How can we have better conversations about climate change?

How can we have better conversations about climate change?

An upcoming workshop aims to help Christians have better conversations about Climate Change.

Krystyna Kidson is a psychologist and resilience coach, a role that she describes as helping people in the faith, nonprofit and social enterprise sectors, “get on with the business of transforming lives, even when they’re being confronted by stress, conflict, and burnout.”

Ms Kidson will be running a workshop at the upcoming Climate Pastoral Conference on 30 July, on the topic, “All you need to have a transformative, therapeutic, spirit-centred, climate-related conversation.”

The workshop addresses a problem that Ms Kidson has seen come up in her work, namely that Christians are stressed that Climate Change isn’t being adequately addressed.

“One of the things I’m particularly aware of in my work is the impact of stress on people’s faith and ability to connect well with God and others,” Ms Kidson said.

Stress, Ms Kidson says, is something that has spiritual symptoms, as it makes people, ”stuck in our own heads, with this pervasive sense of away-ness from God and others.”

“We start seeing the link between my work and climate-related pastoral care,” she said.

“People of faith get stressed about the state of the world, the lack of effective action and care, and when they try to talk about it, their concerns are ignored, minimised, sidelined, or attacked. They feel isolated and alone. Their parents or other connections don’t believe that the issue is as dire as the majority of scientists say, or their values don’t mesh with the perceived costs of change, so conflict develops.”

“While their leaders may care, they usually aren’t confident or equipped to have those kinds of conversations, or they simply don’t have the time needed to sit down with them and properly process the issues around ecogrief, anxiety, stress and trauma and how these things are affecting their spirituality! So our people, struggling with the issues around climate change, then also start grappling with questions like “Do I actually belong here? Does anyone care about what I’m experiencing? Does God? Can I trust His people? Can I trust Him?”

What is the Matrix?

Ms Kidson’s workshop aims to give participants a helpful way to navigate some of the stress and have better climate-related conversations.

“We’re going to give people an easy but cutting-edge tool that they can use straight away to have some of these conversations in a much shorter time frame but still help them work through some of these really difficult feelings and issues,” she said.

The tool is called the ACT or the ProSocial Matrix. It was designed by Dr Kevin Polk and colleagues in the late 2000s, taking the core principles of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and make them accessible across cultures and age groups to help them process trauma.

The tool has been used since in a wide range of ways. It has been used to help people stress, conflict, depression, anxiety, trauma, and addiction in private practice; to pain, weight loss, and nutrition in healthcare settings.

“Kevin and I think it has incredible potential as a tool in this (climate) space,” Ms Kidson said.

“It’s so very quick and easy to understand and use! My particular adaptation is to include God in the process. People of faith can use this to get the full therapeutic benefits, while also actively involving God right at the core of the process, so they can connect more deeply with him and their experience. The Matrix is very good at helping us quickly sort through these issues, cut through the internal narratives that can get in the way, and free us up to make more effective, workable choices to support ourselves and the global community.”     

“Much of this work involves understanding the power of language, and hopefully using this for more constructive discussions about climate change.”

“Language can be activating… and paralysing. My top tip is, whenever possible, start with “Who is important to you?” Recognise the people and ideas that really matter to us. When we open a conversation by focusing on the people who matter, we instinctively open up just a little more, leaning into the idea of them as if they were actually there, opening up our empathy circuits and having a slightly more open and loving posture to the conversation which can help it flow a little easier.”

Ms Kidson says that the phrase ‘climate change’ has, “become a loaded gun” in the current political environment.

“So if you experience push-back against the phrase – or you suspect you will – find common ground. See what they think about councils cutting down trees in their area or plastic overuse or littering or overfishing – and the impact that has on the environment and what their “important persons” would think about that, and the potential impact it could have on them.”

“We want to make room through conversation for each person to consider and actually connect with their own actual experience and that of another, instead of getting caught up in the judgemental narratives that can otherwise fill our heads and turn off our ability to empathise and connect with others.”

The 2020 Climate Pastoral Care conference runs from 30 July to 1 August. You can view the full program here and register online here.

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