In today’s Western, industrialised society, ‘wild’ has come to mean dangerous, savage, crazy, out of control. This book celebrates wildness, both in global ecosystems and in the human psyche. Totton argues that embracing unpredictability and boundlessness is vital for our wellbeing and, in these times of environmental crisis, for the survival of humans and other-than-humans. Drawing on psychotherapy, philosophy, ecology, anthropology, futuristic fiction and much other literature, he shows the links between domesticated civilisation and the destruction of the innate balance of ecosystems – including human relationships and psyches. This second edition builds on the first to suggest what a wild civilisation might be like, and how psychotherapy could help create it.
1. Wild roots
2. Wild complexity
3. In and out of the wilderness
4. Wild mind
5. Domesticating wild mind
6. Wildness under control
8. Wildness in the anthropocene
9. Wild therapies
10. Wild therapy
11. Living wild
Wild Therapy is a breakout session in the plenary of creation. A revisitation of sorts. There are no tame gods here, no predetermined bodies with stable boundaries, no human exclusivities, no free-floating abstracted minds, no creatio ex nihilo. The noble human, sovereign and separate, freshly manufactured in the myths of the Enlightenment, is stolen from its ivory perch, smuggled through the back alleys of heaven, and composted in the fugitive enclaves of the wilds beyond those gilded fences. Here, in Nick Totton’s swift storytelling, we are furtive eavesdroppers on this seditious act of deconstruction; we are with-nesses to this cackling carnival of tricksters, liminal flows, mycorrhizal becomings, wild complexities, and animal onto-epistemologies. Their more-than-human operations and Nick’s faithful reportage will leave none of us intact, and – perhaps more critically – will leave therapy, in its dyadic configurations, forever undone. This is nothing short of the remaking of the human. The undoing of the therapist, the complexification of the client, and the politicisation of the clinical alliance. And it rings with a theological irreverence fit for the impasses of the Anthropocene. I should clap, but now I’m not sure where my hands are.
Bayo Akomolafe, philosopher, writer, activist, professor of psychology, executive director of the Emergence Network, and author of These Wilds Beyond Our Fences.
For those who are not psychological practitioners, Wild Therapy takes some reading, yet there is a reward – an understanding of how to process the magnitude of the separation and loss of what was once our common home. Nick Totton shows how we can face the world as it is, how we can mourn what is no more and how we can ‘free hope’ to call into being the complex wild world of our imagination and use it to restore our severed connections with the human, the not-human and the beyond human world - the beautiful complex Wild.
Sarah Lunnon, co-founder Zero Hour Campaign, former spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion and former Green Party councillor
In our increasingly over-domesticated world, we are seeing the beginnings of a much-needed turn to the wild: rewilding the land shows just how easily it can recover when humans are in service to the earth rather than trying to control it. Likewise, in Wild Therapy, Nick Totton shows how our own wild nature can recover when we drop down into the body and relax our control. This book is a fascinating journey through the history of our relationship with ‘the wild’ in both land and psyche. It also invites therapists to rewild their practice. The many vignettes, together with Totton’s lively and original thinking, show how our lives are inextricably interwoven with animals, plants, elements and place. All of these relationships are naturally healing and need to be brought back into the work of healing trauma.
Mary-Jayne Rust, ecopsychotherapist and author of Towards an Ecopsychotherapy.
Nick Totton offers something radical for all practising therapists to consider. He challenges conventional ideas about attachment, containment, holding, safety and boundaries. Wildness is understood, not as a cure but as a much-needed corrective to the rigidities of our one-sided civilised and mature selves. The book is imbued with a profound – yet playful – recognition that therapy must involve risk. This means more than quietly accepting that depth work can be dangerous, but actively running towards it. As with all of Totton’s work, the political marches in step with the psychological as individual distress is reframed as originating in systemic crisis and collapse. I think this is precisely the kind of book our stuck-in-the-mud trainings in counselling and psychotherapy should include on their reading lists. It is sharp, lucid, idiosyncratic in a good way – and the second edition advances the argument of the first in an exciting manner.
Professor Andrew Samuels, author of The Political Psyche and former chair, UK Council for Psychotherapy