Displacement is a normal behavior
There is an organization whose core competence is to explore how people deal with multiple crises and to look for solutions, “Psychologists for Future”. The psychotherapists and psychologists want to help promote emotional handling and constructive action in the face of crisis. Felix Peter, the spokesman for the organization, explains in an interview with Swiss radio why people look away. One key aspect, he says, is fear. “It is virtually our threat detector,” says Felix Peter, “without fear, we would hurt ourselves more and die sooner. Unfortunately, fear often works in humans in such a way that only short-term threats have a positive effect on us and give us energy. It doesn’t work so well with long-term risks that don’t cause concern or are too big. There we are rather in a displacement.”
We must learn to live with the crisis mode
Displacement in itself is not always a bad thing, says the psychologist, “we displace all day to cope with the complex demands of everyday life. Otherwise, our brains would be overloaded. For longer-term threats, however, ignoring is not effective.” That’s why, Peter says, “we always manage at this level to suppress warnings from science, politics or civil society.” He warns against “crisis permanence”: “Most of us won’t live to see how we get out of crisis mode.” Accordingly, we must learn to live with it without consistently suppressing the threat.
Politicians rely on delaying tactics
It doesn’t make it any easier that no constructive approach to the climate crisis prevails in politics either. Anita Habel, a psychologist who is also an active member of “Psychologists for Future,” explains the phenomenon in an interview with the RIFF magazine: “Attention is focused on measures that are inadequate. At the same time, the impression is created that they are sufficient and that major changes are therefore not necessary. Very central here is the focus on technical solutions: All we have to do is develop the right technologies and become more efficient – and then everything will be great. This is not the case. This delay argumentation is to be observed in many politicians’ speeches.“
Experts recommend a pretty picture as a vision
Just like influencer Hegenberg and futurologist Horx, psychologist Habel recommends a change of perspective to motivate people to get involved: “We need a positive vision: What could this new sustainable world we want to live in look like? How can we imagine it better? Instead of always emphasizing the negative consequences and renunciation, we need to find a positive image that drives us,” explains Anita Habel in an interview on brigitte.de.
Behavioral researcher sees responsibility for politics and business
How can more people get inspired to live sustainably? The US psychologist Wendy Wood from the University of Southern California in the USA is dealing with this topic. In the ZEIT newspaper, she appeals to politicians and business leaders to change the framework conditions: “In the U.S., it’s largely economic interests that drive us to continue eating unhealthy things or driving polluting cars because it’s made easy and costs little. There’s a lack of political will to make it easy for many people to eat healthier and live greener.” Until that political will is there, Wood said, it’s up to us to make some changes ourselves – so that the bad ending from the Netflix movie “Don’t Look Up” doesn’t become reality after all.