The Hero Versus the Initiate: The Western Ego Faced with Climate Chaos


  • Rachael A. Vaughan California Instititue of Integral Studies



Anthropocene, archetype, Capitalocene, climate change, cultural complex, ecopsychology, hero complex, Jungian psychology, psychological defenses, sostalgia, Western ego


The chaos caused by the global climate crisis is in the news in many forms and has also entered the consulting room: clients are increasingly naming their fear, despair, rage, and experience of impotence in the face of the unknown. This paper builds on the work of G. Albrecht and J. Bernstein, to investigate how we can face our feelings about climate crisis and live through this time without resorting to unhelpful defenses that block our ability to be present, engaged and effective. It examines the unconscious beliefs, habitual patterns, and defenses of the Western ego, which it presents as the mindset of Economism and the Capitalocene, and investigates its identification with the hero archetype. It pays homage to indigenous analyses of the issue in the work of J. Forbes and I Merculieff, and draws on the work of eco-ethical thinkers such as K. D. Moore, J. Butler, and A. L. Tsing, to suggest that the archetype of the initiate may be a better guide as we move into the uncertain, contingent future.

Author Biography

Rachael A. Vaughan, California Instititue of Integral Studies

Rachael Vaughan M.F.T. holds an M.A. in Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute, California, as well as an M.A. in Linguistics from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She is an Associate Professor in the Integral Counselling Psychology Department at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, and runs a bilingual therapy practice. She holds a Permaculture Design Certificate and has an active interest in eco-psychology, grounded in gardening, nature art, and rural life.