘normal’ patterns of living? But it was imagined, indeed predicted by researchers as an inevitable outcome of deforestation (Quammen 2012). As habitat and biodiversity loss increase globally, cross-species virus transmission is rapidly escalating. In the future, pandemics may become part of normality.

Bio-intelligence – the self-regulation within earth’s systems – has allowed life on this planet to flourish. Diversity, richness, complexity and creativity are signs of life evolving through the process of self-organisation. Yet a profound shift has been occurring as we go from being a species whose normal experience is of interconnection with the land, with animals and plants, to being disconnected consumers of the natural world. Agrarian expansion, colonisation, urbanisation, economic growth and techno-industrialisation have reduced our direct participation in nature, and familiarity with the other-than-human.

Human behaviour is now driving what is spoken of as the sixth mass extinction (Kolbert 2014). Ecosystem breakdown is accelerating. Unchecked expansion and exploitation of resources has led to habitat destruction, extreme weather and pollution, breaking down the web of life. Awareness of climate change and ecocide is in the back – or front – of our minds as part of normal life.

How have we come to separate ourselves off from the other-than-human[1]world so that we can knowingly keep on killing it? What changes in human embodiment and consciousness are occurring, and how do these affect psychological health? What kind of future are we creating?

Deep Ecology is premised on the recognition that it is not enough to attend to a few aspects – soil degradation, say, or coral die-back. We must address the total context, including both the mindset and power structures which sustain exploitation. Focusing on the continuum of embodiment to disembodiment goes to the root of the problem: a sense of ‘superiority over’ - a paradigm of domination and control versus one of participation, equality and respect for all living things (Totton 2011).


We humans think that our intelligence – our capacity to symbolise, manipulate abstractions and things – is what sets our species apart from and above ‘nature’. Yet scientists steadily expand our understanding of the extraordinary intelligence and sentience of the other-than-human, often confirming indigenous knowledge (Pierotti 2010; Abram 1996). Bio-intelligence is not in brains: it is in the vast, generative, multifocal, interweaving network of living interconnections. Bio-diversity, like cultural diversity, builds resilience. Trees, for example, support hundreds of varied lichen, fungi, and invertebrate species. Via the web-like hyphae of the mycelial network, fungi supply nutrients and act as an early warning system for detecting harmful chemicals. Invertebrates help to cycle soil nutrients and provide food for birds, who in turn help certain trees and shrubs distribute seeds. And seeds, little packets of life, stretch toward the sun, photosynthesising sugars, and turn into plants and flowers that feed more life. Interconnections via movement, sound, colour, smell and taste create dynamic relationships rich with information and expression. Bees pollinate plants, ants leave pheromone tracks, dolphins converse with each other in clicks, whistles and chirps. Humans too create community using intricate and subtle self-regulating networks. Facial expressions, interactional shaping, breathing, voice tone and posture, all entrain for the purpose of connecting with one other (Best 2003). We see this in performance artists’ elaborate synchrony, and in almost any couple walking along the street with a shared rhythm and easy co-ordination.

‘Art and nature share the genius of contextualising multiple levels of relatedness and communication at the same time, and across time’ (Bateson 2016: 99).

Bio-intelligence includes our capacity for resonance with others – of sensitivity to ‘the field’ which includes feelings, images, ideas, and culture as well as the living environment. The psychotherapist Nick Totton calls this ‘wild mind’, which is characterised as ‘animal… spontaneous… co-creative…and self-balancing’(2011: 77-85). Jung wrote ‘at times I feel like I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of the seasons’ (1961: 225, cited in Dodds, 2011).

A new kind of interconnectivity is emerging now as part of normal experience: synching, sharing, streaming and creating online. Even encounters on internet platforms can be intimate and meaningful. They build on centuries of evolved relational skills, and decades of screen-sophisticated education in and through film. We know how to enter other worlds with our imagination. We are learning as a species that network technology can be empowering, inspiring and co-creative. Yet in doing this we have to leap over sensorial absences, maybe for many hours a day, and this risks propelling us to a future of increased dissociation and dis-embodiment.

Shifting (and eroding) Ground

To feel safe physically and psychologically we need a sense of being grounded. Physically, standing barefoot on the earth gives us direct physical contact with the vast supply of electrons on the surface of the Earth, and has been shown to calm the nervous system and reduce pain and stress (Chevalier et al 2012). Yet the ground under our feet is not simply ‘there’, it is continuously re-created through symbiotic mycorrhizal (fungal) relationships in the soil which support over 90% of all terrestrial plants. Soil is ‘the invisible foundation of all that we see emerging before our eyes; it is the great recycler, the connector, the key to life itself’ (Tree 2019). But we are rapidly losing ground as industrial farming destroys soil faster than it can naturally replenish.…….. p.147-149

To read more, see What is Normal? Psychotherapists Explore the Question.
Edited by Jane Ryan and Roz Carroll, published 2020 Confer Books, London

Available at Amazon, Karnac and Waterstones

See also.

* under reconstruction