Wilderness: A medium for improving psychological health
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In the current push for wildland preservation it is imperative to consider the inherent value of wilderness as a medium for improving psychological health. As Fritz Perls and other Gestalt psychologists have pointed out, we are living in an increasingly complex social structure which is causing us to lose touch with our ‘inner voice’—the voice that Perls claimed could tell us how to maintain organismic health and balance, if only we paid attention to it. He emphasized the need for an individual to become self-aware and self-responsible in order to reach psychological maturity (internal versus external support). However learning and developing self-awareness need not occur in a therapeutic setting alone. The process of personal growth may be greatly expedited by spending time in a wilderness setting. Environmentalists have long known about the healing powers of nature. From Thoreau to Abbey, they have pointed out the unique qualities of wilderness—simplicity and impartiality—which, in contrast to a complex, value-governed society, make it an ideal setting for self-exploration and understanding. People who experience the wilderness can return empowered to act as responsible, aware human beings, in a currently unhealthy, dehumanizing society.
KeywordsSocial Structure Environmental Management Psychological Health Nature Conservation Personal Growth
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